Sunday, August 31, 2008

We Say Goodbyes

Day 11
August 21st

This morning we drove past the house I grew up in from birth to age 8 1/2. It looks pretty much the same, except our brown Pinto has been replaced by a Honda Accord and the front door isn't red anymore. That's sad. I wonder if the multi-colored pink shag rug is still in my bedroom? Fat chance, but perhaps the family room still has its fake wood paneling.

I loved rainbows when I was younger and this was always my favorite landmark in town. I was so happy to see that it still exists. It's a little girl's dream garage. I wonder what's parked inside? Probably either life-sized My Little Ponies and Care Bears, or Barbie's red Ferrari.

We stopped by my cousin's house to play. The kids ate Flavor Ice. Another childhood memory of mine. The purple ones always made me cough.

My boys like wearing helmets.

After lunch, we went to the cemetery. This poor guy only has a remnant of a tombstone. How does 88% of a tombstone get lost?

There were different levels and quality of tombstones:

One of my ancestors chose a tall, erect tombstone. This is not the tombstone of my ancestor John with the 18 kids.

Most opted for short, shiny granite.

Some selected from the value menu. I admire the Chikes (not related) for thinking outside the bun and ordering a rock and street sign.

After the cemetery we went to the park and abided by all the rules. We are obedient people.

We ate pizza for dinner and attempted a photo with my grandmother and her great-grandchildren. This is the only photo from my camera with all the children pictured. I had to set my camera down and duck behind my grandmother while Jason sat on my head. My sister-in-law has those pics on her camera. My brother's kids were very cooperative.

This was the night I cried. My mom thought it was sweet that Emily was crying too. However, she was only crying because there was no time left to go to the hotel pool. Tomorrow we leave. It's been a great trip!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Strong Museum

Day 10
August 20th

Today we went to the Strong Museum. The term "museum" indicates learning and I wasn't in the mood to learn today. But the full title is actually The Strong National Museum of Play. Ok. Let's check it out. It was AWESOME!! The kids absolutely loved it. We were only planning to spend a few hours, but ended up spending the whole day. They have a whole lot to do there, I can't begin to name it all. It's 282,000 square feet of fun. Here is a sampling:

Jason pressed his face against the play Sesame Street taxi window.

They had a pretend grocery store. It had kid sized carts and check out stands. How awesome is that? That is so dreamy for a little girl. Sarah shopped for cabbage, tapioca, kiwi, celery and watermelon.

Wendy purchased 2 pumpkins, diapers ("for Rachel"), ice cream, Brie cheese and sour cream. She has not learned the art of filling a grocery cart yet. (She's pushing the red cart behind Sarah.)

Emily patiently waiting in line.

Sarah was so proud of her checker skills. The girls loved the grocery store so much, they did it twice.

There was an old fashioned kitchen. Emily joined some other girls and made stew.

There was a butterfly atrium. You had 20 minutes to walk around and view the approximately 800 butterflies. David caught one with his finger.

Bradley and Sarah played Pitfall.

That's just a fraction of what we did. The kids were begging to go back the next day. The day reminded me of one of the reasons why we choose to homeschool. Playing so important for development. Children these days are at risk of being overscheduled with school and other scheduled activities. Recess and PE are being reduced at some schools. Standardized testing is becoming too much of a focus. It is my job as a parent to make sure my children get enough free play so they develop and learn. Click here to read more about the benefits of play. We are going to do a whole lot more playing in school this year!

That evening we went to a place called Schaller's for dinner. They have excellent hot dogs, hamburgers, and frozen custard. Then we went to the hotel pool. We went in the "cold pool"...

...and the "hot pool." The kids preferred the hot tub when the jets were off. Sarah said she didn't like going in the hot pool when the water was boiling.

Does this vacation ever end?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Day of Rest?

Day 9
August 19th

After breakfast we went back to our hotel room. While we spent some time finishing getting ready, Jason crashed on the floor and fell sound asleep amongst his bowl of fruit loops.

By the way, we stayed at the Hampton Inn. Hampton Inns rock (except for the high speed Internet.) Our hotel was newly remodeled so it didn't bother me so much that he was lying? laying? (I can never get that word right) on the floor. Hampton Inn did away with polyester bedspreads and now offer white down comforters. The mattresses were new and comfortable. The free continental breakfasts were very good too! They actually have food and hot food. At the hotel we stayed in at Richmond, the "Free Continental Breakfast" consisted of four miniature chocolate donuts in a Sterilte container. I'm not kidding. It was one of those plastic containers you buy for your craft items or a dorm room that has drawers, a small one about 12 inches high. I totally would've taken a picture, but I was trying to stay under the radar for exceeding our maximum capacity for the room. I was tempted to go to the front desk to ask them to break out another box of Hostess, but I didn't. We ate some granola bars instead. Howard Johnson is so stingy!

We took the kids to the indoor hotel pool in the morning. No pics. Sorry! That afternoon we went to Nani's for dinner. She was thrilled to be able to cook us a baked rotini. It was nice having a home cooked meal.

The girls played farm animals.

Emily and Bradley played to checkers. Bradley looks as if he is actually strategizing.

Rachel hung out.

We celebrated my sister's birthday with cake and lots of candles. I won't expose how old she is. You can count the candles.

The kids also put on several skits for the adults. I have several videos, but I'll spare you the childish humor.

