Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Aunts and Cousins Surprise Visit!!

Several months ago I started emailing Brandon's aunts about a possible visit to our community this summer.  We have talked about them coming for a visit for years.  We decided this was the summer to make it happen.  One of Brandon's aunts has two teenage sons (T1 and T2) who are quite involved in summer activities.  Once we figured out every family's schedule and travel plans we realized that we only had a few days all summer that worked for all three families.  Interestingly, those days were only a few days after we saw them all on the 4th of July road trip.  We decided to go for it anyway.  I am so glad we did.  The fact that our kids had just seen them earlier that week meant that they were much more comfortable with everyone and jumped right into the fun of having them at our home.  

We planned for them to surprise the kids at our house before T-Ball, but they ran a bit behind schedule.  We ended up meeting up at the ball park.  T said, "Hey, they are from Uncle Curt's farm."  M just beamed from his row of kids waiting to bat.  It was so special for them to be at the ball game.  T1 and T2 love sports and M loves them and loves that they love sports so it was great.  Sweet T loved the attention she was getting during the game.  Brandon and I loved that they were really here and arrived safely.  It was such a special night.  

Look at that powerful arm! 

More warm-ups! 

M: Run H!  I am going to pass you!  (And he did) 
M: Just hanging out with my buddies waiting to bat...

Batter Up!

M's personal fan club!  Brandon's Aunts and cousins!
T: Mom, why do we need a picture of you? 

T: Yes, I know the field is the other direction... but all the people are looking at me if I lay this way!

T: I will just keep being cute if you keep taking pictures! 
T: "T and T, come play Ashes Ashes (Ring Around the Rosie) with me.  Ashes, Ashes, we all jump up!" 

T: OK guys, you need to really fall down this time!
T: I will entertain you when M isn't batting. 
T: I really love this feeling of being an only child!

T: Why are you taking so many pictures of me? 

M: "Good Game, Good Game..."  They look so grown up when they go through the line! 
M: T1 you are HERE!!!!!  YAY!!!!
M: They are here!  They are here!  They are REALLY HERE!!!
M: These two are some of my favorite sporty friends.  I want to be just like them when I grow up! 

After the T-Ball game we decided to drive down to the Lake with our company.  Their hotel was right near the harbor so we thought we would show them around a bit and walk around on the rocks.  It was already bedtime when we got down to the lake so we could not stay long.  One of the great joys of living in a place you love that also happens to be lovely is showing people the lake for the first time.  Brandon's cousin T1 was very eager to fish.  It was fun to see the big boys get excited about things.  It was so sweet to see our kids so comfortable with everyone so quickly.

T: Thanks for holding my hand Aunt Mel!
M: T1 is such a great helper!

T: Daddy, can we walk out a bit farther? 

M: I used to be scared on the rocks, but now I am brave. 

T: Watch me throw this rock! 
Our view that night. 


Friday was full of excitement and fun.  We really tried to pack in as much as possible, and it worked well!  Having four adults and two teenagers to love on our two kids was a recipe for great regulation and lots of fun.

T1 got up early and went down to the break water to fish.  Sadly the only fish he caught was smaller than what some use for bait, but hopefully he had fun.  M had summer school until 10:20 so the morning started off pretty slowly.  The crew got to our house sometime after 9:00 so we could tour them around the church and our home.

Once M got off the bus we were able to take them to one of our favorite parks.  The kids had a great time playing with the boys and in the end we all wound up swinging.  T1 paired up with Sweet T and they made the rounds trying everything out.  M did some of this too, but he and T2 mainly focused on the swings. We have an obscene amount of photos from our time at the park.  Hopefully I have chosen the best ones.

Here are some of Sweet T's adventures:

T: Wheeeee!
T: Thanks for helping me climb!
T: Now we need to go across these circles!
T: OK, time to climb this rope ladder!
T: Yay!  I love being upside down! 
Meanwhile, M was doing this: 

M: So you just spin this around and the cars race. 

M: I am having so much fun with T2!

M: Really it isn't that hard to balance. 

M: T2 was really good at pumping, just like me! 

M: Time for a hug break! 
M: I had to give up my swing for a hug so I moved on up to this red one! 

