by Jennifer on October 13, 2008

I don’t like surprises – big ones, especially. Like most adults, I think, I like to see what’s up ahead and prepare myself.

If you show up unannounced, there’s a good chance you’ll find me in pajamas, still in need of a shower, and the house won’t be picked up. There definitely won’t be fresh coffee on, either, or pastries. So call ahead.

I mean that in a general way, too, directed at Life. Call ahead. Seriously.

Sure, I can be spontaneous, but that’s me in control of what comes next, and that’s different.

My kids, though, still like a good surprise. I didn’t know this for sure until Friday when I told them that we were going to do something really fun and new on Saturday, a surprise. Of course, they fired guesses at me all evening. Around bedtime, I gave them the choice to know before they went to sleep what we were doing , or if they wanted to find out the next day.

As excited as they were, I thought for sure they would choose to find out.

Well, they surprised me.

They wanted to wait.

The next day, the moment when they realized we were going on the train was as sweet and bursting as I had hoped – they were over the moon. And they loved the train ride. We spent most of the time outside on the open-air cars so we could enjoy unobstructed views.

It was a really good surprise, they said.

One day, maybe without knowing it’s happening, they might trade in this love of suspense, the thrill of the unknown, for something else they need. Something sensible and useful. For the need to plan, to budget, to take days off.

And they may even learn that it’s not always good to surprise someone else – that sometimes it’s better to make sure, first, that what they have to give is wanted by the one they might surprise. A lesson that’s rarely without embarrassment. (And there’s only one way to learn it.)

Or maybe they’ll get lucky, and find one of those people who lives for the unknown, for things that pop out of the cake of life, for what can’t be seen around a corner.

Who knows, my son or daughter may even turn out to be that kind of person.

Toward the end of the train ride, we went back inside the car to watch the last few miles pass by our window. We had gorged on the spectacular scenery, and we were tired and windblown, but happy.

Over the speakers came final words from the recorded guide for the trip, with a few words from the owner of the railroad. A reminder of how lucky we are to live in a place that has that kind of scenery to show off.

It wrapped with sentiments about how living in this country comes at a price, and how we should be grateful for the freedom we have, but stopped short of the right-leaning direction it seemed to be headed.

Then music started, that old standard, “God Bless the USA,” by Lee Greenwood – the ubiquitous patriotic song. Not that I don’t like it, because I do, and know all the words. But I’m a bit of a cynic, I guess, so I didn’t soften to the song, even after seeing such a beautiful place. Inwardly, I rolled my eyes a bit.

But then.

My girl, next to me, and my boy, across the table, started moving their hands.

The sign language to the song.

I’d forgotten that they learned it in school. My eyes filled up as I watched their small hands sing.

Before the end of the first chorus, my face was a mess of tears and pride. Of love.

Of surprise.

Guess there are still a few good ones out there, after all.


The winner of the $25 Build-A-Bear Workshop gift card is….

Christine of She’s Just Another Manic Mommy

Congratulations, Christine! (I’ll email you for your information.)

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

flutter October 13, 2008 at 9:32 pm

Your babies make me so happy. Just like their mom

flutters last blog post..


Heather October 13, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Just beautiful.

Heathers last blog post..Safety Lessons


anymommy October 13, 2008 at 10:59 pm

SIgh. I enjoyed every word of that post.

anymommys last blog post..Happiness Is…


Reluctantfarmchik October 13, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Oh, how totally sweet. I love that you asked them whether they wanted to know or not. That is a great gift you gave them too. That way they could prepare themselves. As adults, we should be given that same courtesy – the opportunity to choose to be surprised, or not.
And I can only imagine the effect of their song-signing. I love to watch that anyway – and to have it spontaneously happen was a perfect surprise and finale to what sounds like an incredible day. I’m so glad you took the time. Do it again, soon! For YOU.


Manic Mommy October 14, 2008 at 5:42 am

Wonderful story and it sounds like a wonderful day.

I usually hate surprises too but I have to say that winning something that will most certainly be used well was a lovely…surprise.

Thank you.

Manic Mommys last blog post..80s Alert


RiverPoet October 14, 2008 at 6:32 am

Oh, Jennifer, I’m so happy that the day was everything you hoped for and then some. It sounds as though your kids were able to enjoy the hokeyness of the recorded message without feeling the political leanings that we all are attuned to these days.

May you have many more such days.

Peace – D

RiverPoets last blog post..Satur-daze


csquaredplus3 October 14, 2008 at 6:37 am

That was a very nice story. Signing “thank you” right now.


jenrantsraves October 14, 2008 at 7:23 am

Thanks for showing the pictures! Beautiful children and beautiful scenery! I LOVE surprises, and I am sappy as all get out. This made me cry. I’m so glad you all enjoyed it.


Lisa@verybusymomwith4 October 14, 2008 at 8:28 am

This was lovely. When you write your book, include this one!

