Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Full House

As I mentioned last week, I was super excited for the arrival of my brother's family in town last Thursday.  Once John, Kristin, and Kate had touched down in Buffalo, I just had to survive some work craziness before we'd be poised for another round of the fun and controlled chaos that comes with having six adults and two kids staying in one moderately-sized house.  We had a lot of fun at Christmas watching the kids interact, and I couldn't wait to see how it would go this time around with wider vocabularies and more developed personalities. 

In the end I had to work a half day on Friday and we didn't get on the road until 3ish, after I could finish packing and after Jacob's nap at daycare.  Once we arrived we got ready for a casual, open house-type evening for anyone to drop by and see the Portland crew.  It was a lovely evening and after most of the visiting was over, eventually we headed outside to play.
(Ok, so she actually threw the ball up into the net, not down through the hoop, but it sure looks good, doesn't it?)
Taking a break in little chairs...

The next day the kids and the men got to go visit my mom's cousin's house, which is full of trains and baseball cards, among other things.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that, but the kids seemed to have fun.  The women stayed home.  I took a run while my mom and Kristin worked on food for the family reunion that afternoon, and then after lunch the kids went down for a nap and I worked on my contribution to the picnic.  As soon as our respective children were up, we were off to East Aurora, to my dad's cousin's house.  The house has a huge yard and the kids (particularly Jacob but also Kate, and my cousin Todd's kids, Jaxon and Jordan) made good use of it for various sporting endeavors--baseball, soccer, volleyball, track ball, badminton, etc.
Kate learning to play baseball

My little baseball player

Silly girl holding on to her daddy

Isn't she just the sweetest thing?

Probably one of my favorite pictures of the entire weekend...but I'll give credit to Grandma for making her smile, because she was crouched there to "get" her every time Kate swung close...
The picnic was great, though by the end the kids were happily playing inside with a bunch of Legos.  Craig even made an awesome Zamboni!  Somehow Jacob stayed awake the entire ride home despite my best laid plans to have him fall asleep in the car, but fortunately he went down pretty well.  Every bedtime over the course of the weekend was fraught with issues--mostly that Jacob didn't want to sleep in the computer room, at least not alone.  Granted, it was a different place than he usually sleeps, in a pack-n-play that's getting too small for him, with an elliptical machine towering over him in the dark.  He wanted someone to sleep on the floor, called to us constantly, woke up multiple times in the middle of the night, and made me extra crazy since I didn't want him waking up Kate in the next room.  Plus we were sleeping downstairs so it was a long, tired sprint each time.  Yuck.  Somehow we survived without any major incidents, but suffice it to say that both Craig and I are tired after some iffy sleep for a few nights.

Sunday we got up for church, where my dad sang a lovely duet, then rushed over to my parents' old church in time for a ceremony dedicating the church office to my Aunt Karen's memory.  It was funny being back there for the first time in a long time.  We saw a lot of familiar faces, some looking much older than the last time I had seen them.  I told Jacob that this is where Mommy and Daddy got married, and my mom showed him around when he desperately wanted to see the church.  Both kids got to enjoy some post-ceremony cake, though Jacob must have really enjoyed it because he had a total meltdown asking for more.  Ugh.  It made for a long morning for both kids, and we were quite relieved when lunch was over and naptime commenced.  John and I spent a little time over at my grandma's looking around (I brought back another bag of stuff), and by the time the kids woke up, it was almost time for my parents to head out to a family party for the older generation, a fancy shindig thrown by my dad's relatives.  We'd gone to a similar one over four years ago at the holidays.  That left us on our own for dinner, and my cousin Todd, his wife Cathy, and their kids (the aforementioned Jaxon and Jordan) came over for pizza and wings.  The four kids had fun.  The boys played knee hockey with Jaxon's little nets.  They also created a Hot Wheels track and had a great time with that.  After my parents got home and the kids were in bed, we headed over to Todd & Cathy's for some beverages and conversation.

