Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekend Wrap-Up: Part 2

Okay, so now to what actually happened.

This was an extended weekend of sorts. We had a lot we wanted to accomplish so we had to get an early start. This year the reunion was in Illinois. My parents have very close friends there so we used this as an opportunity to spend some time with them. On Tuesday afternoon we loaded up the rental car and headed out. Funny thing is our neighbors thought we purchased a new family vehicle:

While the mini-van was a pretty comfy vehicle for our trip- I'm still not convinced that I will ever be a mini-van driving mom.

So we started our seemingly 12 hour journey, however we had something up our sleeves. My mom, husband, brother, and I had preplanned to stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame and surprise my dad as an early birthday gift. After driving about 7 hours we told my dad that we were going to get a hotel room overnight because if we kept going we would get to our friends house in the middle of the night and we didn't want to disturb them at that hour. We also used the excuse that we thought it would take a lot longer because I expected to make way more bathroom stops. So we got a hotel (that just so happened to be a mile from the gas station we stopped at), checked in and had dinner at a nearby Outback Steakhouse. The TV's at dinner was showing info for that weekend's upcoming HOF induction. It was perfect! My dad said he would like to go there one day but he never thought to plan a trip there because he felt there was nothing to do besides go to the HOF then go home. In actuality there are a ton of things to do in and around Ohio including the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and the Canton Classic Car museum. So, the next morning we had breakfast (included in the hotel room rate), checked out, and hit the road. When we pulled into the HOF parking lot and my dad realized where we were going- it was priceless. My parents aren't excitable people but his reaction said it all... he was excited!

I know he really enjoyed the museum tour. It is self guided and no time limit. I really wish I could show you the pictures we took but I am sure that would bore you. My husband enjoyed it as well. Although he's been before it's been about 7 years so he got to see a few more classes added to the hall. And now they have plans to expand the museum and the expected completion is 2013. I think there is going to be people who expect to go back in about two years.
After the HOF we hit the road again and we still had one more surprise (for my dad) up our sleeves. We also gave my dad and Ipad 2 which he has been talking about for months now. At one point I thought he might kill over and die if he didn't go out and get one. The only thing stopping him from purchasing himself one is that the company he works for and their union was in contract negotiations and he didn't want to spend unnecessary money in case they went on strike. His new man toy kept him occupied for the rest of our journey.

My brother and I are huge Micheal Jackson fans. Have been since we were little and always will be. So my husband (who was the brains behind all of our surprises) suggested we stopped at MJ's birthplace since we had to drive through Indiana anyway. It turns out that his childhood home is only about 3 miles from the highway road so it wouldn't be too much of a deviation. My brother figured out where we were going when we took the exit that said 'Gary, Indiana... that way' but he was excited too nonetheless. I tried desperately to distract him so wouldn't see the exit sign but it didn't work... at all.

It's no secret that Gary, IN isn't the richest town in the world but I definitely expected more. When we pulled up even my brother said "So where is it?"

Yep, that's it. This tiny 300 square foot corner property home housed some of the greatest musical legends of all time. I thought for sure someone would use this as an opportunity to capitalize off of MJ's fame. There was guy sitting across the street playing MJ music and selling paraphernalia but he was the only person. There were some neighbors casually sitting on their porches enjoying the weather, cars driving by and then us. We didn't know if we should get out and take pictures or just keep it moving. Luckily another vehicle pulled up behind us and they all started to get out, no longer making us look crazy.

I expected there to be a tour guide, a parking lot where you had to pay $10 for 30 minutes and slew of other things. There wasn't. In fact I'm not sure if you can actually go into the home. The lawn is very well maintained and there was lots of mementos and things- it was all very sort of ... peaceful.

My brother and I signed one of the boards that must have had a million signatures with messages to MJ and then we were off again. We arrived at our friend's house that evening and had dinner with them. We stayed until Friday afternoon which was the official start of the family reunion weekend.

This year's theme was Denim & Diamonds. Friday evening welcome reception was so much fun. This year the hosts planned activities where you earn 'diamond dollars'. So after each event you completed you earned a certain amount of dollars for that event. At the end of the weekend all the dollars earned were pooled together and names were randomly chosen to win a first, second, and third place prize. The first event for Friday was a puzzle. The hosts had cut up various boxes of food products and we had to put it back together. This was a really inexpensive way (provided you eat those foods) to get everyone working together as a team.