Lisa@verybusymomwith4s last blog post..In the Spirit of Elisha Hunt Rhoads


Mrs. Schmitty October 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

What a sweet surprise. Kids are so adorable when a surprise is waiting!

Mrs. Schmittys last blog post..The Bullet Catch Up


Jenn @ Juggling Life October 14, 2008 at 9:37 am

I’m glad it was everything you hoped it would be.

Jenn @ Juggling Lifes last blog post..Mojito? Pomegranate Punch? Seriously?!


Crazycath October 14, 2008 at 9:51 am

Awww Jennifer that has brought tears. You have the most wonderful babies. (As do I).

Precious moments. And you shared them. Thank you.

Crazycaths last blog post..Portrait of Words.


Coco October 14, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Oh, man. I totally snurfed all over myself when I read about your kids doing the sign language to the song.

So, so sweet.

Cocos last blog post..Password, Password, Who’s Got the Password?


we_be_toys October 14, 2008 at 2:32 pm

What a great surprise and such a cool day trip! Big kids are so much more fun than toddlers, aren’t they? I think I would have been a puddle myself with the sign language singing – deep sigh…!


Allen October 14, 2008 at 6:03 pm

COOL outing with the offspring. They are EXTREMELY lucky kids, which translates into you being an EXTREMELY lucky mom.

One slight, minor word of caution should you consider taking the little angels on another train ride: make sure you do it before they get too much bigger and make sure they do NOT see the movie “Throw Momma From the Train”.



Grandy October 14, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Yeah for suprises!! 🙂

Congrats on a great moment.

Grandys last blog post..A day in the life – Grandy Style


the mama bird diaries October 14, 2008 at 8:46 pm

What a perfect, perfect day. Sounds restorative for the soul.

I hate surprises too. 🙂

the mama bird diariess last blog post..the mommy monologues


Epijunky October 14, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I would have been a blubbering mess right next to you.

The shots are gorgeous btw. I’m a fan.

Epijunkys last blog post..365 Project – Day 44


Franki October 15, 2008 at 8:36 am

off topic, but may i say that you look absolutely stunning as a red-head?


Frankis last blog post..Oh. Dear. God.


Daryl October 15, 2008 at 9:39 am

Wonderful post, wonderful photos … beautiful kids!

Daryls last blog post..wordless wednesday


Linda October 15, 2008 at 10:37 am

It doesn’t get much better than this. Thanks.


Gwen October 15, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Yeah, I would have cried, too. And I’m not even sure I know that song (srsly.)

Gwens last blog post..Odd Girl Out


melissa October 15, 2008 at 1:47 pm

What a very cool day. I love trains–am reading The Harvey Girls these days and just realized that’s your last name, too. Related?
What a lovely field trip.


Louise October 15, 2008 at 6:48 pm

Love it. And extra love it that they still love surprises… as I know their mother does not, and cannot wait to even open a package! (Smile.)

I’m glad the day was all it was cracked up to be. You so needed that.

And the pictures? I don’t know what to say!

Louises last blog post..Louise’s Comfort Zone — Reality or Myth?


Smart Mouth Broad October 15, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I love this post. I, myself love the spontaneous visit but live so far out I don’t get many of them. Thanks for sharing your train ride.

Smart Mouth Broads last blog post..ONE WORD WEDNESDAY


Em October 16, 2008 at 9:30 am

Ah, surprises are great – especially when it’s our children being the good “adults” we’re so desperately trying to raise.

Congrats on pulling it off – the train ride AND the great kids!!


Ems last blog post..Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!


Milena October 16, 2008 at 10:22 am

It is always children who have the gift of stripping away our acquired cynicism to go to the heart of what is truly of importance. This post made me cry. I’m so glad you gave them their surprise and that for all of you, it turned out to be more than you ever imagined it could be. I think you are a fantastic mom Jennifer. Your kids are lucky to have you.

Milenas last blog post..What I can and cannot do…


Autumn October 16, 2008 at 3:57 pm

That’s a terrific post! It really does sound like the perfect day for all of you, each in your own special ways. I’d have been bawling right along with you and everyone else! LOL

Autumns last blog post..Seasons


Ann October 16, 2008 at 4:43 pm

Oh, how lovely! I think sign language is really so elegant and beautiful to watch – what a great, unexpected way to enjoy what could have been a [kind of] cheesy Americana moment. Cool! What a great trip!

Anns last blog post..Where I Irritate Everyone Not In The Desert


Minnesota Matron October 16, 2008 at 6:06 pm

What a beautiful day!! Great story.

Minnesota Matrons last blog post..When the Quarterback Throws to the Third Baseman


JCK October 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm

A for Adorable those kids!

This just sounded magical, Jennifer. What a lovely surprise and family adventure.

And their singing was felt a long way off…

JCKs last blog post..Bunk beds part deux…reflections a year later


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