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July, 2004
(Hold your mouse over a picture for its caption.)

July 1, 2004

I had the camper set up to clean after our trip last weekend.  The kids always think it's a great playground!

The boys and their friend, Jacob

July 3, 2004

We're at the River this weekend visiting Mark's parents.  Scalloping season opened a few days ago, so we headed out to the gulf to catch dinner.  Unfortunately, we weren't alone!  There was a conga line of boats going out the channel to the gulf, and at one point while we were anchored, Mark's mom counted 202 boats!  We tried five or six spots, and only managed to find seven scallops.  No, not seven pints or servings - seven scallops altogether!  The kids have gotten very good with their masks and snorkels and were right out there with Mark searching.  We had a wonderful day of swimming and sunshine, though, and ended up with a wonderful, albeit rather small, appetizer.

Alex and Nana heading out to sea Patch and Papa

Daddy showing Alex where to stay in the channel The scallops would suddenly snap shut and make the kids jump out of their skin!

The current was quite strong so we held onto a rope to stay close to the boat Those gray shaddows are mommy and baby manatees - this is taken from the paddle boat off the back yard

The Fourth of July!

Happy Birthday America!  What a wonderful day!  Nana and the boys made the traditional flag cake, and we spent most of the day listening to Patch ask if it was dark yet so we could light up the sparklers.  It was barely dark when we headed out in the boat to watch the city's fabulous fireworks show.  The river was quiet as everyone watched the show, and at the end of the finale, applause rippled over the water.  Then, as if on cue, we heard boat motors start up around us as everyone headed back home.  Mark and his mom said in unison, "Gentlemen, start your engines."  LOL

Alex finally got a new bike on Friday, so we threw it in the van so he could ride it this weekend.  The boys must have gone around the block 50 times!  Alex wiped out and had some pretty impressive scrapes on his knee and hand.  I was so proud of the boys.  Patch did exactly what we've always told them to do - he came riding up to the house and told us Alex was hurt.  I went to investigate and Alex was walking his bike around the corner, and not even crying.  I guess I don't need to worry over them as much as I do (although you'll never stop me from worrying!).

Adding the blueberry stars and strawberry stripes Mark and Patch were on the steps teasing the heck out of Grendel

Patch is starting to learn how to dive (emphasis on starting!) Larry, Curly and Moe

Heading out for the fireworks There's nothing like a sunset on the water

Sharing a secret with Mommy Ooooooooh.  Ahhhhhhhh.

July 6, 2004

Although Alex has been riding without a booster seat for some time, I've kept him in one in the van, since that's where he rides the most, and he's only just barely hit 50 pounds this year.  Today we finally took out his booster seat and he was a hoot!  He immediately stretched his arms out and sighed.  I showed him how to recline the seat, and that's when the comedy began.  We were only on a short ride to music lessons, but the entire way he was adjusting the seat up and back.  When it was back, he put his hands behind his head, crossed his legs at the ankles, and said, "I'm sunbathing in the car!"  Of course, the seat is like most car seats, and when he pulled the lever to adjust the back, it sprung forward and folded him in half.  He thought that was hilarious, and said he was exercising in the car as he would push it back to recline.  Poor Patch was frustrated beyond belief, so on the drive home I let him ride without a booster as well.  The first thing he did was pull up the lever and fold himself in half.  The only difference is, he couldn't get it to go back on his own.  So he was hollering (though hysterical laughter) for Alex to help him push it back.  I almost crashed the car, I was laughing so hard!


July 9, 2004

Mark is attending a trade show at one of the Disney properties, so the kids and I joined him at the hotel last night.  They have a fabulous pool/play area so while he worked the trade show this morning, the kids and I played!  It was the first time we've left the dogs overnight since we got Grendel, and I'm happy to say, the house was still intact when we got home!

Ready for the first cannon ball of the day Alex was in the water before I put down our bag!

The pool is set up like an ancient temple - very cool! Desperate summer craft project - we were making book marks

We got some pictures today of our niece and nephew, Danielle and Preston.  Aren't they cuties?!

Cute 4th of July shirts!

July 12, 2004

Mom came over to spend some time with the kids today.  They played a mean game of Sorry and made Mark's favorite candied pecans.  Yummmmm.

intense competition.  LOL

Ice cream with pecans on top = happy kid! Staring at the boob tube

July 13, 2004

We went on the annual pilgrimage to stock up on school supplies this morning - a special first for Patrick.  I can't believe there are only three more weeks of summer!

