Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cousin Camp: Charter Bus Edition

The capstone event of our Ohio Trip was Cousin's Camp, and Bruce and Phoebe were stoked. They were excited about the matching tee-shirts. They were pumped about the mountain of animal crackers, chips, and juice boxes that crowded the living room for a few days leading up to the big event. And even though it was only 24 hours, we packed a lot into that 24 hours. It. was. epic.
 A 56-seat charter bus pulled up to our driveway at 5:30 a.m. After loading the aforementioned mountain of snacks, 30 cousins with various car seats, and my siblings and their spouses, the bus departed. Phoebe sucked a juice box down as soon as we got on the bus; she had been waiting for it all week. Thankfully, there was a potty on the bus.
 Grandma and Grandpa used the mic to welcome the passengers and call a head-count every time we boarded the bus. We passed the time reading books, watching all my siblings' wedding videos, and chatting. Bruce also spent a fair amount of time on the iPod; that's what he had been waiting for all week.
 The first leg of our trip took us to Niagara Falls.The last time we went we had a much smaller party. This time we turned heads with our custom-made blue shirts and the sheer number of our group.
 After checking out the Falls from above, we headed to the Maid of the Mist.
 We suited up for a closer view.
 Phoebe loved getting soaked by the Falls. Bruce, not so much. He stood back and held Grandma's hand.
 Bruce was worried that the river would erode away into the visitor's center. Maybe in another hundred years.
 After checking out the Falls, we found a picnic area and brought out a half-dozen coolers full of food.
 Phoebe fell asleep on the way to the picnic area and slept on the ground while we ate. One of her cousins even stepped on her and she didn't budge. I carried her back to the bus when it was time and she was still sacked. The early start to the day and the excitement over the waterfall and boat ride caught up to her.
 After Niagara Falls, our bus headed to the Sacred Grove, a Mormon historical site where Joseph Smith first saw God and Jesus in 1820. The forest has gravel paths that lead through it. Occasionally there is a sign indicating a remnant of an old fence post or something, but it's pretty bare-bones. It is meant to be that way: it is a sacred place. It isn't known where the exact spot is where Joseph Smith knelt to pray and the vision occurred, but Bruce was determined to find it. He would announce, "It happened right there; I can feel it." A few minutes later, he would see sunlight streaming through the trees and claim that it happened there. I explained to Bruce that it wasn't so important where the exact spot was, it was just important that it happened.
 After our hike through the Grove, we boarded the bus to Palmyra for the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Another stop on Mormon history, the Hill Cumorah is where Joseph Smith found golden plates, which he translated into the Book of Mormon. Every summer, there is a pageant that highlights a few stories from the Book of Mormon and tells Joseph Smith's story in finding it. We gathered for pizza at the bottom of the hill.
Grandpa passed out his LED trinkets: this year, it was fans, sparkly rings, and globes. We played with our light-up toys until it got dark (and Bruce put some more time on the iPod), then the Pageant began. When it was over, we boarded the bus and headed back to Headquarters. The bus was quieter this time: almost everyone's cell phones ran out of power by this point, and sleep was on the docket for most. Bruce and Phoebe knocked out and slept peacefully. I slept for about an hour. We all woke up at 5:30 when the bus dropped us at the end of Grandma and Grandpa's driveway.

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Goodyear blimp

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Sailing under a blimp

Some of the kids wanted to go sailing on a lake with Uncle Dan. Bruce opted to stay home; the Lego pile was too hard to give up at the time. Phoebe was excited though, and her excitement was not short-lived. She eagerly awaited for Dan to sail to the dock...
 ...and then sat next to him with a big smile on her face.
The lake just so happens to be next to the Goodyear blimp's dock and it landed while we were beneath it.
Phoebe was fascinated. There is a Direct TV blimp that sometimes flies over the Red Sox games in Boston, but I don't think it's as big as the Goodyear blimp.
 That giant structure in the background is its parking garage.

