Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cabin Fever 3: The Day After July 4th!

The next morning half of the family packed up and headed back home,(the lucky ones) leaving 15 other poor souls still in the beautiful lake house.  But they weren’t alone!  Something else was in there with them, just waiting for the right time to attack.  And trust me, it did.  It really did.

Aunt Patt, our lovely and gracious host was the unfortunate first victim.

“Oh dearie me!  Oh dearie me!” she cries running from one bathroom to the next.  “This is not a good day, this is not a good day!”

“Seems like a normal day to me,” Sara says lounging on the hammock.  “We have to go swimming!  It’s so nice.”

“Good idea!” everyone says with a cheerful disposition.

It’s only halfway through breakfast when our second victim is taken out for the count.  My lovely wife, Kim half faints and halfway falls up the stairs and lands on the air mattress we had been sharing all week.

 “Are you okay?” I ask.

“I think I’m dying,” Kim says as she rushes on her hands and knees to the bathroom.  I can hear scuffling, grunting, gasping, puking, and then silence. 

“If you need anything, just call for me,” I say. 

From downstairs I heard Grammy Kay whisper/shout “YES!  She’s pregnant!”

“I’m not pregnant!” Kim shouts with a spurt of vomit.

“Oh yes you are!” Aunt Stacy says.  “I’m positive in a few weeks we’ll be getting a call saying she’s expecting!”

“Morning sickness doesn’t usually come with a side of the Runs does it?” I ask.

“Well every pregnancy is different,” Aunt Stacy says.  “I think I had the runs with Angie.”

Grammy Kay was doing a happy dance.  “I’m going to be a Grammy again!”

“THIS IS NOT PREGNANCY!” Kim shouts and locks herself in the bathroom.

Luckily Rory is as content as a cucumber bopping from relative to relative.  That is unless he sees me.  For some reason he’s in total “I NEED DADDY!” phase every time he sees me.   Even if it’s mommy who is holding him.  She hates it.  I secretly love it.  But I do need a little break every once in a while.  So I’m glad there are tons of people to help out.  Sara and Angie were especially cuddly with him.

Grammy told me to go and have fun with my cousins and she’d make sure Rory was okay.

So we swam, we fished, we drank a little bit.  What a good time.  But the evil was still lurking around and about to take its next victim.    Uncle Randy broke out into a fit of chills and started blowing his breakfast into the air like a really expensive water fountain.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Aunt Stacy screams from inside the lake house!  “This can’t be happening!  I hate germs!  This is terrible.  We should just leave!”

We all watched as Uncle Randy ran to the upstairs bathroom, while Aunt Patt was coming out of a downstairs bathroom.  Meanwhile, Kim was already in a bathroom and yelling for gingerale.

“I can do that, would you also like a depends?” I joke.

“I don’t know about her, but I might need one,” Sara, the new bride says collapsing on the couch.  “I feel disgusting!  My stomach is on fire!”

“OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!” Aunt Stacy screams, “What is happening?  It must be in the water!”

I was praying now that whatever was going on was not going to get me or Rory.  If I went down for the count, there would be no way anyone was going to be left to take care of him.

I moved my bedding to a sleepaway chair, set Rory’s pack and play right beside me, and opened the sliding glass door letting the beautiful fresh air pour over us all night.

My cousin Scott, who is a nurse and his girlfriend Nora swooped around the lake house with homemade remedies and amazing pleasantries tending to the afflicted.  It was a good thing too, because this nightmare wasn’t over yet. 

Aunt Stacy came down with the flu in the middle of the night and so did my other cousin Ryan.  To be honest, with the fresh air, the moans of discomfort, and never ending flush of the toilet, I’m surprised anyone made it through the night.  But by morning out of the 15 of us, only Scott, Nora, Grammy Kay, Angie, Rory, Joe, Matt, and myself had survived.  (Although Matt, and Angie wouldn’t make it through the rest of the day)

Joe was the first to leave.  He had to work, and Sara in no condition to go with him would have to stay and get a ride back from her parents.  It was such a beautiful moment watching the week old newlyweds saying goodbye.   Joe stood above Sara, with the top of his shirt covering his mouth like a surgical mask.

“Get out while you can!” Sara coughs, “I’m so jealous!”   She collapses in a fit of defeat.

A couple hours later we eventually took Sara’s sage advice ourselves.  Kim was the first and only one to make a complete recovery that morning and since all of us were feeling okay, it was better to make the five hour drive while we all felt well. 

