Last weekend Andy, babies, and I headed west to Illinois, to visit my Grandpa Gene and his wife, Teresa, as well as various aunts and uncles. We made an overnight pit stop in Champaign, then continued our journey Saturday morning. I was a little nervous about driving during waking, non-napping, usually-playing morning hours, but Henry and Eleanor did great. They conked out for about an hour, and then there were tractors, cows, and hay to entertain them. Henry, especially, got whipped into a frenzy viewing all the farming equipment. He’d demand “more tractor!” apparently believing that we could make them appear at will.
At one point on the drive, Henry saw a baby cow amidst a herd, and exclaimed “baby cow!” He then proceeded to name the rest of the cow family that he spied—Mom Cow, Dad Cow, Aunt DeeDee Cow.
We arrived in Bowen around lunchtime, and Henry and Eleanor immediately started getting spoiled by Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma. After lunch, we tried unsuccessfully to get the babies to nap, so after a snack of Texas sheet cake we decided to head out to the farm instead. Henry and Eleanor were delighted to see Grandpa’s dog and all the various farm cats that scampered around. Henry got to sit and “drive” Grandpa Gene’s tractor—I think he’d still be there if we’d let him. We walked around the farm, and Teresa showed Henry and Eleanor how to kick the snow off of their shoes on the Allis-Chalmers signpost.
The fun continued back at Grandpa and Teresa’s house, where Henry and Eleanor got several minutes of unlimited access to M&Ms; (what’s Valentine’s Day without chocolate?). Henry and Eleanor opened their Valentine’s Day gifts from Great-Grandpa and Great-Grandma, and then played with a basket full of toys loaned by a neighbor while Andy and I watched the SIU basketball team get creamed on national television.
Following a delicious supper of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese, it was time for Henry and Eleanor to take a bath. Mid-bath, Eleanor poured a cup of water on herself, and suddenly her nap-less day caught up with her. Grandpa and Teresa were treated to a full-out, screaming-and-crying fit, which continued throughout the rest of the bath, during a quick storytime, and about twenty minutes or so after we put Eleanor and Henry to bed.
On Sunday morning the Henry-and-Eleanor spoiling fest continued. How lucky the babies are to have three sets of grandparents who love and dote on them. Andy and I even got spoiled—we got to sneak off for a mid-morning nap while the babies played. Our good day continued when my great-aunt Darlene joined us for lunch. Darlene is 91 years old, and please please please let some of her DNA have trickled down the family tree to me. Darlene still drives and mows her own yard, and even got her first brand-new bicycle for her ninetieth birthday. She is always well-dressed and well-accessorized, as was her sister, my mom’s mom…my love of big bangle bracelets comes from that side of the family. Darlene got to meet Henry and Eleanor, and we snapped lots of photos before sitting down to a big lunch of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes and noodles. Eleanor, our farm-food-loving gal, slurped up her noodles as quickly as we could put them on her plate.
After Henry and Eleanor’s nap, we drove down to Golden, my dad’s hometown. My dad has a huge family—he’s ninth out of ten kids—and four of his brothers and sisters (plus a few spouses) had gathered to meet Henry and Eleanor. We congregated at my Uncle Kenny and Aunt Lois’ house, and were joined by my aunts Evelyn, Imogene, Betty and uncle Merlin. My Aunt Imogene is a twin mom herself, so I especially enjoyed visiting with her. Her babies are about to turn 40, but some things never change, both good (twins clubs) and bad (stupid comments from strangers). Henry and Eleanor played with toy trucks and were oohed and aahed over, and then we sat down to eat. Trips to visit my family always leave me so full; the “light meal” Aunt Lois said she would prepare for our visit included sloppy joes, turkey, ham, jello salad, potato salad, and potato chips, with two types of cake with ice cream for dessert.
We said our good-byes to my aunts and uncles and popped back to Grandpa and Teresa’s to load up the car and change the kiddos into their jammies. On the drive home, Andy and I vowed to make trips over there more than a once-every-two-years occurrence; we’re lucky to have such a large, loving family, and want to make sure Henry and Eleanor get to take advantage of it.