Vacation from parents

Barely waiting for the car to stop, the grandchildren threw off their seat belts, raced up the steps and burst into their St. Louis home. They had a hundred stories to tell their mother Joy about our trip. Sophie, 10; Sam, 8; and Henry, 5, had accompanied us to visit relatives in Indiana and Michigan. We included a couple fun side trips just for them.

“Lake Michigan is a lot better than an ocean,” Sophie announced. Water time pleases her. The bonus of Lake Michigan comes with its miles and miles of dunes on the eastern shore. Lake adventures come free of sharks, jelly fish, sea shells, kelp or salt water drying on the skin. “I went out until the water was up to my neck,” she grinned remembering small waves crashing gently over her head.

As she told talked about the lake, Sam chimed in, “I made a sand fort.” Henry waved his hands for attention to tell about playing in the sand and waves.

“We ate out almost all the time!” Sophie announced with astonishment. Hmm, I had not realized that, but she was right. No sandwiches in the car. We began with a restaurant located along Route 66. Picky eater Sam did not live up to his name that night or any other.

“Where did the green beans go?” I looked at him in astonishment.

“Into the black hole,” he grinned.

A couple minutes later, I turned from a conversation and his meatloaf had disappeared, “Where?!”

“Black hole.”

“Mashed potatoes?”

“Black hole,” he assured me.

He told his mom about his new black hole and his sister interrupted, “We ate on the floor in the hotel!”

“There are not a lot of tables in hotel rooms,” their mom observed.

“Mom! Mom! Mom!” Henry bounced up and down, “Look at my race track. The cars can bud.”

(Bud? He had repeatedly used that word in the van after he chose to spend the money he earned with his “good behavior on the trip” cash. I think he meant bump.) “Can I take it out of the box? Can I?”

“Just a minute,” his mom said. “Let’s get everything inside first and I want to show you the school supplies and clothes.”

“School supplies!” Sophie’s eyes lit up. “Where?”

Before mom could answer her, Sam pulled out a couple little toy men. He knew exactly what he wanted as an award. Every time we suggested other items, he said, “I am saving my money” until he found the men.

Ignoring him, Sophie peeked at the bags of school supplies, “I have shoes?!”

“Right there, but just a minute before you take the bags apart,” Joy cautioned as they dropped everything and began reaching for the bags of crayons, notebooks and new shoes.

The tidy house exploded with energy, tales of swimming at the hotel pool, and studying maps – a skill Sam discovered after he asked his grandfather, “How much further do we have to go?”

To his mom he announced, “I found St. Louis in Michigan and Missouri on the map.” While the others swam for a couple hours at the hotel, he studied the atlas and found places his Uncle Mark suggested. His map skills soared during our short trip.

Once the energy of reporting slowed, Henry set up his race track as Sophie concluded that the trip was, “our vacation from our parents or maybe it was our parents’ vacation from us.” Whichever, we returned in time for the first day of school so the grandchildren can rush home to tell their mom everything at once about that first day back.

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Jefferson School reunion stories

Old secrets slipped out at the school reunion of the graduates of the high school now consolidated into a larger school. The MC pointed at his head. “You may have noticed, I am missing some hair. When I was ten, my great-grandfather died and his body lay in the farm house for a while before the funeral and family pot luck.”

A cousin who came for the funeral told him, “I heard that you can smoke corn stalks and get high.”

“We went to the corn field. I got a foot long piece of corn stalk. I tried to light. It wasn’t lighting and we were not getting high. We found to a depression in the ground and got a little fire going. I held my big stalk out to the fire and puffed. It never started.”

They quit trying when the cousin realized, “Hey, we have to get back in time for the funeral.”

“We rushed up to the house, went in the side entrance, washed our hands of the smoke smell and then realized our eyebrows and hair were singed. I cut the singed hair off my head and eyebrows.”

