Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Journeys

Oh my! For a family who has NEVER travelled, the 2000+ mile trip we just took around the East part of the country was quite the journey! We visited numerous friends and relatives and had a blast. (Warning: The following post will be heavy on pictures, lighter on description.)

We visited my brother and his family in Virginia first. Along with them are our friends Nick and Clare and their three children. Both families are rural dwellers, each with their own fantastic little homestead. Not only that, but they live on the outskirts of the cutest little historic town! We tried to give my brother's family some breaks from their kinfolk, so as to not overstay our welcome. One way we did this was by tootling around the little town of Strasburg. They have a great little cafe called Cristina's, where we got cafe au laits and snickerdoodles as an afternoon snack. We tried to hit up the indoor flea market, but that wasn't such a successful part of the outing.

Ben and Anna have been having a predator problem around their chicken coop. Namely a skunk and a fox. Luckily, they have Martin and Nick who would rather do nothing more than sit in folding chairs under a tree with their shotguns ready to protect the hens.

Oh, this is back at Cristina's. My pictures got a little mixed up. Um, Martino doesn't look very cheery, does he?

Anja's cousins's house has oodles of blackberry bushes growing around the property line. She loved going over with Zita to collect blackberries. And eat them! Anja is crazy about blueberries, but she's always complained of seeds in blackberries until this trip.

And having Angelica as a personal art instructor is nothing to sneeze at!


One day Anna took us over to a stream fed pond that is so clear and cool. The little kids LOVED playing in the sand, and Greta is a such a little fish! This picture is Anna and the baby of the family, Ronia. Zita

Ben and Ronia

Greta with the sand

Angelica spent almost the entire time in the stream catching crawdads! She ended up with 19!!

We had a cookout with many old friends--the Marmalejo family and Billy Weber!! The last time we saw Billy Weber I was trying to convince him that Martin was soon going to propose to me.

Anja's been climbing trees lately.

Here are Billy and Lauren.

Anja and Angelica were instant friends. We've always compared the two personalities and laughed at their similar ways. They really hit it off this visit, despite the five year age difference.

The night before the cookout was one of my favorite nights! Anna and I really wanted to go for margaritas, but my girls were not being fully cooperative and she had friends already meeting up at a place in town. Martin was planning to take the kids someplace to distract Greta, so we kind of led Anna to believe that we were going to go to Walmart and then she and I could go out for drinks. But thanks to my trusty iPhone, we looked up the restaurant where her friends were meeting, and instead of leading her to Walmart, we led her there!! She was surprised and I was happy. Her friends were SO nice. A very fun night. On the way home I recieved a text from Martin: "One less skunk." We smelled it all the way down the road, and the whole house stunk!! So the next night for the cookout, Anna made a cake for Martin's birthday (which is really still a week or so away) and Ben made a cocoa powder-in-stencil skunk! The heart is to signify Clare and Nick's wedding anniversary, which was that day. FUN TIMES.

On Sunday after Mass we went to brunch back at Cristina's and afterward we set all the little girls up to watch the 1970's animated movie of Charlotte's Web. Anna and I were sitting on the couch behind them when we realized they were all wearing coordinating outfits! Amazing!

And here is a photograph of two sisters sitting the exact same way. TOO CUTE.

For some reason, everyone was having plumbing problems while we were there. Clare and Nick's well broke and Ben and Anna's tub drain was completely stopped up. Martin gave a good effort at trying to fix it, but nothing seemed to work. As of now, the story is incomplete. Maybe one of them will post the outcome in the comments.

Isn't Ronia so gorgeous?!

If you've ever met Angelica, even once, then you surely know of her love of chickens!!

Other highlights of the time in Virginia were the first night we were there, when everyone in my family was asleep and Ben was out with his friends and Anna and I sat at the kitchen table and drank beer and chatted. It was really peaceful and nice. Also, on one of the last days we were there, we decided to spend the day with the Marmalejos. I was grouchy because I was really craving a pot of coffee all for myself and because I really wanted to browse the flea market and my kids just wanted to break everything. So when Clare and Nick met us there, Martin told Clare and me to go through the flea market by ourselves and they'd watch the kids back at the cars. We did that, and while we were gone they were supposed to decide what we were going to do with the rest of our day. Well, when we returned, they let us know that they were going to watch the kids for the day and Clare and I would have the whole afternoon to ourselves! Yahooo! We hit up a quilt store (I got a stack of precut squares for a good deal), a fiber store (They had cuts of wool, and I bought enough to make a bag. They also had raw wool and drop spindles, so Clare is going to start spinning.... HER DOG'S FUR.) Both shops were very adorable. And I'd just like to say that our husbands did an incredible job watching all four little girls for the entire afternoon. So fun!

