Traveling with five children is not fun! Let's just get that out of the way. However, the memories and relationships that we develop are priceless. After the business of finishing up the school festivities, getting the laundry done for the first time in weeks - only to pack it up in a suitcase (thus foiling my attempts at avoiding wrinkledom and let me tell you, laundry is the BANE of my existence), trying to inconspicuously pack the presents away without my ever watchful and disbelieving children seeing it is a lot of work! But, boy was it worth it.
Traveling up to Sutter Creek is hard. Peter spends his time corralling the children. I spend 90% of my time in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and the other 10% is spent cleaning Ethan's soiled clothing from his continuing failed attempts at potty training. Basically, I feel like I'm trying to cut myself in half. I don't want my husband and children feeling like they are abandoned, but I also don't want my grandfather to feel put upon and like he has to do all the cleaning and cooking. I feel like the Gale commando brigade descends on his house and takes over. There are toys, laundry, and detritus everywhere! I felt bad for my grandfather. He is used to his lonely quiet life and like a bomb going off - here we are.
Despite all of the negatives, he was grateful for it. Both for the company and the distraction. We had a nice time. The most important thing is that my grandfather enjoyed himself and we left his house and his person a little better for the time we spent there. As a point in fact, December 27th we even took him clothes shopping (I'm not bragging or trying to tell you how good I am because believe me - I'm NOT; it's just a remarkable thing to get my grandfather to want to do shopping for something like clothes). I had forgotten how men get so comfortable in their clothing that they don't pay attention to how many holes may be accumulating. And, after I saw Grampa's elbow poking out of his shirt, I asked him if I could mend his shirt. Instead of letting me mend it though, he suggested that we do some shopping for him. We spent a whole day going to JCPenny's and WorkWorld. My grandfather is very particular about his clothes. He likes Dickies pants and two pocket long-sleeve shirts that will resist wrinkling. He is 87 and does not iron! Well, mission accomplished.
We even introduced him to the wonderful offerings of Trader Joes! I don't do all my shopping there; there's too many of us and it isn't practical for the likes of my family. But, a few select items I purchase there. I like the prices and quality. I especially like the fact that they always have samples of their food in the store. There are times I have samples some of their offerings, something I wouldn't have normally purchased myself, only to turn around and buy it and introduce it to my family. Grampa liked Trader Joes. When we go up to his house, I usually bring up a few of their freezer items for him. I've brought him up their garlic fries (love them!), mini-croissants (my kids fight over them), and for the holidays they had apple streudle. Grampa loved the streudle. He filled up his shopping scooter with his goods and was quite content. Maybe he was just humoring me, his funny granddaughter, but I don't think so.
While we were at Grampa's house I expressed my gratitude for his letting us stay there. I truly feel bad. My kids are SO loud and it is difficult for him to tolerate. By the end of the day, he would very calmly suggest that the kids play the quiet game. "Let's see who can be quiet the longest? Whoever talks first loses." Isn't that a loving way of saying SHUT UP? Inevitably, Ethan was the loser. That child doesn't know how to stop talking, and when he talks it is very loud. One night when I had had enough, I was upset with the kids at the table. I had made a beef stew of leftover primerib and veggies for dinner, which we ate with homemade honey whole wheat bread. Yum! Well, of course, Jonathon was acting like I was serving poison. I enjoy poisoning my children, did you know that? I wanted an end to the complaining, so I demanded that we play the quiet game. It didn't work as well for me as it did for Grampa. I said, "We are not going to talk until 6:39 pm." All I wanted was 5 minutes of quiet. I can't even go to the bathroom in quiet. Generally one or two little people (Ethan or Aeron) follow me into the bathroom if I lock the door they either rattle the door handle or charge the door until I'm afraid it will fall off the hinges. Right off, Bekkah after a minute or so of quiet bursts out with whatever it is that she couldn't wait to say, I can't remember because of what happened next. Both boys, Steven and Jonathon rolled their eyes, and of course I said, "Guess what, we're starting over. Now you have until 6:41 pm to be quiet." Next, Ethan has an outburst. He turns to look at me and farts (passes gas, for those of you more genteel folk) really LOUD! Then he laughs (really loud) and shouts, "Ha ha, I farted!" I tried to keep a straight face and normally I do, but this was such a hilarious moment and so typical of my family that I couldn't help it and I started laughing which then set everyone else off. Leave it to me to spoil my own game! That evening, I'm sure my grandfather laughed himself to sleep. He got a good laugh out of that. I, of course, removed Ethan from the table to the bathroom, because sometimes the gas is an indicator of an imminent bowel movement. No such luck, he just wouldn't go. But that's one of our memorable and more base moments. I have shared it with the world. But it really is quite representative of the Peter and Bonnie Gale family. Someday maybe we'll tackle all the niceties. For now we're working on one at a time!