I should have known something was up.
In retrospect, I am rather embarrassed that I didn't catch on to my parents' lies. After all, they did turn down a weekend with the grandkids...and that just doesn't happen. The request to call them when we were 30 min. away today was odd, too. It was foggy, and why on earth would my dad, brother and SIL have gone to the next town on such a day? Especially when the Erin's arrived just this AM after very little sleep?
Perhaps it should have been a red flag that my Aunt and Uncle were here - and my uncle had his camera on the ready. (He's a professional photographer.)
But I was clueless.
The fact that they had decorated for Christmas quite frankly didn't even register.
When we arrived on the farm around 2:30, I quite naturally fell into my typical routine of getting the kids inside and the van unloaded. It can be a big task, and I usually have tunnel vision until it's done. Our things safely stowed in the upstairs bedrooms, and first hugs haven been shared, I was surprised when my Dad ordered us to sit down on the couch. He then gave the Princess a card to read.
Christmas was going to happen at Thanksgiving this year. Our family had a very special gift, and each of us had a string to follow in order to find it. Also, we would each need a guide.
Now the string guide for Christmas gifts is a very old tradition in our family. Items that are too big to wrap are hidden somewhere else in the home and are attached to a string that leads back to the Christmas tree and a card. Past examples include my mom's horse cart, Gram's kiln, my brother's rabbits and my beloved Westie. It's ALWAYS exciting and there's always at least one present with a string.
We were sent out one by one. First, my husband with my Mom. The Princess went next with my SIL and the Pixie was sent shortly thereafter with my brother. My Dad held me back for a while, and we both watched the others as they wound all over the yard and towards the barn. (My husband had to climb hay bales!) My Uncle was out there, furiously snapping pictures of everyone, and it was clear that everyone was very eagerly awaiting our discovery.
I wasn't too surprised when my string went to the barn. It is, after all, a nice big place to hide things. I opened the side door to find.....
No, not one, a flock of FOUR SHEEP!
OK, I admit...I started jumping up and down and screaming like a four year old. I think I might even have stopped breathing for a while. Heck, hours later I'm still grinning like a fool!
Our little flock of four are Jacobs, and they are the most beautiful sheep in the world. (I promise pictures when I'm back at my own computer!) Jacobs are smallish sheep, with either two or four horns and glorious spotty fleeces.
My husband was given the Ram - Zeke - a fine fellow with huge curly horns and a mild disposition. My Dad matched the Princess with Katrina, who is the dominant ewe who likes to take charge. The Pixie received Danette, who's rather reserved at this point. These three were all born in April of last year, and hopefully the two girls are expecting.
My beautiful girl is Willow, born this last April. As the youngest she is on the low end of the flock's totem pole, but Dad says she's slowly starting to hold her own. Dad picked her for me because of her absolutely gorgeous fleece. Even though she's still a bit skittish, I had her eating out of my hand before we turned them loose in the pasture.
On top of this bounty, my brother and SIL were given a pair of llamas. JoJo and Josie are as sweet as can be - both absolutely loving attention. Believe it or not, these two will be protecting the flock. Josie was already on the job, and was making sure the dogs stayed well away from her charges!
I'm not sure who's happier about all of this - me or my parents, who are clearly enjoying all of the new animals. My dad - who had convinced me that he hated sheep - has been surprised at just how much he loves having them around. Then again, his father had sheep when he was little. Mom has wanted llamas forever, and so for her this is a dream come true.
I'm sure tonight I'll be dreaming of sheep...and fleece...and spinning...and sweaters.
And my Dad will get the very first one.
PS. I will admit that when I started following my string I had two thoughts. The first - spoken out loud to Dad - was, "You know, the best gift I ever got was on the end of a string. No gift has ever matched BB (the Westie). To myself I thought, "Maybe Dad got me that sheep finally, Ha ha. Because that'll never happen." When I post pictures I'll tell you that story.