Sunday, October 25, 2015

Cousinly Love

A few weeks ago I found out that my brother's family was coming into town for a long weekend.  Almost instantly I asked for that Friday off so I could get some bonus time with them.  It's been over two years since we've seen them.  Despite my best intentions of getting out west to see them, it's never happened, though I realize it needs to be higher on my priority list.  Regardless, I was so excited to see everyone, but most especially my niece Kate, who is now 6, and my nephew Max, who is almost 4.  They were both so much younger last time (obviously) and so much of their personalities has evolved in those two years.  Not to mention that Carter was only six months old last time we saw them, so clearly he'd be more involved in this visit, as well. 

As much as I wanted to make a complete set of grandkids by bringing Jacob, it wasn't really in the cards for the first part of the weekend.  He had school on Friday and (as it turned out) a last-minute lacrosse practice this weekend.  I considered pulling him out of school to bring him with me, but I try not to do that and I had a feeling he'd spend most of his weekend either playing on his iPad or complaining about being bored.  He doesn't always mesh well with other kids, and I honestly did not want to spend the whole weekend trying to convince him to play with his cousins or breaking up battles between my two kids.  I knew he'd enjoy his bonus time with Daddy, and when they both come in on Sunday for our family Oktoberfest, they'll hopefully make the most of their quality time.  I feel a little bad Jacob doesn't get more than a few hours with his cousins, but this time that will have to do.  Maybe it'll be a good test run. 

The whole crew got in Thursday and spent the day adjusting to Eastern time and getting settled.  Friday morning Carter and I left home at 9am to make it to Buffalo and meet everyone at the Great Pumpkin Farm.  I've seen dozens of pictures of my friends' kids posted from there, but I'd never been there.  More of the activities run on weekends, but the weekday stuff was free and generally fine for the kids.  It was so good to see everyone, and while it took Carter a little while to warm up, soon things were going swimmingly!

We checked out some animals, including a llama or alpaca that was a big fan of eating leaves...

...and some very loud geese.  We wandered around and saw the hay maze, which is a kid-friendly version of the corn maze.  We headed in...

...and made our way through...

Once we got out (which was rather easy, by the way), we headed over to the playground area, where there were a bunch of slides and things to climb on.  Carter loved the littlest slide!
Max and Grandma were waiting at the bottom!
 Carter moved up to the medium slide, and loved that one, too!

There was still one higher one, and you had to climb through a pretty steep tunnel to get there.  It was a bit daunting for Carter, but never fear, Cousin Kate is here!  She did such a great job getting Carter up there, and it was such a nice change of pace to have a big kid who's willing to take him by the hand and help him.  His other big cousins, on Craig's side, are usually pretty good with him, too, but so much of the time they're focused on big kid things.  It was refreshing to know he had a little kid buddy, since his brother refuses to do things like that. 
Kate helping Carter through the tunnel
There was also a wooden train that the kids were having a blast playing on.  Carter loved sitting in the front and "steering"!

The windows on one of the cars were so cute, and I thought Kate looked great as a fairy!

This part of the train brought back memories, since there was a similar one at the first pumpkin patch we visited when Jacob was a baby. 

Getting a good picture of three kids is pretty tough, but this one wasn't bad!

I caught this picture of Max, who was walking through a giant tunnel back near the slides...

Eventually we'd had our fill of the playground and decided to go look at pumpkins.  We certainly didn't need to buy any, with two that we bought on our pumpkin shopping trip and another that Carter got at daycare, but Kate and Max were staying that night with their second cousins (our cousin's kids) and pumpkin painting was on the agenda.  Of course we had to take advantage of the photo ops along the way...
Really wish Jacob could have been there for this one!

Quite the display, huh?

Three kids in a wheelbarrow!

One more attempt at three smiling faces...close!

A 1,700 pound pumpkin!  Just look at that stem!
We had a classic Buffalo lunch at Duff's, gorging ourselves in chicken wings and being entertained by the kids' "playing" the games nearby--bubble hockey, a shoot 'em game, and a toy crane--all without money.  The boys in particular were so cute together playing bubble hockey.  We headed back to my parents' house and relaxed a bit.

We spent quite a bit of time outside so the kids could run off their energy.  They ran the gamut on sports.  Carter kicked around the soccer ball a bit...

All the kids played with a couple bouncy balls, too.  I liked this picture that looked like all of them strategizing.

Grandma and Grandpa came out and a baseball game broke out...

Max trying his hand at pitching!

Carter taking a time out on the bench while Max took his turn

They had a lot of fun outside, but eventually we had to come in for dinner.  The kids had fun playing with all of the old toys that my mom brought down from the attic for my brother and me to sort through.  The boys were loving the Matchbox cars, and the Little People airport and circus train, and a little ride-on cart that held a bunch of plastic shapes and some dowels to connect them.  There was also the Playskool workbench...

In the end I brought home seven boxes worth of stuff, plus the family Halloween box of random costumes and accessories.  Some came from my old closet, most were from the attic.  Two boxes are full of books.  Some are good books for Carter, and others are ones I hope Jacob will take an interest in sometime soon.  Wishful thinking, but it's worth a shot.  I left some things there to donate, too, but it was pretty agonizing as a whole.  Most of them will end up in a bin as keepsakes of my youth, but either way it's seven less boxes I will need to move out when my parents downsize someday. 

It was really fun to watch the boys play together, since they're only about 15 months apart.  Max is definitely a step up from Carter, but they were both cut-ups with their talking and silliness together.  Max was telling nonsensical knock-knock jokes this morning and Carter was just cracking up!  They both came out with funny little things and generally played pretty happily together.  It was nice to see Carter with a cousin closer to his own age, getting to have a partner in crime like Jacob does on the other side of the family.  I also enjoyed watching Kate with him, because she was still pretty young, but more nurturing as a girl.  His only other girl cousin is great with him, but she's also older so it's a different dynamic.  To see a little girl step up and help him was so sweet, since we're so used to Jacob just ignoring him or egging him on. 

After a very fun day, the four of them headed over to our cousin Todd's house so the kids could hang out with their second cousins, who they're also close to.  They all slept over there for the night, so we had a quiet evening with just my parents, Carter, and me.  We missed the kids, but the breather wasn't too bad either since it had been a very stimulating, noise-filled day.  We still had a couple days left, though, so we all went to bed eagerly anticipating more days of fun!

Stay tuned for more...

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