Sunday, November 27, 2016

Better than Summer Camp: 2 weeks at Grandma and Grandpa's

What could be better than two weeks with your newly-retired grandparents to do all the fun things you wanted? Exactly. Though my parents were worried about keeping up with Misha and Sebby's energy, I think they did a fine job - and possibly even outlasted them.

In the evenings, the kids called us to chat about their adventures. Canoeing at the nature center was a big hit - they even loved scooping out a bit of water leaking in!

Green and serene.

I love the matching hats.

Next up: fishing on Uncle Gary's boat. They both caught fish, not to mention another turtle!

Also at Gary's: BB gun target practice on tin cans! They even brought back the can to show me their marksmanship.

A day at the Kids Museum:

Kite flying:

McCrory Gardens with Nara, who got to spend some more time with her cousins:

Chilling at home time:

Keeping Grandpa in shape...

Of course, they did many more things than just that! They even kept a log, which extended through several sheets of paper:

Chess, whittling, wooden top tossing, nature walks, biking, and much more.

And as for Josh and me, what were we up to? We spent romantic nights assembling several bookshelves and a mini chest of drawers we ordered off Amazon (aka Legos for adults), filling the shelves with our beloved books, and reorganizing every room in the house. It looked amazing!

After the two weeks were up, it was time for another mega-road-trip to meet for the kid swap. Time to load up on the podcasts.

A monument that caught Mom's eye in OKC.
Since Kent and Connie so generously offered their house as a meeting point in Tecumseh, OK, we were happy to accept. Josh and I drove up, while Grandma and Grandpa embarked upon an adventurous road trip with two backseat companions and no GPS. After song singing, graveyard joke-telling, and Reader's Digest anecdotes, they made it in one piece. Josh and I pulled up shortly after, the kids dancing and jumping around our car like farm dogs eager to see who has arrived. The evening was spent relaxing and talking, and I believe eating a considerable amount of cake.

The next morning, we got to sample Connie's fabulous dairy products (fresh goat's milk and homemade Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and chevre cheese), eat breakfast together, and tour the farm. The kids remembered the goat-milking and the treehouse from last year - both big hits worth repeating.

A fresh, delicious breakfast.
Sebastian and Grandpa. Is that a wink?

Kent on his beautiful land

Oh, what a beautiful morning in Oklahoma!

Connie with her affectionate goats.

Treehouse time.

And even Grandma!

Just like last time, the kids loved the chance to milk a real goat. What pros!

All too soon, it was time to load up the car for the drive back to Houston - with some goat milk and chevre safely tucked in our cooler.

And that concludes our momentous summer road trip!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dakota Road Trip 2016

With my parents both recently retired and my sister's third child recently born, our summer road trip this year worked out perfectly. Even better, our whole family of four including Josh managed to make it this time. And still more impressive, I managed to convince my parents that, now that they were retired and my kids were big enough, they would love to keep the kids an additional two weeks - just grandparents and grandchildren!

Once again, we traversed an immense stretch of Texas plus all of Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska, and eventually (2 days later) we pulled into my parents' driveway in South Dakota. Following tradition, everyone ate waffles, raided the toy collection in the basement, and got busy playing all the favorite games. (This year, there was a lot of chess going on.)

Playing Hive

Double chess match

Waffles with syrup

Grandpa even set up a wood-carving station in the basement so they could enjoy the air conditioning while they practiced.

While in the basement, I ran across this great school photo of Grandpa.

We got to see Tanya and Aaron, with Nara, Harry and the newest member of the family - Otto - for a few days before they headed back to N.D. (where we later ventured). Nara and Harry loved to tell me about their new baby. "We have a baby!" Harry announced to me more than once, in case I had forgotten. And Nara was usually holding Otto every time I turned around.

Musical demonstrations galore.

I love how Sebby always sings along with his piano. Song lyrics have been another great motivator for reading.

Some violin in the family room. So cozy!

She looks like a pro.

Grandpa and Misha's duet: Heart and Soul

Grandma with four kids downtown.

At the park.

More chess, and cold milk.

Grandma gets into the chess spirit.

"The three little girls," as they were once known.

The first part of our trip was like a mini family reunion - we got to see Kathy, Adam, and Sue and Ed.

We also made a trip to the Svec Farm to see the people and the bees.

