Tuesday, July 28, 2015

To Canada We Go!

Two weeks ago the boys and I flew up to Edmonton.  It was first time in months that we had seen Spencer and we had all missed him.  It had also been nearly a year since the boys had been in Edmonton and they were delighted to discover how much they remembered.  Upon entering any house they would point out the things that they remembered from their last visit.

Eliot also had a recently re-aquired skill to show off.  Grandpa and Nana kindly bought bikes for the boys to use and they spent a lot of the time honing their skills.

Peter liked to make engine sounds for his bike--hence the funny face.

Peter was very taken with his helmet and would often wear it around just for the heck of it.  In fact, he wore it later on a nature walk.

During the nature walk the boys picked saskatoon berries with the help of Uncle Aaron and Auntie Patti.  Eliot would spot the berries and pull a branch down to pick them.

Aaron and Patti's new puppy Henry also joined us on the walk, much to Eliot's delight and Peter's chagrin (Eliot ran and played with Henry while Peter kept reminding us that he really aught to be on a leash).  Eliot took a real shine to Henry and kept asking me when we were going to get a dog.

It wasn't all fun and games either.  Eliot took his dog-owner-in-training role very seriously.

Very seriously.

I mean, honestly...

Eliot could get a little crazy and could be a little too liberal with the treats to both Henry and Grandpa and Grandma Bennett's dog Daisy.  But his heart was in it, there's no doubting it.

Peter's interactions with Henry were a little less tender.  Henry didn't mind Peter in the least, but let's just say that Peter wasn't asking me when we would be getting a dog.  There's still time to work on him though :)  He did seem a lot less nervous with Daisy (who is a much smaller dog) than he had been at our last visit.  Perhaps he just prefers dogs that aren't able to look him straight in the face at eye-level.  Fair enough.

You just can't beat mid-summer days in Edmonton.  Long, sunny, perfectly warm.  Nothing says "summer" quiet like spending a whole afternoon outside in nothing but a swimsuit and bicycle helmet with popsicle stains on your face.

A visit to Edmonton would not be complete without a visit to Gigi and Bapa's for breakfast.  Fluffy pancakes heralded us along with a chance to slide down the basement steps.  Peter has recently learned for whom he was named, and though he was a little shy he thought it was pretty neat to see "the first Peter Young" again.

We spent one of the days taking the boys to Drumheller to visit the dinosaur museum.  It was pretty impressive.

Drumheller was a three hour drive one-way from Edmonton and let's just say that the boys were not well prepared for it.  They discovered this little door that opened into the trunk of the car and that kept them busy for a while, but peace was not long-lived.  Both there and back, I started out in the front seat, and ended up in the back separating them.  

Toward the end of my stay (the boys were visiting for three weeks and I was only able to stay for the first week) we went to park nearby Grandma and Grandpa Bennett's home for a picnic.  Eliot learned to play fetch with Henry and Peter played in the sand with his Mighty Machines.

It was sad to leave them at the end of the week and I look forward to seeing them again soon.  But I know they're having fun, creating memories, and forming bonds.  Love these guys!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cousin Outing #2: Camping in Door County

The weekend before last we took the children up to Sister Bay in Door County to go camping.  It was a first for Eliot and Peter and a first two-night trip for the cousins.  We camped in an old canvas tent that my parents had purchased from a friend when I was a girl.  It has to be at least 50 years old but still worked really well.  It's one of those old cabin tents in which an adult can stand fully upright all throughout, so no crouching down, which made up for the fact that we all slept on the ground.  I'd thought about bringing an air mattress, but I knew that all of the children wouldn't be able to fit on it.  If some are on the ground, all are on the ground.  Rissie fared a bit better.  The pack n' play we'd brought for Nora didn't really leave much room in the tent for anyone else, so she and Rissie slept in Rissie's car with the windows cracked and Janet and I slept on the ground in the tent with our respective children snuggled around us.  A poor night's sleep is all part of the fun, though, right?