The boys declared themselves fit for a funeral. They came down the back stairs and slid into the last row of chairs in the dining room. “We thought nobody knew what we had done. But, can you imagine the smell of the fire in our clothes? No one said anything, but ever since then I have had trouble growing hair up there.”

No one else confessed to any attempts of getting high. Lesser evils occupied the man who grinned, “We had a lot of fun on the bus. Truman and I used to put spit wads in our suspenders and hit the bus driver in the head with the spit wads. We got spanked once for it.”

Innocent fun and memories compared to the story that began, “I remember Jim and me when we were parked on a farmer’s field at the corner of the county roads. There was an open septic tank on the property with its top off. The farmer saw our car parked in his field and came running out the door with a gun.”

One of the guys and shouted, “He has a gun! He has a gun!”

Running away in the dark one of the kids landed in the open septic tank. Taking him home the alumni recalled, “that guy stunk.”

A co-ed from the 60s recalled the year of transition before consolidating the small high school into the larger. “When I was a junior we had to go to [the larger school] for half a day. One day my friend and I decided we did not want to go to class that day. So we skipped school.”

The girls headed to the highway where “We found a cute young Swede guy hitchhiking.”

The girls spent a couple hours driving him to a large city. At three, one girl remembered she had an dental appointment at four.

“The police stopped her for speeding. She didn’t get a ticket, but she told her dad that if a policeman called about her speeding, it was a fake.” In conclusion the former co- said, “With two schools, you can hide pretty well. I probably have the school record for skipping the most days. I skipped 68 days in my junior year. ”

With stories about smoking corn stalks, skipping school, spit wads on the school bus and a stinking night, the alumni rocked the old school one more time before going their separate ways.

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The Brannock Device

Each fall, Mom bought new clothes and shoes for the first day of school. My new dress came from the Montgomery Catalog, but new shoes required a trip to the shoe store with floor to ceiling shelves of shoe boxes and more hidden in the back.

The clerk pointed us to the slick vinyl seats with chrome arms, pulled up his little stool with a slanting platform covered in rubber treads and grabbed the shiny stainless steel measuring device from its hook on the wall. “Now who is getting shoes today?” he asked. My mother indicated her five children.

Sitting in front of me, he slid off my right shoe, and placed the device on the floor, “Stand up and put your foot on this,” he said. I stepped onto the metal tray. His fingers slid behind my ankle verifying that it set snugly in the heel cup. I watched him slide a concave steel pointer beside my arch until it fit perfectly over the bone at the widest part of my foot – he had found the correct arch length of my foot. On the other side he slid a wider plate with numbers until it aligned with a set of letters to find the width. My toes pointed at my toe’s shoe size.

Comparing the arch and toe lengths he announced my shoe size, “What are you looking for today?” he asked my mother. With her description in mind, he began pulling boxes off the shelf. He snapped open the lids, expertly slid them under each box and shoe horned the tight new shoe onto my right foot resting on the rubber lined slide of his stool.

“Try walking in that,” he motioned to the carpeted aisle. I walked. He added the left shoe, felt the shoe for its fit. And my new shoes went back into the box and onto my mom’s growing pile.

A recent estate sale reminded me of that annual fall ritual. In the workshop, midst a table covered with screwdrivers, dremels, hammers and boxes of nails and screws, I found one of those foot measuring devices from my childhood. I had not seen one in years. I picked it up, asked the price and decided I could afford the oddity that I did not need. It’s officially known as The Brannock Device. Mine provides the calibrations for fitting women’s shoes. Men require a different calibration for their feet as do children. The Brannock Company also produces separate devices for children, ski boots and athletic shoes.

It all began with Charles Brannock of Syracuse, N.Y. whose father owned a shoe shop. Charles wanted to fit shoes perfectly every time. According to the Brannock Company website, Charles used an Erector set, to develop a prototype for the first foot measuring device. He used the device in the store. The shop became known as the place for the best fitting shoes. Other shoe stores wanted his invention.

