Monthly Archives: March 2016

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day 6 (hiking)

well, friends, the PLAN was HIKING on Friday.
but much like the Monday plan for hiking,
the plan got de-railed.
i woke up early in the morning with a killer headache and feeling really nauseous.
like so nauseated that i had to hug the toilet for awhile.
a few times.
it was not pleasant.
i needed headache meds but was afraid they wouldn’t stay down.
i had two sips of peppermint tea and felt worse.
i finally fell asleep for a nap around 12:00ish.
i woke up at 3 and felt like a new person.
in retrospect,
we’re guessing it was a migraine.
my second ever.
what a fantastic time to get one, right?!

but, apparently, i wasn’t the only one who didn’t sleep well.
so the hike was put on the back burner.
and in the end,
three of the guys (Dave, Tom, and S) went for a hike in the early afternoon.
they went hiking to the Wind Cave: a hike I’ve never done.
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(hiking photos courtesy of Dave).

everyone else relaxed around the house.
tv/movie time.
you get the idea.


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this is me with a pouty face b/c i had to stay in the shade and drinks lots of water.
i wanted to be IN the water.

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ultimately, this week was about being TOGETHER.
not about DOING everything on THE LIST.

and we definitely spent a lot of time together.
it was a huge blessing to be able to use this company retreat house
for a personal family reunion.
there aren’t many people who can do that.
we feel extremely blessed and extremely lucky that we got this opportunity.

we headed out around 5 to have a spoil-your-appetite
treat at Rita’s Italian Ice.
several family members had never experienced it before.
we were happy to introduce them!

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and once back at the house,
it was time to do stuff “one last time” before parting and going our separate ways.
there was some putt putt golf happening….

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a phone call with great grandpa and great grandma in Ohio.
he let us know that great Aunt Ibby made it through her hip replacement surgery
and was already hoping to go home!
take it easy, Ib!
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pretty much, just hanging out and relaxing at the house:

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the cousins enjoyed running and jumping and riding….

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davey found my blog (on grandpa’s phone) and read through DITD days 4 & 5:

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and while he was reading,
cousin A (who wants to marry davey),
came up and started giving him a shoulder rub.
don’t worry.
her parents have already talked with her to tell her she can’t marry her cousin.
we’re not that kind of family.

Samantha enjoyed final moments playing with cousin W.

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(they were pretending to scale/climb the wall).

then the girls climbed into the hammock:

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while Uncle S enjoyed a little frisbee golf:

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as usual,
this child was found inside,
watching something on the iPad:

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but then she got distracted with Uncle Tom.
and his audio recorder.
she gave him some good animal noises before too many people started watching!

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dinner was a do-it-yourself buffet of left overs.
and uncle tom provided some candy from Chinatown in Chicago!


and while the grown ups packed
(their flights were EARLY this morning),
we had a few movies going….
one downstairs for the littles:


and Men In Black upstairs in the theater for the
big kids.
(which includes the adults).

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and as everyone (minus the littles) said good bye,
uncle tom shared surprises for each of the kiddos.
samantha is ELATED with her lightbulb.
dave scored Men In Black sunglasses (in a case).
and alex got a princess peach (mario brothers character) toy.


despite the hiccups of R’s inner ear problems,
A’s seriously sunburned arm,
my migraine,
some bad dreams,
some poor nights of sleep for several….
despite all that,
this week was a HUGE success.
for the first time in…. ever?! we spent multiple nights under the same roof.
we enjoyed sunshine together
(a big deal for those from Washington),
a zoo adventure,
movies in the in-house theater,
eating great food,
good conversation,
the guys enjoyed top golf,
the ladies enjoyed shopping…
it was an incredible week’s vacation and
we’re already looking forward to trying it again someday.
i think the beach would be a fun location next time?!




the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Five (shopping)






it was another beautiful, sunny day here in AZ.

this is what i looked like in the pool yesterday (day 4):

there’s no reason i’m sharing it with you other than i like it and it’s from dave’s phone and i just saw it today for the first time.

i can be random.

the oldest Munchkin caught some “solo time” this morning.
i found him in alex’s bed,
reading a book.
apparently, he’d been reading a book to her earlier.
but she wasn’t there when i saw him.


i think the cousins built a “ship” here.
they INSISTED i take a picture:


shortly after the above photo was taken,
alex wanted to re-locate Mr Pickles
(sorry, Bob, but the kids named the House Bear “Mr. Pickles”)
from downstairs to upstairs.
thank goodness grandma was able to help!


while the boys and littles stayed home,
the grown up girls went shopping in Scottsdale.