“Do you guys want a depends for the road?” someone asked nonchalantly, as if this was the most natural thing in the world to ask.

“No,” I say.

“Maybe,” Grammy Kay says, always the worrier.

Disclaimer:  Due to much debate:  Rory probably was the virus carrier.  We can’t say sorry enough to everyone that came down with the flu.  Rory is giggling but not about this.  He’s just a happy baby.  Again, we are so sorry.  Love you!  Can’t wait for next 4th of July!

Comic By Bitstrips

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fourth of July!

Every July, my mom’s whole side of the family gets together at Uncle Greg and Aunt Patt’s lake house which is so far north it might as well be a pole itself.  It’s something everyone looks forward to because it’s a time to fellowship, swim, enjoy fireworks, and just relax with the family. 

We picked up Grammy Kay early since it’s about a five hour drive, and then I thanked the gas stations for inflating their prices for the holiday weekend and then we were off.  The highways were not very busy at all.  We even stopped to get some last minute items at Wal-Mart and then made our usual, more than midway, stop at Bargain Bills, which is basically a liquidator store that has everything you could ever dream of!  I have bought many a supply for my classroom here in past summers but this time I bought a Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal for Rory because it was so super soft and Kim hates Pooh.  I thought it was just perfect!

As we were leaving Uncle Randy, Aunt Stacy and my cousin Ryan pull up.  (I told you, Bargain Bills is just something we do) 

“What’s up?” I say.

“Not much!!” Aunt Stacy says pushing Kim out of the way and starts kissing Rory’s cheeks.

“Psst.  Look at this!” Ryan says luring me to his trunk.  It is filled to the brim with fireworks.  We are totally going to win the war this year.”  (Oh yeah.  The war.  Every year, my cousins compete with the house across the lake to see who can shoot the most and the best fireworks off each year!  It’s silly but everyone just freaking loves it!)

“That’s amazing!” I say.

“Yeah, and I think I’m going to go get some more,” Ryan says as he heads to a firework stand. 

“You don’t need anymore,” Aunt Stacy says.

“Well if they like it, let them have fun!” Kim says.

“That’s true Kim!  You are so smart!” Aunt Stacy agrees heading up to Bargain Bills.

We drove across the street to get a couple subs for the road and to feed Rory his bottle.  As Kim opened the trunk and began shuffling through it, the present I had bought for Aunt Patt came crashing to the ground with an audible crunch.  I about had a heart attack because this felt like the worst thing that could happen.  Aunt Patt is a rooster fanatic and I had found a patriotic rooster figurine that I thought was completely amazing.  Rooster and 4th of July?  How could you do better.  (we promised to send her a new one)  About this time, Rory had just downed his bottle, then as reverse gravity works, he instantly upped it all over himself and the carseat.  Kim ran him to the bathroom as Grammy did her best to clean up the backseat. 

“What’s that about?” I ask.

“I think it’s just teething!  He sometimes pukes during that,” Kim says.

The rest of the drive was fine, except for some occasional baby grumping from the back seat.  We found a Christian station and sang to him until he stopped.

When we pulled into Aunt Patt’s the house was pretty empty because most people were either out and about or hadn’t arrived yet.  When the full party arrived there were 23 adults, 2 boys, four toddlers under two, and four dogs. 

“Oh my gosh!  It’s like that Real World Show, only we’re family,” Sara says.

“I wonder who is going to break out the alcohol first?” I say.

After a while it was time to feed Rory again.  He was yelling and bouncing and ready for yogurt.  Although after he finished it, he created some real abstract yogurt art all over the floor and then stepped in it. 

“What is going on?” I say, the constant worrier.

“He’s teething!” Grammy Kay says.

And maybe that answer would have satisfied me but when he puked again after eating some puffs I was really freaked out.  The weird thing was though, that every time after he puked he would go back to being happy little monkey man.  None of it really made sense.

While Rory was passed around I took some time to catch up with my cousins and go for a swim.  I even taught Kim how to catch a fish.  I showed her once, guided her on the second fish, let her do it on the third and then she wanted to do it a fourth time as well.  I was so proud of her tiny bluegills.

By the end of the day Rory was starving because he just couldn’t keep anything down and Kim and I were feeling pretty helpless.  I wanted to try feeding him again but all the elders said we should just put him to bed.  After an hour of screaming and semi-sleeping we just went ahead and fed him and FINALLY, he kept his food down and instantaneously fell asleep.  Thank you God! 

