Our family had it's first official gathering - the week of Memorial Day. Rex and his family were here in Southern California the entire week. They rented an impossibly cute house in Anaheim near Disneyland, and we were able to get together several times that week. The house had a different Disney theme in each room, from Peter Pan, to Frozen, to Little Mermaid, to Rapunzel. The pool and backyard were Disney-inspired, and it couldn't have been more fun.
Could this pool be any more awesome? The kids played in it for HOURS!
They did Disneyland a couple of days, and those were the days we opted out. I just don't have the ability to be on my feet walking in Disneyland for an entire day anymore. They spent those days with Ronna's brothers and their kids, so they still got in their family and cousin time.
One evening we went with them over to Downtown Disney for dinner. We wandered around (it's about 1/4 mile from end to end) the length and back a couple of times, eating dinner in between walking the avenue at the Rainforest Cafe.
Rainforest Cafe dinner - me next to Lexi, who is next to our beach girl Skylee. Travis is asleep in the stroller in back! L, Rex, Matthew in his glasses, and Ronna are in the back.
We had such a good time being with our grandkids, pushing strollers, buying candy and macarons, and helping them each pick out a little treat for themselves. Dinner was chaotic and fun, in between the thunderstorms that are part of the regular entertainment at the Rainforest Cafe. Little Skylee determined that the giant butterflies fanning their wings on the walls were real. No doubt about it. Lexi chattered about the last day of school, about mean girls, about her friends, and about how boys are much easier to communicate with than girls. I concur. She is a wonderful little girl just on the brink of becoming a young woman. One minute she is a child, and the next she sounds more adult than me (although that's not a hard feat).
Friday was their beach day. Skylee had declared that she absolutely "loves all things beach." She had never been to the beach, or seen the ocean, so that was the goal that day. And she loved it. The smells, the sound of the waves, the salt air. And, as luck would have it, a pod of about 50 dolphin swam by as we were out on the Balboa Pier. It doesn't get much better than that if you love the ocean like I do (and like Skylee does, apparently!) Afterward, we wandered over to the Fun Zone and the kids did a few fun things. We bought the boys each a foot long shark to play with in the pool (Travis absolutely loved his shark) and we bought the girls baskets of sea shells. I thought Skylee was going to lose her mind at the sight of all those shells. A man sitting outside a bar told me to bring Travis over to the door of the bar (but not to go inside!) and show him the big shark they had hanging from the ceiling. Travis' eyes nearly popped out of his head at the sight, and he showed me how sharks chew things up with their big teeth. Quite impressive. I don't think I did any harm to a minor by showing him a shark in a bar, as we were concentrating on the shark, rather than the drinks. Right?
Saturday was the real treat. Katie and her clan came south, L and I picked up my mom (she had never seen some of Rex's kids) and my brother and his wife and daughter came to California, and we all met at Rex's rental house for a BBQ pool party extravaganza. Katie had spent the night with the girls on Friday night so everyone got plenty of cousin time. It was just the best time ever. Our family hadn't been together like that in years and years. My brother's daughter Arianna is just 1 day younger than Lexi. So Lexi, Ari, and Mia each got to spend time with the cousins that are just their age.
l to r: Arianna, Mia, Alexis
There were kids everywhere, it was a total food fest, and we all left better people after spending a great day together. I have to admit that I actually cried happy tears on the way home - it was very emotional in a good way being together like that. We missed Scott, but maybe next time it will be everyone. I am grateful for the ones that were able to be there. For me, it was just a love fest having all of those kids together in one place having fun.
Cousin time! Back row: Skylee, Hayden, Drezden, Alexis, Mia
Front row: Travis and Matthew
Black and white photo: Rex and Katie
Our newest little grandbaby, Lincoln, and his parents were here for a quick visit in May also. We were able to spend one day going to the Santa Ana Zoo, and another afternoon at Newport Beach and the Newport Pier. He's a cute one, that Lincoln, and he's learning so many new tricks now that he's mobile. We had a fun time riding the carousel at the park, along with the zoo train, and we spent a fun dinnertime eating at Ruby's at the end of Balboa Pier. They are hoping to move to California in a year or so, so we'll have lots more fun times ahead of us.
Lincoln riding the carousel at the Santa Ana Zoo - look how he keeps his eyes on Grandpa L!