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i hate to tell you this,
but the bodysuits from the 80s are BACK:


(no, i did NOT buy it.
or anything remotely similar to it.
but i DID own a few back in the 80s.)

i did, however, enjoy this for lunch:

Pita Jungle for my yummy lunch win!

while we shopped and enjoyed and relaxed,
there was plenty more swimming back at the house:

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and then when they were all done with the sun,
it was time for video games.
only the house game system is X-Box 360.
but all the games at the house are X-Box.
so there wasn’t much “gaming” happening.

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while we were gone,
my amazing husband also spent the day SMOKING a pork.
so dinner tonight was a much-anticipated event:

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RIGHT before dinner,
I remembered that I was supposed to make jalapeño poppers for dinner.
Mom to the rescue for cutting the jalapeños while I mixed the “popper” part and filled the jalapeño shells.

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it was all sooooo good.


even the cousins ate well tonight!

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and then there was a bedtime story from grandpa


while some of us enjoyed a FASHION SHOW
(my order arrived yesterday and i picked it up from home today!



this is a tank that i said “NO” to as soon as i pulled it out of the box.
a very emphatic “NO.
but the moment i put it on, my opinion changed.
as did the opinion of my SIL.
and even my friend Julie (who enjoyed some photos via text) agreed!

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these two are my favorite:


it’s that button back detail on the black & white one
and it’s this little detail on the gray & white one):


i ordered 14 tank tops, hoping to keep about 5 of them. is something i JUST found.
it’s a website, not an app.
it’s all used clothing.
the prices are great.
you can get free shipping for ordering a certain amount of product (price-wise).
and they have free returns.
for any reason.
and you get your money back….
not store credit.
so far, I’m impressed.
out of the 14 tops I received,
i’m keeping 6.
and it was a unanimous decision:


i know.
i have a problem.
black. white. gray. and stripes.
i’m addicted.
but at least i know what i like.
and i didn’t keep ALL the striped tank tops i received.
did you know,
when i ordered,
the inventory for small & medium sized tank tops was over 17,000?!
the 6 tanks I’m keeping come to $37.10 (i think that was the amount).
not too shabby!

but enough about that fashion show…..
after our fashion show was finished,
we found the boys like this:

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so again,
we ate well,
we played well,
and it was another successful Family Reunion day.
up tomorrow:

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Four (Zoo)

when you’re on vacation with littles in this area,
the zoo is always a winner!
but when you have to transport 11 people,
you take two vehicles.
and you kind of caravan….
this was my crew:

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but we had a special hook-up….
my neighbor is the event coordinator for the zoo.
and she was able to get us ALL in for free with her annual pass and some free passes she found on her desk.
AND she was able to get us into STING RAY BAY (again, for free)
so we could pet AND feed the sting rays!
i’m pretty sure a restaurant gift card is headed her way
(she doesn’t cook)!

but before your grand adventure of animal fun begins,
you ask your husband to adjust the camera settings.
and you pray you don’t mess them up throughout the day!


Samantha and i have fed and pet the sting rays once before
(on a class field trip to the zoo when, again, our wonderful neighbor got our group into this  area for free).
she had no desire to feed them again.
petting them was fine.
i’ll admit,
feeding the sting rays is a freaky feeling.
you put a piece of a fish or shrimp into your hand and hold it sticking up
(imagine you’re holding an ice cream cone – that’s how you hold the sting ray food).
then you put your hand as far down into the water as you can
(with the food sticking up, not out),
and you wait for a sting ray to glide OVER your hand.
it pulls the food out and continues to swim in a circle around the water tank.
sometimes you can feel them “nibbling.”
or some of them come so fast you really think they’re going to attack!

