It started in Des Moines. It was then, 8 adults, 1 infant. And a fancy seafood restaurant. With a tired infant.
The next year, we traveled to Colorado. 8 adults. 3 kids. 3 car seats. 3 pack n plays. Strollers. Feeding schedules. 7:30 bedtimes. With a time change thrown in.
The next year we went back to that same mountain town. To the same rental. 8 adults. 4 kids.
And then to St Louis. Each of driving. 8 adults. 5 kids. One just one month out of the oven. I think that was the year we started the happy hour tradition with Shirley Temples for the kids who weren’t still on breast milk. And adult beverages for the adults.
The following year we all met up in our hometown. The town where the roots were planted. Where 5 of us once lived together. A staycation. 8 adults. 6 kids. Plus a mix of other aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends that have become family. Some kids slept in “the bunk room.” Some in pack n plays in any room that was dark and quiet. Even if that meant grandma’s walk-in closet. And a fun run. With mandatory participation by all.
The next year… Anna Maria Island, Florida. And 7 kids. 8 adults. A house just two blocks walk from the beach. Fresh donuts in the morning. Ice cream in the evening. A pool in the backyard. Adult only pool time in the afternoons when the kids all went down for nap time. Some kids in a big bunk room. One in our closet. Group bath times. And of course, happy hour in the pool. Complete with popsicles. And that year, I shared the news of number 8 on the way.
But flying and renting cars and hauling car seats and pack n plays… welllll… the next year, we traded that in favor of another staycation at Grandma and Grandpas. That year, 8 kids. The great 8. And 8 adults. Pool time. Nap time. A huge bounce house for a day. The fun run again. And that year, family friends from Arizona. And the Netherlands. Yes. The Netherlands.
And each year since we’ve been back “home.” 8 kids. 8 adults. One pool. The fun run. Evening shenanigans. Daytime sun. Happy hour. Every day. With soda and snacks. Soccer and baseball in the yard. Movie time. And every so often a visit from “uncles” Shane and Logan. And uncle Doug and Aunt Judi.
And so here we are again. Staycation 2017. This morning the kids did the fun run. And then, were in charge of the waffle making. Last night, walking tacos. The night prior, Valentino’s pizza. Yesterday, the girls all got their nails done. And some of the guys hit the links.
The age spread — 10. 9. 8. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. — 7 boys. One girl.
But something is different this year. These kids… they’re growing. Into independent people. They’re a little pack of people that travel around in a little gang.
It’s the first year without a pack n play. It’s the first year that the two on the top of the totem pole have taken up sleeping on the couch. The first year that kids can be in the pool with adults sitting on the deck just reading or chatting. They played baseball for hours yesterday. Only one is still in diapers and that will just be a memory in a matter of moments. No infants. In fact, I rarely know where all three of mine are throughout the day. Because the kids mostly entertain each other. No structure to naps or bedtimes. And so many different personalities.
We’ve gone from one kid to eight. We’ve gone from strollers and baby carriers to bikes and scooters. From baby toys to video games. 7:30 bedtimes have made way for staying up late watching movies. These days the kids scrap together their own snacks and sneak a fair amount of junk, I’m sure. And it may even be the last year anyone sleeps in grandma’s closet.
It’s the first year that I’ve looked at the kids and thought, wow. We made these people and they are pretty rad. AND they get along! And they look forward to this time together. Every year.
The kids love it. A little snippet of the summer with a cornfield as their backdrop. No schedule. No practices. And memories for a lifetime made with their people who share their roots.
And I love it. Because it’s pretty cool to grow up with people and still like them as people when we’re all grown into our own selves. And to want to keep getting to know one another as adults. And through our kids. A few days of our lives each year that we spend together just because.
And as they grow, I know the differences will continue to come with us. The kids will only change more and more over the next decade. And our schedules will get crazier and crazier. But I hope we will continue to mark time and years with a summer adventure. Because whether we’re in a town of 1800, an island in the ocean, or somewhere in between, the family time is some of my very favorite.