Woodsong was rocking with young life this past weekend. And the last thing Mary Ellen said as their family left was that our goal to have fun had succeeded and many memories were made.
Tara needed child care for her three boys aged four, 19 months, and 5 ½ months. We were trying to figure how we could get the extra help to take care of them at the farm when suddenly we realized that this was also the same weekend that David was taking Sam to see the Cardinals play. Katherine had thought she had home care worked out with aides, and her plans fell apart.
Coming out to the farm is not easy for her because packing and remembering all the meds and needed things is very difficult. Before I could phone Mary Ellen to see if they were coming down for the weekend for Brian to farm, she phoned me that she’d be here to help with Tara’s little ones. I was thrilled. I explained Katherine’s situation and suggested with her help we might be able to show her sister an extra-special time with the boys in the house. Now if I could persuade Katherine to come out to stay overnight on Saturday, she would get to meet Payton and experience all three boys in their present state of development.
I was so pleased when Katherine bravely said we could try the overnight visit. And pleased again on Friday night when Brian dropped Mary Ellen off and both Brianna and Trent had elected to come along. They are old enough to stay home and sometimes do, but we were all eager to hear Trent tell about his Star Wars Convention—and two more sets of hands to help with the three preschoolers would be great. (As I look back on the weekend, I am not sure we would have survived it without the enormous help these two teens provided in child care.)
Tara arrived with Aidan, Maddux, and Payton at 2 a.m. Saturday, and they were soon asleep in bed downstairs, where Mary Ellen, Brianna, and Trent were also sleeping. Brian was up at the other farm sleeping in their camper trailer. (When he is down farming, he works very hard and enjoys feeling free to work late or leave to work early at all hours without having to think about making noise or disturbing anyone. We did try to lure him in for main meals this weekend, and the little boys were a big attraction for him too.)
Tara had a frustrating morning trying to print off some documents for the Southern Force tryouts that would not print out on either Gerald’s or my computer. She finally got his printer to accept the documents only to be cut off the Internet before she finished. We live with computer slowness and weird problems of being knocked off and not being able to get back on. The area newspaper reports on fast speed availability that various grants may provide, and we yearn for that to happen. Plans do not seem very promising, however, for our particular rural area. Tara finally had to leave early for Carbondale to finish her preparation at Kinko’s.
We were pleased that Maddux woke up remembering the boat rides and tractor rides from the last visit and was immediately yelling, “Papa! Tractor!” Gerald devoted his morning to providing these experiences when he wasn’t unsuccessfully trying to help Tara. In the meantime, we were having a good time playing and baby talking to Payton.
Maddux was not the least bothered by the excessive heat outside. Aidan is always cooperative and is as tough as can be, so he was as eager to ride everything as little Maddux, but fortunately he was not as demanding. That was a very good thing. Because even when Maddux would ride for an hour, when Gerald would bring him inside, he was instantly yelling over and over, “Tractor! Tractor!” Sometimes these rides were in the “mule” with Trent and Brianna along as well as Aidan. While Maddux would repeat his version of the word “mule” when prompted, he was calling every thing on wheels a tractor. He also loved riding the boat, which usually followed a tractor, mule, or lawn mower ride, but somehow he always yelled for a tractor ride.
More than once his repeated calls of “Papa! Papa! Tractor! Tractor!” were interspersed with tears and looks of total heartbreak. As someone said, he had a one-tractor mind as well as a one-track mind. The more he yelled this and acted like a two-year-old is supposed to act, the less cute it became. Gerald said in bewilderment, “There must be something wrong that he only knows the word ‘tractor.’” With perfect timing, Maddux looked up at him and said defiantly, “Boat!”
We had a good noon meal with pork chops and fixings including the much requested fried okra that always pleases my grandchildren. For dessert, I had bought a large box of three kinds of cookies that looked and tasted homemade, and I still had part of the cakes left over that I’d made for my friend’s funeral dinner.
