Sunday, April 5, 2009

Grand Adventures!

It's 8:30 Sunday morning and my brother and his family of seven just pulled out of my driveway, headed off to Washington D.C. for a family trip. They drove in from Indiana last night with the intention of breaking up their drive and spending some time with me. As they backed out of the drive with their fifteen passenger van, I could hear the screams of joy and laughter from the kids as they waved madly and yelled their excited goodbyes - ready for their adventure to begin.

Craig and Leanne take their kids on lots of family adventures and it reminds me of my own childhood. Last summer they spent 18 days out west seeing all the big attractions, just like our parents did when we were little. Our parents took us lots of places, but the four week vacations out west were by far the most memorable. We saw all the wonders of nature and more than our fair share of wild beasts on those trips, which continues to make for good story telling when we take a walk down memory lane.

Between last night and this morning, my brother's kids shared one story after another of the pains of trying to just get out the door and start their vacation - the packing, the planning, and the dreaded cleaning. You can't leave the house messy because "No one wants to come home to a messy house," my mother always said. It reminds me of those little moments that my siblings and I still laugh about today.

I remember having to choose just one stuffed animal to take on our adventures and every year that decision became more painful - who to choose. I remember leaving at 4:00 in the morning to get a jump start on the day because we had to drive twelve hours through the boring states of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. I remember my older siblings teaching me to shuffle a deck of cards like a pro on those long day drives.

I know one time when we pulled the van off the side of the road due to a slight mechanical problem, one car after another stopped to see if we needed any help. Where have those days gone???

I remember one year we spent days baking all sorts of treats and desserts for our adventure and by the time we had settled in Colorado, we came to the conclusion that the reason we couldn't find them amongst ALL our stuff was because we accidentally left them in the driveway at home- absolutely devastating! I know we ate lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, pistachio pudding, and fig newtons.

We sat around a campfire every single night before bed and occasionally woke up to elk standing outside our camper in the mornings. I remember finding a place once, that let you pick cherries for free, so we went totally nuts. Of course, then we proceeded to eat lots and lots of cherries - so many that most of us spent the majority of that evening in the outhouse. And if I remember correctly, that was the state park with good old fashioned smelly outhouses.

Sometimes we got lucky and Dad would choose a park with real bathroom facilities. He would give us each a quarter to take a shower and that 25 cents got you three minutes of water. You really learned to shower fast!

Every time we were about to drive into a new state or enter a significant landmark, such as the Grand Canyon, one of us kids would have to jump out of the van and pose next to the sign because "No picture is complete without a person in it," my father always said.

I remember standing on a glacier in the middle of July thinking how crazy it was that my friends back home were sweating under the hot summer sun and I was standing on a glacier. My brother, Craig actually lost one of his shoes in that glacier - not cool. We hiked in the mountains and saw real live mountain goats and rams. We took the fur that stuck on the bushes as they ran through them as take-home souvenirs. My sister and I also collected little rocks from all the places we visited and spent the rest of the year shining them up. We still have some of those rocks today. Gee, I need to re-shine those...

All the wonderful and crazy memories of these trips could fill a book. And now to watch my nieces and nephews leave my house so excited about their grand adventure makes me nostalgic and appreciative of all the great adventures my parents took me on.

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Together Forever!

Today is my birthday and one of my favorite things to do is call my younger sister and wish HER a Happy Birthday! Whoever calls first yells “Happy Birthday!!” The other laughs and yells back, “Happy Birthday to you too!”

I was due on the 1st of April and came a day late, then two years later, Amy was due on the 3rd and came a day early. What are the odds?

We spent our childhood years sitting next to each other at the table, with our respective cakes and matching presents. We opened our presents fast because we always knew we were getting the exact same thing – just in different colors.

As we grew up and moved out on our own, we always managed to spend the day together, just like old times. Once while out to dinner, Amy realized she had forgotten her I.D. We were hoping to share a bottle of wine, but looking as young as she did (does) she was having a hard time convincing the waiter to serve her. We explained that we were celebrating our birthdays – that they were on the same day. “Oh, you’re twins!”

“No" I said, "But, we were born on the same day. I'm just two years older than her." He looked completely confused.

Liars. Big fat liars! That’s what the waiter was thinking. We tried to explain how one of us came a day early and of one us came a day late, two years apart, but he wasn’t buying it, so no wine for Amy.

We’ve managed to get together and celebrate our big day even when we were living 12 hours apart, simply because it feels too weird not to. We did not celebrate my 30th together because her daughter, my god-daughter, was due early in the month and I wanted to fly out for the baptism later in the month, so greater priorities prevailed that year.

Today, my sis is coming for the day and we’re going to the salon to beautify ourselves. We are going to spend the day together because there’s nobody else we would rather spend it with than each other.

We are eternal best friends and I thank God everyday my parents decided to have another baby even after putting up with me. What a lucky girl I am!

Happy Birthday Sis!

I Love You!