In 1927 Brannock began manufacturing The Brannock Device. Brannock absolutely refused to make cheap plastic devices that would have to be replaced every couple years. He insisted on durable stainless steel.

I wanted to know how to use my new tool. I found instructive YouTube videos emphasizing the importance of The Brannock Device to find a comfortable fitting shoe. I absolutely agree. When all my shoes irritated my feet, I went to a specialty shop. The clerk took off my shoe, pulled out The Brannock Device and said, “Stand here” and began pushing slides. My feet had grown. Fitted with the right size shoe, I am ready for another school year.

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One of Those Days

Some days just do not flow at all. Take today, for example.

Two stop signs away from my 9 a.m. exercise class, I waited on the heavy truck to make the turn uphill onto the street. This was not some hilly road in the mountains but still, for a driver unfamiliar with standard shift and the use of clutch, brake and accelerator moves required to climb a hill, inclines are challenging. I know because I learned to drive a standard on a steep dirt road with a curve to our house. I was not allowed to drive it until I could adeptly use clutch, brake and accelerator.

The truck geared up to turn, rolled backward and braked. He started again and rolled backward again. Still plenty of room between us until he started again and kept rolling backwards. I reached to shift into reverse too late, and the truck hit the plastic bumper on my car. It for sure wasn’t a rubber bumper because that truck’s hitch did not bounce off my car. We got out to inspect the damage.

No one hurt. Nothing to do but wait on the police. Except, for some reason, my car did not have the updated proof of insurance we had purchased. The insurance company sent my phone a picture of proof of insurance. I sighed and began the process of filing a claim.

After I exercised, I tried to make a payment with PayPal. The receiver said it did not go through. They wanted the money immediately. After a lot of interchanges, around lunch time, I concluded the recipient did not realize it can take time for the payment to transfer to their account. It took hours and ultimately, for some reason, the recipient sent it back to me so I could try again with another account, I guess. Sigh. Next time I will send a certified check. If they thought the electronic processing took time, the mail will teach them patience.

I know because two weeks ago I sent four packages. The recipient received two boxes. The tracking information from the Post Office says three boxes made it and the fourth never entered the tracking system. We don’t have them. At 4 p.m. my husband went to the Post Office and reviewed delivering all four packages. I sighed and began the process of filling out a request to find the lost package. Regretfully I remember another package I sent to the same city that also went missing. I am getting bad vibes about that city and doorstep thieves.

So it has been a day of starts and stops. Of trying to follow the rules and discovering even the best laid plans can falter. So it was my turn to have “One of Those Days” and I truly wish it had not been my turn. Tomorrow it can just be someone else’s turn. I have had my fill of it for now. I had many other things I really needed to do today.

I did accomplish one thing. I called up and made reservations for a show I wanted to watch. I even dared suggest we go out to eat. I say “dared” because on too many days like this in the past, I have encountered restaurants where the waitresses forget us, the entree I request has just sold out, or we wait an hour for the kitchen to remember to fix our order. Fortunately, this time “one of those days” only worked from 9 to 5. After 5, everything went as planned and we had a lovely evening with no more exasperated sighs.

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Kids need an interpreter

Sometimes children need an interpreter to talk with adults. Take the week the big kids went away, leaving the seven year-old behind. Her mom had an evening meeting, so at breakfast her dad whispered, “While mom is at her meeting, I think we should go on a date.”

She looked confused. A date?

That is gross, only Dad can take Mom on a date.” she told her mom. They discussed her reluctance to go until her mom asked, “What do you think we do on a date?”

You kiss all the time. I don’t want to do that!”

Her dad changed his invitation, “Let’s go on a father-daughter dinner night out.”

The child agreed and had a great time eating and talking with him.

That child has her standards. Recently Chick-fil-A held its annual Cow Appreciation day where customers who arrive dressed in cow attire recieve a free entree.

Early in the morning the seven-year-old’s mom said “We are going to Cow Appreciation Day. You each need to put black spots on white clothes.”