Despite Maddux’s continued pleas after Gerald had taken them on an afternoon round of tractor and boat rides, things were pretty calm. Mary Ellen was busy figuring out how Tara would handle this. We consider Tara an expert on child care, Mary felt Tara would ignore it and not reward Maddux’s less than pleasant demands with attention. She tried it and it definitely worked once. Later she tried calmly, firmly, and sweetly telling him to not say that. Gerald also talked to him about this while they took one of their many rides.
Distraction also helped. Gerald had pulled out a large plastic dump trunk and huge container of Lincoln logs that he had found at an after-Christmas sale. Trent was the perfect person to teach Aidan how to use the logs, and he and Aidan became great buddies for the rest of the weekend. (Trent had an ongoing project in the den with a dremel to cut into two worn-out plastic garbage cans he had brought down in the back of their truck. He aimed to make some kind of shield, which I think was an inspiration from the Star Wars convention. Nevertheless, he gave to Aidan all the time Aidan wanted to play.)
With Brianna’s help, Maddux became interested in the toy truck and played happily calling it a tractor. Linus has his blanket, but Maddux has a snugly play lion he calls, “Yaw Yaw.” (I hope I spelled that right!) The lion had many rides in the dump truck throughout the living, dining, and kitchen areas.
During this activity, Payton woke up and PaPa placed Payton in the bed of the toy truck, and he too was given rides with careful supervision. He loved it. (We were grateful he could not talk yet to keep demanding more rides.) Photos were taken, and I think Maddux enjoyed all of this. When he started demanding tractor rides again with a temper tantrum included, May Ellen realized he was tired and rocked him to sleep. We had the portable bed upstairs for Payton who would play happily with his feet for long periods of time, so I quickly fixed a pallet in the living room floor for Maddux. He took a nap and woke up smiling. Later he would take a second nap in his baby bed downstairs.
Meanwhile in town, David had gotten Katherine up and left her a lunch when he and Sam took off for Saint Louis, where they had the good fortune to see the Cardinals win two games this weekend. Katherine was having phone battery problems and we were having trouble reaching her, but we finally did. She had some things she needed to do at home that afternoon during the rare treat of having the house to her self, so it was almost suppertime when we went in to get her.
Things were peaceful at Woodsong when Brianna and Aidan decided to go in the car with us for Gerald to bring Katherine to the farm in her van and for me to pick up pizza at the drive-through for supper. We did not worry about Mary Ellen and Trent being able to care for the younger two. Mary Ellen said it went well until Gerald arrived with Katherine and she rolled up to the front door, which was locked to prevent Maddux’s escape. Mary Ellen was downstairs and the door bell wakened Maddux, who next saw Papa threw a wailing fit wanting to ride the tractor with him. This woke up Payton who also showed us how hard he could cry.
Smiling and lovely despite the ravages of multiple sclerosis, Katherine rolled into this chaos. The noise was pretty unbelievable. I wondered if we had made a mistake. Were we going to be having fun like Mary Ellen and I had hoped? There was something almost comic about the pandemonium going on. In an email yesterday, Mary Ellen wrote, “Could not believe K had to walk into the double screaming efforts of Payton & Maddux after a fairly calm day!! Oh well, I think she appreciated the ‘real life’ of it all! How blessed we all are in so many ways in spite of the bad stuff.”
Indeed Katherine was so thrilled with finally getting to meet Payton and seeing how much Maddux had grown that she enjoyed the whole “real life” event. And, of course, just like Mary Ellen who remembered caring for infant Trent and Briana, she enjoyed having memories stirred of Samuel’s babyhood. Yet “real life” can be a bit much and we were grateful when Gerald took Maddux out for final evening tractor/boat rides. Quiet can be so wonderful! Katherine was able to hold Payton a long time during one of these quiet times.
Somehow miraculously at the end of the evening, Mary Ellen had cleaned the kitchen and was able to get all the kids to sleep. Gerald lifted Katherine into bed after we piled on pillows trying to imitate her own bed that elevates her head. Before we drifted off to sleep, she and I had opportunity for a rare mother-daughter talk uninterrupted by life’s emergencies and ringing telephones. (The next day, she and her dad were able to talk as he showed her the latest book of his photographs of recent activities.)