About this time we all started gathering around the swings.  As other children would leave, we would snatch up more and more swings until we sort of took over the swing section.  Even the aunts got into the swinging! 

T2, M and T!
T2, M, T, T1 all swinging! 

I had to help out with the pushing as it was a bit hard for T2 to pump. 

Big sisters always have to push little sisters! 

T: Higher Aunt Valerie! 

After our time at the park we headed home to grab picnic stuff for the kids and me while some when to Cousins to get subs.  We all met at a park on the Lake for a picnic lunch.  It was a lovely day in the low 70's which was a welcome relief to our guests from the south.  Sadly, due to fires in Canada, the views were a bit hazy their entire time here.  It was still a lovely day to take in views and to be out in the fresh air!

The picnic crew minus Brandon. 

M took many photos.  This one is pretty good! 

T: These stairs are pretty!  (Checking out the views in the new pavilion.)

After lunch we decided to take a short walk along the lake to South Beach.  It was the perfect day for a little walk.  We saw a deer sort of trapped in the bird sanctuary.  It was very frightened.  Eventually we all stood still and it calmed down enough to figure out how to escape.  Any guesses as to what happened when we reached the beach??  You are correct, the kids couldn't help themselves and were in the water for a quick minute.  The way back to the van was a little wetter and sandier.

Off on an adventure!

T: See, we are just getting our toes in the water.  

M: It was such a relaxing walk back to the van! 

After the picnic it was getting late and T needed a nap.  M and the boys played in the yard for a few minutes, but very quickly decided to go on a bike ride around town.  Our incredible friends allowed us to use their bikes again so T1 and T2 could join in the fun.

M: The boys were teaching me how to step in to the pitches! 

4 men ready to bike! 

On their way!
M: T1, you can push us and then hop on! 

After a ride around town T1 and T2 decided they wanted to be challenged so everyone came home to gear up for a longer ride to a neighboring town.  M grabbed some swim trunks so they could check out the splash pad in that town.  They were the only ones enjoying the water and had a good time.  T1 and T2 were pretty tired after about 20 total miles of biking.

M: OK, let's push the button! 

M: Ahhh the water is coming up! 

M: Where are you going T1?  This is fun! 

The big boys enjoyed cooling off too! 

While the boys were biking and T was napping the aunts went on a tour of the Lighthouse and shopping downtown.   They enjoyed being tourists and learning more about our community.  I stayed home and did lots of fruit cutting and hamburger making for dinner.  Melody and Valerie arrived right as T was waking up.  She was pretty excited to have them to herself and requested many books to be read.  She wanted to be every character in every book which was a hoot to listen to from another room, but probably not as much fun to read. 

Sweet cuddles!

I am not sure why M has different shirts on in the two photos below.  I know they were taken the same day.  I think the first might have been in the morning right after he got off of the bus, but I am not sure.  You can tell from the second picture that the boys were very weary after their ride.  Much food was consumed at our grill out that night.  We actually ate outside.  It was the perfect evening for dining el fresco!

T: Chips and family are the best!  M: Make room for me!

Tired kids reading together. 
After the kids went to bed Brandon convinced the family to go with him on a Culver's run.  He loves to have family in town so he can have an excuse for frozen custard.  It was a very full day!

We started Saturday morning early.  We got going and showered quickly and I started making crock pot meals.  I was able to prep two pretty big and hearty meals before 9:00am which I call a good day!  It was fun to think that they were cooking as we were playing and having fun.

As soon as everyone arrived we packed up and headed north to a State Park on the Lake.  This park has dunes and beaches and opportunities for lots of fun.  Once we arrived we did a short trail to some dunes and enjoyed running down and playing in them.  After some dune time we hit the beach.

While at the beach we started to notice several families with girls from China.  Since I am a party crasher curious I decided to figure out what they were up to.  It turns out they were an adoption travel group from a dozen years ago.  They meet every year somewhere in the US to have a reunion.  The girls were all in an orphanage together and they all share a gotcha day.  It was so sweet to hear the parents talk about this special time and the special bond they all share.  It gave me chills and made me think of the awesome families we traveled with.  Thanks mom!  You taught me to be curious and bold, and I got an amazing story out of it.  T had squeals of delight when she learned that all the girls in the water were from her China.

