By Theresa Blume
Of our five grandchildren, the two oldest have birthdays in July. One year when he was younger, I worked hard to get our oldest grandson exactly what we thought he wanted: a Spiderman toy. Being an honest little boy, he opened it and said, “Oh, I have one of these already.”
Since that day I decided I would spend my resources giving my older grandchildren memories instead of presents. As they get older, it is a creative challenge to come up with things to do with a teenage boy and a preteen girl at the same time.
I got an idea out of a Wisconsin magazine that spotlighted train rides for families. Online I saw that the Spooner train ride has a pizza train that travels an hour and a half through scenic Wisconsin, providing each person with a half pizza and a beverage. The family rates were reasonable, so after talking to my oldest son, the father of the two birthday children, we decided to include their two younger children. He and his wife also decided to join us, so I bought the tickets, and we prepared for a great family weekend.
It just so happened that the very weekend that we planned the train ride was also the once a year Spooner Rodeo. Even better was the fact that two of my nephews were entered in the rodeo. They are professional cowboys who travel the U.S. competing, so this was a rare thing for my grandchildren to see what their cousins do.
Friday night we watched a very exciting rodeo plus spent time with my brother and two of his sons. Because of the rodeo, there were no available rooms in Spooner, so we stayed in a motel in Rice Lake. We were all exhausted and getting ready for bed when my son discovered large circular welts on his back, chest, and legs. Thankfully, Rice Lake has a nice hospital, so after a trip to the emergency room, he came back with medicine for Lyme disease. He works outdoors and unknowingly had been bitten by a deer tick earlier that day.
After a night like that, we were all ready for the relaxing train ride with lunch provided. The weather was warm, but we had a nice breeze from open windows. Our adventurous grandchildren stuck their hands out, catching leaves since the train went slow enough. We stopped on a bridge over a large river where people were tubing. We honked and waved at each other, connecting us to strangers all enjoying a beautiful Wisconsin day.
On the way back, my newest granddaughter sat on my lap to look out the window, which gave me the opportunity to bond with another “lap child.” Back at the station, we bought mementos from the gift shop before heading home. Even though we had some redirection of our original plans, this was the best birthday celebration yet. I like to think that our grandchildren walked away with a loving memory of time spent with their grandparents.