Our summer started slow and easy with a long visit from my sister and her family. The visit ended with us going with them back to Tennessee and having some time with my whole family. It is so much easier now with Sophia remembering everyone and loving the time and attention given by grandparents and aunts and uncles. Amelia is also good since she loves attention. She still got up every night for some reason, but that will slip my mind by next summer. In fact, it had already slipped my mind, but got brought back with a vengeance last week in North Carolina. More on that later.
When we were in Tennessee we got to go to Dollywood. I say "got to" like it was a great privilege when only a year ago I railed against going with a then 2.5 year old. But after that first trip Sophia talked about Dollywood for a YEAR. So I was psyched to let her go back this year when she was older and able to do more things.
What I learned from this trip: My daughter can be fearless. She loved the rides that she could do herself and was even ready to ride the River Rampage but was held back not from fearful parents but by a lightning storm that was approaching. Even though she didn't get to ride it, I was impressed. I also learned, and this served me well in Germany, that I can have a wonderful time just watching my kids and/or husband have a wonderful time. I also learned that one thing that I will never say no to is face painting.
We had a WONDERFUL time! We did not get to visit friends because, as we should have known, everyone takes vacations in August. However, we did bump into acquaintances at almost every Weinfest we went to. The best was when we met our old neighbors and they sat with us for quite a while and caught us up on our old neighborhood as well as telling us that their son is on an amazing adventure. He is driving from Germany to AUSTRALIA! I didn't even know you could do that.
Along with visiting old haunts we also saw lots of new stuff because we have children. We went to Legoland which is somewhere I have wanted to go for years because it is just COOL what they can do with those little blocks. We also visited a bird park, animal park, and a reptile zoo. Each thing was fun and interesting.
And so, on this trip I learned: that babies can get adjusted to German time in about one night. However, readjustment to US time takes about a week. YUK! But hey, it doesn't ruin your vacation. I learned you can DRIVE from Europe to Australia. But the biggest thing that I learned is that my friends who are moving to Europe now and in the future will know a different Germany than I did. Their Germany will be kid friendly and kid oriented. That said, I am still jealous of their move and wish it were me.
Then the final trip. We went to the Outer Banks of North Carolina (OBX) with Heather and Mitch who we have been friends with now for seven years. We have only lived in the same place for about eight or nine months, but we have had life experiences that kept us connected even though location did not. We also happened to enjoy their company, so even though I proclaim not to be a "beach person" I looked forward to our trip (with only a little hesitation.) We were also going to share the beach house with Heather's brother, sister-in-law, and nephew.
Well, again, it was great except for a few minor glitches. I had a terrible sinus infection. Amelia did not sleep well and by the end of the week was waking up not one but TWO times a night. And finally, the weather was overcast most days which made me skip with joy and pull on my sweater with a smile, but made Heather who lives in Michigan and Brielle who lives in New Jersey sigh in despair because really, they could have stayed home for that kind of weather.
What we did have, regardless of weather, were WONDERFUL, filling meals. I mean I have never been one of those people to put on weight during vacations or holidays. But man, if I go on vacation with Mitch again I am going to have to go shopping not for souvenirs, but for new CLOTHES. And having big meals with lots of adults while the kids are off playing or watching TV is just nice and entertaining.
We also had some kick-ass sand castles. On the second day, I thought that I was a bit obsessive because even though Sophia quickly lost interest in our castle, I was determined to build it. I really don't know if I have ever truly built one since I have blocked out all memories of vacations at the beach (I really didn't like them.) I felt a bit silly building it myself, but kept going and made a decent one. Well, let me tell you, I was not even CLOSE to obsessive in comparison to my husband who spent the next THREE days working on his FORTRESS. It was hysterical how the first day he had the men working, then the second day he had Heather working. The older kids, Gabe, Jack and Sophia, helped out (or smashed whichever was their mood at the time) every so often, but mostly just played in the sand and water around the fortress area.
The worst part about the trip was the return home when Amelia proceeded to cry/whine the whole 3 hours to the airport and my shoulders hurt for 3 days afterwords for no apparent reason.
So on this trip I finally learned: that vacations are great, but the getting there and back stinks. And yes, I can be a beach person, but only if the beach is not too hot, there is no mention of jelly fish or sharks, and I'm with fun people. (Amazing amounts of alcohol helps, too.)
I also learned, and this is another story all together, that there are places in the US where you can not rent a car after 2PM on Saturday! Crazy!