- Making red white and blue chocolate-covered marshmallows with my two oldest nieces. What a mess! But awesome! Always interesting managing the controlled chaos of a project like this, keeping it upbeat and fun, while trying not to let the kitchen explode in stickiness, and ending up with a product the rest of the family can actually eat. lol
- Dinner with my Dad and his partner, M, on the first night I arrived. It was a beautiful, sunny evening and we sat on the outside deck by the river. We had salads and calamari appetizer, then I had the most delicious sea scallops. I'm enjoying getting to know M and feel pretty comfortable around her now, and we all had good conversation, catching up. We shared humor, too, when my Dad related an article he'd read about a study showing that smiling contributes to good health. If you know my dad, you know he's not a real "smiley" guy. He was practicing smiling in this big, and unatural-for-him way, and M and I were mirroring him. You probably had to be there but it was pretty funny.
- Going out on the big wood boat the following day. My Dad restored this boat that used to be used in Florida for tours of the Miami Beach area. The boat is appropriately dubbed the "Miami." It provides a more-comfortable-than-average boat ride, and we rode all around the lake looking at various houses and developments along the shore, having a picnic of bagels and coffee, and just enjoying ourselves. Oh, and I was super excited for Zoey to experience her first boat ride! M has a dog that is super passive and mellow so there is no tension and both dogs enjoyed themselves.
- Decorating the house with my niece J for the Fourth of July. This is a tradition that started with her Mima, so it's a little nostalgic but also feels good to carry on. We discussed where to hang various items, and ended up taping small American flags all around the deck railing, which was super cute. J hung red white and blue stars up and down the staircase, and I posted sparkly stars and pinwheels on each dining room chair.
- Swimming and playing in the lake with everyone. We anchored and swam a few times off the speed boat, which has a platform that lowers down slightly into the water off the back and makes it ideal for kids (and adults) to get in and out of the water. I took videos of people holding hands and jumping in to the water together - so cute. We also sat/laid out quite a bit down on the dock, and this year I went kayaking and paddle boarding, too. My niece J and I went kayaking together and we agreed on various goals like paddling around the neighbors sailboat etc. The last time I tried paddle boarding, I used my little sisters paddleboard which was too small for me, and I kept flipping over and falling off. This one was bigger, and though I did have one hilarious feet-in-the-air backwards fall into the water, for the most part I was able to stay upright.
- Watching fireworks on the end of the dock on the Fourth of July. The adults had deck chairs sipping wine and the kids sat on the blankets in front of us, as well as on their parents' laps. We didn't end up taking the boat out like we have in years past… I guess it's been decided that it's just too stressful and dangerous because of all the boat traffic and how dark it is. The fireworks were more distant, but we still had a great time. As a bonus, the accompanying music track was largely made up of artists we have lost in the last year or two – a bit nostalgic but really good music from David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, etc.
Overall, it was a fun and memorable trip, and I am grateful. The usual challenges did come up at times, such as my brother-in-law, and brother to a lesser extent, drinking a lot and creating more of a "party vibe" at times than I would like. A lot of conversations transpiring about money and house remodels and investing. All valid topics, though I prefer more personal conversations. But that's OK, and I had some good conversations on the side.
My brother and I got in a dumb disagreement on the fourth. I wondered why he didn't make me a drink or ask if I wanted one when he made them for others, which led to him criticizing me about not offering him anything (I reminded him of wine I'd shared and he'd forgot the breakfast I made for everyone the day before) or emptying the dishwasher...I don't really understand what he was talking about. I feel like I work hard to contribute and be helpful. In any case, I became really hurt and angry and had to leave and take a breather. We agreed to talk about this exchange more in the coming week or two.
I spent time supervising and caring for the kids sometimes when their parents left to go to the store or do another errand. Caring for three or four kids takes a lot of energy and focus. I admit that emptying the dishwasher was not on my mind during these times. I love my nieces and nephew to the moon and back, but a couple experiences I had this week confirm to me that I hope to have just one child! Regardless, it was good practice for parenting, which does involve juggling a lot of different demands.