We left Sunday afternoon, July 1st, after attending a farewell party for our ex-Pastor's ex-wife. (Yes, there is a long sad story behind that, but not one I'm going into on my blog.) We were packed and ready to go, so it was just a matter of loading up and leaving.
We drove straight to the farmhouse, where Steve's brother met us. He had been visiting with Steve's grandma and his parents, but his parents left right before we arrived. His brother John had brought a computer and Steve looked at it a bit. We set off some fireworks together, and John gave each child a cute 4th of July teddy bear, and some snack foods.
The next morning Steve did some yard work while I remade all the beds in the farmhouse with fresh sheets. We showered, and went into town to eat lunch with Steve's Grandma and brother at the nursing home. It was an enjoyable time, and we moved outside to sit and visit some more. We had not seen John in 2 years. We took many photos, and then we finally headed back to the farmhouse. Steve mowed, changed the oil in our Suburban, and ran the weed eater. I repacked and cleaned up the house to get it ready for us to leave the next day.
Then Steve had me come outside and learn to drive the riding lawn mower. I admit I was fearful of it, and was a reluctant learner. Steve first had me mowing along the driveway, and I refused to do the ditch, so he had to do that part first. But he then sent me up to mowing around the kennel and the burn pit, and I gained confidence there. Steve swears I was smiling as I mowed, so I must have been enjoying it. What he doesn't know is I was laughing as I did "donuts" out of his sight at one point. Well, not really donuts, but mowing in increasingly smaller circles. I still was not confident enough to ride with 3 yo M on my lap as Steve does, though.
Steve was frustrated that due to fuel line issues in the mower and a weed eater that was acting up, we only mowed what had been previously mowed. We did not regain any new territory.
That night we finished off our fire works, despite very bad matches, and running out of fuel in our lighter. We need to replace those before we visit the farm again, especially if we hope to use the gas stove/oven. The next morning, Tuesday, we ate, showered, loaded up and left. It was a very long day as we drove to New Mexico. We drove a new route, for us, and that was interesting. We drove through Greensburg, Kansas, and viewed the destruction of the F5 tornado. It was sad, to see all the devastation, but also inspiring to see the determination of the townspeople, and their sense of humor. One restaurant had lost its outer walls, so the white board on the inner wall now read "Outdoor seating NOW available." Everywhere we looked, there were signs of "Opening soon", "Will Return", etc. So much work still to do. The lines of trucks are STILL constantly traveling from town to the dump and back with debris.
We arrived at my parents house around 11:30 pm their time. They were still up, and I was able to hold my nephew for the first time. He's one month old and just so sweet. He and his Mommy (my sister 16 yo S) live at home with my parents and one of my Grandmas. My cousin Ty and his new wife were there, and I was able to meet her for the first time. My sisters and JD (S's boyfriend and my nephew's father) returned from a movie shortly after we arrived. So we were able to hug each of them before going out to my parents travel trailer to settle down for the night.
The next day was the 4th of July, and the family reunion. It was a fun, chaotic day. There were people, and children, everywhere. My parents had a sprinkler and a small pool set up in their side yard for the children. And there were water guns and super soakers, as well. As usual, it was kids against the adults with the water wars. The super soakers were reserved for adult use, but the kids kept trying. Family Reunions are always fun ... in a crazy sort of way. It was good to reconnect with cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. That night we went outside of town and created our own fireworks display. We had several cousins and my Uncle with us. The children were all impressed.
By Thursday at noon, all the extra family staying with my parents had left. It was back to just our large family as guests at my parents house. The children swam again, and Steve fought off an intestinal virus that hit him. He rested and tried to recover. We walked up to my grandparents home and visited them briefly. They were about to head out on their own extended vacation, and we wanted to see them before they left. We also got to know my Uncle Buddy -- their new dog. He wasn't sure what to think of his great nephews and great nieces, although he and Little L (15 months) reached an understanding and friendship before we left. I spent the rest of the day doing laundry, reading, and helping to calm my nephew whenever he became fussy.
3 yo M was given his quilt that Grandma had made him, and he was so excited. Grandma has made each child a special quilt. She makes applique blocks and embroiders details onto the pictures (from very simple coloring books) on each block. One quilt is kittens, 2 are farm animals (although different in style), one is teddy bears, and now M's is just animals. Grandma is thinking about what pictures to use on Little L's quilt, she my do bugs and flowers. Our children's Aunts and Great Grandma's have helped Grandma finish up some of the quilts, as well.