Monday morning, my parents, John, and Jaxon went golfing and Kristin, Kate, Craig, Jacob and I met Cathy and Jordan at a park in town.  It was a cool morning, partly cloudy and with a cool breeze when the sun went under.  Cathy came prepared with bubbles and kites, and Jacob had the usual sporting equipment.  He spent a lot of time kicking around his soccer ball and football while the girls tried to fly kites (some success!) and blow bubbles...
Such a sweet girl, happily blowing bubbles...

Big girl!
The kids swung together (momentarily)...

And then we tried to get a cute picture of the two of them...
Sadly, this is as good as it got!
After a fun and entertaining lunch at Burger King (across from the park), we headed back to my parents' house with all three kids to meet the rest of the crew.  We tried for more pictures and this is again as good as it got...
Notice the matching Kids' Meal toys in their hands--little keyboards, big hit!
We enjoyed some time outside before dinner.  Around that time Craig left to go work a lacrosse game in Canada (sort of a last minute thing, and it turned out it was easier for all of us to stay over one more night so Craig could drive my car up and back--so one last night and an early morning).  While we were outside, Kate discovered the joy of picking vegetables out of the garden.  Here she is showing off a cherry tomato she picked all by herself!

She also got in on the action when the boys were playing baseball...
I think the look on Grandpa's face shows how into it he gets with his grandkids!
I kept trying to get a good picture of either kid, and I got this interesting one of Jacob.  Keep in mind he never stops moving, so it's a tough prospect.  What makes this one weird is that the background is moving (not just out of focus) and yet Jacob is clear.  All I can figure is that we were moving at the same exact speed...

We tried yet another attempt at getting a good pic of the cousins together, and this is the best I got.  It's amazing how two children can't seem to smile and look in the right place at the right time, together.  Multiple attempts, multiple cameras...and wow, not a perfect one in the bunch!

Finally the golf clubs came out, and I just love this picture of Kate looking through the golf bag pocket...

We did more bubbles and then some chalk, and finally it was dinnertime...one last crazy meal!  Later in the evening my Uncle Ron came to visit, and before it got too late, we brought out my s'mores maker (basically a little setup using cooking fuel (for chafing dishes) and metal skewers on a turntable) and did some s'mores for everyone.  YUM.  After that it was Kate's bedtime.  It was time for one last round of hugs, and I managed to get this picture of the kids hugging goodbye...and it may be my favorite of the bunch!

After bedtime John and Kristin ended up going back to Todd and Cathy's for one last evening.  I stayed with my parents and relaxed a bit, and the evening ended quietly since I had to be up crazy early.  And that was that.

It was a fun visit and the kids were very entertaining.  They imitated each other, talked to each other, and played together a little less than last time but still got along beautifully.  Jacob was definitely difficult, though, which stunk.  Seeing Kate definitely solidified how much I want a girl...because seeing a little girl prance around and do things so sweet and girly provided a sharp contrast to my rough-and-tumble little boy.  I love Jacob beyond words, but oh, how nice it would be to relate to a girl as well.  She was so cute, and it's still mind-blowing how much she looks like my mom (and John, too) when she was little.  I've never felt like the genes were that strong in our family (I look nothing like John and only vaguely like my parents), but wow, is she ever an Ellman...with big eyes courtesy of Kristin.  I can't wait until my new little nephew is born in November, and even more to be able to visit him.  The visits to my parents' are always fun, but admittedly it's a bit chaotic...busy mealtimes, bedtime struggles, jockeying for seats in the family room, trying to keep things relatively neat, etc...it's not always easy, but in the end it is so worth it.  Of course, we're the ones who get to drive in.  I can't imagine flying.  I spent so much time with my cousins growing up and it's a little sad that Jacob doesn't see his as much...once a month, if that, on one side of the family, and a couple times a year, if that, on the other side.  We do what we can, I guess.  But it was great to see everyone and I wish we could have spent a little more time together.  I guess it's never enough...but it was fun while it lasted.

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