Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New Jersey Or Bust: Part I

Because we didn't experience quite enough Family Fun Time and Togetherness when we drove to Michigan in February, we thought we'd give it another whirl and drive to New Jersey this month.

I can, with full assurance, look you in the eye and promise that we have now had enough Family Fun Time and Togetherness. Much more than any minivan deserves. Much more than any rest area along I-77 can handle. 

Last week we loaded up the van and made the trek north to visit extended family in New Jersey. A wonderful friend passed on some Leapsters for my boys and that was a huge game-changer. My boys sat angelic for hours and played those games over and over. And over and over. And over. I am forever indebted to her genius idea to share those with our family.

What should have been a 10 hour drive ended up being a 12 hour drive due to enormous amounts of traffic in the Baltimore area. I think the "Why in blazes are we driving all this way again?" moment came when we sat in rush hour traffic for an hour and drove less than 20 miles. That and the cold, rainy weather that we enjoyed all day.

But alas, we arrived. Safe and sound and still with small amounts of sanity. Nana had shelves of toys ready for the boys and swept Annalyse out of my arms the minute we arrived. Mission accomplished!

Friday morning, April Fools, dawned with gray skies and snow. Yes, I said snow. And no, that is not an April Fools joke. Grady and I exchanged silent glances confirming that we are fully content to live in sunny North Carolina.
Later that morning, my sis-in-law and her girls arrived for a day of fun. We hadn't seen each other in 10 months, and since I was no longer pregnant, enormous, and nauseas like I was during our last visit, they were more than anxious to meet Annalyse.

Imagine waking up from a peaceful sleep with six adoring faces peering down at you. Annalyse can tell you what it's like - her morning nap quickly ended when some squealing cousins asked to hold her.
Since it was cold and snowy (and speaking of snow, Grady Lee asked why we weren't opening Christmas presents with Nana since there was snow...), we opted to spend an hour at Chick-Fil-A so the kids could burn some energy on the indoor playground.

The adults enjoyed catching up over coffee, Annalyse got passed from one set of arms to the next, and the kids ran and slid and played.
This beautiful girl was a precious four year-old flower girl in my wedding. Heavens... am I old now or what?! She is no longer a cute preschooler. She's a gorgeous, super sweet, amazingly talented 15 year old.
After a morning of Chick-Fil-A fun, we returned to Nana's house for lunch. My SIL Sarah had some oober creative ideas for April Fools.

How about some bacon and eggs for lunch? (Bacon: Tootsie Roll and caramel. Eggs: white chocolate and M&M.)
Or some chicken fingers, corn, and carrots for dessert? (Chicken finger: cookie covered in peanut butter and corn flakes. Corn and carrots: melted Starbursts.)
Once the kids realized all of this was pure sugar and candy, they devoured their "meal" and even asked for more vegetables. I cannot imagine why.
Either Nana raised two very calm and gentle boys, or else toys made waaaay back then were a much higher caliber. 

Micah enjoyed cruising around on an old push car...
... and both boys ran through the house shooting monsters with some very loud (and very, very annoying) guns. I tried to picture my cool, calm, and collected husband doing the same when he was a kid.
Cartoons, toys, laughs, and hardly any squabbles or tears all afternoon - I'd call that a good day.

When every toy had been successfully placed on the floor, under the couch, or on the stairs, Nana announced that she had Easter eggs for the kids to dye.

After some jubilant shouts and sprints to the kitchen table, each kid was busy rolling eggs in different colors. Mind you, we were getting family pictures taken the next morning so there was lots of holding our breath that no one would dunk a hand in red dye or wipe a blue finger across their nose. 

After decorating eggs, the kids busied themselves making birthday cards for cousin CJ's party the next day. Grady and Alaina played the old "I'm-looking-out-of-the-corner-of-my-eye-to-see-what-you're-drawing-so-that-I-can-draw-the-same-thing-too" game. Of course, all this was nonchalant (as nonchalant as four year olds can be) and each asked for affirmation that their birthday card was beautiful and the best one for CJ.
While Grady and Alaina colored, Olivia helped feed Annalyse. Other than a glob of applesauce accidentally put on her upper lip which resulted in Annalyse sniffing part of it up her nose, it was a successful endeavor. I have to say, for only being three, Olivia is a mom's helper in the making!
While Nana busied herself in the kitchen putting a wonderful beef roast dinner together, I peeked out into the living room and caught Alaina and Grady Lee playing hide and seek. Can you guess where Alaina hid?
Grady Lee figured it out and in no time he was crawling in after her. And you're wondering about Annalyse? She just flapped her arms, chewed a toy, and giggled as two kids crawled under her.
And that mom's helper I mentioned? She's also got a good set of arms for holding and toe-tickling Annalyse.
As Friday drew to a close, it was nice to know that we still had a couple of days to enjoy family before the long, adventurous ride home again.

It was nice to see my kids and my nieces playing together.

It was nice to see smiles and hear laughter.

It was nice to see Annalyse roll with the flow and keep her cute grin flashing.

And it was nice to see my boys demonstrate an improvement in manners and maturity in new situations.
Day One is done. Are you ready for a lot more pics and a lot more stories from Day Two and Day Three? I have over 400 pics that I'm sifting through...


  1. So glad you had a fun time : ) Love the creative food that was served on April Fools Day : )

  2. OH.MY.HEART! How cute is Annalyse in that adorable pink sweater vest & jeans! Looks like your trip got off to a GREAT start!