A baby shower, the Civil War, and Kings Dominion.
Just your basic trip to Virginia.

This summer has been a super busy one in which we have  had almost zero free time, but we’ve barely left our neighborhood. Three of our kids have been on swim team, which absorbed nearly all of our time and energy. We have had no time to do any of the normal summer things I look forward to, like lazy mornings and saying things like, “any time works for me, we’re free all week!”

At the very end of the swim season, floating behind all that action like an exclamation point, was the great cousin bonanza of 2022.

Before I go on, let me share some of the chaos that happened before, during, and surrounding this cousin visit: one Covid fever, three non-Covid fevers, one non-Covid mega respiratory virus, a broken AC, four cases of swimmer’s ear, a lawnmower-rolled-over-Gramps incident (you read that right), a shower that leaked through to the living room. I think that’s all?

If I was a person who believed in something like fate or signs from the universe, I think I would have cancelled this visit. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to any of these “signs” because, man, I just love these kids. We had a great time.

And I suppose the universe threw us a bone, because this visit was long enough that we had time to complete a full Covid quarantine AND still fit in a baby shower, two swim meets and a trip to Kings’ Dominion.

Watching the kids chasing lizards in the same yard I did as a kid. Makes me smile.

John had asked my dad how to catch a lizard, and my dad told him that when I arrived I could show him. Our first task once I arrived: catching this skink. If the kids remember anything from this visit, I hope it’s Aunt Amanda’s lizard-catching skills.

The marquee event: a baby shower celebrating my brand new nephew-on-the-way. We couldn’t be more excited, and my sister-in-law was gracious enough to include all the nieces in her shower.

“Of COURSE I wanted them to be there!” I can almost hear her responding.

Abby is so naturally welcoming, kind, loving, and generous. At her shower I tried to mimic some of her great qualities and NOT be that mom sharing unsolicited advice and spoiling the joy by yelling “YOU JUST WAIT!”

I know that my brother and his wife are in for a wild ride. No amount of advice or stories will prepare them for the experience of caring for an infant. They’ll learn just like every single parent did before and after them — through experience. But what I DO know as a wise, all-knowing mother of four, is that the same generous, kind, loving spirit that welcomes my kids to her shower is the exact spirit that will make Abby a fantastic mom.

After the shower, we all packed up and headed back to Richmond. On the way we stopped in Appomattox for a pizza picnic lunch.

Fun fact: kids who grow up in Canada know almost nothing about the Civil War. This is a photo of David teaching John about the Civil War. This is known by the cousins as the “most boring part of the entire trip.”

Least boring part of the trip? Kings Dominion.

We’d initially planned to go to Kings Dominion two weeks earlier but had to reschedule  to the very end of the trip because of Covid. This trip could NOT be rescheduled. So on the morning when the skies opened up and dumped buckets of rain and lightning, we had no choice but to laugh. As in, our very most anticipated part of visiting Richmond is going to get rained out! HAHAHHAAHHA!!! HA! HA! ha.


When we arrived, the parking lot was almost completely empty. We parked right up front and sat in our cars staring at the radar on our phone.

“This one says another hour of rain. Let’s download a different app.”

Eventually the clouds did part, and we learned that “intense, scary morning storms” is actually the best possible weather for an amusement park.

The storms gave way to intermittent rain, which apparently scared away everyone else. We got to ride every single ride without waiting in line. Most rides, we got to ride over and over without even getting up.

It also wasn’t hot. This felt like a miracle. I’d been dreading taking our Canadian cousins to Kings Dominion in July. They had already described Virginia’s heat and humidity as “unnatural.” I knew Kings Dominion would test those limits.

But it didn’t! It was cloudy and cool (for July). Humid, yes, but cool enough that we all kept commenting on how this weather was an unbelievable gift.

Thomas’s favorite: getting driven around by me on the Blue Ridge Tollway. We rode this seven times.

Everyone has their own amusement park style. Some people like to see the shows and eat the food, some people like a ride or two, and some people like to run from roller coaster to roller coaster until they black out.

That last category is Tom. He’s a complete kid when it comes to roller coasters. He gets a map and immediately starts strategizing, “how can we ride as many roller coasters between now and whenever the park closes?”

As soon as we got to the park, Tom took the oldest six kids and basically dared them to keep up with him. They rode every ride, most several times, until we forced them to stop for lunch. Then they started again.

Meanwhile, my mom, dad, and I did a lot of this with Thomas and Anna:

See, everyone has different amusement park styles.

Eventually we split up, and I went home with the youngs and the olds (do NOT tell my mom and dad OR Thomas and Anna that I said that) and Tom stayed at the park with the wilds until the park closed.

When I first heard that my nieces and nephews were coming to Richmond, I immediately started devising the perfect visit. We’d do a mix of “normal” things and special things. We’d show them our favorite local hike and take them to the James River. We’d introduce them to our other cousins and go to a swim meet.

Almost none of that happened. Everything got turned upside down and inside out when Covid shortened our trip, and everything changed again with all of the other *surprises.*

It’s ok, though. It doesn’t matter what we do, because when it comes to cousins the most special moments come in a dog pile playing Minecraft, anyway.

We sent them home exhausted, with a new appreciation for humidity, a little knowledge about the Civil War, and with reminders that Aunt Amanda is great at catching lizards, and Uncle Tom is a maniac for roller coasters. And we all got the very important reminder that three years is absolutely, entirely too long.


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