Long-time readers of the blog, or anyone who’s been within complaining distance of me during the past few years, will recall that two summers ago, we did this. And then last summer, we did this. While all of that was exciting and busy and good, we felt like our kids have really missed out on a nice summer break. This summer, we decided to make it up to them.
First, we went to South Carolina to visit some of my family, and then North Carolina to visit Neil’s.
We saw cousins! And grandparents! And puppies! My sister and her family foster puppies for the local humane society. She cares for them and often nurses them to health before they’re ready to go home to their forever families. Needless to say, between that and her amazing daughters and backyard pool, it’s a pretty fun place to hang out.
In North Carolina, we saw more cousins! And grandma! And the North Carolina Zoo, and a planetarium, and a children’s museum, and their dad’s alma mater, Wake Forest.
It was a great trip. After all of that whirlwind, and between zoo camps and VBS and LEGO camps and trips to the pool, we took a road trip to Dallas, where my brother and his family recently moved from Hawaii. And when I say recently, I mean that the moving truck arrived while we were there. We saw parts of Dallas, and my brother’s new church (he’s also a priest), but we also got to watch our children play with their cousins, who, for my children’s entire lives until recently, lived in Alaska or Hawaii.
On our way home from Dallas, we stopped at a hotel/resort just outside of Austin for some more family fun. After weeks with cousins and extended family, we had a great time with just the four of us. We swam, ate s’mores, dipped damn near everything into a chocolate fountain after dinner, loved on the resort’s rescue dog, brushed a horse, pet an alpaca, decorated our own cowboy hats, floated down the lazy river, and watched a movie under the moonlight. It was pretty fantastic.
Don’t worry! It didn’t stop there. My parents, who were with my brother and his family in Dallas, took a detour through Houston on their way home. My brother’s family has been in possession of a beloved family heirloom for the past several years – a cradle used by my great-grandmother to rock my grandmother, and used by the following generations for the same. We are DONE WITH BABIES, in case that hasn’t been made clear before, but the cradle needs to stay in our family, and we are the family with the most space to house it. And so, my parents very graciously offered to bring us the cradle in Houston.
Which leads to Ina. Naturally.
You might remember that in March, my parents visited, and I was too sick to cook for them. This is missing out on a real opportunity, blog-wise, because there are certain things that I will only ask my parents to eat. To be fair, they actually enjoy them, but I’m not going to subject anyone else to a blue cheese/pear/smoked salmon monstrosity. My parents have four children. They are tough and resilient beyond my imagination, and that must be how they developed an appetite for foraged food like veiny cheese.
This time, even though we’d been away from home and hadn’t really prepared to cook anything
nasty fancy, I made my dad the tomato and fennel salad from Parties!, the wild mushroom salad from Barefoot in Paris, and the smoked salmon scrambled eggs from Barefoot Contessa At Home.
As my parents were leaving, the Dallas branch of the family came to Houston for another week with us because we just can’t get enough of each other. My niece and I made the plum cake tatin from Barefoot in Paris one night. We devoured it, but I have to admit that it doesn’t hold a candle to the New York Times Plum Torte that a friend made for us. The New York Times version even comes with a fun story (included in the hyperlink) about readers’ demands for its republication. For Ina’s version, the syrupy part was a mess, and the cake part took longer than she indicated to bake fully. But like I said, it didn’t stop us from eating the whole thing.
It has been a wonderful summer. I hope we’ve made some great memories for, and with, our kids. They have been so patient with us as we’ve sorted out life and houses and everything else for the past few years, and I hope we’ve started to make it up to them with this summer. We’re hitting the sweet spot of no more diapers and bottles, but still kids who want to spend time with us. We’re trying to make a point to enjoy it for as long as we can.
And so, after all of that, it must be almost time to return to school. Who’s ready?