Tuesday, January 10, 2017

dad turns seventy // our time in mn

On Christmas Day we started our drive to Minnesota, my home state, to celebrate my dad's 70th birthday.We decided to just pack up and leave a day early so that we could break up the twelve hour drive and stop at a hotel with the kids.

Cormac : I like hotels, Mom.  Not because of the pool.  Because of the cool furniture and beds!

We all enjoyed our night swimming in a ridiculously warm pool, with apparently "cool" furniture and beds and then arrived the next afternoon at my parents' farm.

This is the same farm where I grew up from age eight to eighteen - amidst woods, "pet" sheep, misbehaving cows, and farm cats.  It is always nice to be able to go back to that space and regain a sense of myself that gets lost sometimes in my far-away adult world : the kid, the dreamer, the romanticist.

The farm is beautiful and private, and I think my parents appreciate the property now more than ever. The grandkids can visit and roam and we can can all remember what it was like to be so free.

A few years ago my dad built a playhouse out of the wood from our huge red barn that had blown over in a fierce storm.  The barn has actually been reincarnated in all our homes - as a fireplace mantle, a coffee table, beams in the kitchen, and art.  But the playhouse always is a central focus for the grandkids when they visit the farm.  Grandpa heating water on the wood stove for hot chocolate, making snow cones flavored with Kool-Aid, the play kitchen, the loft, the pulley, all their measurements and handprints on the wall...things they will remember as they get older.
the playhouse
For his birthday celebration Dad didn't want a big party, but just all of us together at the farm.  My brothers both still live close-by, but my sister and her family traveled from Montana, and we, of course, drove from Kentucky.  We all see each other maybe once or twice a year, if we are lucky...so this was special time.

Our little fam stayed at a hotel in town, but drove out each morning after breakfast to spend the rest of the day and evening at the farm.  Our kids basically got to stay up until 10pm every night during the trip, running around like crazy with their cousins and stealing sweets (or, in Finola's case, "flat cheese") pretty much all day long.  It should have been a complete nightmare, with the kids being somewhat sleep-deprived and sugar-loaded,  but somehow it worked out okay and we all enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

We celebrated Dad by all going to a little restaurant nestled by a frozen lake.  Oh, yes -- there was plenty of snow on our visit!  A treat for us "southerners!"  

The dinner out was loud and warm and tasty, ending with us singing Happy Birthday while Grandpa was served an ice cream sundae.  He shared it with all the kids, and then we headed back to the farm for another dessert and present opening.  Dad received books and a whole lot of beer - two of his favorite things!

We treasured our time there, arriving home New Years Eve with tired kids and the same Christmas mess we had left.  Totally worth it.

Here are some of photos I got from our trip...
The kids brought their backpacks which they had packed with toys and art supplies -- travel lifesaver!
Finola shares my love of cheese, clearly.
My sister Heidi helping Cormac write one of his "books." 

obviously we all love to rock our hats!
Grandma getting some snuggles with Finola.  Sometimes you just have to grab her face and kiss it!
A frozen lake is a thing of beauty - at least if you're a Minnesotan.
kid table!
we never take our kids to restaurants if we can help it.  I am surprised at how well this went!
the birthday guy enjoyed some lobster tails.
A happy man -- with seven of his eight grandchildren (Finola refused photos at that time.) 
Dad with his kids!
Mom and Dad
Finola appeared suddenly as soon as ice cream appeared.
In fact, all the kids wanted a taste.
Grandpa shared willingly - even though he has always had quite a sweet tooth.
I love this pic I snapped for my Instagram story!
my kids weren't huge fans of the snow or cold.  they mostly had to be towed on a sled or carried.
everyone went on a family walk around the woods for some fresh air!

this is my happy place - right here.
sledding on the cornfields

Finola helped the guys make breakfast our last day there.

cracking eggs (her newest skill) with Grandpa

We made our way home the day before NYE, stopping halfway at one of those hotels with an indoor water park.  The hotel was pretty bad...but the kids loved the wave pool and slides -- so I'll count it as a win!

Here is the video of us singing Happy Birthday to my dad.  It was a treasured week of family time.