I’ve got another guest post for you this week and I think you’re gonna like it. Kirsten blogs over at Kirsten Oliphant: An Eclectic Celebration of Chaos. She’s writes a bit about food, a bit about home stuff, a bit about kids and family and a little in between. Today, Kirsten is sharing some tips on how to Plan A Perfect Picnic. Now that summer’s here, it’s a great time to get outside and enjoy a picnic. But sometimes things don’t always go as planned. Kirsten lets us know how even if your plans change, you can still have a great picnic! Welcome Kirsten!
If there is one thing I’ve learned about planning as a mom, it’s that I should monitor my expectations. Whether it’s a fun day out or an activity I’ve planned at home, my kids always surprise me. If I am too caught up in the end result or what I expect to happen, I get frustrated or disappointed. Calling these “low expectations” sounds negative, so I try to think of it as holding my plans loosely.
Even with this knowledge, I still have a day where plans crash and burn so spectacularly that even low expectations would have been too high. The recent picnic I had with my three children (6,4, and 1) was a just such a time. I won’t go into lengthy details here, because no one wants to talk about poo on a food blog, but I will say there were equal parts poo and food at this picnic and it was NOT pretty. Add in the fact that my daughter (1) ate more mulch than food and my boys wanted to play, not eat, then complained that they were starving as soon as we left. Picnic: FAIL.
But as I packed up the car, feeling sweaty, stressed, smelly, and frustrated, one of my boys said, “This was so fun, Mom. Let’s do it again tomorrow!”
THAT’S why you need to suspend your expectations. Because sometimes what seems to you like a failure can be its own strange sort of success. The key is to make your plans, whether you’re doing meal plans like Brenda or organizing a picnic, and then hold those plans loosely. Here is a great snack your kids will love (unless mulch is around) and then some tips for planning with an open hand.
My kids love nothing more than eating normal foods in a unique way. These grilling kebab sticks can be purchased in the grilling area or the kitchen gadgets area of most grocery stores. I avoid things like bananas and apples that might brown, but anything else is fair game! These look pretty, are fun for the kids to eat, and also make great swords after. (You may want to use kitchen scissors to snip the pointy ends off—unless you’re into eye patches.) These are also great for picnics because you can eat easily and without utensils. These would also be great with cubes of cheese and pieces of cooked chicken, or even some raw veggies with a dip on the side.
-Check your own desires at the door. If you’re like me at all, you might come up with some idea that you think sounds fun for the whole family only to realize it’s MY idea of what they will like. My picnic last week was supposed to be near a duck pond because I wanted to feed the ducks. Sounds fun, right? Only my boys weren’t interested in ducks; they wanted a playground picnic. So I changed location.
Often I realize I’m actually projecting what I think sounds fun onto everyone else, which may or may not hold true. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan things you also enjoy or that it has to be about everyone else, but when I stop to really consider everyone, my plans sometimes shift.
-Consider the varying needs of your group. While my boys did request a playground rather than the duck pond for our picnic, I chose one that had a fence because my now-mobile 1-year old escapes without them. Planning with everyone in mind doesn’t mean that everyone gets his or her own way, but allows flexibility.
-Expect things to go awry. You may not know how, but know that even your best plans will hit a speed bump. Or a road block. Or get hit with a mac truck. This, for me, is the biggest part of enjoying a planned activity, because they never work out perfectly, no matter how great you are at planning. If I’m ready for something to change, then I’m more likely to be flexible in the moment.
-Be disaster-ready. For a picnic, this would have meant baby wipes and anti-bacterial hand gel (both of which I forgot). At home this might mean having a roll of paper towels handy or a plastic trash bag. Maybe it means keeping a change of play clothes in the car for your kids (or deodorant for yourself). You will not always have a potty disaster like I did or need a complete change of clothes, but if you do, you’ll be so glad you have something to help you out. This will vary depending on the ages of your family (or, if you’re just with other adults or your pets), but a disaster-readiness kit is always a
-Remember your sense of humor. When your planned train derails, try to embrace the direction it’s going and laugh. As I was dealing with potty-in-the-woods issues at my picnic and two out of three kids were crying, I thought to myself: This will make a great story…for later. I’m more likely to enjoy even a total failure if I can try to see the humor in it or enjoy what happens rather than what I had hoped in my mind would happen.
What lessons have you learned when it comes to planning, picnic or otherwise? Have you ever had something that seemed like a total fail turn into a strange success?
About Kirsten Oliphant
Kirsten is a writer and blogger with three small children and another on the way. When not wrangling her kids, she is working on a novel and coaching for Houston Roller Derby. Her blog is an eclectic celebration of chaos, meaning you’ll get everything from recipes to posts about faith or daily disasters.