The kids had great fun digging hole and playing and getting sandy.  T would get wet and the roll around in the sand to warm up.  She was SO SANDY!  She and T1 did some yoga on the beach.  It was fun to watch.  Eventually we were all covered with sand and getting pretty hungry.  We made our way back to the car and made it home in 22 minutes.  I was so thankful that I had prepped the crock pot meal and had all the fruit cut up because we were a hungry bunch when we got home.

Getting ready for a little hiking! 

T: I know a great way to climb up, right under T2

The conquered the dune! 

M: Come on T and T, show us your muscles! 

T: I am a sand Princess! 

T1 running down the dune. 

If feels like you are flying! 

Just look at T in the sand... 

T: I just love T2!

T: Look at my eyes!  Can you see you in there? 

Eventually we made our way down to the Lake.  We explored a little along the way.

T: Aunt Melody and I were making our own trail. 

T: What do you think this is Aunt Valerie? 

M: T1 was writing my name in the sand. 

M: So I decided to help him by hopping on his back. 
Writing in the sand was harder than they thought so they decided to dig a big hole! 

M: T1 kept digging and I kept adding water! 
And the hole got bigger and bigger! 

Cooling off and rinsing off a bit of sand. 

Great Buddies! 

T: Let's do Down Dog all day, OK?! 

After some tasty lunch T headed down for her nap.  Brandon worked on his sermon.   I managed to sneak in a little walk and then came home to do food prep and relax a bit. Our visitors all headed for a covered bridge and M went with them.  After touring the bridge, the headed to the store.  They wanted to get some area college T-shirts.  By this time in the weekend M and T1 had become a pair and T and T2 were matched up.  The boys decided to buy special gifts for the kids.  T1 got M a fishing pole and T2 got T a dress.  Very sweet and thoughtful gifts that the kids both love.

Enjoying the covered bridge.

M: So is T1 taking a picture of me or of T2's bottom? 

T: I love my  new dress T2!

M: I can't wait to use my new fishing pole T1! 

After the adventurers got home we ate some dinner.  M was very eager to use his new fishing pole so dinner was pretty focused.  Immediately after dinner M and T1 along with Mel and Val headed to the Lake.  T, T2 and Brandon went to Culvers (again) and then headed to the lake.  I cleaned up the kitchen and headed down too.  It was so sweet to see the kids fishing.  T used a pretend pole that was full of knots to pretend to fish.  While it was fun, it was also SO SCARY!  In order to cast easily they needed to stand in the area without a railing.  T was all over the place.  I am pretty sure each woman in the group had several heart attack moments.

T: I was trying to fish... just for tend.  Aunt Melody was keeping me safe. 

M: T1 and I were fishing together. 

M: Then we walked to a better spot. 

The guys moved around trying to find fish.  The rest of us enjoyed watching the ducks, looking out at the lighthouse and also watching some fire fighters shooting off flares from the coal dock.  The kids got to stay out passed bedtime again!  

T: Everywhere I go people keep hanging on to me! 

T: Hey, I can see really far!  Hey, no one is holding on to me! 

A lovely group shot even if it was another hazy lake day.


The day started with church.  It was very special to have family with us to experience a morning at our church.  T was so proud to wear her new dress!  After church we came home to change clothes and apparently watch some Baseball highlights on a phone.

Four focused kids... their must be a screen on!

T: I am wearing my new Princess dress from my very special T2.

We eventually made our way to our favorite restaurant for lunch.  The kids had a hard time waiting for their food.  The food was tasty and plentiful.  It might not have been our best idea to go to this place right as our company was leaving.  Brandon scored BIG TIME in the left overs department as they could not really take food back with them.  I was also convicted about all the styrofoam containers.  I am vowing to bring container with me next time I go out to eat!

T: Let's call Uncle Tim!

A great meal and 8 boxes of leftovers!  Impressive! 

After lunch it was time to say good bye.  The kids were heartbroken to leave their buddies.  They had lots of last hugs.
They were supposed to be looking at the camera!

M: I look so grown up in my new shirt and T2's sunglasses! 

T: Come and see me again T1!