 The next day was 4th of July and Rory was completely ready for the fireworks!   All day he’d been letting them fly in his diaper.  I think Kim and I must have changed poopy diapers at least 8 times.  Other than that, the day was filled with more Rory cuddling, hard lemonade, swimming in the lake, and cornhole. (although everyone looked at me like I was an alien when I said the game where you toss beanbags back and forth and try to get them into the hole was actually called cornhole.  Apparently they call it bags in Wisconsin.  It’s so strange.)

Even Bella got some of the lake action.  It was so fun watching her swim in the lake, lap up the parasites in the water, pee on my sandals, and jump off the pier with Sara and Joe’s dog Cooper.  People lazed around in the party barge inflatable. (except for Angie who somehow got stuck pulling everyone else around)

The day ended with the massive collection off fireworks.  Ryan had gone back into town to get a few more, and my other cousin Todd had brought at least 1000 dollars worth of fireworks as well.  It was fantastic watching the huge explosions of color above our heads.  Rory watched for quite a while and then fell asleep against my chest.  It was a fantastic Fourth of July!  A real blowout!
Comic By Bitstrips

Monday, July 14, 2014

Dream Bank with Uncle Jared

 Have you ever gone to a Dream Bank?  Do you even know what one is?  Neither did I until Uncle Jared, and our friend Kevin showed us.  It’s a totally free creative zone that is set up in an old bank.  It’s a place where you can write your dream down on a key and place it in the vault, draw and paint pictures, and pretty much anything else you can think of.  My dream to publish my novel is now safe in the vault and it kind of inspired me to get working on it again.

Afterwards we went to a super library where we got to chill out in the kids' section with Rory and view the amazing artwork.  There were these really cool chairs that resembled bird cages and we might have had a little bit more fun in them than is socially acceptable, but I’m sure it was fine.  No one yelled at us.
Kim being the vegetarian that she is was craving Noodles and Company so we ate some beautiful flavored noodles.  Kim got some kind of spicy tomato noodle, Grammy Kay got some spicy thai noodles, Jared got some mellower sweet noodles, Kevin got a fan favorite noodle, and I got Wisconsin's mac and cheese with pulled pork! 
"These spicy Thai noodles are so good!" Grammy Kay says turning red, and downing her cherry lemonade.  "Do you want to try some Jared?"
"Sure," he says.
"We can just switch if you want?" Grammy Kay says.  "BECAUSE ITS SO GOOD!"
"I don't want to switch but you can have half of mine if you want," Jared says. 
"Sure," Grammy Kay says fanning her tongue.  "Josh do you want some?  I really want to try your macaroni and cheese... maybe half of it?"
"Are you sure you like your meal?" Kevin asks.
"It's so good!  I love spice!  I lived in Mexico for goodness sake!!!!!  I just need something a little cooler."

Later on we walked State Street for a bit, Grammy Kay used the bathroom about 15 times, (which was tricky because there weren't a lot of places to choose from.  Jared offered her a plastic bag but she just glared at him.) I won twice in cutthroat pool, and ate the butteriest cheese curds I’ve ever had!  They were A-MAZING!  It was so great to see Uncle Jared because our visits are so far and few between!  We love you Jared!  Come visit us in Florida soon!  Rory and Bella are waiting patiently.  (If they knew what patience meant.)         
Comic By Bitstrips

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sara and Joe's Wedding!

One of the coolest things we got to do while in Wisconsin was watch my beautiful cousin Sara walk down the aisle and marry Joe, the man of her dreams!  The wedding was in a pristine and beautiful catholic church.  If anyone forgot, Rory was sure to remind them every few minutes as he shouted at the stained glass windows.  And while Sara and Joe said their heartfelt vows, Rory let out the loudest burp known to man.  The photographer that was filming beside us, turned and chuckled.  Meanwhile, I looked on mortified as the bridesmaids all turned around in their pew to stare.  I was hoping they’d know it was the baby.  Lucky for Sara, she grew up in a very gassy home, with my other two cousins Angie and Ryan who took turns burping the loudest.  I guess Rory fits in just fine in the family.  I can’t imagine how well that would go over in a different family.  I hope Joe’s family doesn’t mind baby burps the size of New Jersey.

