August 8, 2009

Summer school

Have you ever played "chicken"? You know, where you see who can forge ahead without flinching? I've been engaged in a bitter match for the last week. I'm playing chicken with my sister-in-law to see who will be first to recap the Henderson/Tucker Summer Vacation of '09. Now that I type that it looks like a really foolish game to have played, no?

It's a daunting task to recap a vacation that brought together 11 people under one roof for seven days. We're talking about a group of 11 brilliant, witty people that includes eight first-borns or only children and includes five people under the age of six. This was not a leisurely week at the beach, people. This was an action-packed stay.

Because I traveled the shortest distance -- from only the first floor to the second floor of my own home -- and because I had the fewest number of children for whom to care, I've decided to bite the proverbial bullet and end the standoff. I present for your entertainment the Henderson/Tucker Family Vacation of '09 Blog Post. My fellow family bloggers are both good. They're more concise than me and funnier too. I hope this will do it justice.

I'm posting no pictures here because I wouldn't know where to start, but there are some really good ones in this album. Go have a look-see.

The Henderson/Tucker Clan arrived at House Hondo on Wednesday, July 25. The following is a very abridged list of daily highlights and things we learned, saw and conquered.

Today we learned that Eric can overcome his fear of flying with the help of his good friend, Jack and that he will never book a ticket through Phoenix in the summer again. We also learned that blood is indeed thicker than most anything else and that explains how four kids who hadn't seen each other for six months could pick up and hit the ground running instantly. It was this night, when we sat outside voluntarily to eat dinner, that I began to allow myself to cling to the dream that the weather just might cooperate for this event. Most importantly, we learned that Cline Cellars makes a darn fine red table wine that they're selling in a little barrel now. There will be one permanently on display on my kitchen counter should you find yourself in the neighborhood.

Today we all met for lunch downtown and learned that trying to find a table for 11 was going to be a challenge from this point forward, but that as long as we were seated within shouting distance everyone around us would come to know our children well. We also learned that Butch had left his hearing aids somewhere that wasn't here and that's how he could eat with all of us and still smile.

After lunch we took the kids to paint pottery. We learned that soccer balls can be brown and orange -- thank you for that lesson, Thomas -- and that Jayhawks don't have to be painted blue and red -- we've forgiven you, Eric. Each child and Uncle Eric created awesome masterpieces that we picked up later in the week as fun reminders of the trip.

Happy Birthday, RoRo! The morning was spent looking around campus, visiting Aunt Claire's bench and then lunching at Yello Sub. Today we learned that it is possible to surprise RoRo with a birthday gathering and that if we didn't actually surprise her she's an excellent actress. Either way we had fun getting a group of her Lawrence friends together for afternoon dessert.

After those festivities we headed the group to the pool. Here is where we confirmed that Luke is a VERY tolerant baby as he chilled in the shade as the rest of us swam. Pool highlights included Uncle Eric convincing Andrew to jump off the diving board for the first time all season and Thomas and Claire making up great games to play together, oblivious the world was watching.

Because RoRo is a peacekeeping saint, we ate dinner that night at the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. It was probably not her first choice for her birthday dinner but the kids enjoyed it, despite Aunt Susan allowing a game of hide-and-seek to go out of control outside while we waited for our table. Again with that table for 11.

That night marked the first of several in which I had the pleasure of lining all four big kids up on Granny's camelback sofa in our loft and reading four books, one of each child's choosing. That was a daily highlight for me. I'm a sucker for clean kids in jammies who will listen to me talk.

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Today we ventured bright and early to the Topeka Zoo, which never fails to be perfect for kids. It's not too small, not too big and the animals were all out enjoying the perfect weather. We learned that rain forest still stinks even when it's cool outside and that some people have no taste in sandwiches when Aunt Maria and I we selected Schlotzsky's for lunch. (We were self-appointed cruise directors and occasionally had some passengers balk at our food choices...oh well.) The orangutans and lions performed nicely for us and we really had a great time.

That afternoon was spent conquering a grill assembly and we learned that Uncle Eric and Uncle Mark work very well together. Those of us who were not needed (read: not invited) to help with that project ventured out for top-your-own frozen yogurt that we took to the Stickwork sculpture on campus where we had a dessert picnic. The kids were thoroughly unimpressed with it this time around but Thomas and Claire were endlessly entertained by the process of shaking out the blanket as we cleaned up. They acted as if it was a parachute and giggled hysterically as it floated down around them. The big boys were too busy playing dangerously close to Jayhawk Blvd. and watching the conclusion of a wedding at Danforth to notice.

For dinner Uncle Eric and Butch put the grill through its paces and we learned it was awesome!

This was a big morning. It's when we all took showers, we all combed our hair and we all brushed our teeth, all before 9 a.m., because that's when Lance arrived to take family photos. Actually, he didn't arrive until 9:30 but the cruise directors jokingly told RoRo that he was coming at 9 and she spread that word so Butch was pretty happy with us when he was ready at 8:45 a.m. for the 9:30 sitting. Ooops. The picture taking process was painless. Everyone cooperated and Lance was ultra-organized. I can't imagine it could have gone more smoothly. And? We only used half a bag of M&Ms and a few Capri Suns as bribes.

After that hard work we clearly needed more pool time. There was more jumping, some diving and more great pretending. We learned that it's more fun to eat on the sidewalk than a table when you have cousins around and that sunscreen does indeed serve a purpose...I'm talking to you, Uncle Eric.

