Thursday, September 8, 2011

Earthquake, Hurricane, Houseguests. Oh My!

Two weeks ago our house was a flurry of activity. Was it the earthquake? No. The hurricane? No. Those were barely a blip on our radar compared to the excitement of having some of our dearest friends, and family-by-love, the Tews visit for a week.

It all began about a month ago, when I mentioned to Sarah that the next time Eric had time off work, we'd love to see them. To my surprise, she asked about some dates less than 3 weeks away. I haven't had a chance to spend longer than a few hours here and there with their family since around the time David and I were married so this was exciting news. I later found out this was going to be their beach trip vacation. I can't tell you how blessed I feel that their family made this time to come and see us.

Even before I knew that we replaced fun in the sun, I wanted their visit to be special so I began meal planning, sprucing up the house and thinking of fun things for the kids to do. About the time I'd gotten the house under control and thought of meals that were easy to make double batches of, David's brother called. His birthday was that weekend, and he wanted to make the 5 hour drive down from New York to spend it with us. Well, once you've got 8 people in one house, what's one more? Plus we always love our visits from Josh.

The Tews arrived first. They drove up on Tuesday. I had just sat down from doing laundry in the basement and line drying towels in the back yard to eat some lunch. I opened up facebook and found out that everyone in our area (except for Caleb and I, apparently) had felt an earthquake. A quick google search confirmed that in my busyness, I had indeed missed feeling "the big one" least by East Coast standards ; )

Wednesday we took all 4 kiddos to the park. Caleb basically ignored all the playground equipment and spent 98% of the time throwing mulch into the air and watching it rain down onto his head. I had been so worried about how well he would nap with 3 kids in the house. I should have known that 3 kids in the house makes 1 exhausted baby. He wasn't a light sleeper this week!

Sarah and Caleb at the park. You can see how exhausted he is!

Thursday the Tews went to Gettysburg. Caleb and I caught up on some chores and grocery shopping. David was teleworking so we got to eat lunch together. That afternoon we broke out the (kid friendly) Bocce ball set and had fun playing in the back yard.

Sadly, during a later game of bocce that week, we found this victim of the hurricane. He'd obviously had a very unfortunate head-to-tree meeting take place, probably from all the wind. He didn't seem to be in any pain so we gave him some water and he'd passed away by the next morning.

Friday the Tews headed out early to Hershey park and to visit friends of theirs from the Navy days. David and I packed up Caleb into the car after work at took a mini date to Starbucks and Lowes. My how the standards for what makes a "date" changes after children. Still, Caleb was in a good mood and we enjoyed having a little time to ourselves after such a busy week.

Saturday was busy busy busy. The Tews and Josh would both be arriving in time for dinner and Josh's one request was a homemade cake. Insert *gulp* here. I rarely make new recipes for guests and, with the exception of Caleb's birthday carrot cake, had never tried to make a cake from scratch.

It took a good part of the morning, but fortunately I had a great article from Real Simple magazine (a publication that I am not otherwise impressed with, to be honest) all about making cake, frosting and fillings from scratch, complete with recipes. I wish I'd had time to get a bit more creative with fillings, but for a basic chocolate cake with vanilla frosting, it turned out wonderfully.

While the cake cooled I took a quick break from the kitchen and we all went outside and let Caleb run around the driveway with a vacuum cleaner. Why? What do you do with your kids on a lazy Saturday? It's been sitting in our garage since we tried to sell it at our (failed) garage sale and Caleb has formed the same approach/avoid relationship with it as he has with the vacuum we use all the time despite the fact we've never turned it on around him. Toddlers have strange obsessions...
First he loves it

Then it's time to run away!

Then it was time to return to the kitchen again. My friend Jen had given me some oregano and sage from her garden so I figured it was time to turn it into a marinade for the roast chicken. With Sarah's help, we made a birthday feast of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes and some Al Dente green beans. Apparently I am making a tradition of under-cooking a vegetable when Josh comes for a visit. At least it wasn't the mashed potatoes this time!

As we sat around the table feasting, Eric told us stories about their time in Hershey that made us laugh until we cried. Apparently if you put 7 children in a room with two hamsters and a large maze, you get very tired hamsters. Eric said that one feel asleep after only a few seconds in his hands and you could almost hear it saying "Find your happy place, find your happy place!".

After dinner we sung happy birthday to Josh, dug into some cake and played several rounds of The Great Dalmuti. It was so wonderful to have everyone over, if only for an evening. Sadly, Josh had to leave after church to be back in New York in time for work the next day. Somehow he escaped his entire visit without a single photo. I'll have to work on that next time!

Monday Sarah and I took a road trip to Pittsburg to a see a massage therapist who pointed me in the direction of a clinic in Baltimore that may be able to treat my pain. My appointment is at the end of this month...the adventure continues! The drive to Pittsburg was incredible. We passed 4-5 state parks, a herd of buffalo, a Fort, and the Flight 93 Memorial, which we spent some time at on the way home. It was great to have some kid free time with Sarah. Special thanks to David and Eric who kept the kids entertained all day.

I'm so thankful we had this week of making great memories with family by blood and by love. Time passes so quickly. I clearly remember their 12 year old at Caleb's age. I was in middle school then...and now I'm a mom. It's surreal at times for sure and it reminds me to savor each season.
PS. Yes, I know I look like a giant in this photo. It's nice to be the tall one sometimes : )

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