First Full Week at “Grandma Camp”

Well, it has been a busy week for all of us, so busy, in fact, that Stephan, the 8-year-old, is starting to say he wishes he were home where they “never do anything.” But then he’ll ask what we’re doing today or the next day. I totally understand, though, the need for a day of rest. We have all been stepping outside our comfort zones, especially for a bunch of introverts, who need sufficient down-time to recharge. And the most extroverted of the group has acquired several new things for his birthday this week and would like to stay home and play with them, especially the snap-together electronics that his Daddy Matt gave him.

Stand back! We’re doing science.

Here’s what we’ve done this week. You be the judge of whether it’s too much or not.

Day 1: We went out to eat at our favorite pizzaria, Shakespeares, which all three grandchildren had been to before and said they remembered. Then we went to Peace Park, where Grandpa Jim and the boys threw rocks in the creek until time to go to a Family SymFunny, This Land is Your Land, at the Missouri Theater, performed by the Missouri Symphony Orchestra and Musicians from the Missouri Conservatory Strings ‘n Things Camp.

Grandpa Jim shows Jearid how to play the banjo.

Day 2: We went swimming at Stephens Lake Park, which was a big hit on a hot summer day. The lake has a small sand beach and a gradual entrance to the water, so nonswimmers can take their time and go only as far as they want to go.  I wasn’t sure how well the youngest would take to the lake, but he loved it and kept walking out until he could barely touch the ground and his mouth was under water before turning around and saying “go back go back.” Eventually, he even stood under the water fountain and let the water fall on his head. He accidentally went under a couple times but just wiped his face off and kept going back in the water. After swimming, we went to Sparky’s for ice cream. Sparky’s made the national news last year for offering cicada ice cream, but this year they just have their usual exotic flavors.

Fun in the sun.

Day 3: In the afternoon, the kids went bowling with their Grandpa Mike. After supper they came with us to listen to Grandpa Jim and me play music on the patio at RagTag with other members of the Two Cent Band. Jearid, the 12-year-old, joined in on an improvised “egg,” using a plastic bottle of Party Picks as a rhythm instrument.

No, that’s not a new style of playing. Molly dropped her pick in her mandolin.

Day 4: By now I am also beginning to get the hang of cooking for this crowd and also appreciating the beauty of potluck dinners and occasional nights out.  Usually everyone makes their own cereal for breakfast as they get up, and then I make something simple for lunch (omelets, quesedillas, tuna salad, macaroni and cheese). I’ve rediscovered my crock pot for dinners, which has been a big help. The menus and recipes from Eat at Home have also been a big help. The kids are good about taking their plates to the sink when they are done, and Jim helps with clean-up, but the dish washer hasn’t run this much in years.

Day 4 was Independence Day, so after another trip to Stephens Lake Park to swim, we all went to a party and barbecue with friends and then went to watch the city’s fireworks exhibit downtown. We had hoped to stop by the children’s activities at Peace Park before the fireworks, but everyone was kind of tired by then and it was still hot. During the fireworks, Stephan wore his noise-reduction headphones and seemed to enjoy it well enough, but his dad, who has spent three years in combat in the last ten years (two deployments to Iraq and one to Afghanistan), could not stay with us. He tried to leave early, but his car was blocked in the lot, so he turned up the radio, closed his eyes, and waited it out.

Cooling off on a hot day.

Day 5: Jearid turned 12 today, so he got to choose where to go for his birthday, and he chose the Science Center. It was fun watching the kids explore all the exhibits. The older two say their favorite subjects in school are math and science, which is wonderful to hear. We spent a couple hours looking around and then watched a movie about polar bears at the Omni-Max Theater. None of them had been to an Omni-Max before, and they were impressed, although Stephan really wished the Batman movie was out already (it doesn’t come out until July 20) or that we at least could have seen a preview of it. For his birthday dinner, Jearid chose Golden Corral, so I got a day off cooking.

Building an arch

At the science center.

Day 6: This afternoon we went to see a wonderful production of The Wizard of Oz at the public library put on by two actors from the Hamstead Stage Company out of New Hampshire. We are so fortunate to live in a town with an active public library that brings such amazing programs to town. The play lasted about 50 minutes, with time for the children to ask questions after. There were only two actors playing all the roles, so many of the questions were about how they changed costumes so fast.

Three brave volunteers helped out during the production of The Wizard of Oz.

After dinner we went to the First Ever Dance Walk in Columbia. By then Stephan was dragging and pointed out that he hadn’t gotten to choose anything, which was technically true, so I resorted to bribery, I suppose, and said he could choose what to do after the Dance Walk (knowing full well he would choose going to Walmart to spend the allowance he had gotten that morning). But it seemed fair. He walked at least half the route during the Dance Walk and then Grandpa Jim offered to take him back to the car, while Bethany, Jearid, and I finished the Dance Walk through downtown.

Just fooling around.

Then we headed to Walmart, where Stephan bought himself several Batman figures and little cars. It is really exciting to watch him do the mental math to figure out how much he has left on his allowance card and how much in cash, how much the things he wants to buy will cost, and to do the rounding and estimating to see if he has enough.

Grandpa Jim and Stephan at the Dance Walk.

Day 7: We tried to get up early to go to the farmers market before the worst of the heat, but of course we didn’t quite make it. It was nearly 100 degrees by 10:00 with no wind to speak of. (Again, I am so very happy to live in a town with such a great farmers market.) Of course, Stephan thought this was boring, as was the trip to Songbird Station to buy more suet for our feeder. He seemed happy enough to buy a watermelon and cantaloupe at the market, but then he was ready to leave. After lunch of tuna salad, Bethany and I headed out to the fabric store, where she picked out a pattern and some fabric to make a backpack with an owl applique. Then Grandpa Mike picked the kids up for more swimming at the lake, dinner at his house, and a movie. I was in bed by the time they returned at 11:00.

Now it’s time to clean house and then get ready for another week.

Stephan enjoyed using spray bottles to clean the mirrors and the floor.

Jearid enjoyed the squeegee and used it to clean all the patio doors inside and out.

Bethany says cleaning is more fun with the right tools.

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