We arrived about 5:30 that evening and had just enough time to unpack before the Wild Bunch (Katie and her family) also arrived to check in to the hotel for the night. Because after they arrived there wasn't a minute to spare. We swam, we witnessed classic pool moves, we played Marco Polo, we read stories, and had stories read TO us. It was non-stop.
The girls of course remembered us, and were sooooooo excited that we were there with them. Little Drezden had no such recollection, but I don't know when I've met a more mellow baby who was so content being passed from person to person to person. He loooved Dad. That was cute to see. And Dad has always been a baby lover. Drezden is a busy little guy: if you're not feeding him something, he's on the move. He's learned to stand up on very wobbly little legs, so it was a challenge to keep after him - but he's a happy little guy. If you had some fruit in your hand, he was your forever friend. He's gone from being our Man Cub to being our Fruit Bat. So we spent some time at the pool that first evening, and then we went out to dinner all together. There was a nice little Italian place right by our hotel, and they gave us a nice table out on the patio, complete with misters to keep us cool. (Did I mention that Arizona is HOT??)
See Mia giving herself bunny ears? Really nice to have a family dinner all together!
We all met for breakfast the next morning and had a little breakfast buffet all together. Drezden had (what else?) fruit, and the girls had their fill of BACON. How they love bacon... Back up to the rooms to get in their swim suits. There was a large biker club staying at the hotel, and they were taking over the pool at noon for their big shindig, so we went there and got some playing time in before their party started. The girls twirled and spun and cannon-balled their way into the pool, all the while screaming "Watch this one! My grand finale!!" There were some glorious, never-before-seen moves witnessed by the pool goers that morning. And Drezden? He hung out on the sidelines in his straw hat.
Nana enjoying Drezden poolside
Mema and the Fruit Bat
Hayden wore herself out thinking of new jumps to do. It was a continual round of "Watch me!" and "Look at this!" Mia kept hoping for a good game of Marco Polo, but soon invented some pretty good jumps of her own.
I noticed my dad watching the biker people start to set up for their party. Lots and lots of HUGE biker guys. My dad walked up to a particularly huge, slightly dangerous looking one, (and this is totally out of character for him) and asked him if he would wish his great granddaughter a happy birthday. I have NO idea where that random request came from, but I guess the idea just struck his fancy. The biker man got a huge smile on his face and enthusiastically wished Mia a happy birthday and asked her if she would like to have her picture taken on the big purple Harley they had parked by the pool. Well, of course Mia loved that!
The next event: Mia's 8th birthday party. She wanted a Hawaiian -themed party, and our pineapple princess's wish was our command!
Lots of fresh fruit, chicken and shrimp skewers, and everyone was required to wear a lei. Zach's whole family was there (it was at his parents' house), complete with tons of cousins of all ages. The food was great (thanks Renee!) and the highlight (as it is at every birthday party in Zach's family) was the pinata. This year's pinata was a big tiki mask, and Mia almost tore it apart all by herself. Plenty of candy for each and every cousin. She received a pair of roller skates from all of her cousins, and I've never seen a happier girl! (Her gift from L and me is still waiting in Massachusetts: a 4 man tent with a queen size air mattress. Pineapple Princess wanted to go camping!)
So much kid noise, so much laughing and talking, so much fun, but at last I could see it was time to get my parents back to the hotel for some needed rest. (Truth be told, I was getting tired myself, but I just blamed it on the parental units...) Our little Mia was 8... unbelievable!
Pineapple Princess Mia, Katie, and Dad (sporting his red lei!)
Sunday was Mia's baptism day. And, true to Arizona tradition, it was blazing hot! We went to breakfast and then drove out to see the new LDS temple that had just been built in Gilbert. Beautiful, beautiful... But it was about 110 degrees so we scuttled back to out hotel room to keep cool until our 3:00 lunch at my friend Sandy's house. I've known Sandy ever since our kids were little together. She moved to Arizona a few years ago, and I'd not been to her house yet. It was GORGEOUS, and she had set out such a wonderful luncheon for everyone! Soon it was filled with grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And a few dogs and a cat. We ate, we laughed, we caught up with each other, and spent a few really fun hours together. L and I gave Mia a silver locket necklace with her name engraved on it, and she was thrilled.
Mia and her Nana (my mom)
Thanks Sandy, for treating us all like family! I can't wait to come back and have a good girl visit!
Beautiful friend Sandy and daughter Katie
Luncheon over, on to the church for the main event. We gathered the baptism clothes, the towels, and everything else we'd need, and drove over to Zach's parent's church building in Mesa. Mia was so excited to change into her white clothes and have her daddy baptize her!
Mia and Zach ready for the baptism!
Zach, Drezden, Katie, Mia, me, Hayden, and L
3 generations of girls
The older end of 3 generations of girls - so lucky to have these pictures!
I had a hard time picking a favorite, so I'm making you look at almost all of them! One of them will be going into a frame - just haven't decided which one yet. After the baptism, Zach's family hosted yet another round of dinner and togetherness. L and the folks went back to the hotel to rest, and I went to the inlaw's house to help Katie pack. I found she was actually almost done with the task - just a few little details to include in the packing. It was a big day, a beautiful day, and an exhausting day, full of emotion and heartfelt moments. Too soon, at 9:30, it was time to say our goodbyes as L picked me up, and Zach's parents drove this wonderful little family to the airport to head back to Massachusetts. I'm never EVER ready to say goodbye and it was hard. I couldn't get enough hugs in, so finally L had to practically throw me in the car. Someone has to be the grownup, I guess. I'll leave you with this one last picture taken of Mia as she said goodbye to the ocean down in Mexico where they'd been vacationing. It pretty much describes how I always feel saying my goodbyes, and I love you's to Katie when it's time to go. So bittersweet. Aloha for now. But new adventures are just around the corner. Waiting...