So on Thursday the 16th the little monster and I headed out to the Bay Area to hang out with my dad’s side of the family. Many of us haven’t seen each other since Papap (paternal grandfather) passed away. That was 11 years ago.

Our trip started with some lovely construction traffic. Due to the construction just past the California border that has been going on for at least five years.

We were stopped at this point.

But it still only took us an extra hour to get to the Bay Area than normal, and we also stopped for lunch. So that was good.

Nom Nom Nom – Lunch Break!

When we showed up in town, we went straight to my dad’s radiator shop. Only to find out that no extended family members were even in town. Most of them had headed into the city (San Francisco, obviously) to show the Minnesotans around and catch a Giant’s game (one of the Minnesotans is a huge Giant’s fan. I think he went to three games during his trip). I considered meeting them for the game, but I hate going to sporting events so I passed (seriously, my mom used to take me to A’s games and I would sit there and read). So T and I hung out with my dad at the shop (not as boring as it sounds) and then we went to dinner.

How cool is this little car?

After dinner we headed to my dad’s house to get some sleep. T and I slept on cots in my sister’s old room and I took pictures of the ceiling in my old room (dad’s girlfriend’s mom lives in there currently). I love that ceiling. My cousin Jason painted it for my 13th birthday. I brought it up to him at the family reunion on Saturday and he told me that he hated the way it turned out because he felt it was so dark. I don’t know about that. I loved it.

And because I feel like this re-cap could possibly last forever, I am now going to speed things up just a little bit. On Friday we had “Cousin Bash 2011”. It’s the first (of hopefully many more) Cousin Bash. All of Nana (paternal grandmother)’s grandchildren got together for a big party. Nana had 5 children, who gave her 15 grandchildren. We are now officially all over the age of 21 so my older cousins (the 40 year olds who still act like they are in their 20s) got a keg and planned this huge party where we would play games and hang out and learn how to make Nana’s pepperoni pie. We pretty much just ended up all drinking and talking and then passing out all over cousin Jason’s house. It was a lot of fun. And I think only one person ended up hung over the next morning (not me).

Shots! And what am I doing with my  hand?
I have a picture of me taking a shot on my 21st birthday and I’m doing the same thing.

Saturday was the Family Reunion. So, Nana has 5 children who all got married (and divorced) and gave her 15 grandchildren, who are all mostly married (or divorced) and the majority of them have an average of two children. This quickly added up to 60+ people. So the party was huge. My dad’s family always has ginormous parties, with themes and parades (yes, parades. As in hooking trailers to trucks, decorating them, and then all the kids gather their decorated bikes together and we parade around whatever neighborhood the party is at. As a kid I loved it, as a teen I was embarrassed by it, and now I love it again.) This party’s theme was a carnival. So everyone brought carnival games and the kids got to run around with their little tickets and win prizes. My dad and one of his sister’s pitched in and got a bounce house. It was insanity. And amazing. Eventually almost all the kids ended up in Aunt Edie’s pool. T had the greatest time ever running around and playing with all my cousin’s children (so they are his cousins, right?) who range in ages from 14 to 4 months (so the 4 month old wasn’t running around, but you get the point).

I don’t have a single picture from the carnival/Family Reunion. But Aunt Anna created a family Shutterfly account so everyone can upload and share their photos.So here’s a picture of T from the party. I’m not sure how family would feel about me posting their photos here, so I’ll just share my own kid’s face. And you can almost see his awesome balloon-hat.

Oh yeah, each of Nana’s children had a color for their family’s t-shirts. My dad’s family was orange. Our shirts had a picture of Nana, because my dad and his siblings always try to outdo each other in this kind of stuff(in a totally awesome friendly way). I think Aunt Laura’s family won with their yellow shirts that said “Nana’s Favorite” though.

I wish I could convey how totally crazy-but-awesome my family is. They all have these amazing personalities that my words just can’t do justice. Just know that it was an incredible event, and I hope we continue these events and traditions for the rest of forever.

On Sunday, T and I headed off to the town next door to visit with my mom. We went swimming and I enjoyed the quiet. My dad’s side of the family is large, crazy and loud. So being just with my mom was a nice little break before the craziness started again.

On Monday, T and I got together with Aunt Anna, Aunt Laura, and Aunt Laura’s three grandchildren (their mother and her fiancee got a few days to go to the beach, alone together. Between the two of them, they have 9 children. I think they deserved a break.) for lunch at Lake Elizabeth (a place filled with memories from my childhood). T ran around with his three little cousins (ages 9, 5 and 2). I sat with my aunts and talked about life. It was really wonderful.

