In Washington, it was good to settle in and know that we were going to stay for a while. After relaxing on the first evening, we found plenty of things to do in the ensuing days. We tried to make the most of our time, and also use the grandparents’ excellent babysitting skills when possible, so that we could do some things without Elena.
Almost every day, either Jenny or I went running along the banks of the Columbia river. We appreciated the cool mornings, especially because Austin was in the middle of a lengthy string of triple-digit days, on its way to one of the warmest summers ever. One day, we took Elena’s stroller and all went together–I walked with Elena while Jenny ran, then eventually she turned around and made her way back to us. She took over the stroller and headed back to the car, while I ran back home.
We also went to visit Elena’s cousins and great-grandma almost every day. Jenny’s brother Paul, his wife Veronica, and their kids Alisa, Sam, Michael, and Aaron all had a great time playing with Elena, and she had a wonderful time meeting and getting to know them. She also instantly loved her Grammies (Jenny’s grandma), who wanted to hold her whenever we were together. Jenny was happy to hand Elena over, because they had two friendly adolescent cats that she wanted to see and hold. So it all worked out for everybody. Including me–Paul has a pretty amazing saltwater aquarium that I could watch for hours.
As a part of our first visit, we went out for lunch at McDonald’s. While the big kids played in the PlayPlace, and Jenny talked with Grammies and Veronica about things, Elena was ready for a nap, so I sang to her and put her in her car seat. She went down happily and peacefully; nobody even realized that she was napping until they noticed that she was nowhere to be seen. Grammies could hardly believe that she would go down so quickly and quietly amidst the noise.
On Friday, we met Paul and some of the kids at a little farmer’s market in downtown Richland. Paul wanted Jenny to make some salsa from a base of his homegrown heirloom tomatos, and was looking for the remainder of the ingredients. We bought some Hermiston watermelons for a cookout the following night. The next day Jenny did make the salsa, and it was amazing. Homegrown tomatoes are always more flavorful than store-bought ones, but each of Paul’s was a different color and they all had slightly different flavors that blended beautifully in the salsa.
For church that Sunday we dressed Elena in an outfit that Grammies had given her, so that merited a visit to show her in person. We arrived just as everyone else was getting ready for church, and hope that we didn’t make them late. In any case, Grammies was very happy to see Elena in her beautiful white and lilac dress. It was time for Elena’s nap, and she was able to fall asleep right on her great-grandma’s bed.
Monday brought Veronica and the kids to us, as a neighbor of Grandpa Tony extended an open invitation for us to use their pool. We were very thankful for the baby swimmer that Veronica let us borrow, and I had a good time playing in the deep end with the older kids. That evening they invited us over for dinner. Paul grilled steaks, which were wonderful with corn on the cob and mashed potatoes. His whole-wheat rolls really deserve a special mention. He and Veronica told us about how they started with a certain recipe for regular rolls, then methodically tweaked it until they found perfection. We just wanted to eat more and more, but eventually we had to leave.
The next day, while I was flying to Atlanta (more about that later), Jenny and Elena went on a drive with Grammies, Veronica, and the kids. They visited Vantage, home to a petrified forest. That was also the day that we learned that Elena had a new cousin–Ainsley was born in Texas, so that added even more excitement to the day.
For cousin Alisa, the highlight of our whole trip came on Thursday. The prior week, Jenny noticed Alisa admiring some earrings while at the farmers’ market, and asked when she might get her ears pierced. There was a certain amount of confusion, but it eventually turned out that both her parents were agreeable to the idea. Jenny decided that she wanted to be the ‘cool aunt’ who would make it happen. Finally, on Thursday evening we found time to do it. We wanted just to pick Alisa up and take her over to the mall, but upon further investigation realized that we needed a parent’s actual presence, not just a signed permission slip. So it turned into another whole-family outing.
At the mall, we were met by Grandma Renee, who really wanted to see the procedure, and eventually Veronica and Sammy caught up to us after their Cub Scout meeting. I made sure to keep Elena out in the hallway–I didn’t want Jenny to take any impulsive action or try to get a two for one discount. As a result, I got to hang out with Sammy and watch Michael, who had been removed from the store before he knocked anything over. For some reason, Elena started to laugh any time Sammy looked at her, even more so when he made funny faces.
Before too long, Alisa picked out her earrings, got a full lecture on proper ear care, and had the earrings installed. Alisa was elated, and everyone else was very pleased, then we all went out for ice cream. Jenny just received a report from Grammies that Alisa is taking good care of her ears, to prevent infection.
We only saw Paul’s family one more time after that, when we stopped on our way out of town to say our goodbyes. We were all sad to say goodbye, but I think Aaron took it the hardest. But it was time for us to go, so we bundled up into our car and waved and honked one last time as we headed out.
I still have to write about all the fun times we had and fun things we did with Grandpa Tony and Grandma Renee. Don’t worry–that’s coming up in my next post about the vacation.