Giving Bugga a lemon at the restaurant.
We meant to play games that night after the kids got to bed. We even bought a monitor so my parents could listen for them from next door. Unfortunately, Buddha and Bugga had other ideas. Bugga figured out how to escape the pack 'n' play, which was a most untimely and particularly discouraging discovery considering the effort required to get it there (picture The Chief hauling two suitcases, two car seats and a heavy pack 'n' play through two airports on his own). Buddha, despite being exhausted, or perhaps because of his exhaustion, was extremely wired. Both little guys were thrown off by the strange surroundings and sleeping arrangements with all of us in the same room. Needless to say, it was well past their bed time when they finally fell asleep side by side in the second queen bed allotted to our room, illuminated by the glow of the television and soothed by a combination of white noise CD and air conditioner. And, sadly, everyone who could possibly have been interested in playing late-night games with us was most likely also asleep in their rooms. There's nothing like being able to say "there's always tomorrow" to make you sleep soundly. I love my family.
Thursday we were awakened bright and early by a knock at the door when my dad came to remind us that Uncle Luther, our resident CPA, was giving a financial presentation for all those interested in learning some good tips on managing money. I declined to go for two reasons: first, I wasn't even dressed and the rest of my family was still in bed asleep; and second, The Chief's dad is a retired CPA who is always willing to give us financial guidance. After discussing it with The Chief, we decided that I should go anyway to show support for my family. I would be taking family pictures of Uncle Luther's clan after the presentation, so The Chief volunteered to stay with the still-sleeping boys whilst I threw on some clothes and trudged up to the conference room for the presentation. I, of course, took my camera with me to see if I could snap any quality shots and improve my abilities in low-light situations. I admit that I did take lots of pictures and learn a lot about my camera, but what was even more exciting was all the amazing tips I learned from Uncle Luther's presentation. He is a brilliant man and I'm glad that I didn't miss the opportunity to learn from him. There's nothing like being surrounded by talented and intelligent people to make you feel buoyed up. I love my family.
With questions asked throughout, the presentation went a bit long and family pictures were pushed back and squeezed right up next to the guys' golf tee-time. I talked with Eric and Aunt Kathy and warned them that the sun would be unforgiving at this time of day, casting wicked shadows across their faces and causing squinty eyes. A huge shady area would have been ideal. As it turned out, we didn't have time to find shade and we couldn't reschedule, so we made due. We went up to the resort's upper balcony and shot out over the valley with the mountains as a back drop. It was a lovely setting and, despite the poor lighting, I think we got some great pictures. As soon as the group picture was over, most of the men took off for their golf adventure while I took some smaller family pictures in a tiny shady corner of the balcony. There's nothing like preserving quality memories of loved ones. I love my family.
Mark and Nicole's kids.
Presentation. Pictures. Then back to my babies and the blessed air conditioning. Colorado Springs is not cool by any means. The Chief and the boys had had an uneventful morning of lounging and vegging and were rearing to go play. We threw on our swim suits, showered in a steady spray of sunscreen, grabbed some scratchy hotel towels and headed for the pool by the lake. Bugga face-planted in the parking lot just outside the pool area, giving himself a lovely, bloody fat lip which he proudly displayed throughout the remainder of the family reunion. I swear my boys bite the dust more than any other kids I know! Buddha and Bugga loved the kiddie pool (despite the cloudy, dirty water) and the water toys that kept floating by them. I stayed by the kids while The Chief lounged in the shade. Swimming didn't last long as it was soon time to return to the room and get ready for the next activity planned for the family reunion. The Chief stayed with Bugga while he napped and I took Buddha back up to the conference room for craft time. Aunt Denise (who, by the way, planned this whole thing and did a right good job of it, too), had some kid crafts and adult crafts all laid out and ready to go. After taking pictures for a bit while Buddha decorated a foam visor, I tried my hand at sticking calligraphy words to a tile. I don't know how else to explain that, so I'm sorry if it makes no sense. After a time, most everyone trickled back to their rooms to prepare for the evening's dinner at the Flying W Ranch. I was still in the conference room, finishing up my craft and I got to talk to my lovely cousin, Marianne. I was a nanny to her children one summer years ago. She was pregnant and suffering with gestational diabetes. I was too young and selfish to be much help to her, but I hope I lightened her load just a little. Her kids were definitely the objects of exclamations that first day as her oldest daughter, Rachel (who was just seven years old that summer I lived with them), is now 14 years old and taller than I...by a lot!! It was calm in that conference room as we chatted about all sorts of things from food storage to the Amish community that they now live in. There's nothing like sound people, good family and quiet conversation to make you feel grounded. I love my family.
Darling Bugga in his rough rider get up.
Cowboys at the ranch.
