This summer my kids were completely spoiled to see every single cousin, aunt, uncle and Grandparent from both sides of our families.  While I realize lots of people do this during a normal week, it's a pretty big deal for us  Between the two sides, our families live in 8 different states, so getting together requires a lot of planning and sacrifice.

Dustin's family last got together in 2009, so everyone converging in Nashville was probably on the same scale as pulling off the Olympic games.  Darian and Jennifer opened their home to all of us, even moving into her parent's house for the week so they could give us the master bedroom.
Sadie and Luke shared Jennifer's closet, which is actually a converted bedroom, so don't feel bad for them in the slightest.  Sadie was tickled pink because she thought Jerge's closet was fabulous.
 She took everyone up for a tour. And she told my sister-in-law Sarah how amazing it was.  "She has the most luxurious fabrics. . . like wool." One night I was putting her to bed and I commented on how great she smelled.  "I know, my room has a whole drawer full of perfume. Wyatt put it on me."

Nate and Ellie bunked up with their cousin buddies in Wyatt's room.
 I never had cousins even remotely near by age, but Nate and Wyatt are two months apart and Ellie and Alex Anne are just 2 weeks.
They got along like it had been far less than three and a half years since they last saw each other.

Luke also has built in buddies with the twins who are only a month younger than he is.

And of course everyone LOVED the big boys!  They are always amazingly sweet to the little kids.

The house was perfect -- pool, swing set, cousins and aunts and uncles galore.

 One top attraction was baby Lincoln.
 While he is actually over a year old and technically not a baby anymore, he was everyone's favorite cousin.

There's a trampoline and a hammock too!

We played games, went out to eat, got manicures,

We even got to celebrate TWO birthdays
Luke enjoyed the leftover cake for breakfast

We grilled, laid around the pool, went to story time downtown

Basically just enjoyed each others company.  Whenever you are with the Rogers family, there has to be five or six trips to the store each day.
 And there is also a massive amount of working out. I have to admit that running in Tennessee is much prettier than running in Arizona. . .if only  it weren't for all the hills.

Darian and Jen are the ultimate host and hostess.  There were little goodie bags in our rooms. Anything the kids asked for they said yes (including cotton candy making).
The best present by far, however, was arranging to have a photographer come take pictures of the group.
Dustin's dad has Parkinson's disease so every time they are together is something to celebrate.

Our last night there was a sad night.  I told everyone that since we were flying out early the next morning, we were going to stay up all night.  The kids lasted until maybe 11? We roasted s'mores, the boys sang karaoke, played games, but finally sleep set in and we headed to bed.
 The week flew by and just reminded me how much harder we need to work to get together more often.


Beach Bums

There is nothing more relaxing than a week at Sandbridge.  Every other year my parents rent a beach house for all of us and we basically eat and lay around in the sun.

When people ask what we did, I can't even think of anything exciting, and that's what makes it so great! It's a week of total spoiling. Right on the beach, plenty of cousins and time with my family. I'd wake up, go do some exercise, make some breakfast and we were in the sand by 10 at the latest. Maybe come in for lunch around 2 and head back to the pool until dinner time.

The beach house this year was perfect -- beds everywhere and lots and lots of toys.  My kids were mainly stoked for the TVs in The little girls all slept in the "Sandcastle" room which housed around 20 puzzles.  One evening we were all treated to a "Puzzle Muzum" complete with tour guides and tickets.

Downstairs was a giant game room where Dustin and Kyle competed in many epic battles, none of which held our interest for long. But it appears as long as I was sleeping, Dustin would win.

Kathleen and I were in charge of the shopping. I think we did a pretty good job, even though we still had to go to the store every day.
On one such "town" trip, Nate ended up with some awesome sunglasses.

THE BEACH!!!  That's it. I love that place. But just the beach.  Not the water.

We dug holes, went boogey boarding (even I got in the water for that) -- "Papa knows the waves!"
 made up cheers, played Marco Polo and Toothpaste in the swimming pool
 made cities and sand couches,
 walked the beach for sea shells and sand dollars
 drove the convertible, went for morning walks and made Dustin give us a boot camp on the beach
 Rita's Water Ice every.single.night
 date night with Kathleen and Kyle in Virginia Beach
 covered ourselves in sand, looked for dolphins in the water (5 more push-ups)
Nate and Matt took surf lessons which ended in torrential downpour

Probably my favorite story of the week, was about Sadie's flip flops.  When I got back from the store Saturday afternoon, Sadie was very upset because she had lost one of her flip flops in the ocean.
All week long, I would pass by the lone flip flop and think I should pick it up and throw it away. BUT, since I was carrying a million beach chairs and toys, I would just leave it there like the lazy mother that I am.

