On a plane... again. Thankfully after this flight I am not going anywhere for nearly three weeks. I couldn't be happier about that, though my next trip is for Lauren and Matt's wedding and that's worth coming out of flight hibernation.
Anyway, I said my goodbyes today and left the rest of my family in North Dakota. I wish I had more time there, but it's also going to be extremely nice to be home. Now, where did I leave off...
Tuesday we checked out of our hotel and went back to my Grandma's house. She had lunch waiting for us (as well as more delicious caramel rolls, I just can't get enough) and my mom and I helped her with her laundry. Between loads, my Grandma showed me the trail they have around their senior center for going on walks, and we took a few pictures by the gazebo and by this statue of a deer she particularly liked.
By the time we got back we had a surprise waiting for us -- Nick had shown up! My brother wanted to take his first big road trip so he actually drove his little pick-up to ND all by himself. It was nice to have him there with us; he showed up right in time to drive with us to the small town my other grandparents live in. I rode with Nick and we followed behind our parents, stopping a few times along the way to take pictures by the sunflower fields and the old falling-down houses.
It was so great to be at my Grandma and Grandpa Horner's house. I have so many good memories from being a kid and visiting them; playing down by the old tires with my cousins, sneaking a stray kitten into their shed and taking care of it, helping make all sorts of traditional German food. It's such a happy place, and I definitely don't get out there often enough anymore.
Grandma was singing that night in the senior choir out at the park, and my mom and I decided to join in. We grabbed the songbooks and joined all the old ladies up near the front, chiming in whether we knew the songs or not. Tis was especially funny when the songs we in German.. which at least 3-4 of them were. We sang one of my favorite old songs (Wooden Heart) and I discovered a new favorite song (Schnitzelbank). Oh we had a hoot talking to all the old German folks about what a schnitzelbank is.
My grandpa is getting older, and parts of this trip were kind of difficult for me (seeing him so much more frail than I am used to) but it was very, very cute to see him sitting at a picnic table out at that park, singing along to German songs to the accordion accompaniment. So much of North Dakota is still so rooted in German culture, but especially so in the small towns like where my grandparents live. I love still being able to experience that.
That evening my Grandma's friend Eva (who's this zany old Russian/German lady) came over and had me teach her how to use Facebook - it was her idea, not mine! It's such an interesting experience trying to explain to someone not only how Facebook works, but why they should want to use it. Older people always seem so concerned that everybody is going to come and try to add them; I can't even tell you how many times I assured her (and others on this trip) that "you can deny anyone you want on Facebook! You only add the people you want!"
We sat around visiting the rest of the evening before calling it a night.
The next day we got up and Grandma was cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She made us potato soup, blachenda (this baked pumpkin pastry I love) as well as home-made fleischkeikle. I told her I'd been eating it quite a bit on this trip and she insisted I try it the way it's meant to be eaten, haha. My grandpa ate most of the blachenda; I can see now where I get my appetite for dessert-foods.
After eating, we played cards. Card-playing is my favorite thing to do with my Grandpa Horner, because for some reason it really brings him completely back to earth. Talking with him and cracking jokes and keeping score while playing cards feels so much more like how it used to be with him, and it's amazing because his mental math and ability to make straights and keep score was even sharper than mine. One of our favorite card games is called "Golf" and a huge highlight of the trip was when my Grandpa went out early and left Nick with a 55 point round. That's a really, really bad score, haha.
Nick and I snuck away for a minute to head up the street to order a birthday cake for my Dad - his birthday is Saturday but I won't be there and I think Nick is heading south to visit some relatives before then as well, so we wanted to do something nice for him before we leave. We also stopped at the Honey Store (yes, in a town with so few shops I can count them on both hands, they have a whole store dedicated to honey!) so I could buy my favorite body wash I only get to restock when I visit there.
That night my Grandma outdid herself again with the German cooking and made us another old favorite, halupsie. That's rice and raisins wrapped in cabbage and cooked with cream, and while it may sound funky, it's absolutely delicious. We also had cucumber salad, which I also love. I don't know why I always forget how much I love cucumbers. It seems like people in North Dakota eat them with every meal, and with good reason.
Some family friends named Fefe and George stopped by to visit for a little while which was nice, and then my parents went out with them for awhile. I stayed in and watched TV with my grandparents (including Minute to Win It, which is just about the stupidest idea for a show I have ever seen, haha. At least shows like "Who Wants To Be A Mllionaire" require you to be SMART).
Then we watched "America's Got Talent", and another funny highlight of my night happened. Flow Rider and Nikki Minaj were performing, and my adorable little old German grandpa says in his very German accent, "Oh, that music's so nice." I could barely stifle my giggles before my Grandma AGREED with him and the proceeded to ask me what the song was called. I had to say to my grandma, "It's called 'Where Dem Girls At', Grandma." I had to say it with a straight face. She just smiled at me and said, "Oh," with a little chuckle.
After my Grandpa went to bed, I stayed up with Grandma and she showed me all the websites she likes to go to on her laptop. I am really impressed with how good she's gotten; granted she doesn't use a lot of websites but she can check her email and she reads my blog (:D) and she has is gaming site she loves to play on. She showed me how she picks her bingo card numbers each night, and the scratch cards she can tar her points in for, and we played a few rounds of mah jong together. Computers, to my friends and I, are such a necessary and commonplace part of every single day -- I really, really liked seeing one from the point of view of my grandma. It was a lot of fun.
My grandma also gave me a gift on this trip, something I had asked for years ago but had forgotten about. She gave me a notebook filled with her memories she'd written down for me. Stories from her life, etc. I actually haven read it yet (saving it until I get home) so I'm not positive what she wrote about, but no matter what I know it's going to be incredible. My grandma had an amazing life, and living so far away from her, I don't actually know much about it. So this book is a very, very special present. Someday I will need to type it up and give it to the rest of my cousins, too.
This morning I ate some rhubarb kuchen for breakfast (another favorite) before saying goodbye to the Grandparents and hopping in the car with my mom. She was driving me back to Bismarck for my flight. We stopped in to spend a little bit more time with her mom (my other grandma) and she gave me the sweetest present! She's been collecting all the state quarters for years and years now, and she gave me a complete set of them that he's been doing for me. I collected state quarters for about a year and then gave up, so this was a lovely gift. She rode along with us to the airport, I kissed them both goodbye, and started my journey home.
I have been traveling so much this year, but this was a very different trip than the rest. I'm very glad I got to see so many of my relatives, since I was really only in ND for a short time. When I get home I have a pile of work to do to catch up on my regular schedule of things I have o accomplish each week, but regardless, I was glad I was able to take this time and just spend some time with some very, very important people in my life.
Flights taken: 22