The joys of nature, good food and family

The girlsThe farm delivered good times this past weekend.  Maria, her cousin and her friend drove out with me on Saturday afternoon. We jammed it out to Now 41 and Justin Bieber during the ride.  Everytime I tried to sing with them, Maria would yell “Moooom, please don’t!”  Even though she did not want me to sing, she did want me pump my arm up and down when we passed truck drivers along the way.  She remembers me telling her my story of doing that as a kid and truck drivers honking away at me and my girlfriends when we were on long trips with our parents.  They tried to do it from the back seat but the windows are tinted.  I pulled through for them and pumped my arm (and showed a little leg) and got a few honks for them! 

When we pulled up the drive to the farm, Maria began explaining the entire set-up to her friends.  “There is my pee-paw in the garden and there is Rosie’s dog-run and the chickens are up in their house and the cabin is in the back and….”  SHe is definitely at home out at the farm.  The girls jumped out of the truck and bee-lined to Rosie.  Maria and Alana love to play with Rosie. They throw her toy, play chase, love on her, and exhaust her.  Janira, Maria’s school friend, was much more hesitant to get in the gated area with them.  She stood back and watched.  I think the whole farm scene overwhelmed her – she is a true city girl.  However, she did get up her nerve to go into the chicken coop with the girls. And much to her amazement, she retrieved a chicken egg.  All three girls retrieved one, and came running back to the house with eggs in their hands.  They were different colors, mostly peach and grey-blue.  Maria described to Grandma Meg how they found the eggs by digging under the hay (she knows all of the tricks of the farm, too). 

Next, we headed to the creek below the house.  Meg and I walked with them enjoying a few minutes together to talk about the latest going-ons in our lives.  Meg and I don’t get to talk as much as we used to pre-kids because she lives two hours away and the kids are always with me when we see each other.  I value even the small moments in time that we can catch up.  The water in the creek flowed at a manageable level for the girls to walk around in their water shoes.  Maria and Alana took off again, and Janira was a trooper trying to keep up.  We walked to the swimming hole; a pool of water less than waist-high where the girls could jump around and splash.  It looked like a little bit of paradise with the sun shining through the trees onto the water; the green plants and wildflowers lining the edge of the bank, the birds flying from one bush to the other, and the smell of nature.  My dad talked about making a cleaner path to the swimming hole and setting up stones near the hole for adults to talk while the kids played.  Retirement is hitting him soon, and he is already scoping out projects to keep him busy!

The kids were soaked after the swimming hole.  We took them to the house and dried them off.  When they moved to the table, they found sweet surprises from Grandma Meg.  First, goodie bags with headbands and snap bracelets and crayons and pens.  Second, a homemade Nature Journal complete with a twig fastener and activities inside.  Leave it to my Meg-pie – she has a perfect combo of teacher, conservationist and nature guru.  It had educational yet fun activities in it like discovering a tree and finding certain colors pasted onto a sheet of the journal (when we were walking in the woods and saw yellow bark, Janira yelled out “I found our yellow!”).  She also had pages to detail the day, including writing one thing in nature that made you have a happier day (Meg gave them an example of a butterfly landing on her leg).  They stood around the table soaking up her words.  What an awesome influence for Maria Grace and her friends.  These girls certainly walked away from the weekend with a greater appreciation for nature.  They also got so excited over finding a caterpillar (which Meg looked up in her guide-book with Maria completely intrigued), a toad, and a woodpecker.

I helped my dad later in the afternoon following a sumptuous meal of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread and corn on the cob.  We loaded up all of the slate from the barn to store next to the chicken house (the barn needs to be refurbished due to its age and the fact that it could topple over any second).  Nothing better than some good, hard labor (when you are not forced to do it, heh?!).  My body was rather shaky and exhausted after moving the slate and picking up a few giant rocks, but it was a good exhausted – one where you feel you’ve actually done something useful with this machine that is our body.  I enjoyed time with my pops, too.  When we rode on the forklift to get the rocks, there was a moment he looked back at me to make sure I was on securely.  I felt like a kid again hanging out my dad.  I wanted to tell him how much it meant to me to share that moment with him but it seemed a rather strange comment to make when we were both dripping in sweat and riding a forklift down a gravel hill.  So I kept it to myself but I believe he knew just from the sheer fact of being my dad, and having an intuition for those things. 

We returned to cake and ice cream – yummy.  Meg and I laughed at our sweet Maria as she sat in her chair eating the icing off her cake.  All was quiet and she chimed in “Ahh, I am enjoying this cake.”  A perfect summation of what we were all thinking.  We finished the night with Matilda – an absolutely adorable movie with Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman.  It was super moon night, and it shined into the house so brightly that I felt like I was being interrogated at times.  But it was gorgeous in the clear black night out in the country. 

My girl with Taz and G-ma MegWe woke on Sunday and rode horses.  The girls all did a fab job with Meg and dad helping them.  The horses were in great moods and caused no distress.  After the girls rode, we had some killer pancakes made by dad.  He uses a regular whole wheat mix but adds a bit of brown sugar to it and it makes them to die for.  They have this crispness around the edges and a melt in your mouth taste.  Sometimes he makes them with nuts and blueberries, which sounds amazing.  After pancakes, the girls took a tractor ride around the pasture and gathered a few more eggs from the chicken brood.  The bickering began around that time with little slights setting them off (Maria yelled at Alana for talking about dogs because it made Maria miss Cy; Alana yelled back; Maria yelled at Janira for “bragging” and Janira cried that she was not trying to brag but Maria always thought she was and it’s not fair…).  Hence, it was a good time to leave so Meg and dad would not be subjected to it and I could ignore it from the long way off in the front of the truck. 

We pulled out of the drive, and I felt so happy.  You know those moments you get every once in a while where the entire world looks peachy-keen and life has circled around to right where you want it?  I had it.  Right in the palm of my hand.  And then Maria threw a marker past Alana so she couldn’t use it and Alana screamed at Maria and Janira cried her head hurt, and I was back in reality.  I had promised that we would stop at McDonald’s Playland on the way back home.  Why did I do that? This McDonald’s Playland was the grossest one I have ever seen.  The tables were dirty; the kids were loud and obnoxious, and the parents were even worse.  One parent was yelling at her son to get down from the slide.  When he refused she yelled “That’s it, Tiger, I am going to whoop on your ass with my belt in front of everyone.” I was ready to rescue the kid if she did it in front of me but she refrained.  Eye-opening to see other walks of life.  I pride myself on appreciating diversity but the folks in that McDonald’s tested me. 

The cousinsWhen we finally got home, we got to start the party all over again with Jon’s family.  Patty had kept Giovanni and Mario all weekend up at her condo, and I am sure was ready to bring them down to our house to say good riddance!  It took her over ten hours to make potato salad because she had to keep running after them.  What a woman. I was being a little pissy from being tired when the rest of the clan arrived. The kids went down in the basement to dance to “I’m Sexy and I Know it” and  Jon grilled hamburgers and brats and peppers.  The meal was delicious, and I shook off my irritable mood and had a good time (it was probably the realization that I would get another whole sheet cake to eat (I had already had two others for Maria’s b-day earlier in the week)). 

Everyone left around 8:30.  Jon and I dropped on the couch.  The kids fell pretty quickly, too.  Maria’s b-day weekend brought lots of good times but I was glad to be on my couch with my hubby staring off into space.  Although, loading up slate would be a close second.

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