Trains and Birthdays

July 19th, 2011

This weekend, the boys got what they’ve been waiting for: another trip on Amtrak.  For the last week or so, Jacob has had a morning ritual.  He’ll look at the calendar, figure out what today is, figure out when we’ll get on the train, and then figure out how many days it will be.  As the number gets lower, the excitement gets higher, of course.

Friday morning, we woke the boys at 2:30AM to get to the train station.  The only Amtrak trains through our area are middle of the night departures.  Jacob is normally hard to wake up, but when I tell him that I’m waking him up to go to the train station, he wakes up faster than I’ve ever seen him before.  It takes about 3 seconds for him to process that in his groggy state, and then he sits up straight, throws off the covers, and is instantly ready to go.

Both boys were excited even in the station waiting room.  Oliver has been on an Amtrak train before, but it’s been awhile and he probably doesn’t remember it.    He constantly talked about it, jabbering as much as his vocabulary lets him.

Once we were on the train, Terah and I would have liked to get some more sleep.  The boys, on the other hand, were now wide awake, and didn’t fall back asleep until about 5:30.  That means Terah and I didn’t, either. Here’s what it usually looks like:

When it came time for breakfast, we went to the dining car as usual.  Jacob had already been telling us for days what he would eat for breakfast on the train: “I always have French toast on the train, dad.”  And so he did.  A few minutes later, I heard the waitress telling other people they were out of French toast, so I was glad I didn’t have to disappoint Jacob over that!

But it was Oliver that really came alive on this trip. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so excited. It was almost constant. He happily talked about anything he could see or touch. But he also listened to other conversations, and would frequently pick out one word from a sentence and try to say it. He does that at home too, but not nearly so often as on the train. Both boys wanted to “go exploring” a lot — my word for taking them for a walk in the train and seeing what they might find. We walked up and down the train several times, Jacob excited over opening the doors between the cars, and Oliver excited just to be there.

Oliver’s excitement kept him from sleeping well. He did eventually get a short nap, but that wasn’t quite enough to avert a couple of tantrums later in the day.

The reason for the trip was the 80th birthday party for Terah’s grandpa. And it so happened that Oliver’s 2nd birthday would be over the same time. So, Saturday morning, we all went for breakfast at Das Dutchman Essenhaus, one of the favorite local restaurants in northern Indiana. After that, it was over to a relative’s place for some birthday festivities. The children got mini cakes to decorate as rail cars. There was frosting and all sorts of toppings. Great fun was had by all, and it was wise that this activity took place in a garage rather than indoors.

Yes, that is a marshmallow stuck to Jacob’s nose.

Then in the evening, it was off to another relative’s place for some more family time. Jacob had a great time all day, and was in high spirits. He asked me to sit by him at dinner, and started one of the longest conversations I’ve had with him in some time. We just talked about the things that happened in the day, but it was nice when I told him, “I like sitting by you, Jacob,” and he said, “Dad, me too!”

The big highlight for the day happened in the evening. We were gathered around a fire with a guitar to do some singing. Jacob was happily perched in his lawn chair, but got very excited when he saw some lightweight airplanes flying overhead. These kept flying at some distance, and he kept pointing them out to us. But that wasn’t even the most exciting part.

That came when the fireflies came out. Jacob ran around, catching them in his hands, and excitedly showing them to whatever person happened to be closest. He was laughing with joy for such a long time. At one point, someone asked him if the bugs were tickling his hands. He said, evidentally just realizing it, “Oh yes, they ARE tickling my hands!” He was one very happy boy.

Sunday I had to leave to get back home, while Terah and the boys will return a couple of days later. Although I do sort of look forward to a train trip that I can relax without having to manage two young boys, I do miss them already and will be happy to have everyone back home in a few days.

(This post written during the trip and posted a week later after arriving home)

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