We had a really fun 4th of July week. It started with a trip that Gramme and I took to El Paso, Texas to visit Uncle Mathias! I had not been to Texas before even though Mathias has lived there for four years! We flew in Saturday morning and arrived right at lunch time. Mathias took us to an authentic Mexican restaurant and we had a great lunch there. That’s going to be the theme of the weekend though – lots of great food! After lunch, Mathias took us for a drive along the border so we could see where he works, what the river, er canal, looks like, what Juarez looks like, etc. It was so interesting to take it all in and learn about the area. We drove by downtown, by the mountains and eventually to his house. I didn’t realize how desert the area really is. There’s not much in the way of trees and bushes and grass. In fact most houses have rock front “lawns” instead of grass. The people with money have grass because they can afford to water it! And some others have artificial turf as front lawns. The house Mathias lives in (he rents a room from a buddy) has a rock front lawn and a sand backyard. Now that is low maintenance!
We relaxed at Mathias’ house that afternoon (I may have snuck in a quick nap on the chair in the living room!) before going out that evening. Mathias and his friend (and landlord) Rick took us for a drive through the mountains to the west side of El Paso. There we shopped for a bit at an outlet mall and then we drove to dinner at the State Line. The restaurant serves BBQ (so yummy) and is on the state line between Texas and New Mexico. The state line actually runs down the middle of the restaurant. It was there that Mathias and Mom each had some weird margarita/beer concoction (picture posted on facebook!) that both claim is really, really good.
Sunday the four of us went out for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then went back home to relax. We played a card game together until it was time for the boys to go play their flag football game. Mom and I went to cheer them on. And after the game we stopped at Cold Stone Creamery for some ice cream. There is only one in town that Mathias knew of and Rick had never been there before so of course we had to introduce him to Cold Stone! He thought it was really good and since they had won their flag football game (32-0) by beating the other team pretty soundly, they decided that after every win they’re stopping at Cold Stone for a treat. Sounds like a good plan to me! After ice cream we went home and finished our card game. On the very last hand, Mathias went out and for a second thought he had claimed victory. It was only after I tallied the scores that I shut him down with a big “You didn’t win! I did! And Rick came in second! You’re third Mathias!! Oh, Mathias hates to lose so this was super fun for Rick and I to rub it in for a few minutes. We all go over ourselves and jumped in the truck to head to dinner. Mathias wanted to take us to a steak dinner that night and knew just the place. We went to Cattleman’s Steakhouse and it was just as good as Mathias told us it would be. Oh, so good! We also tried a Texas wine with our dinner (which I now can’t remember the vineyard name and it’s annoying me!) that was very good.
Monday we didn’t have any big plans so Mathias drove us (in his Camaro with the top down) to an RV dealer on the west side of El Paso and we spent a couple hours looking at 5th wheels with him. He’d like to get a camper and it was really fun to look through them all. They are so nice and spacious with all the amenities you could ask for – fire places, toy haulers, decks, outside kitchens, etc. On the way back to El Paso we stopped at a wing place for lunch and tried a few of their wing sauces. Once again it was so good! We tried to stay away from chain restaurants and for the most part we did. And we had some really good food to show for it! That afternoon Mathias, Gramme and I played another round of the card game. And I beat Mathias again! Oh, I bet he hates that game now! That night we were all pretty tired for our busy weekend so we relaxed at Mathias’ house watching some movies and some music videos on YouTube (through Mathias’ apple TV). I think we watched about 4 different versions of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”. I especially like the Pentatonix version. We also watched a couple videos by Jenn Bostic. She’s a Waconia girl (and friend of Mathias’ in high school) that is now a singer/songwriter in Nashville. Her song about her dad had me crying huge tears (“Jealous of the Angels”). I remember the day of the car accident that claimed his life when she was young. Oh, I’m going to cry again just thinking about it!
OK, back to the trip recap. Tuesday morning we went to tour the Border Patrol museum which is in El Paso. It was very interesting to see how it came to be and evolved over the years. There was also a lot of items in there showing how illegal aliens have attempted to gain entry to the United States. Some of the contraptions they came up with is so creative and ingenious! After the museum, the boys dropped Gramme and I off at the airport and we had lunch before boarding and flying home.
We arrived home around 8:30pm that night and Kris and the kids came to pick us up. I hopped in the back by the kids, letting Gramme sit in front. They were all so excited to see me! Levi had this look on his face like “it’s really you?” and insisted on holding my hand the entire drive home. Annika and James had to each give me several kisses and talked non-stop about this and that. I was so happy to see them too. And boy did I have fun planned for us now that I was home and still off work until the Monday after the 4th!
