Monday, September 12, 2016

Goodbye Summer

 Upon returning from Colorado, we had about three weeks left of summer vacation. We worked hard on our summer bucket list by picking blueberries (above)...
 ...visiting our favorite parks...
 ...and traveling to the best ice cream spots.
 With friends.

 We attended the Arlington Ward Campout in Sharon, Vermont. Camping is much easier without an infant, so camping solo with three kids is no prob (after this trip, anything is easier). Yes, it helps to be surrounded by all of my favorite people, pack all of my favorite junk food, and have perfect weather.
 Morning selfie!
 We attempted a photo...
 ...and went for a hike using M&Ms for bribery. Insects and snacks mix, right?
 We hiked Patriarch Hill. Oliver only rode on my shoulders half the time (that's an improvement).
 We spent lots of time in the pond. With canoes, kayaks, a floating dock, lots of frogs to catch, and a floating trampoline, there was plenty to keep us happy.
 A few more items on our bucket list: selling lemonade and cookies.
 Sitting in a firetruck.
 Going to Frog Pond on the Boston Common.
 With friends.
 Eating more ice cream.
 Attending a birthday party. This one was pirate-themed.
 Phoebe came out of this covered in tattoos. I washed the tats off her face for church the next day, but her arms/ legs/ neck/ everywhere else were still covered.
 We said goodbye to Domingo the classroom snake and returned him to his home at kindergarten.
 And we went to the Stone Zoo. Whew, summer was wonderful - but exhausting too. I'm ready to hibernate until next summer!

Raymond Cousin Camp

The day after we drove back to Boston from Ohio, we got on an airplane (this time with Scott - yay!) and flew to Colorado for a reunion with his siblings and their families. We rented a house in Breckenridge and made the most of the many outdoorsy things to do there.
 We went to this "pump track" a few times during the week. The kids had a blast zipping around this man-made mountain biking course.
 Pretty much every single day ended with a dip in the backyard hot tub. Phoebe especially loved it. We went to a rec center where the hot tub was limited to ages 16+ and she was ticked off at that. "I'm coming back in nine years," she said.
We rode the free gondola from town up to the ski resort. Once we got to the resort, there were all kinds of ways to blow money so we got back in the gondola and rode down.
 More pump track. More smiles.
 We had a baby shower for Lana, who is pregnant with her fourth child. She got lots of girly clothes and the kids devoured all the desserts we made.
 I did some running while there, but not as much as I'd originally intended. I think I forgot just how much of a different altitude makes. Our cabin was just above 10,000 feet in elevation, so the first two days I had a headache, felt nauseated, and was super tired and sluggish. Scott and Bruce had headaches. Oliver and Phoebe threw up. The elevation just killed us low-landers. So those first two days I didn't run much, and the rest of the week I still felt like I was gasping for air the whole time. I did get a few beautiful runs in though; pictured above is Quandary Peak at 14,265 feet. I hiked to the top, then ran down and back to the cabin.
It rained almost every afternoon in Breckenridge, so we often went to the rec center. The kids loved the slides and pools; they could have just done that for the whole week and been satisfied.
 We went whitewater rafting one day. I didn't get a picture (too wet/ crazy for cameras and phones), so here is Bruce getting lunch afterward in Leadville (home to one of the most famous distance races ever). The rafting was really pretty though and just barely out-of-my-comfort-zone gnarly.
 A big group went biking down a canyon one day. I was the shuttle bus driver. Scott pulled Oliver in a carriage and Bruce biked it too. Phoebe wanted to hang out with her younger cousins that day, so she went scootering with them instead.
 At the end of the bike ride was a great little park, a big lake, and a well-deserved picnic.
This is the view of the driveway from the cabin's front porch: if you look closely, you'll see a moose crossing it! Phoebe spotted it first and was very proud of herself.
One day we went to an old mine and went panning for gold. We got a little lesson and spent an hour or so trying to get some gold. The kids found itty bitty flecks and saved them in vials and are planning on getting really filthy rich someday.
We watched lots of Olympics at the cabin. Lots of swimming, track and field, gymnastics. We also watched fencing, which Oliver decided was the coolest thing ever: "LIGHTSABERS!"
On the final day of our trip, we drove to Scott's parents' house in Pueblo and relaxed. The kids played in the river and played with Bridger the Dog. Phoebe claims to have trained Bridger to lay down using only her mind power. That night they drove us to the airport and we took a red-eye flight back to Boston. We flew JetBlue and Phoebe was excited about the free snacks and TVs. She fell asleep just before boarding and woke up as we landed, so was disappointed to have missed out. Bruce and Oliver slept too, and Scott and I dozed on and off. We were happy to get home and into bed for a few hours!

