Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Saturday's Surprise

Several weeks ago Rachel was texting with Grandma and Grandma asked her to ask me if she could plan a special surprise for April 12th. We told her to go ahead and plan her surprise. Deep down inside part of me was hoping for a grand adventure sometime within these few weeks of spring break like anything to break up the monotony of the semester (which is over tomorrow—alhamdulillah).

Unfortunately, Andrew's schedule didn't allow for any out of town trips. Fortunately, part of that reason was because he agreed to teach statistics to some Kazakh government officials and was paid (what we consider) a healthy sum of money to do so. So, though we were stuck in town we had a good reason for it. And we did get to have Grandma and Grandpa come to explore our own little neighbourhood a little closer.

Camping and beach trips will have to wait until later, I suppose.

Anyway, Grandma built up a lot of hype around her surprise and had us all anxiously guessing. Every now and then she'd let a clue slip—it's a place we've never been! It's going to be a bit of a drive away. It's something we'll do in rain or shine! The girls were guessed just about everything under the sun but they didn't ever guess what it was—a trip to the New Hope Valley Railway: The Triangle's Train.

"Are we here?" the girls asked as we pulled into a gravel parking lot.

"What is this place? There's not even anything here. It's just empty. It doesn't look very fun," Rachel sniffed as she got out of the van. But just then a train came roaring past.

"A train!" she said. "We're going to ride a train!"

"Not that train," Grandma said, since the train that was roaring past was a freight train and was not stopping. "But, yes, we'll be riding on a train!"

The kids were super excited. We got there a little early, so before riding the train we went through the train museum, which was made up of old rail cars. The inside of each was set up with how things really would have been inside—they even had a coffin with a "dead body" inside the baggage car as well as a safe (made me think of The Great Train Robbery).

They also had a mail car where we watched a clip of trains collecting mail "on the fly" and a caboose where we could climb up into the cupola.

Inside were employees (or volunteers) who told us about the train cars. Most were older men—I suppose running a train is a common dream for older men? Maybe? I think Grandpa Frank would enjoy working in a place like this, that's for sure.

After we went through the museum we went to do some activities they had set up for the children. We made pinwheels, coloured some train safety booklets, and enjoyed the shade.

The girls couldn't get their pinwheels to spin but the one on the "front desk" was spinning so they went and stood by that one to see if theirs would spin, too.

It's a rather remote-feeling museum—the front desk was a picnic table, the bathrooms were outhouses—but it was a lot of fun. We could have used just an activity or two more to fill our time (though admittedly we did skip out on story time and could have done that).

The girls were quite excited to have their pinwheels but even that excitement wore off before it was our turn to ride the train.

Miriam, Benjamin, and I headed back into the train museum to while away our waiting time while everyone else sat, exhausted from the sunshine, in the shade. Poor Daddy was sick with a fever and didn't want to move at all.

Miriam wasn't too sure about being up in the caboose's cupola. Benjamin was quite sure that he did not want to be up in the cupola at all.

And here we are waiting for the train some more...

It really wasn't that long of a wait but the anticipation was killing the children. Grandpa took Benjamin on lots of walks to go look at things...

...and when Grandpa got sick of doing that, Benjamin continued to take himself on exploration walks. Here he is trying to get a peek at the train that was finally coming back down the tracks to get us.

Here we are, aboard the train, waiting for our ride to get started.

It was so exciting. The girls can't remember ever riding trains in Egypt (which we did several times), the most recent train adventure being Matthew's birthday party in November. Even Benjamin had forgotten all about that train ride (and it's probably a good thing too because he cried through much of it—trains were terrifying back then, not fascinating).

The girls could hardly stay in their seats—they stood up to better enjoy the wind coming through the windows.

Benjamin thought the train whistle was hilarious. The first time it sounded he got a little surprised look on his face but every time after that he'd just laugh and laugh about it (he's laughing in this picture, I promise).

On the way back to the station (we did a "pushback" ride, with the engine pushing us from behind) the girls went up to the front of the car so they could see where we were going.

Benjamin wanted to go, too, so I went up with him, but then he got upset that I wouldn't let go of his hand and threw a temper tantrum on the floor of a moving train. Although throwing a tantrum in a moving train was a new experience for him. However, it was not a new experience for me.

All too soon our ride was over. We exited the train and made everyone go potty. While Andrew and I were busy convincing the children that outhouses are fine places for taking care of business, Karen waited by the "front desk" with our raffle tickets. Each child who rode the train got a ticket put in for a drawing and one of our tickets won! We got this little sugar egg thing. Rachel's pretty excited about it.

Benjamin wasn't terribly impressed we were leaving. He kept pointing at the trains and saying, "Choo-choo!" as Grandpa walked him toward the exit.

But to get to the museum you have to cross a bridge that goes over the highway and this was terribly exciting so Benjamin stopped fussing so that he could look at the cars driving right underneath us!

And here's Rachel with her sugar egg once again:

We had a picnic lunch by the entrance where the kids could enjoy looking at the model trains running around the large track. They had three or four trains going around so there was plenty to distract the kids from actually eating (sometimes it seems like not eating is their favourite mealtime activity).

One of the first things we did when we got home was to "plant" our pinwheels in the empty flower pot by the front door. They've already curled up in the heat/humidity/rain/whatever so we might have to try making some out of more durable material.

It was such a fun surprise for Grandma to take us on. Benjamin is even more enamored with trains now than he was before (if that's even possible) and the girls had an absolute blast! 

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