Monday, November 01, 2010

The Trip Home: the Kids

Before I get started on our trip back to Atlanta, it's my turn again at Vision & Verb. If you've paid attention, you know by now it's my turn every other Monday. I'll remind you but that's the schedule.

As often happens after a trip back with the kids, I ponder many things. This "Gathering Wisdom" bronze and the myriad thoughts that accompany her, along with Clarissa Pinkola Estés and her Women Who Run With the Wolves, speaks to where my heart is today. But you can read that for yourself.

Assuming I can finish processing all my pictures from our trip, the plan is to do it all in 2 parts. Today it'll be the part involving the kids over the two weekends and the next post about the mid-week time with our friends, Peggy and Bob. So hold your hat and here we go.

We arrived in Atlanta on a Friday night, picked up by Amy, Dennis and Nicholas. It was already after midnight for us, Dutch time, so we didn't stay up too late. But we were riding high on adrenalin, eating up all the excitement of the moment. We knew it would be a full weekend, starting with the County Fair with Nicholas the next day.

I. Cumming County Fair, Saturday, October 16

As fairs go, it has absolutely everything and more. That's why we keep going back!
The first thing we always do, after buying myriad tickets, is ride the skylift, which gives us a 15-minute overall view of the entire fairgrounds from beginning to end. It's basically the same layout every year but it's a good reminder of what to expect.

It's always fiun to see what rides Nicholas (age 10) still wants to ride, as well as the same rides he still does NOT want to ride. He amazes me at how nonchalantly he'll say "No, G'ma. That one's still too scary for me!" And when he says that, I don't try to persuade him otherwise. I know one year he'll suddenly be ready. Lucky for him, Astrid has an iron stomach and will be able to ride them with well as the ones now still too much for me.

In between those rides, there's the shows (hold your horses), the old-timer checkers, the petting zoo where we watched the queen bee in her bustling hive, the gigantic rat and snake (new this year). But guess what: no shotgun games for Nicholas. Astrid wanted to do that more than anything because she's an ace and wanted to teach Nicholas. But NO. Astrid had to do it by herself...and she did, giving her prize to the Big Boy. But you know what she couldn't believe? Our shotguns in the States shoot cork pellets. In The Netherlands they shoot large metal pellets. And I looked at her and said, "DUH!"

The Indian Village at this county fair is one to be envied anywhere. Trust me. I didn't take pictures this year of the teepees, tribal council lodge, other dwellings, buffalo, etc. This year I concentrated on the trivia. The Native American trinkets.

This year was the first time we actually sat and watched one of the Native American shows. We told Nicholas we could leave any time he wanted but he stayed for the entire Iroquois and a Creek indian joking around with each other while showing games the children played growing up to teach them how to hunt.
Fun and informative.

Coming back on the skylift, we caught one of the Frisbee shows with the world championship dogs. That's one of the things I love about this fair: things you'd not see anywhere else, perhaps, but top-notch. In fact, in the past we have seen some of the top country musicians, like Kenny Chesney, Pam Tillis, etc. All in the price of the admission. Not bad, right?!

Because this is a county fair in the south, we're lucky to see how things work like, for instance, making sugar-cane syrup. The whole process from beinning to end. Talk about getting your education. We're the lucky ones who get to stand there and stare. The mule in the background barn was fit to be tied, wanting his turn to walk the circle, I guess. It was hysterical. Or maybe he was in love and was dying for a kiss?

Don't forget the turkey leg, corn on the cob, BBQ baked potato...and later the homemade ice cream, both strawberry and peach. All part of the Fair, if not the best part.

But this year, for the first time ever, Nicholas tried the bungee ride as his last hurrah:

He loved it! By the time he was done, he had mastered the sommersault, over and over again.

Last year it was 6 hours. This year it was 8. If we continue doing it (and why not?!), Dennis and Amy said one year he'll want to take a girlfriend. Of course. And if he's not driving yet, why not go with us, right?
Won't THAT be a story to tell. HA! I can hardly wait.

II: Pumpkin Carving and Outback Steakhouse, Sunday, October 17

On Sunday, Mark came over to join the annual tradition of pumpkin carving, a first for Astrid.

Instead of going to a pumpkin patch on a Sunday morning (in the Bible-belt South), we went to nearby Kroger (also much cheaper!) to each pick out our own pumpkin. Mark already had his.

By now, Amy has everything we need to set up the 'project' in the garage: newspaper, plastic bags for the pulp and seeds (for roasting, YUM), quilts to sit on, knives for cutting off the tops, large spoons, scary patterns, and the pumpkin-carving tools. Oh, and a couple beers.
This was Nicholas' first year to carve his from beginning to end. He also was the designated driver to teach Astrid how to do it. A first for her. No, they do not carve pumpkins in The Netherlands.

