I was swamped with a big midterm due the night before I left for Iowa. I got home and started packing. The next morning, I rushed around, doing my last-minute preparations. Todd had arranged a free ride to the airport...who turned out to be the teaching assistant for the class I was skipping that night. Oops. Anyhoo, before we knew it, we were at the airport. My roommate and I were catching the same flight to Detroit, though I was coming to Iowa and he was going to London. He was a bit mystified at going west to go east, but there's the modern airline system for you. As I was going through security, I got the full treatment, pat-down and all. My security agent (a woman) was so funny: "Just think of it as a free massage, provided by Homeland Security."
Before I knew it, I was in Detroit, running to catch my flight to Des Moines. I made it with a few minutes to spare. It was cold when I left Virginia, but in Iowa, it was nearly 70 degrees! I basked in the sunny breeze while waiting for my mom to get off work and come to get me. It was so relaxing to see my family and pets, and just to be on the farm. As a bonus, it's lambing season, and there were adorable bottle babies in a big box in the garage. Baby lambs were always my favorite thing about the sheep. In fact, as a girl on the farm, they were my main job. My brother was stronger and better at understanding what Dad wanted him to do, but I could mix up bottles and feed the babies.
I hated the grainy powder of the milk replacer (formula) under my nails, but I loved the rest of the process. I would combine the hot water and the replacer in the blender and mix it up to get rid of any lumps. (To this day, the ozone smell of a blender running makes me happy.) I would let the froth and excess bubbles settle out. Then I'd measure it into bottles and test it on my wrist. Then I would feed the babies, tilting the bottle just right to keep them from getting to much air. I was good at getting even the weak, tiny ones to take to the nipple and drink the whole bottle.
Friday, I went over to Unkie's house. He called to see when I wanted to visit, and my cousin Hannah called to turn the visit into a sleepover. When I got there, Unkie was off doing some farm stuff, so I snapped some pictures of my cousin Connor's 4-H pigs and a barn cat, Shaggy --who I call Nuisance. He earned his nickname because he's attention-starved, and always underfoot. He's rather shaggy, though, so his real name suits, too. He is increasingly scrawny and recently seems to be licking his fur off. Poor little guy. I always pet him, and he got so excited by my presence that he attempted to jump onto my body from the fence. Heh. I think I'll just pet you from here, little guy.
I found Unkie on his 4-wheeler and tapped his shoulder. He gave a little shout and accused me of trying to scare him. He always says that when he's not wearing his hearing aid. Heh. He took me on a little ride on the ATV because it was so nice out. Then we went inside. It was my first time in the house since Helen passed away, which was a little bit weird.
Once the kids were home from school, we all went to dinner together, Unkie, Karen (my honorary sister), Lynn (honorary brother-in-law), Connor and Hannah. They took me out to The Machine Shed where I got some delicious ribs and we got to chat. Unkie admitted that my posts about my neighborhood make him nervous. Well, me, too, but it's not like Iowa is immune from crime. Unkie's had stuff stolen from his farm. So have Karen and Lynn. Dinner was delicious, and the conversation was entertaining. On the ride home, Hannah asked to be told the story of The Frosting Fight (which I will tell another time). I only got so far as, "I was just trying to be a good little sister..." when Unkie burst out laughing. Why is that funny? I'm innocent, I tell ya, innocent! Karen said she hadn't heard Unkie laugh that hard in a long time.
We went back to the house and Unkie pulled me into his lap. He teased me about my awesome new lovehandles. (He teases me about being skin-and-bones when I don't have lovehandles, though, so it's more about finding a random excuse to tease than my actual weight.) Unkie is one of the few men on Earth who could ever pray to get away with that combination of actions. Then Hannah joined us in the cuddling. Karen snapped a pic, then had Connor joined us for a group picture.
Hannah reminded me of how to play War, and as we were playing, Connor and Unkie took to throwing something at each other. It was a plastic peach, of all things, and they were throwing it at each other OVER me. I told them not to hit me, so of course Unkie did. I approached him, shaking my fist. When he grabbed my arm, I got nervous, because Unkie's horseplay can get out of hand. Well, I pulled away too hard and...fell backwards. EEP! I tried to fall in a way that would do the least injury. The safest choices are generally to go limp or use momentum. I picked momentum and hit the floor rolling backwards, then rolled forward again to a sitting position.
"Wow," Karen exclaimed, shocked. "Your eyes were like dinner plates...but all your cheerleading and acting payed off, apparently, because that was remarkably graceful." We all laughed for a good long while. Eventually, we all went off to bed, and Hannah bustled about turning on the electric blankets, a core element of any sleepover at Unkie's house. The next morning, Unkie and Connor made us waffles with blueberry syrup. YUM! He's turning out to be a great cook, and jokes about starting his own waffle house. Well, if he does, I know where I'll be having breakfast in Iowa.