Sue, Misha and Otto

A rousing verse of "Happy Anniversary to You"

Cake and ice cream for all :)

Josh, looking quite dashing.

Nara goes to town on the piano.

Ed and Sue, with Roger Svec

Love that face, especially amid all the other smiles!

Cousins group hug.

Then came the bee tour. First, Aaron gave an animated lecture.

Then comes the attire, wonderfully space-like.

And finally, the three-hour tour:

Layer by layer.

Misha got to calm the bees with the smoke can.


Those who didn't don the bee suits watched from slightly farther back. Sebby was fascinated by this honeycomb, and I thought that he, like me, appreciated nature's amazing geometrical capabilities. (Later I found it crumpled into a solid lump. I guess it's amazing that way too.)

Chess initiation.

Rice pudding, that is, leftover rice plus milk, sugar and cinnamon.

Ah summer - sweet corn, flowers, and guac.

At one point, we couldn't find the three older kids, despite checking all over the house and outside. I eventually found them huddled with a flashlight in a dark basement back room, playing a "bee game" that they invented with pencil and paper. (They told me not to tell Harry where they were. Poor little guy!)

Comical attempts at group grandkid portraits ...

Karakuri fun with Grandpa

As we have recently made it a goal to attend more plays with the kids, we were happy that our trip aligned with the Community Theater play of "Shrek." It was adorable. (Plus, we later got to attend the Prairie Rep's "Smokey Joe's Cafe.")

More basement treasures - D and D maps from Daddy's youth!

And baby scrapbooks - Sebby thought it was odd that I kept his tiny socks, but I have always loved miniature footwear!

Teamwork to make ...

a decorative colored-salt bottle.

My classic old banana-seat, flower-basket, pink-and-white bike was a good size for Sebby, and Misha is big enough now to ride Josh's 20" unicycle (with the seat lowered all the way).

Sebby LOVED riding such a big bike, even if it did have streamers!

We then hit the road again to take advantage of Tanya and Aaron's hospitality in North Dakota. They have a great house in a grand city, right by the river.

As soon as I walked in the door, Harry turned away from the food he was chopping on the counter and announced. "Shh, the baby is sleeping. We have a baby now!" (in case I had forgotten)

Also resurrected from the basement - the old elephant costume I had made for Misha. Perfect for Harry's Halloween costume this year. The elephant lives again! :)

Table pictures are so lovely.

Time for a stroll in the pleasant evening air.

Great cousin shot on the couch. Such darling faces.

A scooter, strider bike, bigger bike, and unicycle. Quite the procession.

Cookie time!

Uke talent.

Uncle and neph. I'm pretty sure Otto is raising his eyebrows too.

Salads and omelets and pancakes, oh my. Not to mention great essential oils that Aaron shared with Josh that work wonders for sinuses.

More art projects - nature villages on the mushroom table.

Bike path fun.

And Cherry Berry. Don't you love how that's the smallest size offered? Sheesh.

The top of the spider web, in a gusty breeze

The river.

Peaceful Otto and Mama.

Kids and water. I love it.

A shot of us! In the same photo!

This watermelon completely disappeared. It was amazing.

My goofy niece. :)

The s'more man. Any takers?

Backyard s'more cook outs - a must. Nara and Harry know the routine.


Aw again.

And again. The adoring big sis.

Under the wonderful willow.

Quest for fire? Aaron decided to share his flames with neighbor Joe a few streets down.

Floor puzzle photo shoot.

A cold dragon fly.

The beautiful birch.

Strawberry short cakes.

Something else preserved since my youth - my beloved purple falcon bike. Misha was excited to ride a bike with more than one speed. He and Sebby rode all over campus! Luckily, campus has become more pedestrian focused. The boys certainly didn't need any cars around to add to their reasons for close-calls on speedy bikes.

The eager mowers.

And my tiger lilies, still thriving!

I love this shot, mid-jump! Who is the grasshopper here, the catcher or the caught?

The walking/fishing/canoeing nature center on the edge of town has become such a great place for kids. I'm glad the kids got to take advantage of this during their extra time in Brookings!

Then, Josh and I packed our little Corolla to the very brim with our entire collection of books from our college days, not to mention a Kyrgyz rug or two and some Indian and Saudi artifacts to boot. And with goodbye hugs, we left our children to enjoy two more weeks with their indulgent grandparents.