Wednesday, August 10, 2011


It was one of those trips that felt like we were in the car more than we were out of it, but it was so worth it! This Canadian adventure had a dual purpose; Neil's grandparents from Saskatoon were going to be in Toronto at his uncle's house, which cut the distance to see them to about a fourth of what it usually is, and a beloved sister-in-law was turning 30...and we were hoping to catch her defenses down and surprise her with a party. Success on both counts! We drove through the night to get there, slept not much at all for the entire five days, commuted back and forth to Toronto more than once, were with family and friends nearly constantly, ate lots of fun dinners all over the place, enjoyed every second of the trip...and came back exhausted!

We left after work Wednesday, with the (slightly optimistic) notion that if we drove through the night, the boys would sleep most of the way, we'd have less traffic and make better time, and we could just sleep when we got there. Things went (mostly) according to plan, although Iain woke up randomly every few hours or so, wide awake as can be, in the middle of a detailed conversation, just like it was noon instead of 3am or so. Something we often had for long trips when growing up was a "car bag" with fun new toys, so we packed a "car bag" this time, with a puzzle, crayons and a notebook for Iain and some new rattles for Liam. They really liked their new's amazing how long a piece of paper and some crayons will keep a toddler occupied. And since Liam's at the stage where he loves to grab and hold things, (and since he's the best baby in the world!) he would have been happy with anything we gave him. Of course, the "car bag" also held some new road trip music for Neil and me, and with good tunes, good conversation, and a lot of coffee, the miles just slipped away!

We arrived in the wee hours of Thursday morning, and spent the day napping, recuperating, and unpacking. In the evening, we crammed all eight of us Pattersons and Pitmans into the Pilot-clown-car and drove about an hour away for dinner at a restaurant my parents really like called The Cornerstone. This was our family celebration for Breha's birthday, and also designed to throw her off of the scent of the party on Saturday. We told her it was a surprise where we were going, and no one would give her any details...until she asked Iain, and he promptly responded "To a NEWWWW restaurant!" (Never tell a toddler your secrets!) In retrospect, it probably wasn't a great idea to take a cranky toddler who'd ridden in a car all day to a nice restaurant, but you live and learn! The food was delicious, the company delightful, the ambiance charming...a great time was had by (almost) all! Afterward, it was back to Mum and Dad's for birthday cheesecake and presents. Breha certainly did not expect the 30 boxes of milk duds we gave her...!

Friday, we headed over to Shane and Jenny's house "in the country", to meet up with friends. Liam had a great time hanging out in the twins' (pink) bumbo, lounging with Deborah, playing with his little girlfriends, and splashing in the pool. Iain was excited to see his buddy Gavin, eat lots of sausage, play with all the cool toys that Gavin has, hang out with his pal Shane (and Grammie!), and watch the boat races. Neil and I were just glad that the boys had friends to play with so we could (sort of) chat with our friends! We miss these friends all. the. time. Friday night we went to Brett and Breha's house for an eclectic and delicious dinner! We also got to check out the awesome new store where Breha's handbags and dresses are being sold. If you are ever near Port Colborne, stop into "Something Else" on West street for handmade, vintage, one-of-a-kind treasures!

We got up early on Saturday morning to go and see the Pitman clan. Neil's Uncle Bill and Aunt Judith live about an hour north of my parents, but we hadn't seen them or his grandparents for almost two years! Iain was just a tiny baby, and Liam was neither born 'nor thought of, so we were excited for the reunion! Needless to say, Liam was on his best behavior, doling out smiles, coos and laughs, and everyone loved his chubby thighs. For the most part, Iain was (as) well behaved (as can be expected) too. And he delighted everyone with his Iain-isms, giving fist bumps, high fives, telling stories and generally showing off. He really liked Neil's cousins, particularly "Big Iain", who Iain referred to as "The Other Iain". Poor guy...he spent twenty-odd years being the only Iain, and was reduced to "The Other Iain" by a bossy two year old. We enjoyed a delicious lunch on the patio, put the boys for naps, and then (thanks to Mum and Dad's graciousness!) left them and headed home to help set up for Breha's party.