The week after Rex and his family left to go home, I boarded a plane for Nashville to meet up with some crazy friends there. We were all staying at Linda's - she sent her husband and grandkids to Dollywood for the week! - and we had a wonderful time reconnecting and catching up. There were 5 of us: Nancy, Mischell, Linda (our hostess), Kay (her daughter was one of my favorite babysitters) and me. Linda's husband met us all at the airport and took us to dinner in Nashville at Jack's. BBQ in Nashville is just THE BEST. John told us it was the only time he'd have us all to himself before being banished to Dollywood, and we did enjoy being with him. We wandered up and down Broadway, and in and out of Savannah's Candy (Caramel apples all around!) We ended up in a little club called the High Watt, where my nephew was performing with some musician friends of his. It was a little miraculous that as soon as we walked in he spotted us (although he didn't know we were coming) and enthusiastically introduced us to his friends (the only one I remember is the drummer from Alabama - there were so many and it was so loud!) His band was the best one we saw, and it was such a treat to watch him having such a good time on stage. He is a rep for Pearl Drums, and has many many musician friends and customers - many of them there that night. Whenever he gets the chance to perform, he jumps on it. Kevin is nothing short of A-type. But in a good way.
Newphew Kevin and friends performing at the High Watt - what a treat to watch!
The rest of the week was spent touring the sights, like the Opryland Hotel. Gorgeous place with amazing gardens and a river running through the whole thing. I got a major blister halfway through that day, and had to buy some new sandals in one of the shops so I could ditch the shoes I had on. Goodbye $90.00... On the bright side, we all had pizza and - miracle of miracles - they had gluten free crust available!
Another day we did the tour of the Grand Ol' Opry.
All us girls standing on the wood circle that all performers stand on at the Grand Ol' Opry.
I liked that a lot more than I thought I would. It was interesting, and I was impressed at how much music history filters through that place. It was kind of awesome. Of course we took millions of pictures and had a great time. After that tour we went over to the Bluebird Cafe. It's a venue for songwriters to showcase their creations, and it was time well spent. For a minimum charge of $7.00 we were treated to an hour and a half of great music by four really good singer/songwriters: Adam Hambrick, Emily West, K.S. Rhodes, and Blake Chaffin. Everyone but Blake has music available on i-Tunes, and I suggest - no STRONGLY suggest you check it out. They were great. I think that might have been my favorite thing all week.
Our last day was spent going to the Loveless Cafe for a late lunch/early dinner. Folks, Tennessee is no place to be on any kind of special diet. And the Loveless Cafe followed that same rule, only in BOLD TYPE. Biscuits. Heavenly biscuits. I had to have one. And then two. Gluten-free be damned. Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes. The best of everything the South has to offer. I knew I would pay for it eventually, but in that afternoon I didn't care anymore. And now I can die happy, because I had biscuits that were as good as cake. With butter and jam.
Following our feast there, and after doing some fun shopping at the shops around the cafe, (and rocking awhile in the shade) we headed for the little town of Franklin.
Rocking in the shade at the Loveless Cafe. We love the South!
We'd heard that it was charming. It did, in fact, ooze charm. Every beautiful thing you picture about small towns was there. Families out at dusk, in the heat, patronizing ice cream parlors, sitting in the park between two historical churches. Tree lined streets with a roundabout connecting two of them. It was idyllic and made me yearn for that lifestyle. *sigh*
Back at the ranch later that evening, Nancy, Mischell, and I decided to go for a walk to walk off all of the Southern treats we'd had that day. The stars were out in force, and as we stopped at the end of a cul de sac that ended at a field and group of trees, we were treated to the enchanting sight of fireflies making their magic among the trees and across the field. Nancy had never seen fireflies before, and we were all spellbound. A perfect end to a perfect day and a perfect week.
Summer isn't done with me yet. Our A/C went out (just in time for 100 degree plus weather tomorrow! Booo....) and so a little bit of suffering is in the cards. In two weeks, we're off to spend the July 4th weekend in Colorado with Rex and his family to celebrate Matthew's birthday and share in his baptism day. Then at the end of the month we're off for a roadtrip to Utah to spend the July 24th weekend (Pioneer Day!) with my brother and his family. I've been looking forward to watching fireworks in two separate valleys at once from his deck all year. Finishing up the summer, we will welcome the newest addition to the family - Ione - to the world in early September. A lot to look forward to, and a lot of memories made.
Mom is doing pretty well. She misses Dad, and she is having a hard time having her independence lessened because she can no longer drive. Her eyesight is really poor and her balance is iffy. A light has gone out there, and maybe it will come back on a little bit, or maybe not. A lot depends on her attitude which, between you and me, has never been super positive. Change has always been hard for her, so we remain hopeful, but not expectant.
I took Dad some flowers yesterday and had a little talk with him about the situation. Hopefully he will find a way to help her or maybe whisper some good ideas to us, because frankly, we're fresh out. But life, overall, is good. Politics aside (don't even get me started here) L and I are optimistic and enjoying our travels together here on earth. We seem to be able to calm each other down and encourage each other at the same time. What more can you ask of your best friend?
Our children are holding their own, and some are really soaring. It's good to see. We have happy, healthy grandchildren who are always thrilled to see us. What a blessing they are to us! We feel fortunate to be surrounded by such riches. And a granddaughter who "loves everything beach?" Ah - that's the icing on the cake.