At the reception Rory was in all his glory.  He danced the night away!  I didn’t think we’d ever get him off the dance floor.  He danced with other little kids, his cousins, but Grammy Kay captured his attention the most.  Eventually he got tired and we wrapped him up in his three blankets right there in the reception hall with the dj blasting upbeat classics.  Uncle Jared held him for a while, passed him to Sara, then to Aunt Stacy, Aunt Patt, our new friend Kevin and so on.  I’ve known Rory to fall asleep in lots of places but I never expected him to sleep through Aunt Patt’s crazy zombie dance, the blaring music, Jake, a friend from college, throwing Aunt Stacy around on the dance floor, and the bride and groom doing a very risqué dance montage.   Was it fantastic?  HECK YES!  It was so amazing to get together with family and friends and officially celebrate adding Joe to the clan.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Senior Outing at Devil's Lake State Park!

My wife grew up with mountains and I grew up amongst bluffs.  So, on our visit to Wisconsin I wanted to show her what a bluff was and let’s be honest, there really is no better way to do that then hiking the world famous bluffs of Devil’s Lake.  I have many fond memories of hiking and swimming at Devil’s Lake when I was younger and I wanted to share it with my own family.  I’d informed my dad of these plans weeks before heading to Wisconsin, and every time we talked on the phone afterwards he’d throw in “You know, one thing I’d really like to do when you’re here is go to Devil’s Lake.”  After a while I started to think it was his idea.  Either way, we were off and ready for a great day.We had parked the car at the entrance to the East Bluff and were preparing the last minute things before we started the hike.  I was strapping Rory onto my back in his Ergo carrier, when Kim began fretting about not wanting to carry the whole diaper bag.

“It’s too much to carry that whole bag.  Do you think I need to bring wipes and a diaper?” 
“You’ll probably want to,” I say.  “There’s not a lot of places to change him, but it’s almost two miles just going one way. 
“I just don’t want to have to carry the bag,” Kim says.

“Here!  Put it in my pants!” Grammy Kay shouts, lifting her shirt to her waist and pulling the waistband of her extra stretchy pants open. 

“What?” Kim and I say dumbfounded. 

“These pants are super comfortable and they have lots of extra room.  I already have a roll of toilet paper in here in case nature calls!  You know nature and I have a special relationship.”

“That’s just weird,” I say, “But totally you.”
“Sure!” Kim says dropping the items into Grammy’s pants. 

“I bet you’re so glad you married into this family, aren’t you?” I say.

Meanwhile, at  Grandpa’s car:

“Do you think I need a sweater?” Grandma Jo asks.  “Do you think I need these chips?  Should I bring five or six bottles of water?  Are you going to wear that?  Do you feel okay?  What color socks does Rory have on? ”
Grandpa nods and heads towards the trail.

“I think I’ll just bring all of it!” Grandma Jo says and stuffs everything into her plastic attaché case.

As we head into the woods, Rory zens out.  He has always loved nature and the sounds and sights lull him into a trance.  His big blue eyes seem to be watching everything.  All the grandparents are smiling and full of excitement because we get to spend this time together!

Five minutes into the hike:

“Wow!  We’re really climbing,” Grammy Kay says. 
“It is pretty steep,” Kim says.  “In Florida we don’t have steps of any kind and I don’t think elevation exists there.”

Fifteen minutes into the hike:

Grandpa is huffing but leading us through the menagerie of rock.
“I need a little break,” Grandma Jo says.  She sets her attaché down.

“My knees hurt!” Grammy Kay says, sitting down beside her.  “I can’t believe how old I’m getting.  We used to hike this all the time, but it’s been at least 20 years now.  I guess I forgot how steep this was.”

“Hmmm, don’t you have knee braces?” Grandma Jo asks.
“Yeah,” Grammy Kay says, “I use them when I’m going to be walking for a while…oh… yeah that would have been smart huh?”

20 minutes into the hike:

“It’s so beautiful!” Kim says.  “I can’t believe how much you can see.  With mountains you hike and hike and you only get to see the beauty when you reach the very top, but with this bluff you can see how gorgeous this place is with each step we take.”
“Yep!” Grammy Kay says, “I think we should be turning around now.  It’s about time to head back.”

“No way!  We just started.  We’re not even halfway down the trail.  I would hate for you all to miss the most beautiful part of the trail because you turned around now.  We have to get to Devil’s Doorway,” Grandpa says.

“Okay,” I say.  “We’ll keep going.”

Personally it didn’t matter to me if we turned around or not, we had seen a lot of beautiful things and Rory was getting a little bit heavy.  It’s not every day I hike a treacherous 500 feet straight up with a baby strapped on my back.  Little tiring.  But Grandpa promised beauty and so onward we went.

