Every year we do what I like to call our "pilgrimages": one trip to CA, one trip to NY. Sometimes people think we're extravagant to be always off somewhere. Sometimes I feel like we should for once go on a "Tim Owens Family Vacation". But mostly, I feel so lucky that we have such great families to go visit. Truthfully, put summer, cousins, and somewhere to run around and/or swim, and my kids have as much fun as they would have if they were at Disneyland (one of those "somewheres" we have yet to visit...).
My Mom just called the other night to try to remember what all we did. The almost two weeks just turned into somewhat of a blur. It was so fun, though. Honestly, I think I only said like three things that I wish I could erase, and all three were probably to my loving, forgiving sister. And she was loving and forgiving every time. We had so much fun.
We flew out Tuesday morning. How much do I love non-stop flights? Especially since I was flying 1-on-5. Tim was going to join us after he worked for the week. It was great. We sat down and got settled. Right near the end of boarding, a family got on, and there weren't enough seats for them to sit all together. I just offered to let their 6 y.o. sit with Samuel and Miles, and they sat a few aisles back. 1-on-6. Really, after 3 or 4 kids, it truly is sort of the "just throw another one on the pile" mentality. Everyone did great, Grandma picked us up at the airport in San Jose, and we were good to go. We were greeted my Aunt Catherine, Emma, and Tate at Grandma's house, and the festivities began.
Originally, Catherine and my plan was to come out a week before the week before the Fourth of July and go up to San Francisco for their summer opera season. So, even though Matt and Leslie and crew arrived late Tuesday night, Cath and I still sneaked up to the city Wednesday night to see Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess". You know the song: "Summertime, and the livin' is easy..." That's from this opera. It was an awesome production, but as with most operas the plot was a bit wild. This one is all about drug addiction and the hard coastal existence of African-Americans in South Carolina in the 30's. It was intense, but the singing was beautiful. My Dad splurged and got us amazing seats. We both so enjoyed ourselves. "Porgy and Bess" is rarely done, so it was a treat to see one of the great American operas.
Also, the saddest part of our vacation happened Wednesday night, too. Conner broke his leg. Seriously. The kid who lives for being with his cousins. The kid who NEVER stops running or swimming or moving or going, going, going, going. He broke his leg, and it was the side of the pool for the rest of the time. They might come out to visit us in CO after he gets his cast off, so that he can really enjoy some "Miles time". We were all so disappointed. It was so sad to see him immobilized, but you know, that sweet little guy managed somehow to be just as exciting and fun and enthusiatic as ever, even from a stroller.
Thursday, we went to Great America. Wow. Cousins, roller coasters, rides, water-slides. Again, a great day. I went on all the scary water slides with Samuel (who wasn't scared a bit) and Leslie (who was maybe just as scared as I was. Okay, maybe a little less scared than I was.). It was hilarious. I mean, come on. Am I going to let my 6 y.o. go on water slides that I won't go on myself? It was fun. Later in the day, I ended up sending Julia (she was tired) and Lindsay (Mikaela got into town) home with Grandma. Cath was okay keeping Wesley and Samuel with her two, so Miles and I did a blitz run through the whole park and went on every single scary ride and roller coaster there was. I mean, we even went on "The Drop Zone"!! When I told that to Tim, he couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe I went on it either. Seriously, it's one of those raise up into the sky like 400 feet and then freefall drop down. I just knew that if Miles went on it, he would feel so proud of himself (and get to brag to all the other cousins and Uncle Dan). I just totally pumped him up and ignored the little voice in my own head that was screaming out "WHAT ARE YOU DOING? THIS IS CRAZY!!!" Miles barely made the height cut-off, but we got in. Seriously, I was so scared that I couldn't even open my eyes (my brother told me later that closing your eyes actually exaggerates the wild sensation of falling. Nice.). Miles wasn't too sure about it all, either. The fall was so intense. I totally had to tense up all my stomach muscles, or my stomach would have been in my throat. It was wild. There was absolutely no line, so we went on it again. Crazy. I think Miles liked it better the second time. Then, after we went on that ride, I told him that he had already been on the scariest ride in the park, so he may as well go on all the other roller coasters, too. And that's exactly what we did. No lines at any of them. It was awesome. And I just have to say that I love that kid so much. I can't remember the last time I got to spend an hour with him alone. I just love him. And yes, it was great to be able to go home and tell all the other cousins and especially Uncle Dan that we had gone on every roller coaster including the Drop Zone (even for me.).
