Missing Our Beloved Uncle Terry in Delaware

7.29.2014

Last weekend, we made our annual trip to Delaware to visit with friends and family.  My aunt and uncle moved to Delaware close to 20 years ago, so we make this trip every year or twice a year if possible...  My best friend Mary Ann also moved from Connecticut to Southern New Jersey about twelve years ago, and so if time permits, we usually try to see each other during the trip too.

This year, however, our little "family reunion" visit was missing a beloved family member--Uncle Terry.  He passed away the day after Easter this year, and so it was hard not to feel genuine sadness for his absence.  When we arrived, Little Lewie immediately started looking at pictures of Uncle Terry in the house and asking about him and God. 

"Can Uncle Terry hear us in Heaven?" my son Lewie asked.
"Sure he can," I answered.  "We can say a little prayer to him right now."
"Can we hear Uncle Terry?"
"Well, it's a little harder to hear our loved ones in heaven," I answered, "but sometimes they show us signs that they are with us."
"Where is heaven?" my son continued to ask.
"It's up there," I said, pointing to the sky.
"So you mean Uncle Terry can fly?"

As you can imagine, our trip was filled with these types of questions, and Lewie asked them every day during our short stay.  My Aunt let Lewie pick out a race car from my Uncle Terry's NASCAR collection, and Lewie picked out my Uncle Terry's favorite car--lucky number 10!  Still at the end of our trip, Lewie insisted that the car be left at my aunt's house.  "That's my Uncle Terry's car," he proclaimed, "I can't take it." 

This year, we took lots of pictures of our trip, including my aunt's house and her motor home.  The motor home, sadly, is for sale since she can't envision herself camping with it anymore, and although the house is not on the market, my mom seems to think that it's only a matter of time before my aunt decides to move to a smaller house.  Only time will tell.  In the meantime, Little Lewie insists that we buy the motor home.  I sure wish we had the money to keep the family tradition!

My mom (on the left), my Aunty Irene (my aunt from Delaware), my Aunty Kiki (back) and Aunt Karen

My handsome husband...feeling a little outnumbered by all the women in my family.


Lewie sleeping in the campervan.

Another rare sight.  (Usually he's the first one up.)

Swimming in the pool...

Mason--a friend of the family.  (Lewie loves spending time with her each year.)

Cousin Frankie  (He just turned 13!)

The three kiddos at play...

My Aunt's camper van

My uncle's last name was "Gillette."  (There's an actual Gillette's Castle in Connecticut.)

My Aunty Irene in the campervan.  She made this trip wonderful for us.

 



Lewie and Frankie chillin out on the side porch.

A much better picture of the two cousins!

Lewie lost his second tooth on this trip.  We think it may be in the pool somewhere...

A view of the field across the street

A last photo of Lewie and me before we leave to go home...
My aunt, in her usual style, made the trip to Delaware wonderful for us.  There was always plenty of yummy food to eat and fun things to do... Her home will always be a "home away from home."  I sure hope she decides to stay here, but if not, we'll always have many wonderful memories of our special visits.  My Uncle Terry, along with this home, will be missed but never forgotten.

Celebrating Lewie's 6th Birthday a Bit Early...

7.14.2014

My son's birthday is on August 11th, but this year we celebrated it a bit early...  

A few months ago, we decided to celebrate Lewie's birthday at this gem of a park close to our house.  The park, Veteran's Memorial Park and Lakeview Lodge, has a new pavilion with clean, air conditioned bathrooms, a large playground, and a little beach along a spring-fed lake.  Quite honestly, it's the best place we know for children of all ages, so we knew Lewie's 6 year-old friends (along with their toddler siblings) would all have a good time. 

When I made the reservations back in May, I was surprised to learn that there were no more weekend days left in August.  My choices were July 12 or September 6th, so after a little consideration, we finally decided that it would be better to celebrate Lewie's birthday earlier instead of later...

So, this weekend, we packed up to celebrate Lewie's birthday at the park, and we couldn't have been happier.  We had a beautiful 80 degree day with low humidity, and most of our friends were available to come celebrate in the festivities.  (Even two of Lewie's teachers from preschool joined us!)  We ordered pizza and a cake, and last minute, I was able to find someone to drive an ice cream truck to our event.  (He only charged $20 plus the cost of Good Humor ice cream.) 

My favorite part of the day, of course, was watching Little Lewie enjoy himself with all of his friends.  However, a close tie was being able to treat all of my friends and family members to ice cream.  The minute they saw the truck, I heard a lot of people mumble, "Oh, I don't have any money," or "We can't buy anything today."  When I told everyone that the ice cream was on us, however, their facial expressions changed.  Even parents were excited to pick something out!  All of our friends and family were so appreciative, and it made me thrilled to know that such a "small" gesture (in my mind) could bring so much happiness.

Yes, Little Lewie's Flip, Flop, Splash Birthday Bash was a success.  He may not be six just yet, but we agreed to celebrate his birthday one more time (on a much smaller scale) in August too when it gets closer.  In the meantime, we had a chance to spend time with many people that we haven't seen since last year.  There's nothing better than rekindling those special friendships that make life so sweet.

Little Lewie enjoying some sun before his party...

Little Lewie and Miss Kristen, one of his teachers from preschool. 
(Miss Kristen even allowed Lewie to pick out his present on her smart phone during recess one day.)

Our special friend Debbie with her two cute kiddos.

My cousin with his daughter, Crystal.

My mother-in-law with cousin Lily, our newest family addition.

