Grandma treated us with a trip to the State Fair on Saturday afternoon—to see Rachel's picture, of course. We were so glad we had a ratio of three adults to four children, otherwise I don't know how we would have managed the crowd! It was pretty overwhelming as it was. We had two kids in the double stroller (being pushed by Andrew) and then Grandma admonished the girls, "If you aren't holding my hand or Mom's hand...you're doing something wrong!" We got through the day without losing anyone, so our system seemed to work well (even if it did fall apart a few times, like when I was nursing while walking or when Zoë/Benjamin refused to ride in the stroller). Over all, though, I'm just proud of us for making it out of there alive.
Zoë's favourite exhibits, by far, were the animal exhibits. Here we are in one of the barns, having fun with some cutouts. This one was a surprise for Benjamin and Rachel. I had them put their heads through the holes and then ran around to the other side to take a picture. I thought it was pretty funny—though Rachel was not impressed—when the other side was revealed.
This time the kids knew what they were getting into because the scene was facing us when we came across it:
The only thing Rachel really wanted was cotton candy. She spotted a stand soon after we got through the gates and must have mentioned it a handful of times before Grandma caved and got some. And then Rachel was like, "Oh, sure, I'll try some, I guess."
Rachel knew that she would like it because she'd had it twice before: once at a school carnival and once at a baseball game.
Miriam tried a little bit of it and decided she was not a fan:
Benjamin was a huge fan right from the get-go (this was his first exposure):
A few days ago my sister and niece participated in a Facebook game where you spell your name backwards to create your demon name. So mine would be Ycnan (which looks mostly just like nonsense). My sister's, however, was Arba, which my brother Patrick (Kcirtap) said was perhaps the least threatening demon name in existence (though I first thought of the number four—which is super bad luck in Japan, for example...so maybe it's not such a bad demon name after all).
Abra responded to say that she didn't think so because Piper's demon name was Repip (which truthfully sounds like a name for a cheerful hobbit, not a demon).
Anyway, we walked into the rabbit barn and there was a big poster with ARBA written across it (which I failed to get a good picture of). As it turns out, there's an American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA for short). The more signs about rabbits we saw, the sillier we got, pretending they were demon rabbits.
To the right of that is no ordinary rabbit! It's "the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on!" It's "got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer! .... He's got huge, sharp—eh—he can leap about-- look at the bones!"
To the right of that is a magazine called "Domestic Rabbits," headlining "The Faces of Arba."
On the bottom we have Rachel being scared about the possibility of death due to bunny farm activities, then a sign warning us that rabbits may, indeed bite, followed by a sign telling us how to know if a bunny is sleeping (if their eyes are closed or open and if they are lying down or sitting up).
"That's easy," I said, waving at all the winning cages. "You say, 'Lookit how fluffy! You get a blue ribbon! What a cute widdle guy! You get a blue ribbon, too! And you get a blue ribbon! And you get a blue ribbon! And you get a blue ribbon!'"
Later on we found the non-prize-winning rabbits, so evidently that's not how they judge rabbits. Frankly, the rabbits that came in 5th or 6th place were equally cute and fluffy so I don't really know what criteria they used.
At the very end of the exhibit was a rabbit we were allowed to pet:
There was also this...thing:
While it totally looks like this guy could just be babysitting his toupee, that's actually a long-haired guinea pig of some sort. He didn't seem as thrilled about our passel of children (the bunny lady was like, "Bring it on! He loves attention!") so we steered clear after staring in wonder at the...live wig.
To get to the art exhibits we had to cross the entire fair grounds, which were packed. Navigating the crowds was insanity.
We rewarded ourselves half way with a treat and we just happened to stop by the shooting range, which the kids didn't like one little bit.
We split a funnel cake and an order of deep-fried Oreos (what don't they deep fry these days?).
Everyone was covered in icing sugar by the time we were finished!
After our treats we stopped by some agriculture displays (mainly to use the restrooms in the building). Apparently Hurricane Matthew prevented a lot of farmers from entering (because it destroyed their entries) but there was still plenty to see. The largest pumpkin was 1090.5 lbs!
Zoë was excited about seeing all the animals again: cows, goats, chicks, sheep...and pigs.
When Miriam saw this sow she called out, "Wow! Look how many breasts that pig has! It has so many breasts! Look, Mom! Do you see all those breasts!?"
Yes, I do. Now stop yelling.
I'm all about normalizing breastfeeding and being open about how, exactly, populations are replenished and naming private parts by their correct anatomical names.
But I'm not so thrilled about yelling those words in public.
It also made me wonder what term to use for a pig's...breasts...teats...udder? Nothing really sounded quite right.
I spent a good chunk of my growing up years in southern Alberta (catchphrase: I ❤ Alberta 🐄/) so I've heard plenty of talk about cows. I've roped cows, branded cows, tagged cows, dissected cows, eaten cows. Shoot—one of the main employers in my small town was Cargill Foods (basically a slaughterhouse (processing 4500 head of cattle daily) (I love that they advertise that "regardless of being classified as a town, High River residents have plenty of activities they enjoy doing all year round." Translation: "Small town life ain't so bad! In the evenings you can go cow tipping!")). Growing up in a "modern town with a western tradition," cows were sort of a way of life. But I frankly haven't heard much about pigs.