Thursday night, Steve, my Dad, JD, and my cousin Rick took the oldest two girls out to ride 4 wheelers. They had so much fun, and came back full of stories. The younger children were promised a 4 wheeling trip the next day. I chose to stay and visit with my Mom and sisters each time, but I am sure I won't get away with that on our next visit.
Friday was a lazy day for me. I sat inside watching "What Not To Wear" with my sisters and Mom all day, while Steve was working outside. He had to rebuild our little cargo carrier that attaches to our tow hitch. The wood had rotted off the metal frame. I'm not sure what else he was doing, but he stayed busy outside most of the day, and made a trip or two to town. I tried to keep the children inside more that day since they were all sporting sun burns already. Friday evening, as promised, all the children (except Little L) were taken out to ride the 4 wheelers. They came back covered in red mud! What a mess!!
Saturday, we all traveled to Sitting Bull Falls to swim and picnic. It was a fun time, once the children got over their fear of slipping on the rocks and not being able to see the bottom of the pools. It was hard to keep Little L safe since she just wanted to take off on her own at every chance, in water or on land. Thankfully, there were no further sunburns, due to an aggressive use of sunscreen and some tshirts, nd no injuries other than a scrape here and there.
When we arrived home Saturday evening, we ate a quick leftover meal. I washed the muddy clothes from the 4 wheeling and started the bath process for the children. Steve was outside working on one of his projects again. At dark, he came in and worked on his brother's computer again. I went out to the trailer and read while the children fell asleep.
Sunday we attended church with my parents, sisters, and nephew. 10 yo R was able to wear her new necklace and bracelet that her Aunt R gave her. (Aunt R has a hobby of rock tumbling and jewelry making, and we all enjoy receiving her creations.) We took up 1.5 rows until the children went to children's church, then we squeezed into one row. After church, we ate lunch together, and let the children watch Happy Feet for the first time. I went out to the trailer to clean up and repack our bags, and Steve continued with his outdoor work. He had washed our Suburban in the morning before church, and then he washed the 4 wheelers. My two sisters who live a couple blocks away (R and B) came over with belated birthday presents for C, J, M, and L. After the birthday presents, Steve and R worked on John's computer awhile. I continued preparing to leave.
Steve went out to finish rebuilding the cargo carrier, and I began loading the back of the Suburban. We finally were loaded and ready to go, later than we had hoped. We again left with more than we arrived with. At the farmhouse, we had added our 3 sleeping bags, the computer, and the snacks from John. At New Mexico, we added a bag of clothes, some car parts, presents, and 2 super soakers. We arrived at John's house late. I can't remember the time, but Bethany had already gone to bed. Steve and John set up the computer to work on it while I bedded the children down. I'm not sure how late they stayed up working on the computer. I had been asleep awhile before Steve came to bed, though.
Monday morning, we woke up and shared breakfast with John and Bethany. Steve and John twiddled with the computer a bit more, and we visited awhile. Bethany was able to go into work late, so she could spend time visiting. We showered, reloaded our things, added a lawn mower, some school supplies, and more snacks, and then still managed to squeeze ourselves into the Suburban. We left mid-morning, and began the long drive home. We arrived home at 10:30 pm, and we all pitched in to unload the Suburban. By midnight, we were all settled in our own beds.
Yesterday I unpacked, started laundry, and put things away. The children helped clean up their messes, vacuum, do the cat litter, etc. By the time Steve came home, the house was all in order. There are still two plastic tote boxes sitting in the living room that we need to put away, but there are car parts in there for Steve to sort out first.
It was a wonderful week with family. Relaxing overall, but still very full. We had not attended one of the 4th of July reunions in years. I honestly can't remember what year we last attended. It was nice to be there, even though this year's reunion was smaller than some previous ones.
Now I have more laundry to do, and Vacation Bible School preparations to finish. Next week is our church's VBS, and Steve and I are both leading different areas of it. Steve is leading the computer lab section and I'm the Bible Memory Leader. 11 yo A is a crew leader for the first year, leading children from area to area. Little L will be in the nursery, and probably 3 yo M. I think he's still too young for VBS. The others will be participating. So, next week will be a very busy week for our family.