Tuesday came around and it was time to celebrate my cousin’s son’s 5th birthday. Aunt Anna planned this great trip to the Oakland Zoo. This event only had about 22 people.Twelve adults and ten kids. More insane crazy awesomeness. And heat. It was 90-something degrees, and all of us are walking around the zoo, which doesn’t provide all that much shade. I had to keep re-applying sunscreen because I had already gotten burned at the Family Reunion. I am happy to report I didn’t get more burned. And T went the whole trip without getting burnt.

I had to pick this photo to highlight how my child spent the day digging underpants out of his butt.
Apparently he has outgrown his underpants and needs a bigger size.

We all gathered at some picnic tables for a birthday lunch, where the birthday boy got a Hostess cupcake with a FIVE candle stuck in it as his birthday cake. He started giggling and his mom informed my cousin’s who planned the lunch that those are his favorite cupcakes. So good deal. T was a little upset there was no birthday cake, but then they passed around little brownie bites for everyone else and he was satisfied.

So the Oakland Zoo also has kiddie rides. I didn’t know this. Grew up fifteen minutes away and I don’t recall ever being there before. The kids all got a kick out of riding the rides. T rode the carousel and made sure that he was riding a tiger, because he was a tiger. Oh yeah, the kids all got masks and tails from the Zoo people since we were a large group or something. T wore that tiger mask and tail for the next two days.


But the best ride, according to T, were the cars that the kids “drive” in a circle. He drove a fire truck (like Optimus Prime), a little orange car (like Bumblebee, although it was orange and not yellow) and a motorcycle (which he didn’t like because you can’t turn the wheels). I have to say, the ride operator at those cars was the best ride operator ever. You could tell this guy really likes hanging out with kids. He was probably about 17 years old, and he just got so excited talking to the kids about the cars, being friendly to the kids waiting (impatiently) in line, and would give him high-fives all the time. He just had this great personality. T thought he was awesome too. I wish I had caught his name so I could send an email to the Zoo to let them know. It was just so different from the guy at the carousel who was taking his job way too seriously and couldn’t even put a smile on his face (I mean, yeah, it was a million degrees outside but you are one of the few people at the Zoo who actually gets to hang out in the shade.)

Passed out in the car.

Tuesday evening a bunch of us gathered back at Aunt Anna’s house, just to hang out. The adults spread out chairs in the backyard and we just sat, talked, and enjoyed the cool night air. The kids were running around the house (and backyard) as if they’d been cooped up all day and hadn’t just been running around a Zoo for hours. So much energy. Luckily, Aunt Anna lives right next door (literally) to an elementary school. So one of the older kids took the others over to play on the playground.

That just reminded me of the days when I was young and my older cousins would take us over to that same playground to run off our energy. Life comes full circle or something.

And then on Wednesday I came back home. Minus one little monster. T is staying behind at my dad’s house until the twenty-sixth. This happens sometimes, where my dad will take T for a week so they can bond and go camping or whatever. And I get time to myself. It’s just never been this much time before. It’s going to be weird, but also very relaxing.

The trip home took a little bit longer than the trip to the Bay Area, like an hour and a half longer. I didn’t know it at the time, but just outside of Truckee we were parked on the Interstate because a truck filled with bees had turned over. And then, once we got moving, we were in construction traffic so it was still slow-going. At one point we were stopped and I took a picture of the speed limit sign, taunting me with it’s 55 limit while I’m going 0.

Just taunting and taunting…

When I got home on Wednesday, I just sat on the couch for a while, enjoying the perfect silence. Nobody else around. Just me.

I love my large, crazy and loud family, but I am glad it’s just T and I at home.

And now my aunts and uncles are planning another reunion in ten years, when Nana turns 100. We’ve already estimated we’ll probably have 100 people in our family by that time. Provided us cousins keep popping out babies. I didn’t even mention that this family reunion was also for Nana’s 90th birthday. I mean, her birthday is in December this year, but nobody really wanted to get together in the middle of winter. Travel would be too difficult, especially for the Minnesotans. Everyone thought Nana would be grumpy when we sang happy birthday, calling us idiots because her birthday wasn’t until December, but she loved it.Why wouldn’t she? All of her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren (with very few exceptions of people who couldn’t make it) got together for the first time in eleven years and it was to celebrate something happy.

I can’t wait to see the group photo we took at the reunion. And the pyramid of cousins from the Cousin Bash.

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