The next leg of our journey was toward Tennessee to visit Martin's grandmother. We set off on Sunday evening intending to drive through the night. (I have to say that we were SUPPOSED to leave that morning after brunch, but I sort of had put in a load of laundry that morning and then kind of forgot about it, so late in the afternoon when Martin asked about the laundry, I had to tell him--oops!-- I'd never put it in the dryer....... well, so we ended up leaving a little after dinnertime instead.) But driving through the night with little kidders is the way to go, I think, and we pulled into Mammoth Cave National Park around 8:00 Monday morning. We were so dirty and stinky and tired, but it didn't much matter. We stopped at one of the lookouts to change the girls out of their pajamas and into their clothes (is this reminding anyone else of my previous post?) and then headed to the main cave place. Now, Martin and I have been to Mammoth Cave together THREE TIMES before this time, and we had never been in the actual cave. We'd only ever gone hiking. So this time I was kind of excited to actually see the main attraction. But, ooooh, I forgot that Greta was with us! As we gathered with the rest of our tour group, tickets in hand, at the mouth of the cave, Greta then and there decided that she wanted nothing more in the world than to nurse. RIGHT THEN. *Sigh* The tour (including Anja and Martin) went on without us while we sat in the coollness and nursed. But it was okay! Because we got to walk up and down the nearby trails and we saw a baby deer lying down right by the path!! Very cool. Unfortunately, no pictures.

So Mammoth Cave was neat (Anja told me all about the inside of the cave... she summed it up by saying it looked like our basement) and from there we continued on our way to Tennessee. Now, the plan had been for us to drive through the night AGAIN to make it to Martin's grandmother's house on the very, very western part of Tennessee. Thankfully, we didn't have to do that because I have this fabulous friend named JOANNIE who just happens to live in Nashville, and who just happened to have moved three days before and had this totally empty apartment available for us to crash in! It was really the best thing ever. We took showers and the girls had a bath and then we ordered dinner from this super yummy place called Calypso and we spread newspapers on the floor and ate it out of the styrofoam boxes. It was perfect. (apologies to Joannie for posting the attractive picture of her wiping her mouth. But the one where you were in the middle of chewing was blurry, so I had to use this one!) Now, my fantasy of my first time in Nashville had included me busking on the streets and hopefully earning enough quarters to buy us each a cup of coffee. But right before dinner a big, slow storm moved into the metro area and all my hopes and dreams were crushed. But that's okay. Seeing Joannie was good enough!

Oh, one other fun thing about the drive toward Nashville was that the girls fell asleep in the car after lunch. Since we had plenty of time to get there before Joannie got off work, we pulled into a Starbucks and everyone slept in the car while I went in and enjoyed a drink and a lot of time reading while my phone charged up. It was perfect!

We left Nashville the next morning and headed on toward South Fulton. We went straight to visit Martin's grandma and sure did surprise her! I think she had less than an hour's notice that we were coming. After a short visit we went to check into a hotel, where Martin did the best thing in the world. He got us a SUITE!! It was soooooooooo great. We ate dinner at Applebee's (I got a huge sangria--YUM!!) It was good to visit with Martin's grandma (she is so spry... and hilarious!) for the two days. On the second day we drove over to Reelfoot Lake, where they have an assortment of birds of prey and snakes and things. They have bald eagles! They are a refuge for them... all the birds have been injured and may or may not be returned to the wild.
Anyway, when we got there the bald eagles were not there. But just as we were wondering where they were, up pulled a pickup truck full of animal carrying crates, full of... BALD EAGLES! And a hawk. We got to see all of them right up close and the rangers were SO NICE. After all the birds had been released again, they said, "Come on inside, we're going to put the snakes back!" They'd had the animals at a junior ranger camp someplace. Anja got to pet two of the snakes. Very cool!

Here is the hawk. I forgot to get my camera out for the eagles because I'm kind of an idiot.

On the inside of the building are lots of interesting exhibits.

Outside on the way to the boardwalk we saw the Theodore of squirrels. He was SO FAT. And really not afraid of people. Martin kept telling me to get closer and closer to him, but I was afraid if I got too close he'd jump on me or something. I still can't believe how fat he was.

Across the street from there is Boyette's, a yummy catfish restaurant. Here Anja and I are posing with the jars of buttons--they collect these buttons from the bellies of the catfish! I have a picture of Anja and me in this spot from the last time we were down in Tennessee, just after Anja's first birthday. Maybe I'll be able to find it and post it separately.

Greta REALLY warmed up to Mimi.

We left South Fulton at bedtime on Wednesday and drove through the night back home. When we came in we both had a strange feeling of not really recognizing our own house. It's really good to be home. I haven't taken such a long trip in many years. Actually, that might be the longest trip I've ever taken. But it was great! So fun to see all those people and go so many places. But I have to say... I so enjoyed being home all day today, living out our normal Saturday routine, and cooking dinner in my own kitchen. Wonderful!

And on a sidenote, I'd like to say that having two little girls (as opposed to having two baby girls) is SO MUCH FUN. Just now, they were up in the playroom at my mom's house, and I would go to check on them and stand at the bottom of the stairs and hear them playing together upstairs. So cute!!!!

And while the heat is pretty oppressive, I am LOVING the summer vegetables that July brings!!


Joannie said...

What a great post! I loved seeing all the pictures.
You're just going to have to come back-- there's so much you need to do and see down here!!
It sounds like a successful first-family-vacation.

LauraSuz said...

I'd loved hearing about it and all the great pictures! Get settled and we'll have to get together before I start babysitting.

Anne said...

What fun!

Clare said...

we miss you already. And with you, went the nice weather too. It is hot, hot, hot now. Care to come back next week? Hope you are getting settled back into your cute little life! :)