They also had a line dance instructor come out and teach some line dances. Not country line dances but the more urban popular ones. I must admit this was fun- especially when I went up there to participate with a 8 month belly and no one thought I could do it. This pic is pretty blurry (sorry) but the instructor gave the girls the belly dancing skirts (I don't know why) and mine barely fit around the baby. When I tried to put it around my actual hips (what's left of them) it kept falling off. But I did it. The DJ made fun of me, everyone swore I was going to go into labor, and when we were done I was exhausted but I did it.

The funniest part of the whole thing is that I don't remember any of the dances even though we did it several more times that weekend! So for Friday night I earned a total of about 7 diamond dollars. My mom, brother, husband, and dad earned about 2 for that puzzle.

Saturday is the family outing day. We had lunch at the Golden Corral and way too much fun at Brunswick Zone. I've never actually eaten at Golden Corral before and I had a pretty positive first experience. I think the staff was a little overwhelmed (but wouldn't you be if you have 100 hungry people staring at you). It was at the Golden Corral that I learned some of the real relationships that I had with my cousins. I was trying to explain how I was related to someone to my husband and in the process completed confused myself. This prompted a google search and the returns prompted a lot of useful information that I think we are going to use at our next family reunion. Essentially, I learned the meaning (and how to properly use it)of first cousin once removed and the true meaning of 2nd cousins (it's definitely not what I thought it was). The Brunswick Zone location we went to was a bowling alley that also had an attached bar/lounge (for the of age evening crowd), laser tag, bumper cars, pool tables, and arcade games. About 20 of my cousins played guys versus girls laser tag. I wanted to play so bad but my brother refused for fear that somebody might bump me (I can't blame him- it's dark in there) or I might get accidentally run over. We were able to watch but you can't really get that good of a view from where they let you watch. So I left them be and went and played trivia games with my dad. The guys whooped the girls by almost 20,000 points (glad I sat that one out) and my dad murdered me in trivia and skeeball (but who's counting).

The only way you could earn diamond dollars at Brunswick Zone was to bowl- but I didn't do that (I am REALLY bad at bowling) so no dollars for me that day. We had so much fun though. The bumper cars were out of control. I thought I was going to pee myself at one point from laughing too hard. Of course I didn't get on but laughing at them from the sidelines might have been funnier than getting whip lash.

I can't believe I didn't get a picture of our t-shirt. When I unpack I am going to have to take a picture of it and post it. My shirt was an XL and it fit! When we first send in our registration I was barely showing and I had no idea how much weight I would gain so I was a little nervous about the size. I had a back up outfit in case it didn't fit but I would have been extremely disappointed if it didn't.

Every evening everyone hangs out until the wee hours of the morning. I just could not this year- I was way too exhausted. One night (actually every night) they decided to go to one of the clubs in downtown Chicago. It was there that they "partied" with Nas ( a famous rapper who is nearly irrelevant right now- for those of you who have no idea who I am talking about). My brother got really good pics of him and I decided to share that bit of info.

On Sunday we went back to my parents friends house this time to take to my Aunt who didn't travel with us on the first leg of the trip. We had lunch there and then headed back to the hotel for the banquet. Now as I told you before- I missed one year of dressing up in our theme and I will never do it again. From the moment we got the family reunion package I scoured the stores trying to find a denim maternity dress. I found one for $60 bucks and waited til the absolute last minute to buy it because you all know how I feel about spending a boat load of money on maternity clothes. In this case procrastination paid of because I found a dress in the motherhood maternity outlet for $30 bucks. It wasn't my ideal price range (I would rather spend $20) but it saved me 50%. I had a ton of rhinestone jewelry from my proms, sweet 16's, and high school days so the diamonds part was not a problem. I took a picture of my final outfit on my brother's camera so I can't post it right now- but I think I looked pretty good.

For the diamond dollars drawing my cousin, her husband, and her dad wone first, second, and third place- which everyone couldn't believe. The third and second place prizes were cash and first first place prize was a free night's stay at the hotel which was used to comp his stay (he didn't have to come back to redeem it) so he paid for 2 night's instead of 3...sweet!

Monday's farewell is never easy. We have so much fun during the weekend that no one wants to leave. I think the best part of the reunion this year was

- showing up pregnant and everyone's surprise when they saw me
- spending time with family we only get to see once a year
- learning how to do the wobble and then forgetting it hours later. BTW that's not my family in the link but it was the best video I could find.
- seeing my dad and brother's reaction when we pulled up to their suprises.
- being away on vacation
-and the million other memories that was made this year.

I could go on forever about the weekend's festivities as this post doesn't even scratch the surface. Hopefully in the coming days while it is fresh on my mind, I am going to make a picture book with all the pictures we took that recounts the week/weekend so baby will know what his or her first family reunion was like.

If you are still reading this- bless you...

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