The 4th of July, Independence Day, dawned bright and clear after the passing of the late thunder storm the previous evening. The morning was left free on our family agenda, so we packed up our diaper bag and headed for the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Now, being as we live in San Diego and we have passes to the highly acclaimed and superbly fantastic San Diego Zoo, you might ask why we chose to visit the small zoo in Colorado Springs for our 4th of July day time activity. Well, I really can't give you any good answer. The Chief and I aren't good at being spontaneous. Some people were river rafting and some had gone to a local amusement park, but we settled on the zoo when Buddha told us that's where he wanted to go. I know, we're such pushovers. But truly, we did have some pleasant surprises, like how cheap everything was - entrance, stroller rental, feeding the giraffes.... Yep, that's right, when you first walk in, there's the giraffe exhibit, packed full of 12 + giraffes all waiting for little wafer-filled, out-stretched toddler hands. You could feed the giraffes four biscuits/wafers for just $1, so The Chief just kept shelling out the George Washingtons while the boys delighted in their close encounter with the long-necked beasts. And where was I? Well, behind the camera, of course, capturing the feeding frenzy on film. The rest of the zoo wasn't quite as exciting. The location is exactly on a mountain side, so all the exhibits were up and up and up. The day was surely in the 90's, at least, so what with the heat, the altitude and the climb, we were getting more of a workout than we bargained for. The mist-blowing fans were my friends, though I could have wished for more of them. There were a few more highlights, like Bugga and Buddha petting a baby Wallaby and Bugga trying to take it right out of the man's hands. Oh, and the view at the top, by the grizzly bear and moose enclosures, was breathtaking. Colorado Springs looked lovely from that vantage point - much better than it had looked when we'd flown in, anyway. It's a greenish valley nestled in and surrounded by the Rockies. Very Western and very dry and deserty on the outskirts where civilization and mountains are absent. After a quick and steep descent through the zoo, we made our way back to our car and prepared to return to the ranch to see what mischief the others were about. There's nothing like a good workout on a hot day with the best of company to make you appreciate your body and your biggest fans. I love my family.
At the zoo...tracking a squirrel.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch....I guess that's not the best expression to use since we did actually visit a ranch. In this instance, I'm referring to our hotel. So, back at the hotel, we again took advantage of the blasting air conditioner to cool down and relax a while. Then we caught up with everyone at our "family olympics ." This was an hour spent on a grassy area competing in all sorts of races with our matronly Granny sitting at the finish line to welcome all contenders home. It bears mentioning that my cousin Kelly's daughter, Rachel, soundly defeated nearly everyone in nearly every event...and she's still in grade school! I guess there's something to be said for being the last child and the only girl. She's probably grown up learning to fend for herself and keep up with the brothers. Anyway, I digress. So all ages and stages in life competed in each event. In one particularly fateful race, Uncle Doug was racing against our own Papa and others when he bowled over little Buddha on his way back to the finish line. When Buddha stopped crying long enough to tell us what he was doing running across the field after these thundering bulls, his pitiful response broke our hearts, "I was just following Daddy." Oh how that little guy loves his Daddy. I wonder if I should start a "Battle Scar" journal for the boys. I could probably fill five whole pages, single spaced, right now. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these boys have more accidents than any kids I know. Ah, but there's nothing like some friendly competition in fresh mountain air to make you feel alive and invigorated. I love my family.
The "fateful" race. There's Uncle Doug on the left and you can see little Buddha running after Daddy on the right.
Here's Josey striking an interesting pose. He and Unkey Dino entertained Buddha and Bugga with their "Jim Carrey" faces all through the reunion.
After dinner, we all returned once again to the conference room for an Independence Day devotional given by my own dear brother, Unkey Dino. I honestly can't say what he spoke about (sorry, Unkey Dino) since I was busy watching my boys, making sure they didn't terrorize anything important in the room. I know that whatever he said was patriotic and I was sure to pay attention when he spoke to us in Arabic at the end of his "speech." He's amazing! Before Unkey Dino, I should mention that my cousin, Erika, had the children gather 'round close and she told them the story of our country's flag. Afterward she asked questions and threw out candy for correct answers. One question was "What shouldn't we do to the flag?" Buddha got some candy for his wise answer of "Don't tear it or tore it." After Unkey Dino, Granny spoke to us all and told us how much she loves and admires us. I think we'd all readily say the same about her. She's my good friend, she is. We've had our fair share of squabbles, but those are some of my best memories with her. I'll never forget the time she swore at me in Chile when we were fighting about who would get the upstairs bedroom. Teenager squared off against aged old lady and she whips out the only thing that could have stopped me in my tracks, "I don't care about the damn room" she yells. I think we laugh about that every time we see each other. After Granny, more testimonies were borne and then 4th of July paraphernalia was passed out for the fireworks festivities. There's nothing like a sacred gathering of family, with patriotism lauded and testimonies borne, to draw you closer to the Lord and remind you to be grateful for your liberties. I love my family.
