Thursday, July 5, 2007

Fourth of July

I am always slightly irritated by the Fourth of July. I think a lot of it has to do with trying to find 1) something that makes it worth being out in the heat that 2) small children will enjoy but 3) without a long wait. We have a hate-hate relationship with humid heat. Ethan's Alaskan blood and my ... well, heat-induced crabbiness tend to embrace winter holidays but sprawl in the air conditioning during the summer ones. Fireworks are always iffy -- they start much later than my children's bedtime, and the majority of my kids spend the time with their hands over their ears saying, "Too loud! Too loud!" (violating limitation #2). Plus, the fireworks in this area are frankly rather puny (violating limitation #1), but to go where they are spectacular in the mountains involves a 1 1/2 hour drive (violating limitation #3). 


The past few years we've abandoned fireworks altogether and bought a package of firecrackers (and here in Virginia, you're pretty much just paying for birthday candles on steroids) and sparklers to do in the front yard. The kids have been duly impressed, but we were itchin' to do something a little different.


In order to ensure a perfect Fourth, we planned. Absolutely nothing. Well, we planned to plan, but somehow the Fourth came and we had ... no idea what we were doing with it (and to state the obvious, five kids in five years shows that we have never been strong in the planning department).


So when Ethan came downstairs yesterday morning and said, "What are we going to do?" I scrambled to think. The only thing I could come up with was a weak, "Ferry Farm is having a free thing today."


"Great! Let's go." FREE is one of our favorite words, but we understand that you sometimes get what you pay for. So I went into this with low expectations, thinking that it was only a 15-minute drive if things went haywire.


But I have to say that this was my favorite Fourth with kids so far. (My favorite Fourth sans kids was the year after we were married and we went to Seward, Alaska, and watched the fireworks over the water and then camped and watched the Mt. Marathon race and the mini-Mt. Marathon, but that is a rabbit [moose?] trail that I won't follow here.) SOMEBODY had done their planning, and the Ferry Farm activities were perfect! There were free cupcakes and crafts, demonstrations and games. Lily made a corn-husk doll with her squaw instructor while Benjamin and Abraham checked out the deer, fox, raccoon, and otter pelts a painted Indian was displaying. Benjamin made a beeswax candle, joining a circle of children who dipped their wicks rhythmically in a bucket of wax, then a bucket of water, then a bucket of wax, then a bucket of water, bending almost in time with the musician playing the penny whistle. At the crafts table, we made tri-corn hats for the boys out of construction paper, feathers, staples, and glue; and the girls wore mop caps made from coffee filters with ribbons laced through holes punched around the edge. There were all sorts of colonial games -- bocce, lawn bowling, burlap sack racing, toss the oh-so-colonial inflatable beach ball on the oh-so-colonial parachute, hoop-and-stick, bean bag toss, etc., etc., etc. They signed their names with a quill pen to the Declaration of Independence, and Benjamin practiced carrying a musket around. A gunsmith showed the boys how they used to make bullets (it must have improved your aim dramatically to have to make your own bullets!).


It was fantastic. We left, wandered around the newly-renovated mall (my favorite part is the huge family bathroom -- I can change diapers and have the olders use the restroom without having to work shifts!), and came home to prepare some red-and-blue treats.


And in a few minutes, I'm off to gather some corn husks from the field next door to whip up another doll to replace the one that is now guarding that family bathroom at the newly-renovated mall.


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