Sunday, July 4, 2010

Up North with Papa and Ning...

After a fabulous, jam-packed week in Chicago, Rob drove back to Nashville for work while the kids and I boarded a flight to Minneapolis to see my dad and Nancy (also affectionately known as Papa and Ning).

Madeline shouted "Ning, Ning, Ning," and leapt into her arms as soon as she saw her waiting at the gate with Papa. The next two weeks were so special and fun -- looking back, some of my favorite times were the quiet early mornings when we were all up drinking coffee, and Charlie would crawl into my dad's lap while he read the paper. Ning works from home, so she would pop out of her office throughout to laugh and play with chalk or blow bubbles with us. My dad came home for lunch every day -- Madeline and Charlie would wait for his car to pull up just like they do for Rob at home. One morning, he took us to the Minnesota Children's Museum in downtown St. Paul, and then treated us to a fun lunch at the classic Mickey's Dining Car, which has appeared in the Smithsonian and National Geographic. Another big hit was the swimming pond walking distance from my dad and Ning's house -- a man made sand beach with filtered, chlorinated water -- we went there every other day! The kids also loved the dog park, where we played with Mary Claire. Madeline and Charlie had a blast at the Father Hennepin Festival -- they were fascinated by the camels and fearlessly rode on the carnival rides, but only after splitting a corn dog. Ning had a bottomless bag of "surprises" for Madeline (dress ups, sunglasses, art projects, bubbles) and my dad changed "horseshoes," to the kids absolute delight (think foot tickling with lots of giggling and squirming). One of Madeline and Charlie's favorite things to do was play in my dad's boat parked in the garage and catch "Papa Fish."

It was such a treat that Mollie, Andi and Kyle all visited during our stay, though not all at the same time. Mols was in from Denver for a weekend; my dad and Ning watched the kids while we shopped for Mollie's bridal heels and jewelry! That night, they treated me to a babysitter (the best gift ever?) and the four of us went out for a fabulous dinner with live jazz.

Andi and Kyle arrived a few days after Mollie headed home; it was the first time I had seen them since their recent engagement! Ning, Madeline and I loved watching Andi model wedding gowns (she looked breathtaking) and it was awesome to hang out with Kyle, who became a great friend of ours after hanging out in Peoria with him for a year before our transfer to Nashville.

I loved seeing where my dad and Ning live -- not only their beautiful home, but also the lovely community they're a part of, with 50 miles of biking trails and natural forest, literally starting in their backyard. I ended every day with a relaxing sauna and an early bedtime.

Madeline and Charlie loved the flight home just as much as they loved the flight there (though in Madeline's case, I think it might be because they gave her juice, a big reward in our house). The pilots even invited them into the cockpit! From beginning to end, our three-week trip was amazing and we loved every second! Rob was waiting for us at the airport with flowers, hugs and kisses -- we missed him so much and were so happy to see him again!


Johanna said...

Loved reading about your trip in MN (sorry, I am a few weeks behind). Sounded like an amazing trip!!

Chelsea said...

Sounds like the perfect trip! How fun that your sisters could come too. Isn't it great to all be together? and a night out without the kids?? That IS the best gift ever! Ha! ;o)

The Brown Family said...

Love all these pics. Especially the one with Andi and Madeline, just so adorable. How nice that they loved the plane flight, that's a huge help. What a fun trip!