Thursday morning, my mom took Matt for a morning walk along the beach when they came running back to the house with Sadie's long lost flip flop!!  Turns out it washed up the shore down by Dam Neck. 5 days later!!

The weather was perfect until the last day we were there, so we headed out early for North Carolina while my kids sobbed until we hit the state border. We miss the beach!! Luke still asks me why we came back to Arizona since he thought we were going to live on the beach forever. 


A Patriotic Holiday

We spent the 4th of July flying to Virginia. Although, we probably looked like trouble just waiting to happen with our red, white and blue ensembles, 3 backpacks, purse, computer bag and 6 rolling carry ons, I am happy to report that we were quite pleasant to be around.
In a total shocker, we breezed through security, the kids were all perfectly behaved and content for our two flights, our layover time was perfect and I managed to read a book, hold people's babies and relax on the trip.
We arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia (capital of the Virginia Colony from 1699 to 1780 and center of political events in Virginia leading to the American Revolution -- in case your foreign education left you as lacking in American history events as mine did) just in time to drive down to Colonial Williamsburg for some fireworks.  The only problem: the 4th of July is kind of a big deal down there.  There were people everywhere and no parking to be found, so Dustin dropped us off while he went to find some parking. Me, the 4 kids, in the dark, in a place Dustin has never been before, spotty cell phone reception and 10,000 people.  I have no idea what got into me, but I'm glad I went with it, because it was fabulous.

If you ever get a chance to do it, GO!  Hear a reading of the Declaration of Independence, watch performances from Colonial Williamsburg’s Fifes and Drums, and then a concert before the fireworks
on the lawn in front of the Governor's Palace (I stole that description from the internet). In what can only be attributed to Providence, Dustin managed to find us listening to the William Tell Overture right before the fireworks started. Best show around with a spectacular finale.
It was 10:30 by then, but only 7:30 to our Arizona clocks, so we headed out to eat at the Dog Street Pub.  Best part of the night -- sticky toffee pudding. My kids, who insisted they were too full for dessert, devoured it. I'm glad we refueled because we had to walk a mile to get to our car, but a walk through the William & Mary campus (second oldest college in the US, after Harvard) is never a bad thing.

The next day we met up with my parents, my sister and her girls and 2 of neices for some good old Colonial fun. Everyone was so happy to be reunited!

My sister graduated from William and Mary so she knows all the good spots. First up -- the Cheese Shop for lunch.  My last time visiting my sister, I ordered egg salad and everyone mocked me, so this time I made the appropriate choice and it was delicious -- get the house dressing.

Then we wandered around spending money on awesome hats, fun fifes and realizing how terrible humidity is.

Luke also learned how delicious soda is with some home brewed Root Beer
We did some touristy things and then hit up the William and Mary bookstore where we thought we lost Luke (he was with Dustin) and spent $17 on a basketball (there was no price tag on the ball when we took it up to the register) that somehow got lost before our trip was half way over. FUN!

Our last stop was the Peanut Shop before we headed out to Jamestown for the ferry. We got out and fed the birds and ran up and down the stairs 800 times.

By the time we got to the hotel, we had about zero energy. . . wait, the ADULTS had zero energy.  The kids managed to still bounce off of the walls and run around playing Hide and Go Seek.
 We took over the lobby of a hotel for pizza, went for a little walk and managed to find a grove of trees full of FIREFLIES! 

As a child we would go visit my dad's family in Pennsylvania every summer and I remember catching fireflies on their lawn every night, usually after a trip to Friendly's for ice cream. By the time we get back East every other year, I've completely forgotten about them, so it's always a fun re-discovery. 
My kids got really good at catching them this year.  Even Luke.
I'm pretty sure Luke squished a good dozen of them to death. I actually saw pieces fall off of them.  Then he's hold it up to me and inform me, "They like me!  They won't leave." 

And then the next day, we headed out for the beach.