Post-devotional, everyone congregated on the resort golf course for the fireworks show. Buddha spent the pre-show minutes running around in the grass, wielding his glow stick like a light saber at anyone and everyone. When the last light from the sun was extinguished we were first graced with the fireworks from a competing resort and then our own show began...and ended...and began again...and ended...and began again, etc. Seriously, the pauses were five minutes long and every time we would think that the show was over only to have to sit back down when another boom, scream and pop signaled the continuation of our frequently-interrupted display. Bugga sat in The Chief's lap and stubbornly refused to let The Chief's arms loosen from around him. He was soon fast asleep, succumbing to the fatigue of an action-packed day. The boys had no trouble falling asleep back at our hotel room that night and, after setting up the monitor in Granny and Grandpa's room next door, we finally got to go play late-night games with Josey, Zachary and Alex. We were all a bit loopy and couldn't even finish all ten phases of Phase 10. We laughed a lot and it was the perfect note to end our vacation on. There's nothing like fireworks, games, laughter and zaniness to make you feel complete at the end of a long day. I love my family.
Saturday morning we said good-bye to family as they trickled back to their lives in different States. We ate, we packed, we checked out, we filled the car with gas and returned it and then we boarded our plane and...waited and waited and waited. After about 20 minutes, our pilot notified us over the PA system that the winds had shifted, requiring us to take off from a different runway for which we were too heavy. He proceeded to inform us that we were going to have to sit there, in the plane, while they burned off an excess of 900 lbs. of fuel! My heart sank. Bugga was already having trouble and it was nearing 100 degrees outside. Without movement, the air inside the plane was warm and stale. While others expressed chagrin about the waste of fuel, I thought only of my travel weary boys and how long their patience would last. When we did start to taxi down the runway, I was aiding Buddha on the potty in the restroom - go figure. We raced back to our seats and got buckled in just in time. Take off was rough and so was our ascension into the heavens. I was gripping Bugga so tight while I cried and prayed our plane up over the clouds. I officially hate flying. I suppose it didn't help that we were in a tiny aircraft (two seats on one side and one seat on the other, separated by a barely-there aisle). We were getting batted around the sky, swatted at like a fly in a restaurant kitchen. I can handle regular turbulence, but when the plane shifts sideways and drops dramatically at the same time, ah, I go to pieces. I don't like feeling like I'm not in control, but what's worse is when you can picture your pilot in the cockpit struggling to hold the plane in control against the wicked air currents. Anyway, at some point I was able to relax and that's when I realized that Bugga had fallen asleep. Hallelujah! Our landing in San Diego was fine except for that bit of whip lash we all felt when our pilot realized after hitting the runway and breaking for a while that he was still going way too fast and literally slammed on the brakes. Buddha got a kick out of it, though, and made me laugh when he leaned forward grinning and doing his little growl laugh that indicates something has pleased him. It was pure heaven to step off the plane into lovely 73 degree weather with a slight breeze carrying the fresh ocean scent our way. We were home. There's nothing like coming home after a trip to make you feel safe and secure and all put back together again. I love my family, but this Humpty Dumpty is quite content sitting on her own wall at home.
Unfortunately for you (if any of you have actually made it this far into my saga), the story does not end here. You see, we grabbed our stuff, hopped in our car and bypassed our home on our way out of San Diego County and into Orange County. We were headed for a birthday party, but not just any birthday party. This was The Chief's dad's 75th surprise birthday party, to which we were going to be late. Oh well, we did eventually arrive and that's all that matters. The room where our party was seated at The Daily Grill was all decorated with balloons and candles and the table was covered in Skittles and Starburst. Cousins were running around and adults were chatting. Another table was brought for our family and we ordered and were delivered our food quickly. Cake was brought for the entire party and we sang Happy Birthday to Grandpa Bagel. Buddha somehow missed this and once again our son was in tears at a restaurant. He kept saying over and over that he wanted to sing Happy Birthday to Grandpa with a candle lit in his cake. He would not be consoled and I'm sure falling asleep in the car and being rudely awakened and dragged into yet another family affair didn't help. Finally I took him by the hand and led him up to Grandpa. I told Grandpa what Buddha wanted and he happily obliged by relighting the candle and sticking it into the last bite of his cake. Buddha and I sang to Grandpa and Buddha gave him a kiss on the cheek. All was right again in Buddha's little world. We ate, I took pictures, the boys played with their cousins and then we headed back to San Diego where we literally fell into beds - our soft, comfy, never-to-be-taken-for-granted-again beds. There's nothing like curling up on a soft, cozy bed at the end of a long, happy week to make you feel perfectly content. I love my...bed. Good night.