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this is me, showing you a fish head that the sting rays are going to eat.
my favorite thing about the photo, though,
is Uncle/BIL S’s face behind me:


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alex was NOT interested in petting or feeding a sting ray.
the feeding part is kinda scary,
though no one at the zoo has been seriously harmed from feeding the sting rays.
but petting them is easy.
you put your flat hand in the top part of the water and they come and glide under it…
so you’re flat hand just glides over the top of their spine.
it’s pretty cool.
they feel smooth there.
you’re not allowed to touch them on their side, underneath, or their tail.

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with animals.
it ALMOST makes me wish we had a pet.

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davey won the award for getting the most wet in Sting Ray Bay!

next we visited the new Aviary and Reptile area
(despite all our trips to the zoo,
we hadn’t seen this space before!)
Lots of lizards and snakes….

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(“Mommy, even though you hate snakes,
we really want you to take a picture of all these snakes in this giant box,”
- Samantha, age 7).

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we found some prairie dogs
(they look cute but they’re not so cuddly).
that didn’t stop alex from trying to climb into their area to pet them.

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and creepy birds:


there were more creepy birds,
but you don’t want to see them.
well, maybe it’s just ME who doesn’t want to see them.
vultures, turkeys, turkey vultures….

and after spending an HOUR at the zoo,
we FINALLY meandered more than 100 feet from the entrance!
i love this photo of the guys watching the area that holds
giraffes and oryx and ostriches and emus and other wildlife:


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as we walked up the hill,
we took a peek at the Fennec Fox.
which is ALWAYS in hiding.
the most i’ve ever seen before is a partial bit of his face.
but guess what?
we saw THIS:


the WHOLE thing!
he’s another cute, cuddly looking thing!

and despite all the cool animals at the zoo,
the sight of a chipmunk (?) running across the pathway
is what caused everyone to stop and look!


alex has ALWAYS loved the mandrakes (mandrills?) and the baboons.
this time was no exception:

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right after we took these photos,
this guy wandered away.
the BIG one was sitting on a log to our left.
we watched him stand up,
remove an un-digested long leaf from the poop,
wipe it “clean” with his hand,
and eat it.
for real.

here’s a gerenuk:


we saw these in africa.
they’re a type of deer
with a LOOOOOOONG neck,
it can stand on it’s hind legs
while it reaches up to the higher leaves in a tree
(like a giraffe, but not nearly as tall as a giraffe – maybe up to their legs?!)
to get it’s meal.
they look so dainty.

you know that a day at the zoo with
7 adults and 5 kiddos who are ALL related
means there will be more than just animal photos…

let’s start with this one of papa and cousin A:


while we ate a light lunch,
we watched the howling monkeys sleep (no photos),
the GIANT pelicans chill (again, no photos),
and some turtles sun themselves on a rock:


(i know, i know,
a photo)!

flamingoes are kinda weird.
and creepy.
it’s their eyes.
and the way their legs fold backwards….
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zebras are always a winner….


(especially when you tell that cute little girl above that zebras have
purple and green stripes.
and she emphatically tells you they’re black and white.
a few times.
until she looks REALLY CLOSELY at the zebra
and sees the dirty areas underneath (on the belly)
where it was in the dirt.
and she says “oh, yeah Auntie Tam,
I think you’re right!
There IS a little bit of green and purple on the white!”
for real.
5 year olds are the best!
(don’t worry.
I did tell her i was just kidding and the zebra’s stripes
are black and white
AND i told her the dirty spot from the dirt was brown).


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there was more papa and cousin A love:


this girl got a kick out of reading the new map all day:


we stopped for a giant bag of kettle corn
(i’m not a fan of that stuff,
but for some reason,
at the zoo,
it always tastes good to me!)

and as we were working our way to our final loop,
some of the howling monkeys were awake and moving
but not howling:

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we found the new tiger exhibit,
which is really cool.
and it means there are now TWO tigers at the zoo instead of one:

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and the komodo dragon is always a hit with the Munchkins:

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we even got to see him on the move!

the orangutan habitat has always been fun.
when grandpa & grandma were here just over a year ago,
there was a brand new baby (like a day old).
and now,
that baby is still cute
but is a little bit bigger….