What if it isn’t today? I don’t want to dress up if it isn’t today. Mom, you have to check the restaurant and be sure they really will give us free food if we dress like a cow,” they all insisted.

The restaurant affirmed the promotion. The older two relaxed, but the seven year-old still did not want to dress like a cow.

That’s okay. You do not have to dress up, but I am not buying you any food; not when there is free food for those who dress up,” her mom said.

The child put black spots on white clothes, let her mom twist her long hair into cow ears and ate her free chicken dinner.

If only threats always worked that well. Another mother said that her three year-old was moping around outside as if he had nothing to do.

She suggested, “Why not go out and play on the swing set?”

No!” he yelled.

Well, I guess I need to give that swing set to another kid who’ll play with it,” she said thinking that would motivate him.

Yeah. Do it, Mom. Give the swing set to ‘nuther kid,” he said still moping.

Always expect the unexpected with kids. Like the Halloween one boy insisted he did not want to go Trick or Treating. His mom asked, “Why not? You will get lots of candy.”

You already buy me lots of candy. I don’t need any more.”

He definitely was not the greedy child who saw cake for dessert and grabbed the biggest piece. He wanted it. He tasted it. He spat it out. It was lemon, and he hated lemon then and now.

His mother said, “You took it. You eat it.” He sat at the table refusing to take another bite until she forked a piece and insisted. He vomited all over her.

Sometimes, the conversation takes a more subtle, unexpected turn.

An eight year-old boy said, “Guess what, Mom?


They are making a drink that is diet free, sugar free, salt free, color free, bubble free … a drink with nothing in it.”

She looked at him doubtfully.

I’m serious, Mom. It’s like a pop.”

Or like water,” she said defusing his excitement.

Kids do get excited. As the toddler was when she told everyone she was going to be a big sister. Her mom emphatically denied it. Still the child enjoyed the attention, which is the one thing every kid needs even more than an interpreter.

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Reclusive Ora and WW2

World War II loomed over the farmer’s nearly grown sons as the family of six sat down to eat their evening meal. As he picked up his fork, George Waight asked his wife, Ora, “Did you see any planes today?” 

“No. I didn’t,” Ora summarized her four hours as a volunteer whose job was to scan the skies in the observation shack. After the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Americans feared a mainland attack by Germans or Japanese planes carrying bombs. That fear resulted in the Army Air Force Ground Observer Corps which established observation towers. Inside, each had a table, a pot belly stove, chairs and a phone. In pairs volunteers watched the skies against a surprise attack.

The war changed the nation and individuals. Homebody Ora, who never left the farm, not even to buy material for a new dress, signed up when observers were needed. With two military aged sons, she had to do something. She attended classes to distinguish friendly from enemy planes and faithfully went to the observation shack. Back then planes flew low enough that night time observers could hear them. According to the website, pairs of volunteers served four hour shifts around the clock. Newspapers published schedules and class times for training spotters. Ora read the papers, put aside her preference to stay home and volunteered. 

Ora’s youngest child, Doris, not quite 10 when WW2 started, recalled those years. At school she practiced air raid drills where she ducked under her desk. She said her never idle mother did not waste her hours as an observer, “While watching for planes, Mom spent her time making a lace tablecloth,” she recalled. Decades later, the lace tablecloth covered and enhanced a plain maroon cloth – a quiet reminder to the the family of the years of her contribution to the war effort when her son Allan went to war.

Serving in the observer’s shack did not suffice. Ora had to do more. Her oldest daughter, Marion, finished school and went to the city to fill a slot a soldier left in the munitions factory. Ora surprised everyone when she announced, “I think I will go to the city and find a job in a factory. They need workers.”

Ora would leave the quiet of home to work in a factory?!

Hearing this in later years, her granddaughters shook their heads that their grandmother packed up and went to work as a “Rosie the Riveter.” “Grandma did that? I thought she never left the farm!” one exclaimed. “It does seem incredible,” another said. “I remember that when she and Grandpa retired to live in the village, she did not walk two buildings down to buy her groceries at the general store. She always sent someone there with a shopping list.”