We played this afternoon with something called Tubes of Balloons.  It's a tube of gooey stuff that you stick a straw in and blow into to make sort of sticky balloons.  Very strange, but the kids liked it.

Alex getting red-faced with the effort ROFL - Patrick didn't like the smell!

It's raining gooey balloons!

July 14, 2004

We embarked on our first official family road trip today!  The kids' big reward at the end of the day was to swim in the hotel pool.  We got an added bonus - Patch learned to swim tonight!  He's been doing very well in the water, but tonight he swam the length of the pool, even through the deep end!

July 15, 2004

Rollin', rollin', rollin'.  We had a very long day on the road today, and the kids have been fantastic.  We brought tons of videos and workbooks for them, and they haven't complained at all.  So far, so good!

Concentrating on his crossword Honing his math skills

July 16, 2004

We finally reached our first destination - a family reunion this weekend in New York.  We also discovered that we should not tell the kids we're getting close - all we heard for the last three hours in the car was, "Are we there yet?"  Live and learn.

Our hotel is on Seneca Lake, and we had a gorgeous view of the lake from our room.  The Fouracre clan (Mark's mom's family) met at Mark's aunt and uncle's tonight and got caught up.  A pop-up camper was set up in the back yard and the kids gathered there for awhile, then came out for bocce, skateboarding, the swing set and baseball.

The view from our hotel window

CRAZY children! Mark and his Uncle John

Nicky, John, Doug and Rich playing bocce The bocce audience

Alex tempting fate on a skateboard! Charlie practicing for the winter Olympics

Preston and Jay practicing for the World Series John and Mary Ellen getting caught up

Danielle and Stacy kickin' back

July 17, 2004

We had a full-day of family fun.  We started back at John and Karen's for a fabulous breakfast and more outdoor fun - did I mention the weather is AMAZING up here?!  Karen and Katie graciously offered to watch the kids while a bunch of us went to a local flea market with Mennonite and Amish vendors.  It was very interesting - complete with an Amish buggy ride.

We met up at a park right on the lake for the afternoon.  It had a fabulous water playground that rivals anything in Florida!  The kids went berserk while the rest of us visited at the pavilion.  Mark's Uncle John made t-shirts for the family - the shirts have the three family names in a triangle, and in the middle they say, "Odd Folks in Even Years."  All too appropriate!  LOL

A catered dinner was brought in, then everyone played bocce, croquet, baseball, frisbee and football.  Ahhhhh - life is good!

We went back to the hotel and the boys went swimming - as if they hadn't already had enough activity today!

  Patch is very full of himself! Alex trying to stop the water jet

Patch bringing cold beers to his Daddy and Uncle A happy Joe with Erin showing off in the background

Doug trying to get everyone to smile for the camera

The Clan
OK, here goes:

First row:  KC, Charlie, Alex, Patrick, Jack and Preston
Second row:  Danielle, Stacy, Joe, Mary Ellen, John, Linda, Mickey and Karen
Third row (sitting on the table):  Natalie, Erin, Katie (behind Erin), Mark and Susan
Last row:  John, Jay, Jeff, Nicky, Doug, Betsy and Rich

July 18, 2004

After another incredible breakfast at John and Karen's, we all said our goodbyes this morning.  We're looking forward to the next reunion in two years!

We caravanned with Mark's parents to see Mark's grandparents for a short visit.  They're looking wonderful, and we had a fabulous visit.

On the road, the kids wanted us to give them math problems.  We asked Patch what 30 plus 40 is.  He thought for a minute, and said 70.  I asked him how he figured it out.  He said, "First I added up the numbers (meaning 3 and 4), then I switched it to Pokemon numbers."  A Pokemon card's strength is labeled by increments of 10 on the card.  I guess all of that time trading cards was worth something after all!

The boys with Great-Nana and with Great-Grandpa

They had to take a ride in the chair lift up the stairs! This is better than Disney!

July 19, 2004

We arrived at Dallison and Kevin's house in Virginia this afternoon.  Her son, Quinton, is Patrick's age, and the three of them spent hours building a train track around the playroom.  Sorry - I was too busy enjoying the comforts of a real home to bother taking any pictures.  ;-)  Quinton had a swim meet this evening, so we all went to cheer him on.  We were mid-way down the lanes and Quinton was in the lane closest to us.  We cheered for him when he went past, and he kept lifting his head to smile at us instead of swim!  It was adorable!

