Robert's little cousin Jocie is graduating from high school this month, and though we'd received an invitation to her graduation party, at first we weren't sure we could find the time to get out there to join her for it. As it got closer to the time, though, Robert realized that he could spare a day off from work, so we could make it a three-day weekend, and we both got excited at the thought of joining all the other first cousins--and Robert's mother and step-father--in Minnesota to help Jocie celebrate.
We flew out on Friday night, and Judy and Aunt Martha picked us up from the airport and took us back to Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha's house. Once Marcus was in bed, Robert went out with cousins Vanessa, Dave, and Candy to hang out and start the weekend. Dave drove him home late in the night, but had to swing back to pick him up again and spend the night on Mark's couch, because apparently Uncle Frank and Aunt Martha started locking their front door. Robert and Dave were shocked--what is Minnesota coming to?
On Saturday I got to see a friend of mine from Boston, Jen, who now lives in Minnesota with her husband and beautiful girl Caroline. Marcus and Caroline had fun eating bananas and staring at each other, as you can see in this picture, while Jen and I caught up and Judy and Martha talked Jen's husband's Dave's ear off about various Minnesota towns (go, Duluth--Jen and Dave were headed up there for a romantic weekend and were good enough to squeeze us in on their way).
After Jen, Dave, and Caroline hit the road again, we drove over to Jocie's graduation party--about 200 people in the house and under a tent in the yard. It rained throughout almost all of the party proper, but no one really minded, and after the party officially ended, the sun came out and the little cousins got started with the jetskis while Marcus played ball on the lawn and "helped" Candy and Mark with a bean bag toss game. Below you see us arriving at the party, baby zonked out, meeting some of Robert's mother's cousins and aunts, and then posing with the woman of the hour, and then giving me a heart attack when Robert decided letting Marcus play on the four-wheeler with the keys still in the ignition was a good idea.
After the party, we stayed at Uncle Mike and Aunt Nancy's house late into the night, making another round of sandwiches and generally having fun. Robert joined the big cousins (including Mitch, at fourteen) in the upstairs garage playing cards and eating snacks, while Marcus joined the little cousins (four boys ages 6-10) in the game room. He cheered wildly whenever someone scored in the table-top hockety games, and he loved throwing in the pucks for them. When it was just Brady and Jacob playing each other, they let Marcus toss in four pucks at a time, for quadruple the fun, of course. There were also crawling games and chases around the pool table and generally massive amounts of enjoyment. Nancy's sister gave Marcus and me a ride home around 11:00, but Robert stayed for more late-night hilarity, including paying a pizza delivery boy all in change (eleven quarters per person, Robert explained simply). Robert did not get locked out two nights in a row. Below you see me with Jerry and baby Wyatt (six months old) in my sling, then at a Dairy Queen with a bunch of girl cousins and "baby" boys (Brady, Wyatt, Marcus) for girls' night out on Sunday while Martha, Judy, and Bill relaxed at home and the men all went golfing ("They take golf very seriously," my irreverent husband complained). That middle picture below was taken just after Vanessa had asked for an extra (and free) cup of "crunchies" and just before Brady decided to serenade us with songs from The Sound of Music--complete with a faux British accent on the male part in "Sixteen Going on Seventeen," which was pretty amazing. Finally, you see Marcus and Brady sleeping on Mark and Vanessa's bed Sunday night during more snack-eating, poker-playing, talking and hanging out among the cousins.
The weekend wouldn't be complete with a trip to Perkins for breakfast and some random running-into relatives. Judy and Bill were having breakfast at Perkins on Saturday with Angelina's mother, but we weren't planning on joining them until Dave and Candy separately said they were going to Perkins too. That jogged Robert into action, so out we went, only to run into Judy's cousin Gary in the parking lot. "Gary!" Robert called, "Are you meeting my mom?" Gary squinted, surprised, not even knowing Robert was in the state. "Your mom is here?" he asked. Marcus loved Perkins, eating cubes of ham out of Dave's omelet and off Dave's (and no one else's) plate. Brady (just about to finish first grade this week) was so cute with Marcus, holding his hand and reading to him. Below you see the boys together, plus Uncle Frank holding Marcus and Brian holding Wyatt.
Saturday at the party we had gotten a chance to see Gavin, Camille's son, and at just three months younger than Marcus, the closest cousin to his age. Camille brought Gavin over for breakfast Sunday morning, too, so the kids got to play together. They actually played together surprisingly nicely, until an old toy popcorn-popper (one of those push-toys) sent them into a frenzy. "It's the Helen of Toys," Robert said. "So beautiful it started wars!"
On Sunday afternoon, while most people relaxed, Judy, Robert, Marcus, and I went into St. Paul for the Grand Old Day festival, a really nice street fair down Grand Avenue. If we ever move to Minnesota, that's where I'm living--Grand Avenue is a wide, tree-lined street with lovely big old houses interspersed with supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, and boutiques attracting a crunchier than average Minnesota crowd. Marcus had a great time pointing out babies and dogs at the event until he fell asleep. We loved the cheese curds, the art cars, the momos, the Jamba Juice, and the Irish wolfhounds. A block off Grand, on Lexington, we also stopped at a kids' Kool-Aid stand--three siblings, maybe 8-10 years old or so, selling Kool-Aid for a quarter a cup to earn money for circus lessons. They'd made up a posterboard of pictures of them practicing their moves, and a sign said "Circus tricks performed on request," so after buying two cups of Kool-Aid (I did not partake. I only like Kool-Aid to dye pickles and cloth.), I asked for a trick. They did a fun maneuver with a big exercise ball, running and jumping up on it, then standing and walking on it, and spinning around on it two kids at a time. "Well, that's worth the other fifty cents," Robert said, giving it to them.
On the way back from the festival, it started to rain, but we still managed to visit with Uncle Louie and his dog.
Another highlight of the weekend was looking at all the scanned photos from Grandma Gracie's photo collection. When the cousins last gathered, for her funeral in the winter, they divided up the photos and sent a bunch of them in to scanmyphotos.com. This weekend, with everyone together, was the first time people had a chance to look at the disc. Below, just for fun, is one long-ago shot of Grandma Gracie, Grandpa Frank, and some of their kids, and then a 1980s shot of the grandparents with Judy, Loretta, Frank, Martha, and some of the grandkids/cousins.
On Monday, Jerry made fabulous omelets with artichoke hearts (his signature ingredient) for everyone at his house in the morning, and then we went to a driving range and mini-golf course in the middle of the day. Vanessa ("Does she know she's following in Grandma Gracie's footsteps?" Robert asked) stole a golf ball to giving to Marcus, who had been distraught at leaving it behind. He slept through the driving range and the first four holes, but then woke up and, after observing from my back a little, decided he wanted to get down and get in on the action. So, we had baby's first mini-golf day, with Marcus mastering a shuffleboard-like push with the club, as well as the old favorite "pick it up and put it in the hole," which both Vanessa and Uncle Mike really seemed to appreciate.
After mini golf, everyone went over to Uncle Frank's store for take-out Chinese food. We ate, talked, and visited--and took pictures, of course--and said our goodbyes before Judy and Uncle Mike drove us to the airport, at the end of a fabulous family weekend.