Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Oh, my goodness. This has been my longest blog vacation yet, I think. I really do feel naughty in the sense that I've been occasionally checking in and enjoying all my friends' and family's blogs, but really lived an internet sparse vacation. It wasn't internet free, just sparse.

So, for posterity's sake, I need to rewind all the way to the week before Christmas...

It snowed. We shoveled. It snowed. We shoveled. It seemed to go on just like that for days. The kids had a snow day. Then they canceled John's classes. Those classes were his last day of finals. That was bad. That complicated things. Significantly. He was supposed to have a crazy-grading weekend right before we flew away to Maryland for the holidays. Now he had to wait until Monday morning to try to coordinate at least sixty loose college students taking make-up exams and turning in papers. He got all but three fixed up, so I call that a victory.

We zipped up to see my sister and her family, and my mom. We got there later than we had wanted to, but we still had a good time before Julie drove us to the airport the next morning.

Our ten a.m. flight was canceled, but we decided that was just okay with us, because they put us onto a lightly populated, nonstop plane to DC at 1 p.m. The city traffic had cleared, the roads had time to be plowed. It was a safe and relaxing (if I can say that when I wasn't driving) drive. Thanks Julie.

Our other adventure was learning that we were going to have to pay $15 each way for each bag we wanted to check. I hated that idea. So I went about mooching carry-on bags from my friends and family. We pulled it off. We each had one carry-on suitcase and one bag or backpack besides. And we could have pulled it off, too, if it weren't for that pesky two-year old who not only can't carry her own bag or pull her own suitcase, but also wants to be carried much of the time.

I wish I'd had a picture of this warrior family to show you. We rocked. Grace carried her backpack plus pulled two suitcases. Keep in mind, we had a carseat and a stroller as well. The stroller was just taken along so that we'd have one extra thing to lug. The little one wasn't that interested in sitting in it. The big ones were, but that wasn't an option.

We arrived in DC exhausted, sore and happy. The weather was beautiful. Like 50 degrees. We basked.

It's been a very long time since I've spent a Christmas with my Dad and Stepmom. It was so much fun. We had already had a mini Christmas at home so we wouldn't have to squeeze gifts between ourselves into our already stuffed carry-on bags.

We went into DC one day. I wanted John to be able to check out the National Art Gallery in peace, so I took the kids to the Natural History Museum. We saw some of our favorite things. And it was much fun, outside of the fact that I had to take Gertie to the bathroom every 30 minutes (and it took 30 minutes to get to the bathroom each time). She had diahrea the whole time we were there. Bummer.

Here are the kids and I in front of a fossil that my Grandpa donated to the museum.

Grace and I went to the top of the Old Pavillion Post Office, and I took this picture of my beautiful big girl.
Then we took an overnight trip up to Pennsylvania to see John's brother Dan and his family. We hadn't seen their home yet, and it was beatiful.

Gertie got reacquainted with Uncle Dan. He was very good to her.

And Ethan and Quinn, like usual, seem to get along great. They played lots of video games.

And look at this Berke trio. I love it.

And one last picture of the adults, compliments of Gracie. We had just gone out to eat, the adults, all alone, at a local pizza joint just a few blocks from Dan's house. It was so fun exploring their hometown and visiting their local haunts. And I'm in my new vest that they gave me for Christmas. I didn't think I was a vest person, but I love that thing. Warm, warm, warm.

And here is my handsome husband in the new Phillies jersey we gave him for Christmas. Isn't he handsome? We had a good time playing Mexican Train and watching Ethan guzzle root beer without actually opening a can. Not just anyone can do that.

My New Year's Kids. They grow up so fast...

Judy snapped us actually ringing in the new year. It was pretty wild. My kids stayed up way too late all vacation long.
Here is Papa snuggling a couple of his biggest fans.

And Nana and the kids making bon-bons. And Ethan guzzling more root beer without actually opening the can.
That had been the night before we left. We wanted to get some bon-bons made so that they could deliver them to Abby in Panama. It was different not seeing her face around there. It makes me think about how life is really changing. She probably won't again live with my Dad and Stepmom (although, who knows). Sam will be a junior in college this next year. It just becomes harder to get everyone together the older and busier everyone gets. These are rare times to hold in memory. Precious.

Dad took us off to the airport after a family lunch at Chick-Filet, compliments of my brother Sam.

But then we flew back to Minneapolis where we had everyone together. This is everyone (minus my husband, who wasn't there, and myself--someone had to take the picture). It is rare for us, but I'm glad we squeeze it in every once in a while. We had a great time watching the cousins play, and we got to see Baby Verena walk all over the place. Gertie really enjoyed Verena and walked her around and played with her every chance she got. I got to catch up with my sisters and my Mom. It was very nice. Verena is a fun addition to the pile of cousins. Now we just need to teach her and Gertie how to play PS2, right Beth?

Now I looked at this picture and realized we were missing Grace. I can't believe I forgot about that. She wasn't there either. But what a sweet pile of kids.

And now we return to real life in the Berke household. The adventure continues...