July 20, 2004

Today was tour day.  Of course, the first leg of the "tour" was trying to navigate Washington, D.C. traffic!  We did pretty well, and after only a few trips around the block, managed to get to Union Station.  The architecture was amazing!  From there we took a "duck tour" around the city.  The tour was in an amphibious vehicle which took us through the city, and then for a ride on the Potomac River.  Our driver/tour guide kept us laughing while he told us about all of the history we were passing.  Perfect for us and the kids!

After the tour, we took the metro to Dallison's office.  She took us up to the roof of the building where we could see the White House and the Washington Monument.  Wow!

For dinner, we went to an Italian restaurant that had it's own kiddie room.  I can't believe more places don't do this!  The adults had their own table, and there is an adjoining room with child-sized tables, a movie on a big-screen TV, and a server/babysitter just for them!  We actually got to hold a conversation during dinner!

Quinton, Patch, Alex and Mark Boarding our "duck"

Washington Monument - it looks even taller in person! A quick shot of The World War II Memorial as we drove past

Nana gave the kids their own disposable cameras - Patch was snapping away! We saw the Capital Building from every angle

Inside Union Station - the kids were blowing the "quackers" they got on the tour The view from the roof of Dallison's building - The White House is just in front of the Washington Monument.  The tents on the right are Secret Service tents!

The Happy Tourists

July 21, 2004

The kids are starting to get testy (okay, okay, as are Mark and I), and we're sensing the shift from Happy Tourists to Weary Travelers, so we've decided to start the journey towards home a day early.  It was sad to say goodbye to Dallison and her family, though.

We did another little unplanned tour of D.C. (ugh!) before working our way towards Mark's brother, John's house in North Carolina.  He has a gorgeous house on a golf course, so after dinner he took the kids out putting on the green just off his back yard.  The course has a hill next to the green that the kids rolled down until they were grass-stained, laughing blobs!  We had our first night in a week where the kids had their own rooms.  Nothing like a little peace to rejuvenate you!

N.C. has different bugs than Florida so they had to take pictures Nature photography

The boys were wrestling in the front yard, so Mark decided to show them how it's done!

July 22, 2004

Homeward bound!  This was our longest travel day of the trip, but it was worth it - we're home!  It was an absolutely fabulous trip, and the kids proved to be great travelers.

But there's no place like home!

July 28, 2004

The kids have been busy cramming every last bit of playtime into the last week of summer break - and exhausting me in the process!  Today we had a pool party at a neighbor's house as an end-of-summer blowout.  It's so nice for both boys to be swimming well enough to be able to play all over the pool with the rest of the kids.

July 29, 2004

Mark was on kid duty this afternoon while I worked (i.e., I'm blaming the content of this next story on him).  The kids were "playing" on our bed when Patrick went flying and ended up on the floor.  Mark said he was crying hard and was pretty shaken.  Once he got himself back under control, he said, "That was Fun! - - - Until I landed!"

July 30, 2004

We went to the open house at the school and met the kids' teachers this morning.  Everyone is wonderful, and we're all incredibly excited!  It turns out Patrick's teacher is in my Bunko group, so I'm sure I'll get all the inside scoop about his progress.  I knew I'd like Alex's teacher when I walked in the room and read her "open house instructions" for the kids.  The last item said, "Don't leave without giving me a hug."

Alex and his new teacher There was a jar full of Hershey's Kisses and the kids wrote down how many they thought were in it.

Patch and his new teacher

The day was just beginning for Mark and me, though - and for the kids, too.  They had a sleepover at Justin's house while we went to the Rush anniversary tour concert.  Yes, we went to a rock concert - at our age!  And believe me, by the time we got home in the wee hours, we were definitely feeling our age!  Rush is one of our favorite groups from our younger years, and the concert was incredible!  I just wonder how long it will take us to recover.  Meanwhile, the kids had a great time at Justin's, and according to his mother, there wasn't even one dispute or cry for Mommy - not that I believe her entirely!

July 31, 2004

Arghhhhhh - I can't believe I scheduled three closings for the day after staying out half the night.  I somehow managed to get all of the signatures in the right place, and didn't even drive up a tree getting there.  The kids have been a little tired and cranky, but so are we, so I guess we're just one big happy family!  LOL

Alex and Grendel having a heart-to-heart