Tuesday, October 24, 2017

To Grandma's House on Fall Break

 This is Chris's parents' happy place: on a boat in Lake Norman, North Carolina.  Life doesn't get any sweeter.

 Chris's Dad's baby (although a temperamental baby sometimes).  He earned a second place in the people's choice awards at a Lake Norman car show.

A side benefit of visiting Chris's parents in North Carolina is that I get to see friend (and new Charlotte resident) Emily.  (Ignore the fact that my hair looks like a bird nest in this photo.)

We thought it was a miniature tennis court.  We learned, instead, that it's actually a pickle ball court.  The boys were smitten and spent hours playing their newfound sport.

Never too early to introduce the boys to college campuses.  Grandma, the recruiter, showed us around the Wake Forest campus.

Moments of cuddling with Grandma.

If I had to pick a favorite school holiday, I just might select fall break.  It always sneaks up on us, wedged between summer vacation and the start of the holiday season.  I love the endless possibilities of how to use that time off school: pumpkin patches, corn mazes, halloween festivities, and more.  And if you use the time to travel, you are almost guaranteed to secure better deals and fewer crowds than spring break.

This fall break, we divided our time between home and the grandparents' house in North Carolina.  The weekends we spent at home being productive.  With our move still fresh, pictures are still resting on the floor waiting to be nailed to the wall.  Our garage is/was stuffed with items that needed to be sifted through.  We were forced to make tough decisions, like did we really need the warming dishes and crystal clocks we received as wedding gifts?  (The ones who spent the last 16 years sitting in boxes collecting dust.)

On Sunday, we packed up the minivan and headed to North Carolina.  To make the nine-hour excursion much more pleasant, we packed an assortment of DVD movies and a large stash of snacks.  For the first hour, we insisted that the boys just read.  When the first hour was finished (believe me, they knew the time down to the minute), they begged to turn on their first movie.  

The boys searched frantically, but the remote control for the DVD player was missing (Chris letter fessed up to leaving it at home).  I know traveling without a DVD player is a first world problem, but that didn't make it any less traumatic for all those in the car at that moment.  There were tears (from me), but after an eternity of fiddling with buttons and googling instructions, we figured out how to operate the machine via our phone (thank you technology!). 

Eight hours later, we arrived in North Carolina.  Grandma and Grandpa swooped us up and escorted us inside their duplex home in a 55 and older community.  Their space is perfect for them with the added bonus of a neighborhood club house outfitted with a pool table, swimming pool, and pickle ball court.  While I know those amenities are designed for the senior residents, grandchildren are the secondary beneficiaries of all the fun.

For the next three days, the boys fluttered between their grandparents' place and the club house.  Cooper created a competitive pickle ball tournament that proved to be lots of fun for the family (minus his few moments where he channeled his inner John McEnroe).  While we fumbled with our strokes at the pool table, even our sloppy play kept the boys busy. 

We ventured out of their community too.  One day Grandma took us to a reptile rescue which received 4 stars rating on TripAdvisor.  (Takeaway: be wary of TripAdvisor).  The reptile rescue was nestled in a strip mall, right next to the Dollar Tree.  When we walked through the doors, we were instantly greeted with a strong aroma.  I could best describe it as the whiff of animal droppings and decay.  I glanced at the floor near my feet.  There was a sticky sheet of paper in which an array of insects had become stuck.  This, I suppose, was our welcoming mat of sorts (or a warning sign).

I'd like to say things got better.  But for me (a non-reptile lover), they did not.  Hundreds of reptiles paced or slid behind closed glass with owners who seemed, let's say, not entirely professional.  Our eight year old tour guide, made me predict the likelihood of an AWOL snake.  It took my mother-in-law about three minutes to make her exit.  I didn't want her to be alone in the car (wink-wink), so I followed her out the door.  Two boys quickly joined us.

If you wonder who gives the reptile rescue such glowing reviews, it would be my other two sons.  The reptile lovers in the bunch were enthralled.  The puff adders, reticulated pythons, and timber rattlesnakes made them giddy.  If it had not been for our prodding, I imagine they would have gladly spent the afternoon gazing at glass cases.

While the reptile rescue may not have been a hit for us all, other activities left everyone happy.  One afternoon, Grandpa piled us all in his boat and gave us an aquatic tour of Lake Norman.  The sun was bright, the waves were smooth, and the scenery was spectacular.

Another evening, Grandpa took us to a car show in which his vintage car was competing.  The boys shuffled through rows and rows of vintage cars with impressive motors and shiny exteriors.  It was like an older boys' version of Matchbox cars, and the boys were in heaven.

When Thursday hit, we loaded up the car and headed back to Indiana.  Grandma gave the boys Halloween treats and deep hugs.  We made promises to visit again soon.  With a mixture of sadness and joy, we turned the car north for home.  We gazed back in the review mirror and felt waves of emotions.  Leaving is hard, but happy memories filled the car.

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