February 28, 2009

What a difference a week makes

We awoke Saturday morning to four inches of snow and more falling in fat flakes from a gray sky. The kids were thrilled but all Mark and I could think about was how one short week ago we were enjoying an outdoor birthday party for our niece, wearing flip-flops and enjoying the sun. We are so not winter people.


We headed to sunny California on Thursday morning to visit the Hendersons. We hadn't flown as a family for a year and it was a whole new experience. We went sans-stroller, sans-sippy cups and I packed only the kids' clothes and essentials. Then I gave them backpacks and told them to fill them with whatever they wanted on the plane but not to make them too heavy because they were going to be responsible for them. They chose surprisingly little and were perfectly content. They also wore them through four airport visits and generally traveled like seasoned pros. We were truly really proud of them.

We went straight to Butch and RoRo's and arrived at the same time as the Tucker clan. The kids all piled out of cars, took off running and never looked back. It was amazing. They began playing like they'd seen each other last week and, save a few moments here and there, played without fighting or fussing the rest of the week. It was this afternoon when my sister-in-law, Maria, noted that Thomas and Claire sized each other up, seemed to reach an unspoken agreement and then played together the rest of the stay with virtually no conversation. Funny.

This day began with a stroke of brilliance wherein Maria and I left bright and early for pedicures while Mark and RoRo took the kids to the park. After stuffing ourselves with yummy Mexican food for lunch and napping little ones we enjoyed smoothies at the newest joint in Claremont and the kids played at the Tuckers' until they were very exhausted. Then we ate some more food that someone prepared. I could get used to a delicious meal just appearing in front of me every evening. :-) We watched a movie after dinner and bathed kids who were so tired that they fell asleep on the way to bed. I love that.

It's birthday day! Saturday was Claire's 3rd birthday and we celebrated at the Tuckers' with pizza, salad, cake and ice cream in the late-morning. All of Claire's cousins were there and the birthday girl was gifted with all things pink and purple. When you have balloons and a custom Tinkerbell cake, life is good. We have never enjoyed a birthday celebration with a cousin so it was really special for us to get to be there.

As the party wound down, Eric, Mark and I headed with the boys to an indoor rock climbing facility. Naptime hadn't gone so well for Thomas the day before - think 60 minutes of him jumping on his mattress on the floor, singing, dancing and repeatedly hollering that "me not tired" - so I thought we would save him the trouble of just being naughty for an hour and we would take him on the adventure. Predictably, he fell fast asleep on the four-block drive. That saw us sitting in the car for the next 75 minutes while the big boys and dads climbed in the coolest place ever. They received a lesson, were harnessed like the pros and did a great job. Thomas and I went inside just in time to see Uncle Eric reach the top of the high wall and to see Zac and Andrew each reach the top of their walls on their last climbs. They were chalky from head-to-toe and had a great time. It was male bonding at its best.

I helped Maria cook dinner this evening - my only domestic foray of the week - and the kids played, played and played some more. They invented a game whose rules we were not privvy to, but basically it involved them hiding in the bedrooms then all running like screaming banshees into the kitchen, dining room and family room in search of adults. As soon as an adult made eye-contact they would turn and run away, screaming all the while. They did things like this with no adult-intervention for hours on end. It was truly impressive that they could play so well and with so much joy for such extended periods of time. It gave the grown-ups actual time to actually sit and have actual conversation. Huge.

The weather was perfect during our entire visit. This was no exception and while rain had been forecasted for Sunday as if it would be a bonafide winter storm, it never materialized. Instead we spent a beautiful day in Long Beach at the Aquarium of the Pacific. This place is great and has many hands-on exhibits where you can touch manta rays, sharks, starfish, sea anemones, etc. We know this because the boys touched every last one of them available to touch. They had a blast and learned a lot, partly because of the Aquarium's good staff and signage and also because Uncle Eric is a wealth of knowledge too.

They began their day wearing long-sleeve shirts and jeans and as the morning progressed their cuffs were wet, then the bottom of the sleeves were wet, then when they pushed the sleeves all the way up to their shoulders, their shoulders were wet. Eventually there was so much Purell and ocean water on them that RoRo took pity on them and purchased them official Aquarium of the Pacific shirts so they could eat lunch and ride home in something dry. They were a hit and our boys have each worn them twice to school already. They did look cute in their matching shirts, didn't they?

We enjoyed lunch in Long Beach where we could watch the yachts leaving for their Sunday afternoon sails and then headed back home. The kids spent the evening playing and snacking their way through the house while most of the adults watched the Oscars and Uncles Mark and Eric went on the world's longest ice-cream run. Don't ask.

This morning Butch took the kids on rides in the Model A. The boys love riding in the backseat where they seem to think they're really living on the edge.
This was also the day reserved for train riding and lunch at nearby Victoria Gardens. This activity is part of most of our visits and the kids love it. Sadly, in SoCal, a little drizzle apparently cancels outdoor train riding. No matter though. The kids decided since they were already a little wet from being outside that they would get up close and personal with the fountain. The big boys played in the water forever and were so wet that even after Uncle Eric took them to the restroom and wrung out their clothes, they both rode home in their underwear. That hilarity eclipsed the disappointment of no train.

By the time we got home it was sunny and warm so more outside playing. RoRo and I also headed to an art installation at the Claremont Colleges that evening at sunset that I would never be able to do justice with my words. It was a very cool outdoor exhibit with lights that change color as the sun sets and I can safely say I had never known the sky was made of so many hues during that 20-minute span between light and dark.

After another evening of playing and movie watching and communal bathing of kids, it was time to face facts that our visit was drawing to a close. The kids all hugged and waved goodbye and didn't have a clue that after five days of nearly constant togetherness, they were going to miss one another. We learned that lesson the next night when Andrew cried himself to sleep telling us he missed California and really, really missed Zac.

We journeyed to the airport bright and early and traveled all day, and were once again so pleased with how well the boys did. We had one brief potty emergency somewhere over eastern-Arizona but we made it, and with a tailwind that got us home early. Later that night we made the solemn promise to ourselves and to Andrew that we won't wait so long to go again because cousins need to know each other and, well, it was fun.

Several loads of laundry later we're settled back into routine and we've become reacclimated. The kids are hoping for more snow tomorrow because they heard someone say tonight that it was good sledding snow and Mark and I are hoping to pack away the boots for the season.


Maria said...

I'm so glad Mark married a writer. I love that you documented each day! I especially love the long ice cream run comment. I'm still not convinced that was their only stop. :)

Anonymous said...

The smiles on the faces of the Henderson/Tucker families tell the story. I loved the pictures of the boys, especially the little boys, on the climbing wall. One would think that Andrew and Zach are related or something, the way they could hardly restrain themselves at the aquarium, and you will want to keep the picture of Thomas and Claire bathing together to share with them in about 10 years. Good times!

Rosemary said...

What a wonderful description of our time together. You captured it beautifully with your commentary and your pictures are perfect. It was such a special event for us and one we so appreciate & treasure. Much love to you all.

Kate and Dennis said...

Too much fun! I especially love the matching Aquarium t-shirts. And I can sympathize with Andrew crying himself to sleep after cousin time; I hate to tell you that it might even last until adulthood, as is the case with yours truly. :(

Amber said...

It sounds like you guys had a great time and I am so jealous that you got to enjoy such wonderful weather! I keep telling Brad it is time to move away from the Midwest! It really is awesome to have cousins the same age...it is just a shame that (at least in our families) we all have to live so far away from eachother:-(