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Mars Cousin Camp 2016

One of the major highlights of our trip to Ohio was attending Mars Cousin Camp. Our group has grown quite large (35 grandkids and 2 more on the way) and unruly, so we've outgrown most cabins and normal-size dwellings. Camp was instead centered around central Ohio since several of my siblings live around there. The kids and I stayed at a different house each night to squeeze the most quality time with each sibling. We stayed with Dave and Sarah one night; the kids enjoyed playing on the trampoline, chasing kittens, watching chickens, and having a sleepover in the living room. I enjoyed going for a long run with Dave, who knew every dog and its temperament within a 10-mile radius of his house and knew every "water stop" (unattended and easily accessible water hose, usually on the side of a house). I also enjoyed coming home from that run to Sarah's french toast, made from homemade bread and eggs from their chickens alongside homemade strawberry jam and honey from their beehives. Awesome!

Anyway, Cousin Camp started out with an Eagle Scout Court of Honor for my nephew, Josh. We all watched him earn his Eagle award, then went out for lunch afterward (that would be Phoebe harassing Uncle Will above while waiting for pizza). After getting some sustenance, we headed out for the main event: canoeing!
 We are such a large group that it takes forever to do anything. So it took awhile to carpool to the boating place. Then get everyone fitted for life jackets. Then get oars for everyone. Then get loaded onto buses to get shuttled to the starting point.
 The kids were pumped. Oliver was so pumped that he fell asleep on the bus-ride upriver. We all split up into different canoes, trying to distribute kids and adults somewhat equally.
 I lucked out and got my nephew Xander to come with me and a sleeping Oliver. He did most of the work.
 Phoebe went with Janis and declared herself captain of the ship.
Oliver slept for five river miles, missing the entire thing. He woke up a few minutes later and said, "Where's my oar?" He was a bit confused.
We headed to a farm-themed restaurant for dinner and pretty much took over the place. Somewhere behind all those cousins is a tractor. That night, we stayed with Erik and Lois. We slept on the floor/ couch/ cot, played in their backyard, ate peaches and tomatoes from their garden, and went to church with them.
That afternoon we went to a homeless shelter to serve food - our last planned cousin camp activity.
We chopped watermelons and assembled nacho salads, but in the end I didn't help all that much: Oliver woke up from a nap while there and went berserk. I think the combination of sleeping in a different place every night and then waking up in a strange place with a crowd of strange faces threw him over the edge. He wouldn't calm down, so we left and headed for Karyn's house - our landing pad for the night. See you next time, Mars Cousin Camp!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More Ohio Adventures

While in Ohio, we had some other adventures. A family friend let us come visit her awesome place that has donkeys.
We got to see a baby donkey that was just a few hours old.
We spent a lot of time at her pool.
We went swimming a few times because it was sooooo hot. 
We went to Great-Grandma's house to eat all her cookies. She gave Bruce a big box of comics that she cut from the newspaper because she knows Bruce loves comics.
We visited my brother, Dan's, backyard farm. He has a goat and alpacas...
...and chickens. 
We visited my brother, David's, house and hung out with his posse too. He also has chickens, kittens, a dog, a trampoline, beehives, play set, and a gigantic garden. The kids loved playing with their cousins. I loved going for a long run with David; he knows every road around, where all the dogs live and their temperaments, and where to find "water stops" (garden hoses close enough to the road to swipe a sip from). When we got home from our run, David's wife Sarah had homemade bread made into French toast with eggs from their chickens and served with honey from their bees and strawberry jam from their garden. This is what heaven tastes like.
We visited my sister, Karyn, and her family. We went to a cool creek and searched for frogs and salamanders and such. 
My brother, Chris, took Phoebe for an airplane ride. 
They flew over my parents' house and Phoebe got to steer for a bit. They flew by a hot air balloon too. Awesome!

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