Last week we had my favorite party of the year: the church picnic in our back yard.
Every summer a few families host a Wednesday-night picnic and the whole church is invited. This is not as scary as it may sound; our church has about 45 family units. Since a lot of seminarians attend the church and they tend to be young and either childless or just starting to have babies, we don't have a lot of large families. So, we're not inviting hundreds of people into our back yard.
This is the 2nd year we've done it. Last year there was the extra excitement of a hard rain shower in the middle of the party. We have a big back yard, but a small house. Some die-hard kids stayed outside in the rain, and the men hung around the grill as the burgers were coming off. But mostly we were elbowing each other in the living room and kitchen. It was a blast.
This year we had perfect weather. And a new volleyball net. It was a great night.
There are several reasons to love this party: it's a chance to get together with friends, and with people we don't know well. Even though it's a pretty small church, last night more than one person told me how glad they'd come because they spoke to someone they'd never met before. Even adults get comfortable in their relationships and have a hard time with new people. But it's different at a picnic.
It's different for the kids, too. Our church doesn't have a playground or grassy area for the kids to play. They just hang out after church, eating snacks and waiting for the parents to be done chatting. At the picnics, they can play. For boys especially, this is so much better than sitting around talking.
And for me, it's the easiest party of the year. We provided the hamburgers, hot dogs, bread products, plates and cups. Everyone else brought salads, side dishes, desserts and drinks. Since I don't grill, my work was pretty much done when I left the Costco parking lot. Yes, we happily serve Costco burgers and Ball Park mystery meat hot dogs. Everyone loves the burgers and at 50 cents a pop, they are affordable for a crowd.
It is a little tricky figuring out how much to buy, since it's open to the whole church. We know everyone won't come, but... how many will? As of Wednesday afternoon I had 44 burgers, 32 dogs, and 32 each of the types of buns. I had a moment of panic and sent the seminarian out for another 8-pack of hamburger buns. Good thing - we used all but 3. You can say I'm weird, but I know the Holy Spirit told me to get those extra buns.
So, it can be a little nerve-wracking: how many will come? Do I have enough food? Do I have too much food? That last is never a problem, of course. We'd have been happy to have more frozen burgers left over; the boy would eat one or two a day if allowed. Extra buns can be used for sandwiches, cinnamon toast, garlic bread... or frozen for bread pudding or crumbs.
Leftover desserts were portioned out and sent home for sampling the next day. Or that night after the kids went to bed, maybe. We try to send home the leftover pop but ended up with a few partial bottles.
Next week we'll go to someone else's yard and do it all over again.