But Ora could not just see her youngest Dale off to ‘clean up Japan.’ She had to do something more to occupy her time while waiting for his return. She did what she could to ensure both sons came home. She went to the factory.

Evenings after work and on the weekends she made sure that those who stayed and kept the farm going had meals. She prepared soups and dishes for Doris to re-heat for her dad and herself. Ora made up canning jars of soup, pre-cooked sides of beef, and left instructions for her youngest to heat the meals. 

Watching for planes that never came and standing in a factory line may not seem like much, but for homebody Ora, it was what she could do until the day both sons came home.

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only 15 minutes

Looking around his room, my dad said, “It wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to pack this all up and go home.”

He knew what he was talking about. He began packing and leaving the fall he went to college a couple hours away from home. Once his parents had helped him arrange his room, they left to drive home. Family lore says he arrived home before his parents. No explanation. He did not return to that college. He enrolled in another school in a city where he could hop the train home every weekend.

That pretty much summarizes my dad. He could pack up and leave at a moment’s notice. And, he did. A couple times, he wanted live in the Wild West that he read about in Zane Grey’s books. He wanted desert life with its sand, cacti, wind and clear sky. Twice, he and my mom packed the station wagon with their five children, clothes, basic household goods and a lunch box – and left for Arizona. Twice, we saw the desert, the Grand Canyon or the big Jack-O-Lope. Twice, we turned around and went back home to upstate New York.

During my eighth grade year of school, we did it again. Only this time Dad made connections with friends in Casa Grande, found a job in a factory manufacturing airplane parts and rented a house with furniture. Mom began talking with Realtors.

The Arizona school year ended before New York kids even began studying for final exams. Five half grown farm kids brooded in the middle of a city with no chores to do. We missed our cousins, our grandparents, our classmates and farm life. We said so often.

One morning, we wandered into the kitchen for breakfast and found our equally homesick mom packing boxes. “What’s going on?” we asked.

“Your dad said ‘if you want to go back, have this all packed up by the time I get home.’”

It took us more than 15 minutes to do it, but the car and trailer were loaded when he came home from work and we left.

He never said that again. He just practiced it frequently enough that he attended our high school graduations in three states. After we graduated, he would pack and leave so quickly that we each called Grandma at least once to ask, “Where are my parents?” For instance, following a family crisis, he insisted he must “go West now.” Mom quit her job and packed. They left within hours.

After my mom died, my dad packed and moved more times than I can recall. He moved across the country between New York, Arizona, California and Arkansas. The day his legs failed him, Dad landed in Arkansas in a wheelchair in a nursing home. With his diminishing awareness, he never understood ‘why’ we would not yield to his demand to “Go Home” or that Home no longer existed. The old home place had changed hands. Family members had moved away or to their final resting place. Still, Dad looked restlessly around his room and said, “It wouldn’t take but about 15 minutes to pack this all up.”

Easy to pack. Nearly impossible to drive more than an hour with a tall, heavyset man who could not get himself in or out of wheelchairs, vehicles, bathrooms or hotel rooms. Even finding and applying for a room in a residential care unit “near home” required more than 15 minutes.

So he stayed until he joined his home folks in a place where no one packs up and leaves with 15 minutes notice.

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Facebook says I’m lazy

Facebook called me lazy, “You have not posted anything in nine days.”

Nine days? I may not have posted on my FB page, still I have commented on the Facebook pages of others.

I gave my daughter-in-love “thumbs up” when she posted a picture of her newly minted certificate to be a Certified Lactation Consultant. When she took the classes one week, my husband and I went to St. Louis to supervise the children. To keep busy during the school hours, my Energizer Bunny of a husband accepted their suggested list of house repairs. My list only dealt with preparing gluten free, dairy free and sugar free food for the week. Mostly I spent my days watching YouTube, reading, shopping and taking naps.

