To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first, and wherever you hit, call it the target. That has seemed to be my mantra this last week. I love vacation Bible school. My husband and I have been VBS leaders for nine years now, and we usually love it. Creating the program, designing the craft, finding tangible daily demonstrations — the only thing that would make it better would be if they scheduled it in the winter! Sometimes I think VBS actually stands for “very busy season.” Jotting down ideas from the swather cab, lining up helpers from the semi truck, organizing the demonstrations from the tractor, it was finally planned out — or perhaps I should say the bull’s-eye was set up, but we weren’t going to be too hasty about calling it the target yet.
Our theme was “Racing from Egypt to Canaan,” exploring the many “pit stops” the Israelites had along the way. To help set the scene, we used a semi-load of straw bales to create Mount Sinai and the walls of Jericho. For the Red Sea, we made a straw pool lined with black plastic — I couldn’t decide if Moses would have been proud or appalled.
With our background completed, it was time to focus on the stage area. Bringing the racing theme to the forefront, we set up racing slicks, checkered flags, a side by side, four-wheelers and dirtbikes — both in adult and youth sizes. To complete our program, the kids’ craft would be to build a soap box car.
T minus five days, the bull’s-eye was set up, the gun leveled — but just before the trigger was squeezed, our music crew had a family emergency and canceled. Days of frantic scrambling paid off, and now our sights were readjusted to the new target. The scope was double-checked — just to be sure. A deep breath in, the trigger finger tightened — and our first nighttime demonstration bailed — just hours before the program was to start.
My husband scrolled diligently through his phone trying to find a Plan B or Plan C or even Plan O. But at 5:55 and a few seconds, our program starting at 6, we just closed our eyes and pulled the trigger — the target being whatever we hit. With no racing device to show the expecting kids, we did what any farmer would do: We brought out floor jacks, impact drivers and tire irons and let the kids pretend they were in “the pits” changing tires. All except the really little kids, who just took rides up and down on the jacks.
As the week progressed, our target seemed to readjust daily. Horse rides turned into horse-powered ATV rides, and group leaders changed faces as people either got sick or headed off to attend weddings.
Partway through the week, a cousin from central Oregon brought her five kids to come, stay and attend the craziness. We discovered real quick how different a family of four is, versus a family of seven. First off, I don’t have enough dishes. Secondly, I should buy more plastic cups and less glass ones. And, third, when you have a large family, meals are much more of a production.
I’m no Julia Child in the kitchen — yet I’ve never felt as bumbling as Mrs. Doubtfire. We’ll eat throughout the day as hunger strikes. Although, if I was completely honest, I must say that I usually think about food after someone’s stomach begins growling. Our house functions best as a do-it-yourself bed and breakfast. I discovered, though, that a family of seven requires a bit more planning. It seemed that, no sooner had the last breakfast dish been washed and put away, that my cousin was planning lunch and then supper — although I am sure there must have been time in between.
My cousin is a great planner when it comes to meals. I, on the other hand, will look in the cupboards, pull out some random ingredients and food is served. All I really need is cheese or black pepper — that’s practically like duct tape and baler twine in my kitchen. They can fix anything. My cousin gave me a couple of looks, that my self-consciousness took to mean “what kind of grandmother will you make if you don’t enjoy cooking?”
As VBS wore on, we sang songs, built our soap box cars, got to climb in race cars, pretend to be horses as we ran through the barrels and watch motocross racers. On Sunday, our VBS finale, we set up a track to race the cars we had worked all week to build. There were tunnels, hair-pin curves and corners lined with tires.
I felt that we had shot a pretty decent target after all — even if it wasn’t what we had been aiming for in the original sight. Just then, a friend steps up and pats my shoulder.
“I don’t know how you come up with these ideas — it’s amazing.”
My cousin’s face flashed before my eyes, looking at me with despair at my lack of meal planning skill.
I smiled at my friend, “Well, I will be the grandmother that provides crafts and activities, but asks her grandkids to bring the food!”
Brianna Walker occasionally writes about the Farmer’s Fate for the Blue Mountain Eagle.