There's nothing quite like camping for cousin bonding time and conversations around the campfire.

While we got the campsite set up the children explored.  Even little Nora got in on the action.

Peter had insisted on bringing along his truck, Crayon.  None of us we're especially enthusiastic about the idea of Crayon coming along and taking up precious trunk space, but we managed to squeeze him in.  And as it turned out, he was the perfect camp chair for Peter.

By this time Peter and Nora had become buddies.  He loves to make her laugh and she loves to laugh, so it works out perfectly.

Roasting starbursts over an open fire and planning the day's shenanigans.

The children all had a great time.  There were moments of stress for the "grown-ups."  Putting up this screen house, for example, just about put me over the edge.  But in spite of it all the little ones couldn't stop smiling.  After all, we were camping!

The next day we headed for Newport Beach State Park to have a paddle in Lake Michigan.

It was so fun to watch the cousins play.  Moments after hitting the beach Eliot started a collection of rocks and sticks (in the foreground) and the other children quickly joined in.  Here they're busily constructing a home for a little frog that they had found.

Peter asked what "that line" was in the distance.  He was pretty impressed to discover that it was the horizon.

Everybody loves a lake on a hot summer's day!  Lucy had come down with a cold and she was a little droopy-eyed that day, but it didn't stop her from enjoying the water.

Here's Maddie (our resident snake-charmer) with Flower, the patient--and ill-fated--frog.  Flower was generally happy to sit quietly in the palm of Maddie's hand.

Upon returning from the beach we found GranDad, Noni, and little Nora enjoying the shade of a tree.  Peter tried to entertain her with his go-to owl noises and the others joined in as well.

For dinner on our last evening we attended a Fish Boil.  We gathered with other vacationers on wooden benches that formed a horseshoe in the middle of which a large caldron bubbled over a fire.  The man at the center tended the fire and gradually added things to the caldron (potatoes, onions, then fish) all the while telling us about the Fish Boil.  It is a traditional Scandinavian cooking method for feeding large groups of people and something that nowadays you can only see demonstrated in Door County, Wisconsin (or so the man told us).  This is how it works:  Potatoes, onions, and fish are cooked in a caldron of boiling water.  As they cook, scales, fish scum, and other refuse rise to the top.

At just the right moment, kerosene is tossed onto the flames and a fire ball engulfs the caldron, consuming the scales, fish scum, and refuse--not something to try at the next block party.

Here were the reactions of the children to the fireball.  It was quite the show.

The fish was served up with the potatoes and onions, along with a side of cole slaw and assorted breads.  James, who had gone fishing during his last visit to Wisconsin, was delighted.

After the meal Eliot could not stop talking about how much he had loved the fish.  He told me, more than once, that it had been his favorite part of the meal.  This was really saying something since the meal was finished off with a slice of cherry pie.

All in all, Door County was a hit.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Bubble Love

A couple of Sundays ago we had a hot afternoon and six children to keep busy.  So I pulled out my never-fail "Time to Play" Pinterest board and made some bubble solution.  I had made some a month or so ago with Eliot and Peter so they knew what was coming and Eliot jumped right in with his hands and started blowing bubbles.

After waiting patiently have a few brief demonstrations from me Maddie caught right on and started making giant bubbles.  The boys tried hard to let the bubbles fully form before popping them, but sometimes it was too much to resist.

All of the children ended up covered in bubble solution by the end of the day (here Peter is trying to show me his bubbly hands.)  It was a great afternoon.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Cousin Outing #1: Strawberry picking

Early in June my sister Janet and her four children (Baby Nora not pictured above) arrived in town for a visit.  This was a much-anticipated event by all of us but especially Eliot and Peter.  One of our first cousin outings was to the strawberry patch.  All of the children worked hard collecting the ripe fruit and then it was home to make strawberry freezer jam.


They're troopers.  It isn't easy when the number of small children in a house suddenly triples but everyone seems to be getting along as well as can be expected.  I think the visit is living up to everyone's expectations.