And then they were gone

As I write this the Pennsylvania grandchildren are packing their suitcases, preparing for the long trip home. We will cross paths with their mother somewhere in Tennessee. It has been an intense month. These old folks enjoy every minute of having time with family, but having four additional people in the house for a month did affect our daily routines.

I still went to work. My husband proudly took a new audience to all his favorite activities:

The first day he took them to the blueberry patch. The owner laughed when Grandpa asked for five buckets. “Aww, I’ve seen kids come in here before. You won’t pick that many buckets,” the owner scoffed.

“I think they will,” Grandpa said.

“If they do, I will give you one bucket free.”

They came home with five buckets for the price of four and spent the afternoon packaging most for the freezer. He asked me to buy ingredients for fresh blueberry pies. The nine-year old promised blueberry waffles for breakfast and delivered two or three times that week.

From the beginning they divided up the daily chores. Still, my evenings flew by in a whirlwind of activities: sewing cow costumes for Cow Appreciation Day, supervising and encouraging the creation of a couple photo books on Shutterfly and helping around the edges as they made up Thanksgiving Dinner.

Thanksgiving Dinner?

Well, yes. As we surveyed the freezer the first day to plan meals, one spotted my bargain turkey and declared we would have a Thanksgiving feast.

And we did. We also had Easter using the chocolate bunnies wrapped in foil and hiding in another part of the freezer. My husband used them as the prize at the end of his treasure hunt with clues and compasses in the back yard. We did not do Valentine’s Day, but I do think that Cow Appreciation Day with the lot of us dressed in white with black spots qualifies as Halloween.

This month definitely was a change for us. My husband laid aside his plans and routines to focus on four young-uns with a lot of energy. We re-arranged our days to dip into Daily Vacation Bible School the second week.

Hubby loves having company and looks for every opportunity he can to take someone, anyone on a short trip. So within the first week, he slid over to the computer and began researching how he might squeeze in a short trip to Fairfield Bay where they could swim, fish, hike and just chill for a few days.

Before he left he directed each of the four to choose a fruit, a vegetable, a protein and a carb for a meal they would prepare while gone. They dutifully rummaged through our cupboards, refrigerator and freezer for apples, boxes of noodles, cans and frozen bags of veggies and packages of meat. Everything went into the cooler to go to The Bay.

Most of the vegetables came back.

While I plodded my way through the special section for Back to School, they scrambled down a hill to the Indian drawings in a shallow cave. One tumbled and hugged a rock covered with poison ivy. She washed afterward, but the deed had been done and a a rash appeared.

They emptied grandpa’s pockets of spare change buying bags of fish food to toss at the carp in the bay.

“We just tossed in one piece and they exploded to the surface,” the kids laughed. They barely had unpacked from their trip to Fairfield Bay when they had to move over and welcome three more ready for fun in the sun followed by Showdown at Sunset.

So much to do. Our friend Laura Rogers, with the Arkansas Game and Fish, agreed to use a couple hours one evening to show the kids how to use a bow and arrow to hit a target. The youngest shook her head at shooting arrows. Instead she eagerly grabbed a box of molds to make plaster paw prints. Molds completed she decided to join Robin Hood’s merry men. The biggest grin all summer came when our grandson landed two arrows in the bulls eye.

Early in their visit, I printed out a list of verses for them to learn so their brains would not turn to mush over the summer. Grandpa made sure they learned a couple verses before they began the day’s activities. I stocked the cupboards and freezer; he made sure one or two young’uns made it into food. I said, “time to wash clothes or clean the rooms.” He checked to be sure they did it.

And then suddenly the last day arrived. They packed their bags, stripped the beds, put away the books and magazines they discovered on our many bookshelves and vacuumed the floors. The dishes have been stashed in one cupboard or another. The time has come, the time is now. Off they go … and how will we entertain ourselves for the rest of the summer?

(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the News-Times and author of “Twenty Gallons of Milk and Other Columns from the El Dorado News-Times.” Email her at