So today Ethan's mom left to go back to Colorado Springs. I would add a "sniff, sniff," but the truth is that I am just elated she doesn't live in Alaska anymore (although we really wanted to use her as a reason to have to go back there, but the money to haul us out there hadn't magically appeared in 8 years). Goodbyes were much harder when she had to make that trek. But Colorado Springs seems like a mere jaunt down the road (via air, of course).
I have spent the 9 days she's been here much as I would my regular days (with more outings), only significantly more aware of how LOUD and WHINY and SCREECHY this household is. You get kind of used to the chaos and mayhem, until you have a visitor that stays too long for you to keep the fussy kids hidden in the closet. Out they come, and then you realize that this household is truly anti-functional and a big smile and hairbows in the girls' hair are not going to change the preceding forty minutes of "He's pinching me! That's MY balloon! Who tooted? Who tooted? Who tooted?"
Come on, kids. Do you know how many times in the past week I've said, "We don't talk like that" when it is abundantly clear that we do? And when I say WE do, I do not mean the all-inclusive sense of the word. I mean the ALL OF YOU sense of the word.
The bickering was substantially lessened when Grandma bought both Ben and Lily new bikes. Their bikes were passed down, which ended the "how many minutes on the timer until I get a chance to ride?" They took Lily to the school across the road to practice riding without training wheels, and she called me five minutes later to tell me she was doing it! Now she's a pro, which Benjamin loves. They can ride circles around our driveway for hours.
We had plans for what we would do while Grandma was here. Half of those were scrapped when we realized three days into it that the babies were not going to instantly stop their whole-van-ride hollering just because Grandma was in the van. Quite the opposite - they sought opportunities for encores. So we did what we could - half of the Frontier Culture Museum, the Green Valley Book Fair, dinner at the house of kind friends in Harrisonburg, Costco (it counts!!), picnic at Braley Pond, lunch with her and my parents at the Depot Grille, Machen Retreat Center, Andre Viette's garden, my weekly morning out for coffee with friend Barbara at Newtown Bakery, and Polyface Farms.
Yes, Polyface Farms. I had to remind the children of where we were going: "You know...the place with all the chickens. We're going to go chase the chickens!" Well, guess what we couldn't find when we got to Polyface. And then we could find, and they were upside down in the killing cones, dripping blood down their little heads. Three workers deftly chopped at plucked poultry, pulling out innards and tossing the carcasses into ice water.
The kids were fascinated. The only thing better than chasing a live chicken is watching the butchering process!
Immediately prior to us finding the chickens, two little tow-headed boys (around 6 and 5 years old?) asked if we wanted to take the tour of the farm. "Oh, that's OK," we answered. "We already gave ourselves the tour."
"Didja see what our dog Michael killed?" they prodded.
When they discovered we had not, in fact, taken the extensive-blood-and-guts tour, they quickly had us turn around and head back toward the store. "It's something wild," they hinted.
I started guessing. "A mouse?"
"Snake? Fox? Skunk? Squirrel?"
We rounded the front porch of the store. "No, no, no, no. Here it is!" And with that, the older of the two boys started kicking a very dead groundhog while the younger child picked it up by the scruff of its neck so that we could see its rodent teeth.
My children were enthralled. Each child got as close as he could to the prized trophy. The babies started squirming, and we called the children away. Jonathan was the last to come, and he hurled a few well-aimed parting kicks at the groundhog.
The resident children pointed us in the direction of the upside-down chickens, and we left Polyface feeling ... oddly enough ... hungry.
After grabbing a bite from Wright's Dairy Rite and touring Andre Viette's fall gardens, we went back home to put the littles down for what turned out to be 3-hr. naps. Ethan went in to church to get some work done, and I plopped frozen chicken into some boiling water to get a head start on the evening's tacos.
Note to self: LABEL YOUR FROZEN FOODS.
It turns out nobody was too interested in eating tacos made with the bananas I was boiling. After Ethan gave me much grief about "who freezes bananas?" he picked up some ground beef and we had much more conventional tacos.
And now the fun with Grandma is over. Ethan and Ben left a couple of hours ago to take her to the airport. The children still smell like her, her room looks empty (but only for a few more hours until we reassemble the crib and playpen back into there), and I am realizing that my week of neglecting the house sort of really shows. And sticks.
Years ago, when Ethan's mom came from Alaska and we came from Virginia and met in Seattle, we visited Ethan's grandmother. We were only there for a short time, and when we left, Marlys (my mother-in-law) said, "Well, it's best to leave them wanting more."
You did it, Mom. You left us wanting more.
Come back soon.
|Miriam, Abraham and Grandma at Frontier Culture Musuem - taken by Benjamin|
|Grandma, Salem, and Gideon - taken by Benjamin|
|Catching crayfish at Braley Pond|
|Jon-Jon and Abraham at Polyface. Abraham is going to build Grandma a house, and he and she will live there. When Ethan and I get old, we can live there, too. It will be purple and pink, and there will always be cookies and milk.|
|Ethan's favorite Polyface cow. We named him "Burger."|