Friday we just basically hung out around the pool. Let's just say that this is no ordinary pool. This is Grandpa Call's pool: a big diving board, a slide, a hot tub, ice cream sandwiches in the hot tub. It really is like a dream come true for the kids. They just love every second of it. And even when they've been in for 7 hours, we still have to pry them out at 10pm to plunk into bed. Fun.
Missiles in the hot tub, just one of the reasons why Grandpa Call's pool is so fun.
Emma, Samuel, Miles
How many grandkids can you cram in Grandpa's hot tub?
Clive, Mikaela, Van, Tate, Miles, Lindsay, Samuel, Emma, Wesley
Saturday, we went up to Montalvo for a hike in the morning, I think, and barely made it back for Saratoga's legendary Farmer's Market where they have snow cones and great Indian food. It was delish. We swam some more in the afternoon, and then it was off to my cousin Beth's house for her annual Fish Fry. So much fun. What an awesome entertainer she is. So generous and hospitable. I think it runs in the family...
Sunday, we sang in Church. We sang a really nice arrangement of "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing". Neil Rutman accompanied us. Oh, I have to mention here. Back when the week before the reunion was going to be the "opera week", my parents invited their friend, Neil Rutman, to come out for some opera and a visit. So, he had been visiting for the week, also. It was so much fun to have him at our reunion. He was just like one of the family: joining in on all the fun, staying up until 2am talking, eating too much. Neil also happens to be a concert pianist, so when I say that he accompanied our musical number in church, you can only imagine how amazing it was. Really, I wish I had a recording of it. (Didn't Bill Moon set up some kind of high tech recording system in our chapel at some point? Wish we had used it.) The rest of Sunday was just spent enjoying each other. I think at some point the sprinklers got turned on, because it was a scorcher. I wouldn't know because I got a 2 1/2 hour nap. Can you say "HEAVEN"? Ahhhhh.
Sprinklers and Soda. What more do you need on a hot summer afternoon?
Emma. Who's her hairstylist?
Wesley, Tate, Clive
An impromptu concert by Neil
Another somewhat imprompto concert by the rappas: Mikaela and Lindsay
Monday, we spent around the house again.
Another fun thing about Grandpa Call's house: the Murphy Beds, sleeping outside
Tuesday, we went up to San Francisco. We did the street slides last Thanksgiving, but Matt and Leslie hadn't tried them. They were a lot of fun again. We also got clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls. We got a cool view of the bridge from the southwestern side near the old army barracks. We also enjoyed the view up at the Marin Headlands. What a beautiful city. I love San Francisco.
At the streetslides. How many Grandpas are as prepared as ours?
Home-made lemonade and cookies
Conner even did the street slides with his cast as Emma jumps out of the way.
Natalie will love me for this picture.
Emma, Baby Dean, Grandpa, Neil, Miles, Wesley
Grandma and Baby Dean
Does anyone else see a future Christmas card picture?
Grandma and Grandpa Call and all the grandkids that could make it.
Wednesday, Matt and Leslie and crew left, and the rest of us headed up to Yosemite. Just the drive down the valley floor into the park is almost worth the four hour drive. El Capitan is just awe-inspiring. The falls were all pretty full. I just love Yosemite. I like to say it's kind of where Tim and I fell in love, but when I say that in front of him, he's like, "We did?" Thanks, hon. We went there the August after we first started dating in the spring of 96. He came out from Syracuse, NY for a visit during break from physical therapy school. Then, we've been there a few times since. It's just sort of our favorite place.
Since Conner was more comfortable on the floor, all the cousins got down on the floor and ate their ice cream there, too.
Tate, Conner, Julia, Lindsay, Cooper, Wesley, Miles, Samuel, Tim
Some of the "wild-life" in the meadow of the valley
a peek inside one of the tent-cabins where we stayed at Curry Village
Thursday was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Tim and I hiked Half-Dome. Wow!!! It was amazing. We left at about 4:30am and hiked by flashlight until it got light at about the Mist Trail for Vernal Falls. We hardly saw anyone on the whole hike up. I still can't tell if I just really like hiking now or if I just really loved spending 8 hours alone with my husband. Either way, it was a real treat. The whole time we were hiking, I just kept on looking up at Half-Dome and saying to myself, "I see no feasible way to hike up that." It is wild how freaky the last part of the hike is. At one point, we were like halfway up the cables. By now, I could not look up, I could not look behind me, I could not look to the right, I could not look to the left. Every view was nauseatingly high and exposed. I just kept my eyes right on my feet. I finally stopped and just said out loud to Tim who was like 20 feet behind me, "Tim, I don't know if I can do this." He said, "It's alright, hon. Whatever you want to do. We can be done. We can go down." Then, I thought to myself, "But, my sister has done this." And my feet kept going. It was so wild at the top. I can't believe I made it. It was awesome. The way down was crazy, too. I just held on for dear life. I'm glad they had the pile of gloves at the bottom, because I definitely needed them, especially for the way down.
