This year, my mom turned 70 years old, so all of her kids (that would be me, and my brother Rob and little sister Kim) and our families decided to get together for a mini family reunion to celebrate her special day. Since they all live in California and we live in Washington, we thought Gold Beach, OR would be a nice place in between to stay for a few days. My SIL, Andrea, found us an awesome home to rent and we had such a great time visiting together—it was actually the first time Katie and Ashley had gotten a chance to meet some of their newest cousins.
On our drive out there, we stopped by a place called Wildlife Safari in Winston, OR that I had heard of about a year ago. It's a huge compound where you drive your car through a 4.5 mile trek and see all sorts of wildlife walking around freely, as if you were on a real safari in Africa or Asia. When they first heard about my plans for this first stage of our trip, the girls thought it sounded like a "lame idea", but they ended up loving the experience—especially when they got to see things like wild rhinos and giraffes walking literally within 3 feet of our car, and participated in a special activity where we met elephants up close and personal. I was bummed we didn't have time to do the one with the tigers too, but next time it's definitely on our agenda!
These play-fighting bears were Kraig's favorites, but one of mine were these hairy beasts (yaks?), placidly crossing the road in front of us. The pic doesn't show them well, but I swear, they look like some kind of mutant pairing between a long-horn and a cocker spaniel?! LOL
Late that afternoon, we made it to our family vacation home and got a warm welcome from everyone. The youngest cousins, Emmet and Jackson, were a little shy at first since they didn't know any of us, but they quickly warmed up and were soon running around and playing together like the best of friends. Jag and Brey were much taller than last time we saw them, but still just as sweet as ever. The beach was gorgeous and very peaceful—when the kids weren't running around dripping wet from "accidentally" falling into the water, chasing us with creepy dead things, or yelling with laughter, that is! ;-D
Some of the highlights over the next three days included a nighttime bonfire (with the requisite roasting of marshmallows on sticks to make s'mores), a beach horseback trail ride (where Kraig's horse kept pushing into my horse's "personal space" and a few scary times I thought he was going to get into a smack-down match with him? ack! There must be a reason Kraig always gets the onery ones? LOL), and a very wet boat ride down the river. The final night, we celebrated Mom's birthday and it just so happened that we all ended up giving her something we'd made ourselves. I made her a necklace design created with beautiful CIM Peacock Green hollows and 14K gold leaf and accents that she had admired in one of my books. Kim made her an awesome dimensional painting and Rob gave her one of his cool ioSafe hard drives.
Man, I sure hope I look this good at 70?! And she looks even better in person!! You rock, Mom!
On our way back home, we drove up the scenic coastline and spent the night in a popular town called Seaside, OR. The beach was too windy and cold to play on, but we had a ball exploring all the little shops and the giant arcade on the main drag.
This is a virtual reality "shoot 'em up" game that Kraig started playing, thinking it would be over in 2 minutes like the rest of the games in the arcade. Well, about 40 minutes later, he was still at it and gave it over to Katie to try when he got too tired to continue (it was actually a pretty physically active game since you had to spin around all the time to gun down your opponents who were flying at you in all directions). About 15 minutes later and 26 levels completed, the darn thing still wasn't over, so Katie decided to throw in the towel too and they gave it to a nearby young man to take over. For all we know, the poor guy is still there, in the Twilight Zone of arcade games?!
I made the mistake of introducing Ashley to "Deal or No Deal" and she quickly became addicted to the point where I had a physically pull her off the stool to quit so we could head home. Now we're on a mission to find a version of it for our Wii and I think I also may have to look into Gamblers Anonymous (just as a precaution?! eek!)
The candy shops were a big hit too, of course! All in all, we had a wonderful vacation—spending time together with our extended family and also a much needed break with just us together. I really hope we can do this more often—maybe make this an annual event over Mom's birthday?! Keeping my fingers crossed! *Ü*