That was Sunday morning. Then lunch, a Halloween costume preview, and pro-football before Astrid and I treated us all to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate all the birthdays we had missed throughout the year:

And then, once home....

...a line-up of the unusual suspects for the camera lovers.
From left to right: Dennis, Ginnie, Amy, Nicholas and Astrid.
Where's Mark? Apparently Amy had only 5 candles, so Mark's is still in the garage. Rats! Bummer!

III: The North Georgia Mountains: Friday - Monday, October 22-25

In between the two weekends, Astrid and I spent mid-week with friends south of Atlanta but on Friday we were back, ready and willing to take the 2-hour drive to Blue Ridge, GA, gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Amy picked the same cabin we used last year before I moved to The Netherlands, so we knew what to expect. And this year, Astrid would share it with us, in neutral territory.

We were not disappointed!

Amy and Dennis were the chefs. Astrid and I were the bottle washers.
Grilled tuna and beef steaks. And a first for Astrid, s'mores one night for treats.
The last late-morning on the way home, a stop at Waffle House.
There's nothing like eating in the cool autumnal air of the Georgia mountains!

We had to laugh when we saw the jigsaw puzzle Amy chose for the weekend: 2,000 pieces.
If we had worked on only it, without playing our myriad hands of Spades and everything else, we might have finished more than the border and a few other odd pieces.
HA! Next time, we all agreed, she'll pick a 500-piece box.

Ironically, the one thing we did more than anything else was play Spades...all of us except Astrid and Nicholas (more on that in a second). But not one picture of that pastime!
Plenty of images, however, of the next biggest activity, which was pool, and something we all played at various times throughout the weekend.

Don't forget the hot tub...another first for Astrid.

Because Astrid isn't a card player, yet, but still thrives on Nintendo-type games (which she played all the time with her son, Jeroen), it was a no-brainer for her to take Nicholas under her wing while the rest of played our Spades...a competition for awhile now between Mark and Me vs. Amy and Dennis. Everyone was happy. But I'm guessing they, Astrid and Nicholas, ended up the healthiest!

Still, we all found our ways to relax and just BE. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Two weekends in the lives of Astrid and Ginnie while back home visiting the Kids. Two weekends of my family meeting Astrid and getting to know a bit more of why we're together. Two weekends of starting all over again in this game called Life. It's a Journey...and one I take seriously.

Thus the reminder again of my turn at Vision and Verb...where I continue to gather wisdom along the way.


  1. Even though that is a lot of firsts for Astrid, I think you managed to spread them out enough and let her sink her teeth in them enough for them not to be overwhelming.

    And what about the fried green tomatoes?? Did that happen at the Whistle Stop Café?

    Beautiful pumpkins, beautiful fair, beautiful dinner and cabin, beautiful people whom I love so dearly.

    Thank you for sharing all this so I could peek at your comings and goings.

  2. Thank you for your kind words at my blog. We are driving back from Disney World today... I would much rather have been on vacation almost anywhere else! Can't wait to take a better look at your post, but I love the pumpkin carving this year. Ours are usually quite intricate as well.

  3. We had a great time, those both weekends, the weather sure did help too.
    Looking at all of your pictures, it is like making the trip all over.
    Amy, Dennis, Mark and Nicholas made me feel very welcome and it was a joy to share those two weekends with them too.
    Playing the Nintendo was a whole new experience again, it was some years ago that I played, but once I was 'on the road again' Nicholas and I had great fun.
    Thank you for being part of your yourney called LIFE, I can learn some from it too.

  4. Astrid and you certainly packed a lot of activities during your short stay. I have never been to that fair but it certainly sounds interesting. I looked at your pumpkin carvings and my favorite is the one Nicholas carved. Your time in the North Georgia Mountains must have been lovely as it is so peaceful and colorful there. We just came back this evening also from that area. We spent the night in Sautee-Nacoochee and drove on a very rustic and tiny forestry road for 14 miles in the mountain. Last night we were in Helen for Halloween – many costumes, children and adults too. It seems that you enjoyed your trip a lot – that is very nice.

  5. Wow - those were some great pics! You made me tired just thinking of all of the work you put into doing this post. Nicolas is getting so big too! And I notice his new thing is make various hand gestures.

    And so many firsts. Speaking of which, all of those food pics make me hungry!!! And the smores, oh I want to do that soon!! :)

    Oh and a surprise nobody really knows about, we got a new car! It's been 12 years.

  6. Ruth: At my next post, I plan to make a list of all Astrid's firsts because there were many...and, yes, spread out. It was so fun. In that post you'll also see the fried green tomatoes, plus the Whistle Stop Cafe. I'm workintg on those pictures as we speak. :) I'm so glad you could peek in at our wonderful adventure! Thank you for your love, dear sister.