I commented, “Glad to have been able to help you in some small way. Nice vacation for me.”

When the oldest granddaughter, mother of three, lost eight pounds, I hurrahed her and typed, “Good job. Hard work pays off.” Not too wordy, but I have not been feeling very wordy lately – obviously, or Facebook would not nagged me for not posting in nine days.

I asked my son for pictures of the pavers he recently laid in his driveway. He posted the picture. I commented, “Good job. Should be less muddy during the winter and rainy days.”

Facebook can not count. A week before it scolded me, I welcomed my 78 year-old husband back from serving four nights as the oldest counselor at our church’s Junior Camp. He came home exhausted, but like the Energizer Bunny he is, he kept going while I lay on the couch totally wiped out from a few days by myself. Days in which I stayed home, slept, read, did a bit of stitching and took naps.

No one wants to read a post, “I took three naps today.”

I might have added comments on the week’s hot news topic. So many others covered it from every angle possible that reading their posts drained me. I took another nap.

I could have discussed my weird diet of the month, “eat a small spoonful of sauerkraut before each meal. The kraut helps settle the digestive system.”

It seems to work, but I can’t endorse it. Two weeks into the diet, I woke up, dipped into the quart jar of kraut for a dose and stopped. My lips curled. My body violently shuddered at the idea of even one more bite.

Gulping air, I put down the jar and grabbed a yogurt instead.

Hastily, I shoved that jar into the back of the refrigerator. In a year or two I may use it to top a hot dog. For now, my stomach can’t handle hot dogs let alone sauerkraut.

I doubt anyone wants to read Facebook updates on my sauerkraut diet.

I do know that friends like pictures. My friend, who knew my daughter in grade school, saw a picture of her four children and wrote, “Man! I feel old. Are we old? Our kids are older … wake me from this crazy dream.”

I could only sigh and type, “We are older.”

So, I’m sorry Facebook that I failed to meet expectations. I promise as soon as we iron out my digestive difficulties and my energy level moves little closer to the Energizer Bunny’s, I will hop right back on board and tell the world all about my life again, as I once did.

Meanwhile, quit nagging me. I’m still recovering from all the reasons for following the sauerkraut diet. Believe me, no one, but no one wants to know those details

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disabled or inconvenienced

From my observations of folks with disabilities, attitude determines more than aptitude.

The one-armed man played sports in high school, carried a baritone in marching band, finished college and landed a job in a bank cashing disability checks for men who asked, “Why are you working? You could get an SSI disability check and stay home.”

“I don’t consider myself disabled, and I can earn more here to support my family,” he always answers with his gracious smile.

In Mexico, a woman in a wheel chair at the information desk directed harried passengers to their next flight or the baggage claim. At the boarding gate another disabled person accepted and scanned tickets. On the streets, the disabled sold papers or souvenirs. They did not stay home and collect a check.

At the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, buses carry visitors to drop off points leading down to look-out points along the rim of the Canyon. As I reached the last stop of the bus trail, I spied a one-legged man seated at the only shaded picnic table. I desperately needed shade after the heat of the canyon so I joined him.

“Did you do the whole thing?” I asked.


I looked at this man with his slight frame and arm crutches. He had no companion. The trail had some rough patches that took time and energy for anyone.

“You work somewhere?”

He named a community college at the other end of the state.

“Did you have a hard time getting a job?” I thought of the rejections the one-armed man had received before landing a job.

His mouth twisted into a bitter smile. “Yeah. They would look at me and decide I could not work.”

“So how did you get the job?”

“I asked to volunteer in the IT lab as much as I could. I know the stuff. I showed up on time, every day and stayed as long as I could. They noticed and offered me a part-time job. It’s where I work now.” he said with well-earned pride.