The girls played princess hair salon at 10:30 PM at the hotel.

A rather slow day. But nice.

Niagara Falls

Day 8
August 18th

Tradition has it in my family that you don't rest while on vacation. You go nonstop until you go home. So after our big day yesterday at the reunion, we decided to go to Niagara Falls the next day. It's about a 70 mile and 1 1/2 hour trip. Here is how we traveled:

That's my grandmother's head in the bottom left-hand corner. Normally she would have stayed home to rest after such a big event yesterday, but we guilted her into coming with us to Niagara Falls because it was my sister's birthday. We had a wheelchair for her to make the trip easy. My brother and his family traveled with my dad in their car.

Wendy by the Falls.

Emily and Sarah by the Falls.

Rachel hung out.

Emily doesn't read signs.

Bradley by the Falls.

Jason by the Falls. Its the best picture I got of him.

We journeyed behind the falls, including Nani...

and Rachel.

Journeying behind the falls basically means you dress up like a giant banana and walk through some tunnels and look at a loud white wall of water.

I did the journey many many years ago. I had anticipated a really cool walk behind the entire length of the horsehoe. I was a little disappointed that it was mostly tunnels that plop you out at this look out point for you to view a huge cloud of mist. Nonetheless, it's a pretty spectacular view. Thankfully my camera survived the moisture.

A rainbow. It's real. Not Photoshopped.

Is it too much to ask for kids to look at the camera? I'm not quite sure why Emily thought she should eat her sister's arm.

The day was fun. On our way back home we had to show our US citizenship. We arrived at the border and this is the conversation:
Patrol: Where are you going?
David: New York.
Patrol: Why are you going there?
David: We are going home.
Patrol: How many people are traveling in the vehicle?
David: 11
Patrol: How many children and how many adults?
David: 5 adults and 6 children.
Patrol: Who do the children belong to?
David: Myself and my wife.
Patrol: All of them?
David: Yes.
Patrol: Why did you travel to Canada?
David: To see the falls.
Patrol: How long were you here?
David: Several hours.
Patrol: Did you buy anything?
David: No. Just food.
Patrol: No souvenirs?
David: No. We spent all our money getting here.
Patrol: May I see your proof of citizenship?
We handed him a stack of 10 birth certificates, 5 licenses and one passport.
Patrol: Out of 11 people only one person has a passport?
Me: Yes. Passports are expensive!
He looks at the documents and passes them back.
Patrol: Thank you.

Our hotel false alarm fire at 2:30 AM. As I looked around at the other hotel guests who evacuated, I realized that I probably had time to get dressed. I was more concerned about grabbing my purse and camera to document the event.

Bradley wasn't too happy about it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Reunion

Day 7
August 17th

So we've reached the climax of the trip - The 100th Anniversary Reunion.

We went to church in the morning dressed like this and I am most positive that members of that ward remained with unanswered questions because of our abrupt departure after Sacrament meeting. They either thought 1) we are Irish cloggers, 2) have no fashion sense, or 3) are just plain dorky. # 2 and #3 are true.

The day began with some cousin flirting.

It ended up she just wanted to pet his fuzzy noggin. How can you resist?

The kids played games. The older ones did a 3-legged race, potato sack, and wheelbarrow race. That's Emily with her cousin.

The younger ones dropped clothespins into a jar. Bradley was pretty disappointed he didn't qualify as an older kid yet. I told him he could join the 6-8 year olds, but David successfully convinced him that he is better off being the oldest kid in the group because he'll win all the games.

They had a scavenger hunt.

They raced with wet cotton balls on plastic spoons.

However, David's convincing was short-lived because Bradley was disappointed that he didn't get a water gun like Emily's. Occassionally parents have some backfires.

The paparazzi took pictures of the kids.

Rachel hung out as usual.

We took a group family photo.
Let me explain a little bit. This is a reunion of the line of my maternal grandmother's great-grandfather. He immigrated from Germany in 1872. He had 8 children. This is where the color coding comes in. Each of the 8 original children are represented by a color. Our ancestor, John, is represented by green. John had 18 total children, 4 from his first wife. He married his second wife, who is my ancestor, shortly after his first wife died in childbirth along with the baby. He got lucky with his new wife and she was evidently fertile and produced him 14 children. Of his total 18 children, 15 lived into adulthood and 14 produced offspring. Needless to say, there are a lot of descendents. When it was time to take the John family picture, the photographer commented, "We know what John was doing at night." Of course the sea of green laughed and we took our panoramic picture. The reuion was for all 8 lines. There were about 800 in attendance. 3 hundred and something are from the John line. Go Green! Procreation rocks!

Another family photo.

Meine Mama ließ mich diese lederhosen tragen.
(My mom made me wear these lederhosen.)

Ich muss zugeben, dass ich süß ziemlich verdammt bin!
(I'll have to admit, I'm pretty darn cute!)

The band played polkas.

The girls improvised a maypole.

The family history boards. That's only about a third of them. There was also a bunch of other family history stuff on display such as old photos and such. I guess I will also mention here that there was a raffle for a bunch of theme baskets that people donated. I won one! I was very excited because I don't win much. But I won a hand crocheted baby blanket. I'll have to take a picture of it. That was very exciting!

"All this cuteness makes me thristy."

That was our day!
Auf wiedersehen!