The next day, Wednesday, was the actual 4th of July and even though it was still unbearably hot that day (100+) we still went to a parade. We went to the Eagan parade since it at least was in the morning (10am) and we had friends also planning to go. I sat on the curb with the kids and helped them gather candy (and to make sure Levi didn’t go running into the street). We made it about an hour and a half before we decided we’d had enough of the heat and headed home. I think we stayed inside most of the rest of the day. It was too hot!
Thursday I had more fun planned. That afternoon we picked up Elyse and Liam (leaving Levi at home with Kris so Levi could take a nap) and we went to go see Brave. Annika was so excited to see it and although I think she liked it, I don’t think she’s “in love” with it like she is some other movies. There were a couple scenes involving bears that scared James though. He is my tender soul. At one point he climbed in my lap and cried because he was scared. But he would hide his eyes for a few seconds and then peak back out again. He did have a nightmare that night about the movie and ended up snuggling with me until morning but now he says it was scary but “not so bad.” My sweet boy.
Friday was another fun day for us. We decided it was going to be a zoo day. Gramme and Ayla joined us and we went to the Minnesota Zoo for most of the day. It was another warm one so after we were done in Dolphin Bay (which no longer houses dolphins – boo!) we went outside and let the kids play in the splash pad for a few minutes and then set out on the trail, starting with the bears. Levi is hard to keep track of there because he gets so excited about the animals that he just starts running from one exhibit to the next. With Kris and Gramme there though, we were able to keep him corralled. I love it when he gets excited though and squeals and jumps and claps. The only animal we couldn’t find were the tigers. I guess the heat had them hiding in the shade. We made it all the way around and then it was lunch time. I had packed a picnic lunch for us so we sat at some picnic table in the shade and enjoyed that. Annika and James were so excited to have a “picnic lunch!” After lunch Gramme and Ayla went home so Ayla could take a nap. The rest of us went back inside the zoo and went to the dinosaur exhibit. At first the kids were afraid of the animatronic dinosaurs but after teasing them that we were going to let the dinosaurs eat them and explained that they were just robots, they eased up and really enjoyed the exhibit, teasing each other that I’m going to feed you to the next one and such. James really loved the super big ones like the TRex. And he loves dinosaurs in general and had fun telling each time whether it was a meat eater or plant eater based on the teeth and mouth and neck of the dinosaur. After the dinosaur exhibit we let the kids play in the splash pad and in the adjoining play area for a while until I was wilting from the heat and needed to get back in the air conditioning. We’d been at the zoo over four hours by that point. We’d had enough fun for one day, right?
Saturday and Sunday were all about family. Saturday we drove out to my aunt and uncle’s house in Silver Lake to see my cousin Liz and her family. Liz lives in California and this was our first chance to meet her infant daughter, Ella. It was great to see my extended family again. The kids had a great time playing outside and watching a movie inside. And of course there was a ton of food and the kids were loving having treats all afternoon (and real food too, of course). It helped that Granpda, Aunt Shelly and Uncle Dale were all there to shower them with attention too.
Sunday afternoon was spent with Kris’ family for a family reunion of the Bodin family. We arrived late but were still able to see everyone and hear some of Nana’s talk on their trip to Sweden and Norway that they took in June with Dusty, Mel and Mabel. Once again the kids thought it was great! There were other kids to play with, lots of treats to eat and even some new toys for them to play with. I think I followed Levi around the church a dozen times. He just kept walking laps, looking at everything. Eventually he and James decided laps was too boring so they rolled down the hill instead for a while. Silly boys.
Now we’re back to normal life. Kris and I are working on projects around the house and getting ready for our annual BBQ on the 21st. The kids are enjoying soccer and t-ball and lots of play time with the neighbors. Annika is still reading most nights before bed and I have some math worksheets printed out that they’ve been doing every few days or so. Annika tolerates those while James loves them and asks for more. Levi has been talking more lately but it’s not quite the breakthrough yet that I’ve been hoping for. He says mine and more animal sounds and his please is now more “peas” than just the “sssss” that it used to be. If I say a word repeatedly and have him look at my mouth while doing so he will usually try to mimic me so I have to be more diligent about that. He still mostly grunts and points his wants and needs though so we’re continuing to work to draw more words and sounds out of him.
Levi is trying to give up his nap. He just turned 2, how can this be? On days he doesn’t nap he’s super crabby and ready for bed at 7pm. On days he does take a nap it’s a struggle to get him to sleep before 9pm. I think if Kris can get him to take a nap, that is ideal but we should be waking him up after an hour and a half or so instead of letting him sleep for 3 hours like he usually does. I know that cuts into Kris’ quiet time in the afternoons for chores and homework but I think we have to do it anyway. We can’t let him give up his nap entirely so maybe this can be a middle ground. Or we’ll stick with the every-other-day nap schedule he seems to be getting into now and dealing with a crabby toddler every other day. That doesn’t sound quite so fun though.