Turns out, pigs have an udder, as do most (all?) four-legged creatures since an udder is simply "an organ formed of the mammary glands of female four legged mammals," where the mammary glands tend to develop near the groin, rather than on the chest (as in primates like humans and apes). Sheep, goats, and deer usually have one pair; cattle have two pairs; and pigs have so many pairs. I mean, just look at them all!
Piglets quickly develop a
pecking sucking order, with the bigger, bossier piglets snagging the frontmost teats of the udder, since those typically will produce more milk, leaving the emptier portion of the udder for the runts, which almost seems unfair...except that the more efficient eaters in the front help stimulate letdown across the board udder, which means that the runts at the back end don't have to work as hard to get their meal started (as they would have to do if they were at the front end).
It's a pretty good system, I guess. Except that nursing occurs every 50 to 60 minutes?! With that many piglets nursing I'm pretty sure that works out to be just constantly nursing. What fun for the sow...
Anyway...we found a tractor! Benjamin had seen some tractors earlier and wanted to climb on them but we didn't stop for him, so we took the opportunity to let him climb up on this one. And he was thrilled. Miriam, meanwhile, was impressed with the size of that tire.
It was exciting for her to find her picture displayed so royally. It was fun to look at the other entries as well. Rachel's rather excited to get her picture back—with a ribbon (for participation, but still—a ribbon)!
After that Grandma treated us to a ride on the carousel. Benjamin begged her, "Please, Grandma! That ride is mine savourite!" The kids sure had fun!
She liked watching all the other rides whirl around.
By this time we were ready for some dinner. Rachel, wisely, chose to wait in a long line for a chicken kabob. Meanwhile, I sat and nursed Zoë while Andrew went to grab some "hot dogs" for the rest of us. When he first handed it to me I said, "That's quite the hot dog!"—it must have been a whole foot long. But then I looked at it.
"I'm not sure I can even eat this," I said.
Imagine the worst hot dog of your life—this hot dog was worse than that.
"Sure, you can," Andrew encouraged me. "Just eat fast. Don't look."
He was already half way through his "hot dog," which was a neon pink colour inside and out (and which was leaking neon pink colour onto the bun). Furthermore, it had the texture of...soggy potato chips? Maybe. Something foamy? I don't even know. I do know that there's no way it could hold its shape without the bun.
Somehow we managed to get them down, but it left us very unsatisfied/unsettled (though neither Benjamin nor Miriam complained about theirs). It was among the saddest meals in my life history, though I've had worse...for example, my breakfast after Miriam's birth: "I'm so hungry! Pushing out a baby sure works up an appetite! I wonder what's inside this gleaming silver tray... A piece of cheese. What the?!"
I should clarify that by worse I mean my expectations for hospital food are higher than they are for fair food and that I was hungrier after birthing Miriam than I was after walking around at the fair for a couple of hours so the disappointment was greater, though to be fair I was on the verge of tears both times, probably, though for different reasons. At the hospital it was because I wanted so much more and at the fair it was because I couldn't believe I was forcing myself to choke that "hot dog" down.
We made up for our sad, sad dinner with some ice cream (and, later, some french fries (we were all about nutrition at the fair, obviously)). Here are the kids enjoying their ice cream...
Miriam got an orange ice cream cone. Rachel got a frozen banana (there's always money in the banana stand), which she absolutely loved. She tried to give Miriam a taste but Miriam has no teeth left in her mouth and couldn't bite it. Perhaps we'll try making frozen bananas at home (how hard can it be, really?) only we can slice the bananas first to allow those of us who can't bite things to sample them.
Benjamin got a chocolate/vanilla twist. And we're pretty sure this was his first ice cream cone ever, so it was a pretty remarkable day.
Here's Miriam and Benjamin exchanging licks (I don't know how we all ended up with the very same cold...):
Being an ice cream cone novice, Benjamin made the classic mistake of biting the bottom of his cone off before anyone could stop him. So, here's a picture of Andrew sucking ice cream out of the bottom of Benjamin's cone while Benjamin's still licking away:
That probably ranks high on the list of awkward ways to eat an ice cream cone.
While Andrew was enjoying his "repentance shake" (because the ice cream really was solely to offset the hot dogs) one of the girls said, "Hey, Dad, there's a cardinal by your head."
Andrew glanced over his shoulder, saw the cardinal out of the corner of his eye, and let out a little yelp of surprise...
...only to realize seconds later that it was a fake cardinal. It was pretty funny!
And that about sums up our trip to the fair. It was a fun but absolutely overwhelming outing.
The last time Grandma went to the fair was when they lived in North Carolina—she thinks that only Andrew and Katharine were around, so it was at least 27 years ago. While I'm glad we went, I think attending the fair every 27 (or so) years sounds about right for me so I think I'll follow in her footsteps!