Lewie and his preschool teacher, Miss Vicki.  (She bought him a special train book.)

Lewie and his two cousins, Sarah and Brooklynn

The ice cream truck has arrived!

Sponge Bob is the best!

Chillin' out in the truck.  (No pun intended.)

Testing some cake first...

Proof that my husband and I were really at this event.

LEGO candles for Lewie!

"That's a funny joke, Sarah."

"Make a wish!"

Very good cake!  Could my husband have cut the piece any larger?

I love this pic.  The true essence of being a six year old boy.

More presents...

A bow for Lewie...

Playing with LEGOS after the party because we're just too excited.

Playing with LEGOS again first thing in the morning.  (It took a day and a half to build his entire LEGO train station.)

LEGOLAND

7.03.2014

While planning our trip to Florida, we decided early on that LEGOLAND would be our main attraction.  (We were hoping to visit the Tampa Zoo, too, but we soon learned that five days wasn't long enough to do both without feeling totally rushed and overwhelmed.)  We bought tickets to visit LEGOLAND and enjoy their water park for two days, and that's just what we did.  Lewie was in heaven!

Day 3
On the third day of our trip, we did some relaxing by the pool and then headed out to LEGOLAND around noon.  Usually I have a very specific itinerary planned for our trips, but this year I decided to "go with the flow," which proved to be both a blessing and a curse.  When we programmed our GPS to take us to LEGOLAND, we soon learned that it was an hour and a half drive--one minor detail I may have overlooked.

"Annette, I thought LEGOLAND was just around the corner," said my husband.

"Me too.  I thought it was only a half an hour away," I responded, worried that we now wouldn't be arriving to LEGOLAND until well after 2 p.m.

The day called for afternoon thunderstorms and showers and just as we arrived to the park, the skies turned gray.  The lady at the ticket stand reminded us that the park provides no refunds for inclement weather, but we decided, against our better judgment, to go in anyways... 

After taking a cute little train ride in DUPLO VALLEY, an awesome section of the park meant for toddlers and young children, we then proceeded to MINILAND USA, where cities like Miami, New York, Washington D.C. and Las Vegas have been recreated into mini LEGO versions of themselves.  Lewie loved to see these awesome miniature cities, and my husband and I enjoyed looking at them too and comparing them to real life.  (We had been to all these cities during our traveling years well before Lewie was born.)

Our next stop was to try out a rollercoaster only to learn that these rides as well as the water park had been shut down due to the threat of thunderstorms.  We made it on a quick Safari ride before the skies opened up and the rain poured!  Showers?  This wasn't showers...This was a monsoon.  We went to the LEGOLAND 4-D theater, where we were snowed on inside and had a fun LEGO adventure, but as we came out, we realized that the rain was not letting up anytime soon and the park in general was shutting down.  Everyone, sporting ponchos and umbrellas, were packing up and leaving the park.  Feeling somewhat guilty, I bought Lewie a little SUV with Watercraft LEGO set to put together later.  As it turned out, it was the best little toy we could have bought him.  Since the rain never stopped that day, Lewie had a blast putting it together in our hotel room, and thankfully, we all knew that the visit wasn't ruined; we still had tickets to go back to LEGOLAND another day...

Daddy and Lewie on the Duplo train ride.

The cute little train station..


The Duplo farm across the street.  (What a fun place for toddlers!)



Mommy and Lewie posing in front of Miniland Miami, Florida.


Here's Miami up close...just like the real thing!


A LEGO ship.


The Golden Gate Bridge--made out of LEGOs, of course.

Daddy enjoying the LEGO Safari ride...


Lewie posing in front of the 4-D LEGO Theater.

Day 5
Since Day 4's weather forecast was calling for some more afternoon showers, we decided to visit LEGOLAND on our fifth and last day in Florida.  This time, knowing the distance from our hotel, we ventured out early, and the day did not disappoint.  In fact, we had no rain the entire day, and we had a chance to enjoy EVERYTHING.   With 90 degree temps, going to the water park first was a given.  This was followed by some rollercoaster rides and then Lewie's favorite ride of all, The Ford Driving School.  Here, Lewie not only had a chance to drive his very own LEGO car, but he took a "driving test" where he earned his very own LEGOLAND Driving License. 

For Lewie, having his own Driving License was it!!  He showed it to everyone inside the park, and he made sure to show it to everyone on the airport going home.  In fact, it's still the item most talked about from our entire trip...


A much sunnier day in LEGOLAND.

My two boys on the Island in the Sky ride.  (It was a relaxing ride 300 feet in the air.)


Miniland Las Vegas...so darn cute


The MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas


The Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas--This is where my husband proposed back in 2004.

Cooling Off in the LEGO Duplo pool.

Finally, a water slide that's more my speed :)

More water slides and fun activities, but on this ride, get prepared to be DRENCHED.

Lewie building LEGOs at the wave pool.

Hmm...Let's see if they will float.

There's nothing better than floating down a lazy river and adding LEGOs to your raft at the same time.

The Ford LEGO Driving School

All LEGOs, of course.





 

And we're off...

Nice merging Lewie.

Okay...you should be looking at the road in front of you.  Watch out for the LEGO people.

The test is over; congrats Lewie--you've earned your first driver's license!

LEGOLAND was a wonderful time.  Sure we were rained out the first day, but the second day was amazing.  Lew and I both agreed that we had the most fun in years, and the best part....spending every second with Lewie.  His happiness and passion for life is contagious.  Now if we can just bottle up the fun and spontaneity that we had on this trip and bring it into our everyday lives at home...