When Brett told us over a month ago that he wanted to surprise Breha, right away Mum, Deborah and I had "the vision"; a fancy dinner, outside in the grove, lots of candles and lights, elegant touches in a rustic setting. With an event planner like Deborah and cook like Mum...we could hardly fail! The Birthday Banner made its usual appearance, and Deborah made hundreds of matching multicolored fabric flowers to string into garland and napkin rings. The table was set with white cloths and china, accented by silver candelabras and wine buckets and decorated with colorful flowers. With luminaries, hanging mason jar candle holders, strung twinkle lights, and votive candles and tea lights everywhere, my parents' grove was transformed into a fairyland. And it only got better as the evening got darker. Mum planned (and made) a delicious meal, starting with the most scrumptious salad ever: greens with balsamic vinaigrette, roasted red peppers, red onion, blue cheese, craisins, and pecans. Mmm! I could eat it every day! For the main course, we had "wedding chicken", green and yellow beans in garlic butter, a wild rice medley and lots of kinds of bread. The dessert buffet was cheesecake, key lime pie, pavlova, and grasshopper pie. Neil was excited to be Mum's sous chef, and I had a great time as Deborah's decorating lackey! Dad even ran a vacuum! There were sixteen guests (and no kids...what a treat!) and best of all...she was surpised! It was beautiful, delicious and fun. Great combination. As Deborah said "This is the party I've wanted to have with my friends for years!" It was perfect. Although pictures won't ever do it justice (well...mine anyway...although I'm sure that Shane got some stellar shots!) I have about a zillion. I'm going to do a separate post tomorrow ("Party-palooza?") with them all, so Breha can have copies of all the shots of her with her guests, Mom can see how beautiful her food looked, and Deborah can have proof of what an awesome party she can plan! But for now, here are just a few.

After the party, we headed back to Toronto, to our hotel where Mum and Dad were kindly watching our (now) sleeping boys. After a short night of exhausted sleep, we packed up, ate breakfast, and headed back to the Uncle Bill and Aunt Judith's house for another day of fun with the Pitman crew. We grilled burgers and hot dogs for lunch, swam in the pool and just enjoyed the time together. We also enjoyed watching Liam attempt to put absolutely everything in his mouth...from the ordinary (hair, fingers, keys), to the unexpected (watermelon and pop in a can!). We also attempted (and actually got!) some pretty good timer-ed group shots of the whole clan. It was so beautiful to see Nana and Papa with some of their great grandchildren, and so crazy to think that our boys to them are the equivalent of our parents someday meeting Iain and Liam's children or us meeting Iain and Liam's children's children! Crazy indeed. We all got a little weepy when Nana told Liam that if she never saw him again on this earth she'd meet him "up there". It was truly a special time, and I'm so glad we got to do it.
We headed home for one last BBQ with the family and some friends (we loved the dinner in the grove so much we decided to eat out there again!) but as this dinner party involved (tired, cranky, high-maintenance) kids, I wasn't able to capture any pictures! After being dragged around from here to there all week, on very little sleep, both boys were at the ends of their ropes. It didn't help that Iain and Gavin had a failed hug attempt-turned collision, or that Liam's mouth was sore from his teeth. There were many tears on all parts and it was early to bed for all children. The adults finished the evening with a relaxing glass of wine out on the grove patio under the twinkle lights. Only after we'd been listening to the wailing of a "raccoon" in the distance for several minutes did we realize it was poor Liam, crying away from the bedroom with a stuck burp!

We got up early to make the trip back to Iowa and traveled most of the way with Neil's parents, which was fun. We stopped for coffee together, stopped to pee together, stopped to switch drives together, and to eat lunch together, which was a nice change from making the trip solo so many times. Iain was very excited to see "Grandma and Grandpa" at every stop! I think he thought they just kept turning up coincidentally at the same place as us! We made good time, missed the traffic in Chicago, the boys did well, and everyone slept for the last brutal stretch, so the trip wasn't too bad. We came home to nice weather, a dry basement and a full garden, all of which made us happy. We'd planned ahead to make the first night home a fun one, to beat the inevitable "end of vacation blues", so we ordered takeout from Tantra Thai Bistro, and Neil and I closed out the trip with wine, chocolate and Glee. All in all, not a bad homecoming!

It was truly a whirlwind; I can't believe how much we packed into a mere four days. But it was worth all the driving, all the sleepless nights, all the heat, all the dealing with cranky, off schedule children! We are so lucky to have such great family, Pitmans and Pattersons alike. It was a lot of fun to be able to spend time with them...I just wish we could do it all over again.

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