Billed as a thrifty low-budget vacation, we opened up our home a couple weeks ago for two-and-a-half days of frolicking fun and games with our ever-expanding family. Factoring in four marriages and seven grandkids, the kinfolk has ballooned exactly threefold if we include the dog. Ranging in age from two at 6 months to two at 63 years, my wife and I, it would be a multi-generational extravaganza with nearly nonstop activity.
Besides some intermittent grocery shopping in advance, my major duties were to have all six leaves in place in the dining room table, mulch down in all flower beds, the lawn mowed and edged, mounds of dog dirt properly disposed of, all interior carpets vacuumed, child-proofing all the furniture, window air conditioners installed and running, and the VISA card and cash in my pocket at all times.
The refrigerator and freezer were stocked to the gills with multiple gallons of milk, umpteen packages of juice boxes, and 12 pounds of various cold cuts, cheeses, ground beef, hot dogs, sausage and bacon. Virtually every square inch of space was taken up with hardly any room for the requisite plethora of baby bottles. Pantry shelves were bursting at the seams with breakfast cereals, salsa and chips, buns, bread and taco shells, and a sizeable box of sugar cones for ice cream dessert.
One by one, vehicles began arriving late Sunday afternoon. With the exception of our daughter and son-in-law whose schedules limited their stay, the rest of the clan began unloading everything but their kitchen sink. Their kids are all under the age of 8, but their strollers, toys, games, and other amusements were full-sized. If I only had a forklift parked in the garage, I could have helped more.
My wife and I will confess that we have been known to deliberately allow the family pet, Starbucks by name, to “eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Trust me when I say there were more than crumbs everywhere and sometimes they came in the form of a large slice of New York style cheesecake, sausage links, hot dogs, ice cream, tortilla chips, popcorn and half-eaten sandwiches. I’ll spare you the details of the moist consistency of the “mounds” our dog managed to deposit anew all over the yard as a result of her change in diet.
Monday morning we caravanned to the delightful Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. It would have been a nonstop direct “flight” were it not for our oldest son who needed a potty break en route. A chain reaction took place at that moment as everyone decided they needed to use the one unisex bathroom. What the heck, why not have everyone fill up with gas, too. A half hour later, we were on the road again, even though we were only 10 minutes from the zoo as it was.
Nothing could dampen our spirits as we took in the African Safari, the Australian Adventure and the Central Zoo. The only regret on the day was the enclosed Indonesian Rain Forest offering scattered mist sprayers. There was no need to worry as once outside again the literal heavens gave way to a torrential downpour forcing us to abandon ship and hump it to the cars through the driving rainstorm. Thankfully I managed to splurge for ice cream cones at Matilda’s Sweet Treats before we got drenched, though I still got soaked for about $50 in the process.
We saved a bundle on taking the grandkids to the movies Monday night. They hadn’t even seen “Toy Story 2” so there was no point in taking them to a real theater to see “Toy Story 4.” Our “in-home cinema” provided free refills on popcorn in our basement and, of no surprise, our dog managed to clean up after them quite nicely.
No day would be complete without a trip to the park so we thought it would be even better if we went to two of them in one day. Tuesday morning we took in the engaging wonders of the Kalida Four Seasons Park. In the afternoon we all made a big splash at the Ottawa Memorial Park pool.
We didn’t see enough animals at the zoo, so my lovely bride bought some bulk bags of miniature plastic ones to hide all over the backyard. The little ones found hundreds but not all of them. Rest assured, I’ll find the balance either as they get spit out of the mower or chewed up by our favorite pet.
All adults were fully invested in the festivities too, with some rousing round-robin one-on-one basketball and knock-out in the driveway, just like old times.
The vacation culminated in the final event on Wednesday morning of some wet and soapy “Slip-n-Slide.” There will no need to wash the grass for a few weeks. After one final lunch of sandwiches made of cold cuts, of course, the families all safely headed for home.
Later that evening we did some damage assessment while slumped in lounge chair sipping glasses of wine in relief. By our calculation we came in under budget with expenses totaling just under $4,500. Don’t be shocked as $4,000 of that was a check my wife wrote to our one son for a no-interest car loan from the Ken and Linda Bank and Trust for a much-needed new used van.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org