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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

I walked out onto the front porch tonight, just for a moment, as the sun was setting.  It had been a hot and sweaty day, with the kind of direct bright sunshine that I’ve never liked, but the evening had begun to mellow all that.  And though it had threatened rain all day, it never come true on the promise, and yet the smell of  an impending storm hung in the air.

I was only dashing out for a moment to grab something that had been left outside — the children still needed to be fed and bathed and put to bed — but I found myself paused there on the porch.  It was just too seductive — so balmy, and quiet, the sunset golden pink…  I didn’t want to leave it.  It was utterly enchanting.

I have always loved English summers, with their cool freshness, their faint mildewy-ness, the warmish days and chilly evenings.  But they were all the forgotten — the last 15 years melted away — as I was transported to back to the summers I grew up with.  And I stood unmoving, frozen in place for a few moments, to drink it in.

English summers are blues and greens, gentle, and tender.  American summers are dusty golden yellow, harsh, and brash.

And beautiful, beautiful…   beautiful.

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Today I am grateful for:

  1. A wonderful day with my daughters and my mother, the girls’ first ever trip to the zoo.  They couldn’t believe their eyes– all their storybook animals come to life!
  2. Factor 85 sun protection — the sun was brutal today, but no one is suffering for it tonight.
  3. The bliss of a cold shower when we got home — all the grime of the zoo and the dried-on dripping sweat disappeared down the drain, and I felt like a new woman.

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Today I am grateful for:

  1. A bit of cool —  In England, a day like today would have people complaining about the oppressive heat and the papers warning of OAPs dropping like flies but, here, after the really hot days we’ve had, today’s middling heat felt incredibly refreshing.
  2. A bit of rest — today M gave me the chance to lie in today to try to beat this virus we’ve all come down with over the weekend.  It’s given us all runny noses, sore throats, and that tiredness you get in your chests.  I’m glad it came on at the weekend instead of during the week, and I am hopeful that a restful day might have helped to send it on its way.
  3. A bit of respite from the poo disasters!  After the run we’ve had lately, that’s all I really need to keep me happy!

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“No, no, not that one,” my mother yelled from across the garden, waving a pointing hand in that way that always makes me want to grab it and force it to be still. “That one will contain soy — yours is the one in the jar with the blue lid.” Too late — I was on my second serving of salad and I’d picked the wrong dressing the first time round. When my mother had said she’d brought some non-soy dressing for me and it was in “that jar there,” indicating casually in its general direction, my eyes fell on the wrong jar and I inadvertently coated my salad in lashings of my personal poison. Now that I realised my mistake, I knew that evil stuff was already in me, being metabolised even as I stood there, and marching onwards towards the places which will react to it with pain. There was nothing to do but wait. “Oh, it won’t be much,” called out my mother, dismissively, “…just a little soy oil. It probably won’t be enough to cause any harm.” I was more dubious, having been at the sharp end of the pain more times than I care to remember. Nothing to do but wait…

It was the kind of beautiful, balmy evening that makes a casual American barbecue such a perfect way to end the weekend. That dreaded Sunday-night-before-Monday-morning feeling never got a look in. The steaks were pink and juicy, the salad crisp and refreshing, and the wine flowed just enough, not too much. Sometimes I struggle in my parents’ company, but not tonight — everything was easy. The girls ate their dinners and then chased lightning bugs around the garden while we sat back in our chairs around a table of emptied plates and chatted. It was lovely.

I had worried a little when I saw E1 reaching to steal a piece of steak off of her daddy’s plate, because it was nestled next to his salad covered in a creamy dressing. My first thought was that the dressing probably contained egg, so I immediately stopped her and gave her a piece of meat off my plate instead. And for the rest of the meal, I kept one eye on that plate with its creamy residue round the edge and one eye on her, until it was finally swept up with some other dirty dishes and taken into the kitchen.

And my guard was instantly awoken when a Ziplock bag of walnuts appeared, to be sprinkled on the salad. E2 saw it and began pulling at M’s trouser leg and making a noise that insisted she wanted to try whatever intriguing thing it might be. He took a handful of the nuts and chucked them neatly into his mouth and then bent to pick her up, as I yelled out with a slightly panicked voice, “Wipe your hands first! Quickly, please! And your mouth…” With nut-allergy results as severe as hers were, there is the risk that even the walnut dust left on his hands might trigger a dangerous reaction.

When, at last, I fed E2 and got her down to sleep, the pain came on quite quickly. If there’s soy in my system, then breastfeeding will set it off like flicking a switch. I had forgotten how sharp it is — how it takes my breath away, screws my face up, and leaves me unable to tolerate little annoyances with grace. I barked at M for waffling on about something that didn’t interest me. He looked at me in surprise, and we suddenly both remembered this person that I haven’t been for so long now. I apologised, and slumped down at the kitchen table, my head in my hands. It would pass in an hour — or perhaps three. Nothing to do but wait…

After it began to ease off a bit, I picked up the phone and rang my mother. “Guess what? I’ve been in quite a bit of pain.” She felt terrible — and took it as a criticism, as she so often does — and quickly began explaining how it had all been a misunderstanding… I stopped her — no need, I knew. I had just wanted us to both be aware of the lesson I had just learnt: even the littlest bit of soy brings the pain. Vigilance and complete abstinence are the only solution.

And then I realised it had to go a bit further. I told my mother that it had been a lovely evening, except that I had spent half of it being worried about leftover creamy salad dressing and the possibility of dropped walnuts. Our family barbecue should be a relaxed environment for everyone. I asked if next time, and from now on, we could make our family get-togethers allergen-free for everyone — no wondering if that has eggs, no watching to see where the nuts are, no guessing which salad dressing is safe — just a nice, relaxing time for everyone. There was a little part of me that felt angry that I even had to ask this, and I wondered if she might think I was being over the top, but she agreed right away. I was surprised by how relieved I felt — I had been more stressed during that relaxing evening than I’d realised.

And then I sat down to ride out the last few waves of pain — brought on by a simple misunderstanding and a mere teaspoonful of the wrong food. Small mistakes can have very big consequences. Lesson learnt — again.

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Today I am grateful for:

  1. The fact that my husband kept his good humour even though he was shattered from work, red from the sun, and near keeling over with hunger, and came out and looked at two open houses with me as soon as he got home from work
  2. That when I realised what a perfect summer’s night it was and suggested we eat dinner outside, and he surprised me by agreeing (he has always hated eating outside) and then sat with me on our kitchen chairs as we held our plates in our laps, picking at our dinners in the near dark on one side and blinding brightness of the porch light on the other, he looked up and said, “Now I see why you always sat outside back home and looked up at the sky. It’s really quite… nice when you’re not freezing.”
  3. And that just before we sat down to that dinner, I caught a gift for M out of the sky and when I carefully opened his hand and gently shook my prize into his palm, he looked at it intently before suddenly exclaiming with surprise, “Oh! His bum glows! Why does his bum glow?!?” and then looked around himself and sounded as delighted as a child as he said, “They’re everywhere! Oh, look!!!

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Today, I am grateful for:

  1. E1’s sleeping habits, which, by the grace of God, are late-to-rise and allow me to stay in bed that little bit longer after the baby has had me up two or three times in the night.
  2. The smell of freshly mown grass waftly gently through the air on a hot, hot summer’s day.
  3. My daughter’s curls, which thrill me — me with my poker-straight hair — every single time I see them.

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