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Monkey Village is a winner for those who choose to enter
(grandma/nama, auntie Tam, Davey, Cousin A, and Uncle/BIL Tom).

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the spider monkeys are pretty fun to watch.

the Forest of Uco
was disappointing
since the Andean bears were off exhibit.
but i did get to capture this photo of Uncle Tom and Alex getting some good bonding time:


it cracks me up that the kiddos were all CLOSE
to the macaw but had ZERO interest in the beautiful bird:

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an obligatory COUSIN photo (minus one):


i love the barn owls.
niece/cousin A was SO EXCITED when she finally saw them!


this is another favorite from the day:
they’re checking out tarantulas
and cockroaches
and scorpions
other creepy, crawly things:


these two.
five-year olds can be quite adorable.
they can be exasperating, too.
but THIS is adorable:


my munchkins LOVE their uncle Tom.
with a fierce passion.
it’s hard to have him in chicago.
he’s just so far away.
and we don’t get to see him enough.
i think the last time we saw him was july 2014….
so almost two years ago.

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(i also want to note that i LOVE that my 8-year old will still GLADLY hold hands with his family members….. uncle tom, daddy, mommy…. i will treasure this for as long as it lasts)!

before our adventure was over,
we saw the galapagos turtles
and the elephants.
one elephant.
but that’s another story for another day at the zoo….


and then alex got some extra love from grandpa as we headed to the cars:


back at home,
we just relaxed.
we swam.
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we enjoyed.
we snacked.
we chilled.

grandma/nama visited the hair salon:
she had the CUTEST entourage of hair stylists.
they may only be 5 now,
but one day,
they’ll be AMAZING at what they do!

it was the perfect ending to the day.
dinner was even easy -
frozen burgers on the grill
and peanut butter truffle cookies:

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(i took the food photo AFTER we’d all eaten our fill of burgers
topped with cheese, bacon, onion, tomatoes….)

alex got some quality time in the big soaker bathtub in the master,
where grandpa&grandma are staying:


and then she and big brother fell asleep on the floor in the living room
while the grown ups talked….

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it was a long,
adventure day.

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Three


vacations with extended family can be fun.
this one most certainly is.
everyone is in shock at the house we’re using.
it’s about 7000 sq ft of amazingness.
it’s truly a blessing that we get to use it this week.
we are all so very, very thankful.

when i walked downstairs this morning for my breakfast,
i found Uncle S at the table with all the cousins.


and then i heard my son shout “GRANDPA!” and go racing across the room….
i just happened to be by my camera (for reals)
and was able to snap this photo of my littlest welcoming grandpa to our vacation:

right after i took this photo,
she jumped up and down and said “i’m so glad you came here!”

the morning was relaxing as we all breakfasted on whatever, whenever.
and we enjoyed the sunshine.
and the cousins played and laughed and giggled and ran….

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lunchtime with 5 kiddos and 7 adults can be a bit crazy.
this large kitchen makes it easier:


and then the men (plus davey) were off on a grand adventure…..

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it was a first time visit for everyone.
well, maybe not Uncle S.
he may have gone to one in atlanta one time.
but it was a first time for all the rest.

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(thanks for these photos, honey!)

while the men were off playing,
quite literally,
the girls (plus Cousin W who was too little to tag along) enjoyed some quiet time at the house before hitting the pool.
grandma & alex assembled all the puzzles that keep getting dumped out:


i found piles of shoes and toys everywhere,
alerting me to the reality that EVERYONE is having FUN:

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and then i spent the early afternoon reading a book by the pool.
it might be a family reunion,
but it’s vacation time, too!

and then the guys returned.
and the littlest woke from his nap.
and the dads and uncles and grandpas all got in the pool.

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and there was LOTS of jumping from above the cave/waterfall.

