We made a trip down to Iowa this past weekend for a family wedding -- the husband's side of the family, but we stayed with my parents, due to the location. I don't know if her genetic farm background is coming through or what, but four-year-old N spent much of the drive down looking out the car windows at the fields and asking "What are they gonna plant in that field?"
Said car ride is not short -- at least three and a half hours, generally closer to four -- so it was nice that we had time after our arrival on Saturday to go visit the Y, which my mother has joined in her retirement, and use her guest passes for swimming in the rec pool. Unlike water-aerobicizing Grandma, we haven't been in the water since last summer, so my beach-lovin' little girl was having a ball. She went down the slide into the pool numerous times -- and there was a soft pad in the landing area, which did not have water above her head, so I didn't have to catch her! (It took me a while to recover from the force of catching an enthusiastic slider at an outdoor pool last summer. And she's grown since then.)
The Y's pool also had some communal toys, like soft pool noodles, floating around. After gathering several of them to support her torso, N was actually able to swim -- after a fashion -- with leg kicks and such. This was her idea, by the way.
Back at Grandma's house, there was time spent observing the animals, like the very fat squirrel who sat out on the branch and ate the corn from her squirrel feeder, the gray rabbit who sat outside the window for a few moments, and the raucous birds building their nest inside the holes of a stump -- the one with the birdhouse on top of it.
Inside, the plastic animals were also popular. As the four-year-old sorted them into "families" (daddy, mommy and baby lions, hippos, etc.),, and talked about the names for various baby animals (kangaroo = joey, etc.) she casually asked, "Grandma, did you know I'm an everything expert?"
Nothing like self-confidence. She has it in spades.
Since we were missing the egg hunt we normally attend in Minnesota on Palm Sunday weekend, Grandma created an indoor egg hunt for N, whilst I was keeping her occupied with bathing (and playing some sort of version of hide and seek that involved hiding small bath toys in "caves" -- also known as leftover plastic drink cups from, I believe, fast food promotions of the 1980s. The hunted eggs were rubber and plastic, but there was some dying of actual hard-boiled eggs (pre-bath). The dye kit my mom purchased included sports-themed stickers, which the four-year-old used to create an egg "for Grandpa," full of football, soccer and basketball stickers, as well as egg wraps that shrunk to fit around the egg if heated with a hair dryer.
Our noontime meal on Saturday was the Methodist church's chicken noodle dinner, at which I was served my chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes by my fourth grade teacher. Kids were free for this fundraiser, an unwise choice when it came to my hearty eater of chicken and noodles and mashed potatoes, green beans, pasta salad and a slab of blueberry cheesecake (she traded in her apple pie and passed up the chocolate brownies when she spotted the blueberries).
After afternoon napping, our late afternoon snack time at Grandma's of strawberry shortcake included conversation about the wedding coming up that evening. Our previous wedding attendance was at a reception only, so I had to explain, in the face of the four-year-old's anticipation that there would be eating and dancing and -- her highlight -- "then somebody brings you cake," that, prior to the eating and dancing part, there would be a "sitting and listening" part.
She had a bit of difficulty with behavior early in the evening (in part because the wedding was scheduled to occur during our family's regular dinner time, and then didn't get started on time), but once things got started, and there was in fact, eating and dancing, and also young cousins to play with, she was going strong until we left at nearly 10 p.m. The wedding ceremony occurred in the same park lodge where the reception was held, so we were all seated at our tables as the wedding party walked down the aisle -- and, in the solemn quietness that came about as the ceremony was beginning, I'm hoping not too many people heard the four-year-old's amazed question, "Are they gonna have a baby?"
The park lodge where the wedding took place had, as part of its decor, a mounted deer head -- right over the minister's head as the ceremony was taking place -- as well as a mounted buffalo head framed by two mounted geese on the opposite wall. One of my coworkers commented when I showed him the photos that "every good wedding needs some taxidermy" - and then shared the photo of the mounted porcupine he and his wife had received as a wedding gift.
Back at the park lodge, the little girls found additional nature entertainment in looking for the plants, animals and tracks whose images were engraved into the flags of the lobby's stone floor, and one of the highlights of the bathroom -- in addition to being decked out with floral displays, including tulips (my favorite) was the posters of animals and/or wildflowers on the back of the stall doors.
They spent much time out in the lobby post-dinner, pre-dancing, although there was some excited rushing in to the main room shouting "cupcakes!" after the bride had told them they would be serving them "soon." ("Soon" did not translate to "immediately.") The cupcakes were in lieu of a wedding cake; unfortunately, I just missed the photo opportunity of one of the little girls -- not mine, this time -- showing off her blue tongue after consumption of the frosting.
When the dancing did begin, it was this contingent of little girls who were some of the most enthusiastic participants -- although, again, they kept rushing in to the room upon hearing the music, only to leave again in slight disappointment as the bride and groom, bride and her father, and brides' parents danced.
Post wedding and family time, we went to church with Grandma on Sunday -- where, upon our arrival, the four-year-old announced "Nobody's Palm-ing Sunday-ing!" (Our home church has a Palm parade that begins outside the church, with signs, donkey, Jesus representative, etc.) There was a donkey and palm branches later in the service, however.
Then, it was brunch and time to head for home.