    Margaret: Travel safely and come when you can. Thanks for dropping by midst your busyness!

    Astrid: We had fabulous weather, didn't we! So lucky, especially for the fair. What a great memory having you there with us this year!

    Vagabonde: The Cumming Fair is the best fair I've ever attended and lucky for us, it was in our backyard all those years after Nicholas was born. We have watched it grow with him. I love that you travel around to see things there in GA, just as we do here in Holland. It's wonderful!

    ET: HA! I noticed Nicholas' hand gestures, too. So funny. :) And congratulations on your new car. You'll have to show it to us one of these days.

  7. Nice to see you again!

    Wonderful place for kids, in a similiar place in Budapest I destroyed long time ago as a kid a merry-go-round when my small money came into the machinery and somehow stopped the vehicle:)

    Next thing-beautiful pumpkin decoration-it's visible that you and your familiy put a lot of efford to do it, hope it was pleasent too:)

  8. Looks like a wonderful time with family! And that fair looks like one that even I would enjoy!!!

  9. Boy, you guys really kept busy! I love, love, love all the picts!! And Nicholas has so grown. OMG! You seem to have had great weather, too.

  10. I love reading your posts... and being reminded of things from my childhood... as a member of 4-H who entered sewing projects EVERY year and sometimes entered in the cooking category as well... county fairs were a big part of my growing up. Your images brought back wonderful memories and I loved reading about all the events you shared with your family on this visit. (on to Vision and Verb next...)

  11. Ola: Isn't it funny the things we remember! I guess you will never forget that merry-go-round. And yes, we DO put a lot of time and effort into our pumpkin carving. It's become quite an important tradition for us all. :)

    Tim: You would definitely enjoy this fair. It has a little bit of everything! :)

    CS: Oh, Sandra! It's so good to see you here again. Your ears must have been tickling you because I have been thinking of you. Please let me know how you are doing!

    Victoria: I was part of the 4-H club growing up, too...sewing and cooking both. The memories I have! But I never went to the rides part, for some reason. There were 8 of us kids and maybe Dad didn't give us money for rides? I have no recollection of any of that...just seeing all the blue ribbons I hoped I would get! :) Thanks again for stopping by, Victoria.

  12. Your pumpkins are very artistic! YoungerSon carved a Ghostbusters logo into his pumpkin this year. And of course he had to wear his Ghostbusters shirt for Trick or Treating.... the shirt only gets worn once a year!
    You and Astrid had a great vacation, I'm sure Astrid is exhausted after meeting all those family members!

  13. This game you call Life is sure filled with a lot of action!

    I think it's a fantastic family tradition to attend the fair every year. I'm fascinated with the headdress worn by the Iroquois Indian.

    I love seeing you and Astrid perched in the teensy weensy stool as you carved your pumpkins. You all produced wonderful pieces of pumpkin art!

  14. Sham: The pumpkin-carving tradition has really grown into something big for us each year. I wouldn't miss it for anything...which means we will probably always go back home in October! I can live with that, leaving the holidays free for everyone to do their own thing. Wait till Astrid meets my extended family in Michigan. THAT is when she'll be exhausted!

    DB: First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on your Giants win! You deserve to be on top of the world. And thanks for your support of Astrid and me in our trek back to my family. It felt good.

  15. Ginnie, I was thinking as I looked at all the photos that there was great potential for Astrid to be overwhelmed by it all. Lots of family time, lots of new sights - but the picture of her on the couch playing video games, a big smile on her face, says she pulled it all off.
    Your daughter is a lovely-looking girl - takes after her mother, obviously. And I'm not just saying that!!

  16. Mom, I'm just now seeing this post! As always, THANK YOU for documenting our time together with such great photos. We had a wonderful time and are so glad to be able to share it with both of you. Lots of love to you both!

  17. It sounds like your visit is going well!!! How nice is that?!I love the pictures of Astrid on the couch with her --hmmm--can't remember the name of the device but cute none the less.. When do you return or maybe you already have.....I love how you can describe something so clearly and distinctly...

  18. Deborah: Astrid was totally in her element, trust me, eating everything up. She's a real trooper when it comes to meeting people, especially my family. She's not at all sheepish, which I love about her. Her stance is "This is who I am. If you don't like me, that's your loss!" She doesn't pretend anything, so when you see her having fun, she really is!

    Amy is GORGEOUS, but she really got that from her father...and that's the truth. But you're sweet anyway. :)

    Amy: Awwww. Thank you. You know it always means the world to me when you look…and comment. Thank you. You know how much I love documenting our times together. Next time we'll make sure Astrid takes a picture of us playing Spades!

    Neva: Oh yes, we returned 2 weeks ago! Time really does fly, doesn't it. Thank you for stopping by. It was a great trip and one we're eager to do again.