At the bottom still before dawn
At the bottom of the cables. Just looking at the pictures, I still can't believe I did it.
a view of the cables behind us
Meanwhile, the other part of our group (our five kids, Cath, Emma, Tate, Natalie, Chris, Conner, Cooper, Grandpa and Grandma) went on a hike to the bridge below Vernal Falls. Grandpa, at the last minute, had the great idea of going up to meet us at Nevada Falls with Lindsay, Miles, and Samuel. Miles and Grandpa really wanted to see Nevada Falls. My Dad has this funky thing with the nerves in his feet, so I didn't trust him to be alone with just Miles. I sent Tim back up with them to make sure it all went well. That left me to hike down with the complaining, exhausted Lindsay and Samuel. I had just enough water for my own trip down and one snack. Nice. Thanks, Dad. Some other dad on the trail was kind enough to give us some water when he heard my kids' grumbling. Nice. Anyway, we all made it back down safe and sound.
Then, we had the brilliant idea to go canoing down the valley on the Merced River not knowing that the bridge where we put in was the beginning of a chunk of the river that had been closed due to rough waters and a drowning in 2007. Yep. We went down it with Cath, Emma, Tate, and me in one canoe. That is we were in the canoe, until we capsized the canoe. Hey, do you want to know a way to not be sore the day after you hike Half-Dome? Just take a nice ice bath in the Merced River. That'll cure any sore muscles. Seriously, I wasn't even sore. But back to the story. Basically, Catherine and I both are terrible canoers. Tim just walked in and read my synopsis of the story and said, "Even if you weren't on a dangerous part of the river, you two would have capsized anyway." Thanks for the support, hon. Anyway, we slammed right into a little island of debris which tipped the canoe over. The image in my mind is of my sweet niece and nephew going under the capsized canoe for a second, until Catherine and I frantically tipped it back over. It was still immersed, and the water was too deep to touch bottom. Luckily, two really helpful, sort of drunk guys jumped in and saved us. After we got out, we heard that the river was closed in that area. Cute. Meanwhile, Tim stopped to help us, but my Dad just kept on going with Samuel and Miles in his canoe. See ya! We ended up, er, Tim ended up pulling the canoes out to the nearest road. We tracked down my Mom who had the canoe trailer and eventually found my Dad. I was a nervous wreck: totally freaked out, totally over-reacted. I mean, come on. I had used up all my emotional energy to hike Half-Dome. It was too much. Wow.
Tim took this nice shot of Natalie and me betwixt two trees. He's really got potential.
Even Yosemite is too boring for Grandpa.
Friday was my sweet Lindsay's 11th birthday. We enjoyed a few more views and short hikes and headed home. Cath was the best and sort of staged a surprise birthday for Lindz when we got home. She made one of those candy bar posters for her and got a cake. It was great. Then, you guessed it, more swimming.Aunt Catherine escorting in the Birthday Girl
the candy poster, a relic from Aunt Catherine's days as a cheerleader, I think.
The whole crew singing "Happy Birthday" to Lindsay: Cath, Caroline, Grandma Call, Uncle Chris, Aunt Natalie, Julia, Uncle Keith, Lindsay, Cooper. (I like Keith's face the best.)
Saturday was the Fourth of July. The kids rode their decorated bikes in the town parade. My parents had their annual Young Adult party. We swam some more. My sweet friend, Lisa Hiserman, came down from Napa with her family. It was so fun to see her. She is so great. I should also mention that I saw my sweet friend, Jen Hansen, but I can't for the life of me remember what day that was on. It was so great to talk to her too. Old (meaning long time...) friends are the best.
The Grand-daughters: Lindsay, Emma, Julia
A quick family picture in the t-shirts Grandma got for us all.
Lisa and I
Uncle Dan firming up his position as "favorite Uncle"
Wesley holding the toad at Uncle Dan's house