45 minutes into the hike:

“Where is this Devil’s Doorway?” I ask. 
“It’s around here somewhere,” Grandpa says.

“I guess it’s just ironic that everyone that has passed us in either direction has no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Yep,” Grandpa says chugging on.

“You okay?” Kim asks.

“I’m dying,” Grammy Kay says, “My legs are going to be locked up for days at this rate.  I think we should turn around.”
“NO!!!” Grandpa shouts, “Devil’s Doorway is just up ahead.  I’m almost positive.”

A group of young girls that are giggling come up behind us.

“Sorry we’re so slow!” Grammy Kay inhales, “This is the senior outing.”
The girls laugh.  “It’s okay.  We can use a little break.  Are you having fun?”

Grammy Kay grunts in a high squeaky dramatic yawp, “THIS IS THE HIKE OF MY LIFE!”
“Wow!” one of the girls says, then spots Rory.  “Aww.  Cute baby.  I should get a sling like that so my friends can carry me.”

Little Rory puts on the charm and coos, but I don’t know if it’s the cooing or  just me but I feel like he’s getting heavier.  I’m inclined to agree with my mother.  It may just be time to turn around.  Grandpa keeps walking and spouts off something about Devil’s Doorway.  Grandma Jo has streams of sweat pouring down her brow, but lugs her attaché case and follows Grandpa.

 1 hour and 45 minutes into the hike:

“Okay, I’m tired now,” I say.  “The baby is done with this hike, my back is covered in sweat, I don’t care anymore about Devil’s Doorway, and I haven’t seen anything more pretty than what we’ve already seen so far.  This is just getting ridiculous.” 
Hey there’s a map!” Grandpa says. 

Everyone gathers around it.  Grammy Kay is praying for a rescue helicopter, Grandma Jo is praying for a shortcut home, Rory is praying he can stretch his legs out, Grandpa is praying we will all keep walking.  Kim is just going for the ride.  Me.  I know how to read maps.
“Look!” I say.  “There’s a forest trail that will take us right back to the car.  It’s a cross country skiing trail so it’s going to be a gradual decline.  That’s perfect for your knees mom.  We’re going that way.  Dad you can decide if you want to keep going to see Devil’s Doorway.”

In the end, Grandpa took a few steps further and got right to the door but didn’t want to trek down another hill so he didn’t get to see it, my sweaty back did dry, Grammy Kay didn’t need to use her toilet paper, Grandma Jo drank 5 of the bottles of water, and Kim, Rory and I had a fantastic and crazy day with our family.  But in this family, I don’t expect anything less. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Wisconsin Dells Duck Tours!

This wasn't our first Duck tour!  We've ridden down the bustling streets of Pittsburg on what the Pittsburgers call Duckie Tours, (I still can't get myself to call the manly WWII vehicles duckies, but I digress.)   sailed through the Boston Harbor where the infamous tea party once took place, and now we were about to take in the magnificent view of the splendid dells which are only found in four places around the world.  Kim had never been on the Wisconsin Ducks and Rory had no clue what was about to happen. 

Needless to say Rory loved speeding through town, the wind blowing his hair all over the place.  Our first amphibious landing was in Lake Delton where our tour guide led us through the fold with lame duck jokes and spectacular splashes.  We heard all kinds of fun history, although I've heard it many times before. 

Our second splash into the water took us into the Wisconsin River where we got a close up encounter with the spectacular dells. 

"Those rocks are cool!" Kim says.  "I've never seen them before."
"I know!" I say.  "They are awesome sauce!"
"You can only see them in four places in the world!" the duck driver says, "One of which is Upstate New York."
"Yeah, I think I've seen them before!" Kim says.
"Huh?  You just said you haven't ever seen them before."
"I don't even know," Kim says waving her hand in front of her face.

Rory was mesmerized as we sailed at a subtle 6 miles an hour through the water.  He had no idea what to think about anything.  He just loved watching the water lap up at the side of the duck.  He also loved grabbing the peoples hair in front of us and screaming like a madman.  Grandpa and Grandma were also very excited to experience the joy in Rory's eyes during this new crazy adventure!  It was so much fun, that Grandpa almost forgot he had to pay to get on the Ducks.  Almost.

"Hey!!!" Grandma shouts.  "That was so fun!  Do you guys wanna go ziplining next?"
"No!!!" Grandpa shouts back.  "It's probably like 700 bucks."
"Oh Grandpa," everyone chuckles.