In the evening we employed the services of super-sitter Erin to come help with watching the big kids while Eric, Maria, Mark and I went for an early dinner downtown and then, because we still had time until curfew -- aka bedtime for kiddos -- we had drinks and dessert where we could people watch and have uninterrupted conversation. It was definitely a top 5 visit highlight for me. It's lots of fun to have all the kids together but it was really good to be able to sit and really talk and it's always good to have so much fun with people that you would choose as close friends, even if they weren't related. What a gift. Here we learned that flourless chocolate torte should not be shared and cheesecake isn't.

This day was sent to remind us that it's still August in Kansas. Admittedly, it was a little warm. OK. It was hot and we chose this day to hit the Deanna Rose Farmstead, which is a really great place where you can feed goats and sheep, go fishing, ride ponies, see milking cows and generally do all kinds of really nature-y things in the middle of Kansas City's most suburban suburbs. Here we learned that Claire prefers cooler temperatures, as she told us she was, "breaking apart" because she was so hot and we also learned that goats and sheep will literally eat anything. I had a fearful moment when I wasn't sure the goat eating the tie on my shorts was going to let go and as I tried to swat him away the sheep that was trying to eat the map in my other hand was very persistent.

Uncle Eric and I took the big kids on a hay rack ride while Uncle Mark and Aunt Maria chilled -- as best you can when it's scorchingly hot -- with Luke, who once again earned his status as superbaby and the kids LOVED climbing up into a two-story barn and then sliding down the two-story slides back to firm ground. After we'd all had enough of the sweating we headed to lunch and then finally back home.

After dinner with my parents that evening we fired up the sprinklers and wading pool in the backyard and let the kids wear themselves out. We learned that evening that my brilliant idea to soak watermelon in rum was akin to purposefully drinking a bottle of turpentine so let that be a warning.

Since their arrival, the Tuckers had been hoping for a good thunderstorm. Tuesday morning delivered in the form of thunder from 3-7 a.m. and a power outage that had Mark and I literally and figuratively sweating it. It was feeling like we had too many people in the house to go without lights, or Spongebob. Fortunately electricity was again ours by the time most of us rolled out of bed for the day and our Californians had been treated to some impressive lightning.

Unfortunately the weather foiled our plans -- me and my co-cruise director -- to rent a pontoon boat for the morning so we punted and went downtown to acquire chocolates and Jayhawk gear before lunch. It's rumored that there might have been a few in our party who thought that putting five kids on a boat in the middle of a lake was a very poor idea to start with but since we never got to do it we can run with the memory of how great it would have been.

We did venture out to the Marina after naps and the kids fed the carp, which are as big as my thigh and as aggressive as you can imagine fish could be. Lake highlights revolved around a timely run-in with the Marina owner, who is a Henderson family friend. She filled the kids up with grape slushies and fish food and also had the great idea of putting Uncle Mark in a wheelbarrow then telling the kids push him up the dock to the parking lot. We learned that they're stronger than they look.

We wrapped up the day with more pool time and, when we got home, more group bedtime reading.

This was the sad day of departure. It was simply amazing that after seven days together the kids were still getting along and still wanting more time together. Claire and Thomas were just hitting their stride in their cooperative imaginary play and they were "cooking" in the kitchen up until the very last minute. Andrew and Zac had some rough moments over the week but they were few and far between and Andrew was in tears over them leaving when it was time for us to go to school.

Andrew would never tire of pulling Grandpa Butch's finger and Thomas would never tire of RoRo reading him books. I think it's safe to say that Mark and I would never tire of us all being able to eat great dinners together on the deck and have good conversation with people we see much too infrequently.

But, all good things must come to an end.

We arrived home that afternoon to a house that was far too quiet, and remarkably clean. (Thank you all!!!) I have so far found only one pair of flip flops and some Jo Malone samples that were left, which is really a packing miracle. We'll send the flip-flops your way and I'll send the Jo Malones right after I try each one. Just to make sure they're ok.

The kids are begging for us to visit California again soon and I'm hoping that we can stage a repeat of the Kansas Getaway again too. We love you all, thank you so much for your generosity, and are so glad we could learn together during our summer school session. We hope you'll come back soon to continue conquering Kansas!


Rosemary said...

Thanks to your trip journal I just relived the whole fantastic time. What a treasure it all was! You and Maria were super event planners and we loved every minute of it. The special b'day get together truly was a surprise. Thank you! The pics are all wonderful, thanks to Lance & Maria. Watching the kids together was priceless. You all made it happen for all of us and we are most grateful. Hugs and much love to all of the Kansas crew.

Stephanie said...

I've been waiting for this, too, actually. So thanks for that. And it's vodka in a watermelon, not rum. You know, for next time :)

Maria said...

I AM SOOO GLAD YOU BEAT ME TO THIS! You recapped every moment beautifully. I actually began composing a similar layout in my sleep last night but hadn't found the time to do it.;) Now all I have to do is put a link in my blog. Once again you are fabulous! Love you!

SStites said...

So glad Steph corrected the appropriate spirits in which to soak the watermelon. I was going to make that very comment! Your whole reunion sounds so great that it makes me wish I had been there to crash the party! Thanks for sharing it in such great fashion that we really feel we WERE there! Love to all of you!