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uncle S used to be on a diving team, i think.
(did i tell you this already?
i’m so old i’ve already forgotten.
and i’m too lazy to go back and look).
so he pulled out some old moves….

the handstand dive:

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and the front pike flip
(yes, i’m making up the names):

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and a back flip:

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and another handstand dive:

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and a hand stand:

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he has other tricks….
i’m sure of it.
we may have even seen some of them today.
i can’t possibly photograph EVERYTHING.
can i?!

not to be outdone,
Cousin A wanted to jump in with her daddy:

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and my davey wanted to jump:

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uncle tom hit the slide:

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while these two were oblivious to most of the events happening over the waterfall:


this sweet little guy is Cousin W.
and he LOVES LOVEs LOVES his papa.
he pretty much wants nothing to do with anyone else when Papa is around.
(it melts my heart a bit).

and not to be outdone by his (younger) BIL,
my man got in on the fun jumping action.
dave did several jumps.
but he really surprised me when i went to take photos of him JUMPING and, instead, caught THIS:

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front flip.
full rotation.

uncle tom did an impressive spin jump:

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everyone kind of meandered their way out of the pool area and back into the house
as though we were all on the same schedule….
the cousins played and made messes (and cleaned some of them).
and then the cousins found themselves on the couch with grandpa & grandma,
enjoying some Faithlife TV
(until R and I discovered the show might be a little too realistic for the littles, at which point we caught the attention of the grandparents to change the show….. and it turns out the grandparents had been napping!)


S&R made us a DELICIOUS thai meal (3 dishes!)
that was so tasty i have zero photos to share with you.
for reals.
no photos.
but that food is all in my belly.
and it was goooooood!

tomorrow is the zoo.
and more swimming.
because when you have access to a heated pool,
you use it.

the Dunkins in the Desert: day TWO

monday was a low key day.
not all the guests had arrived.
my SIL is battling a gnarly head cold.
the plan was a very kid-friendly hike.
dave left his hiking shoes at home.
my SIL was finally ready to visit urgent care.

so the men and the kids stayed at home in the morning
while my SIL and i visited urgent care and walmart.
and we all spent the afternoon by the pool.
there’s not much better.


Nephew, say “CHEESE!”

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sweet Niece LOVES the water.
and jumping off the rocks:


i just like relaxing….


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and then, to get the kids and men out of the house for a bit,
we drove to our home to show the family our place (they’ve never seen it before).
and then we headed out for dinner at one of our favorite downtown restaurants.
the service wasn’t the greatest.
in fact, it was downright S L O W.
but the food was still tasty.

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and WHILE we were at the restaurant,
we kept getting texts from family members at various airports.
so while we enjoyed our meal,
family members were on airplanes.
tee hee.
the irony is not lost on me!

once we were home (later than intended),
it was bedtime for the Munchkins:

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and i may have fallen asleep on the couch waiting to make an airport run.
and then dave and i headed out to different airports to pick up family.
and he beat us home.
how did that happen?!
but shortly before midnight,
we were all under the same roof.
tom arrived from chicago.
dad & mom arrived from bellingham.
and our seattle family was already here.

now it is REALLY time for the Spring Break Wild Rumpus to begin!


the Dunkins in the Desert: day one

as if the ostrich festival wasn’t enough fun to last us through our ENTIRE spring break,
we had to go ahead and plan a family reunion.
for reals.
with the new baby
(not ours!),
one family had to bail.
but that’s okay.
the cousins have been SO EXCITED for this week.
the Washington state and Chicago family are looking forward to SUN and WARMTH.

we are SO THANKFUL to have this HUGE house (not ours) for us all to share this week.
it’s a huge blessing.
a perk, for sure.
it’s not far from our home.
in fact, we’re just in a neighboring town.
but it feels like we’re miles and miles away.
because we’re vacationing.
and there’s a heated pool.
and family is here….
oh my. let me stop there for today and get back to the story at hand…

Sunday was day one (full day) of the Dunkins in the Desert.
not everyone has arrived yet.
in fact,
it was just us and one other family.
but it was a fantastic day anyway.
lots of sun.
lots of pool time.
cousins playing and having a blast.
siblings and spouses talking and cooking and eating and parenting together…
probably the way life once was before trains and planes made traveling easier.
before people moved thousands of miles away from their family instead of just to the other side of town.

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pretty sure this guy was on a high school diving team:

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he’s got some crazy acrobatic moves.
i should’ve taken video instead of stills!

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(The Littlest Munchkin asked for her big brother to yell “cannonball” and then jump into the water. He acquiesced. She chapped.)

