*This is an expanded piece, a revision on an earlier post. Cuz, you know, we’re still eating outside, and it’s no longer May.
We are fall people now. Summer is well over, and with it, our frequency to be outside, laid back in short and bare toes. I keep thinking my kids will tire of eating outside, no longer inspired. I keep being surprised by my kids’ boundless attitudes. They champion our outside dinners and spontaneous morning nibbles on the balcony. Every day, they want the practice revived.
I thought we’d stay in after our May, June notably bringing mosquitoes even up to our second-floor veranda, but even into July and August, they asked, they helped, they cheered. We’ve found the moments to dine in fresh air. Maybe we can stretch it longer. We sailed into September, still contending with mosquitoes.
Minus a few impossible days, we’ve been able to eat and giggle and just ready our hands to clap, clamp down on any errant biting bug. These last few months in particular, eating al fresco has provided a welcome change, and it’s just a modest balcony, nothing out of a catalogue. Even with our minus lot line, outside feels bigger. A body, a mind, a smile stretches out, and with those adjustments, more gratifying flavors. It is like putting the family in Tuscany and doing yoga, while eating, while cloud-gazing, while being our normal, silly selves. The food is just bonus, it feels.
I think, in fresh air, kids eat even more veggies. Have you noticed that? It’s like packing for a time away at the seashore or up on a blanket in a forest. You bring out the things of substance and eating cukes and spinach is not such a problem because the smiles are so big, dinner framed by the whistling of a bird or rustling of hedges. Everything is good. It’s like kids on a soccer field, eating oranges, a match as fine as peanut butter and jelly. That’s just some of the power of kids outside with the crunch of veggies. There is a perceptible shift, you know? The kids alternate bites with friendly neck hugs and, “Can I get you something, Mom?” and, “Good job eating, little brother!”
Times my kids have become a bit more wild has also been fine because, well, we’re outside. How uptight do I want to be? Few mothers battle young mouths chewing open instead of closed when outside. No one minds a friendly jab or more jokes. Food on the floor? Eh, there are birds.
We’re eating more veggies like this, with our moods lifted; the kids are more enjoying dinner. I’m finding it just as pleasant to dine with a glass of Pinot as with iced tea, or a carton of milk and some crackly tumblers. We all set the table and carry our dishes and acrylic silverware back inside. I like how we are in fresh air, outside of a room with four walls. We are responsible; we are silly and whimsical. We’re making loads of inspired memories and I’m a happier mom.
I remember how we gobbled up summer, alright, a fine balance for the mosquitoes who tackled us. And now? The grape tomatoes then dwindled to the pack of 9 we picked weeks ago before I dug up the roots to prepare for fall. We’ll make the season of fall come to life under hurricane glass and melty quesadillas. We’ll find the cozy meals and the energy to soak up that last daylight, al fresco, before winter makes us press our noses to the glass and chug what remains of our hot chocolate, little toddler noses sticky with melted marshmallow.
I’ll keep this up, this carting over plates and cups through the sliding glass until it is no longer bearable, in terms of the temperature that turns me wimpy and crabby with cold. Maybe, though, on a particularly lovely night, I’ll make a batch of chicken soup or even some actual baked dessert, and together, on the balcony, out of the house, we’ll eat it up. We’ll keep our hands pressed to glass, pressed to the screen, looking out, looking around at each other and wonder, “Is this the night for an outside meal? Is it warm enough?”
Maybe they’ll need a grand lure called sweet potatoes, salty chips, or the promise of dessert. Past burnt umber and mini pumpkins, our kiddos will need to dress in wooly sweaters and down jackets. Lights will twinkle in windows and the first frost will come . We’ll need a winter hiatus, of course. For now, it is sheer sweetness, a way to catch our breath and simply be outside. It is another way to track and relish every season and year with kids, these fresh breaths of inspiration.