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Ohio fun

 When we weren't feeding ducks and taking tractor rides, we were swimming at a friend's pool.
 Bruce showed off his swimming skills in the deep end and pulled Phoebe around in her "boat."
 We fed our friend's donkeys.
We went to the zoo one day, but left a sick Phoebe at home with grandma. Phoebe had a weird 24-hour barfing bug, but *thankfully* did not pass it along to any of her cousins.
Bruce reconnected with his cousins and talked endlessly about Star Wars and video games. These guys are too cool for you.
It was another hot day at the zoo: all the animals laid still in the shade, and that's what I felt like doing too. Asena beat the heat with a quick shower in the sprinkler.
We hung out with Great Grandma and ate amazing food, swiped some cookies from her second kitchen, and Phoebe searched unsuccessfully for her cat (it's been dead for at least a year, but Phoebe still remembers it).

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M + T's reception

Wedding receptions in our family are always a group project. This reception was for my niece, the first of my siblings' kids to get married. While the craftiest of the jobs were left to my sister, my project was to put pictures in frames. Check. And slice one zillion limes and lemons, then de-seed them. Check.
 Uncle Dan made cupcakes and Asena helped sample them.
 Karyn put together a photo booth that kept the kids busy. Grandpa spent months putting together a wedding video.
The reception was held in a restored barn that miraculously had air conditioning (it went for nearly a week without power after a big storm came through, but power was restored the night before the reception!).
The food was awesome: vegan waffles, vegan toppings, vegan cupcakes. Yummy! I am glad I have many more years before I need to put one of these on for Phoebe.

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Grandkid Ranch

We love grandma and grandpa's house for so many reasons: the Jeep,
the hungry ducks and the pond full of bullfrogs that sing us to sleep at night,

the big toys (such as this giant backhoe that provided a lovely place for Phoebe to sing),

the quirks (yes, it is a firehouse birdfeeder, but not just any firehouse bird feeder. It is rigged up so that a push of a remote sends a gazillion volts to any squirrels or raccoons that dare steal the bird seed),
the neighbor's horses (yes, we are coveting our neighbor),
the giant backyard and the tractor rides with grandpa,
the grill that is almost as big as my kitchen,
the giant bathtub (maybe this fits under the "quirks"),
the hookups (when grandma knows everyone in town, we get sweet perks like meeting the local K-9 unit),
the legendary duck-crossing sign that sits in the driveway,
the even more legendary Mars rock that sits at the end of the driveway,
the sandbox,
the bounce house,
the 30 cousins and many aunts and uncles,
and grandma and grandpa of course, who will be pictured in the next post.

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We are back...

...but not updated. We have been playing in Ohio for the past two weeks, getting lots of time with cousins, aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa. We came home on Monday, did laundry and grocery shopping and email-catch-up on Tuesday and Wednesday, and finally downloaded photos on Thursday. LOTS more photos to come soon.

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Sunday, July 01, 2012

Wunderlich wedding in Washington

My niece got married in Washington D.C. on Friday. Scott is working night and day in the ICU and Miss J is on vacation for two weeks, so I took Bruce and Phoebe and hopped on a plane to D.C. Thursday night. I packed plenty of bribery, electronics, and other goodies, but the kids did amazingly well on the flight. Phoebe was excited about being served apple juice and pretzels, and Bruce was excited about getting to play Angry Birds as long as we were in the air.

The wedding was wonderful, but afterward the heat was intense: 104 degrees. The few pictures that I posed for, I'm quite sure my eyes were squinted closed and I felt like my hair was melting. Bruce, Phoebe, my parents, and I drove back to Ohio that afternoon. Somehow we missed the huge storms that knocked out power to much of Ohio, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Now we are hanging out at the Mars Resort awaiting Margaret and Tom's wedding reception this weekend, and Mars Cousin Camp the next weekend. More adventures to come!

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