“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.