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along with his own acrobatic skills,
he’s a pretty great uncle and dad to help the kids realize their full acrobatic potential:
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this little series of photos makes me laugh…
probably because i can see their smiles.:
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dave found a comfy place on the living room floor to take a nap
(while the kiddos watched some Jake and the Neverland Pirates):


and while I whipped up 1/2 a batch of Monster Cookies.
and a batch of pico de gallo.
in my most amazing kitchen for the week:


isn’t it amazing?
it’s HUGE.
with TWO sinks.
and TWO dishwashers.
and THREE ovens.
and a pantry SO LARGE it holds it’s own fridge.
that’s just for beverages.

here are the girls reading stories before dinner.
ironically enough,
after a day of swimming,
the book of the night was The Little Mermaid!


with a morning at church,
a lunch of Rancho Market’s pollo asado,
an afternoon of swimming,
breakfast for dinner,
and a whole host of fun moments in-between,
i think Day One of the Dunkins in the Desert
was quite successful.
the silence in the house from FIVE sleeping children would probably support that thought!
we’re all quite excited to see what day two holds!

spring break shenanigans…. with ostriches!

Spring Break began on Friday at 12:01pm for D&S and at 12:31pm for A.
In an effort to make our week as crazy as we could,
we opted to repeat a fun activity from last year….


and to make it as much fun as it was last year,
we went with the same people:
The Wood Family!

Since we were rookies last year,
we learned to get wrist bands for ALL the kiddos.
that was a HUGE HIT this year.
and to avoid buying tickets,
I got a wrist band again this year.
Dave didn’t want one.

Alex thoroughly enjoyed ALL the rides she tried.
and she tried a lot.
roller coasters.
crazy rides.
tame rides.
she LOVED them.

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it was super fun for me this year to be RIDING with the kiddos.
especially alex.
i didn’t grow up going to carnivals or fairs or festivals.
and the few times i ever did attend one, there were LIMITED rides i could go on.
because my mom wasn’t into rides.
the carousel and ferris wheel were about the extent of it.
but amazingly, i LOVE rides.
not the the kind that spin and make you nauseated.
(well, not anymore.
when i was younger…)
but what i really loved about this year was dave being BEHIND the camera..
which put me IN a lot of the photos this year.

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and after lots and LOTS of kiddie rides,
we wandered over to the big people rides.
and got distracted by the reptile people on the way….

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this ride….

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i’m so thankful i talked samantha into riding with the boys instead of with me.
it would’ve made me sick.

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poor munchkin,
it DID make davey sick.
next year, we’ll give him 1/4 to 1/2 of a motion sickness pill.
and yes, he actually got SICK….
about 30 minutes AFTER riding it.
lesson learned.

he did bounce back.
but it took a little while.

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after the big kid rides (where alex was too little to enjoy anything),
we made our way back to the kiddie area for a few more rides….

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before making our way back to the Ostrich Races
(yes, for real),
we stopped by the reptile booth again to see and pet a different animal:
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and then it was time for the OSTRICH RACES!!!
for real.
there was way too much talking this year between events.
but when the events were actually happening, it was pretty fun!


ostrich races: 

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kids chasing emus:


chariot races:


kids racing ducks:


zebra races:


more ostrich racing…
that was CRAZY FUNNY when the ostriches decided to spin in circles in an attempt to knock off their jockey:

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dromidary camel races:

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and some close ups of the animals….

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and then we returned to the rides
(i told you,
it was ALL ABOUT the rides this year):


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(see alex in that photo with me?
the one above?
yeah… she’s crazy!
but she loved it!
she had one short moment of fear
but we pushed past it and she wanted to ride this MULTIPLE times!)

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yep. we did the kid swings more than once:

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like last year,
we took our own snacks to the venue.
but we didn’t miss out on the good stuff.
samantha enjoyed a corn dog for dinner.
the rest of us (dave included) shared a turkey leg for dinner.
we (minus dave) scarfed down a funnel cake.
and before we left,
we bought a large bag of COTTON CANDY to enjoy on the way home.
well, we enjoyed about half of the bag that day.
we’re still working our way through the rest of it.

i think a wonderful tradition is well underway.
we look forward to this event next year…
with The Woods!