Contrast that with conversations from healthy young adults wishing they qualified for disability funds. “You know, if I had an accident that hurt a limb, I would get …” the young man named a few thousand dollars. “I would qualify for a disability check and wouldn’t have to work.” No mention of the pain that would precede the qualification or the limited lifestyle that accompanies living on a government check.

The petite young woman said, “If I was three inches shorter, I would qualify for a disability check.” All she had to do was lose a couple inches in height. She knows people do sometimes lose. inches. She knows nothing about the pain from the bone crunching experiences preceding that lost in height or the accompanying backaches. She simply knows if she were shorter, she could get a check and not have to work.

I never considered height challenged individuals as anything other than inconvenienced. They are easily accommodated. Like the truly height-challenged woman who climbed a specially built platform to the cash register in a shop, chatted happily with customers and reported shop lifters she spied carrying items under their shirts She enjoys the satisfaction of each day’s work and pride in earning her own money.

Certainly some truly need financial assistance. Still others, who could qualify, consider themselves merely inconvenienced and choose to defy the limitations that so many thoughtlessly assume fit them. These live by the motto of my daughter’s friend, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat!”

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Well planned visit

“We are coming to Arkansas the week of my birthday.” my son Nate announced.

We? As in wife Joy and children Sophie,10, Sam, 8, and Henry, 5. Great! My toys needed someone to play with them. I lacked the energy after two weeks of non-contagious stomach issues. “Come! I may not be the perkiest hostess, but I can enjoy the kids.”

Nate and Joy came with plans for their two night stay, Nate wanted to visit his high school and college alma maters and say, “This is where I went to school.” We wanted to show off the Murphy Art District.

Their kids spilled out of the van eager to explore the house they hadn’t seen in four years.

Henry, 5, found the ride-able, battery operated train with a figure 8 track.“Hold onto this bar,” Grandpa said as Henry climbed into the engineer’s seat. Henry rode until the battery needed recharging.

I had prepared cookie dough, checked the food supply, made up beds and rested a lot in-between. At the park, I chilled in the shade while Sophie climbed the rope bridge at the park near the splash pad. I stayed home and slept when they visited the Museum of Natural Resources.

I had simple plans. Eat, sleep, watch grandchildren, provide meals and sleep.

The next two days Joy and Nate asked us to join them at an Airbnb – an online program that matches travelers with private homes or rooms open to unknown guests. She found a three story house in Hot Springs with sleeping space for 12 and invited my daughter, Sharon, and her family. Joy took my cookie dough to the house and baked a huge cookie cake for Nate and Sharon who both had birthdays that week.

Seven grandchildren under 11 raised the roof with energy. With hundreds of places to hide during their game of hide-and-seek, four grandchildren came to the smallish bedroom where I rested. They hid under my blanket, under the desk, inside the cupboard and took my pillow as cover in a corner hiding spot. Until they heard Sam the seeker coming, they stood by their hiding spots talking.

An afternoon of digging for crystals yielded dozens of small boulders covered with red clay, a wash load of clay stained clothes and one impressively large cluster of smokey quartz. The owner of the Airbnb saw Nate washing the rocks outside and said, “Thanks for doing that outside . Some have used the sinks and clogged the drains with mud.”

Joy and Nate found a marina with paddle boats and kayaks to rent for an hour or longer. I understand seven kids and their parents had a great time. I don’t know. I slept in the car, waking just in time to join them for watermelon and snacks.

I did plan for all to visit one natural hot springs. I purchased enough Ramen noodles in a cup for each person to make their own hot soup. There is nothing like the taste of steaming hot water, scooped out of a moss lined basin and poured over a cardboard cup of noodles.

Before Sharon took her children home for swim practice, I looked in the freezer. “We have a gallon of ice cream we must finish in 24 hours. Who wants ice cream?”

Everyone, except me. I served. They ate and the ice cream disappeared.

The birthday week ended at the camp for our church’s annual family weekend. Great plan for ending their visit: Food we did not have to prepare, acres of fun and lots of time to visit folks and rest before we waved good-bye until the next time they come.

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