I did not even hear Tara when came in from her late night meeting to a quiet house and she came up and got Payton from his portable bed and carried him downstairs to the smaller crib beside her bed. Later in the night, I saw his upstairs bed empty, and I knew Tara had made it home safely. She was gone again before I woke up the next morning.
Gerald, the family’s early riser, was already up when suddenly he found himself taking care of three boys at once. Payton was wet including his pajamas, and Gerald changed him. He accidentally put on one of Maddux’s diapers as I had done the day before since with so many people moving diaper bags, it was easy to get confused. Once you start that job, you really can’t leave to find and substitute the correct diaper. Gerald felt that mistake worked out good because almost immediately Payton filled it full. So Gerald changed Payton’s diaper again. From his accounts of this experience, I think he was pretty proud of himself and rightfully so. But things were getting hairy, and he called Mary Ellen to the rescue. When Katherine and I woke up, things were going well.
I had daydreamed about us all going to church together. People at Center who knew Katherine from early childhood would have loved to see her. Gerald and I would have liked showing off all three great grandsons since it had been a long time since Tara had once taken the older two. But there was no earthly way we could have gotten us all there in a worshipful frame of mind, and folks might not have understood Maddux’s need to repeatedly call “Tractor, Papa! Tractor!”
We had a good morning together, and it was fun just as we had hoped. There were four adults and two teens to take care of three boys, and it kept us all busy. Once again we marveled at how Tara does all this by herself most of the time. Despite a very helpful husband and his very helpful family, most days she is coping with care for all three by herself. Of course, she has a routine in place and equipment and supplies organized in ways we couldn’t. (And no tractor for Maddux to want to ride!)
I had planned frozen lasagna for dinner since I could put it in the oven for two hours and forget it. Salad, sliced tomatoes, and rolls completed the menu. Not realizing Tara would not be there for lunch, I purchased a box of mini-cheesecakes in her honor for dessert since she always liked cheesecake growing up. We enjoyed them—and during the afternoon the rest of the cookies that the adults liked as good as the little boys did.
Once again somehow Mary Ellen cleaned the kitchen and kept bottles filled for one of us to give Payton when needed. She also mixed his cereal and fed him his baby food as directed by Tara. (I got in on this once on Saturday, and seeing that beautiful little bird-like mouth open eagerly for the spoon was a messy but extremely satisfying task.)
Sunday afternoon Mary Ellen managed to get the younger two down for naps, and Trent kept Aidan happy. Mary also washed sheets from one guest room and the couch in the den and had them back in place before I knew it. She washed up what clothes she could for Tara to take home clean, and she had the table cloth back on the dining room table with lasagna stains from Maddux’s place all gone. Gerald did more than his share as usual. Katherine and I rested talking in the bedroom.
There was more play time with the little ones before David and Sam showed up and they too could hold Payton and visit with the little boys as well as Trent and Bri. Soon the three teens had gotten out the left-over pizza just as I’d planned for an early supper although there was sandwich makings if anyone wanted a sandwich.
The day was drawing to a close and Tara had a long drive up north ahead of her. The Cedars were back home in Marion. The Taylors took off for Waggoner in the center of the state. The house was suddenly very quiet, and it wasn’t as appealing as it was when Maddux could be coaxed to stop yelling, “Tractor!” There was time to read the Sunday paper and a good night’s sleep ahead of us, for Gerald had a busy Monday facing him and I had a mish mash of objects to return to their proper location.
Today there is still a portable baby bed upstairs and a small teddy bear and Maddux’s pallet on the living room floor. A flower arrangement from our church’s dedication of our new fellowship hall had been given to Kim Barger for her service on the building committee and her part on that afternoon’s program. Since their family was leaving for Virginia at 5:30 the next morning, she gave it to me. We had enjoyed it for over two weeks, but the flowers had finally frazzled, and I emptied them before our weekend company. I replaced them with three pink rosebuds from the bush by our front porch. As the weekend progressed, the buds opened slowly. Now they are in full bloom reminding us of a weekend that had both laughter and tears and lots of new cherished memories as Mary Ellen said.
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