We had it in the plans to visit my family in Alabama this summer since we weren't able to make it over for Christmas. We'd initially planned for July for a larger family extended family reunion, but my sister and her family will be out in Utah right over the time that we'd initially planned, so we switched everything around so we'd all be in Alabama at the same time.
Then, on June 1st my grandpa, Paul Wagner, passed away. It wasn't a surprise and we'd known that it had been coming for awhile, just not when. And with his passing, it initiated even more of our extended family to come in over the same period of time so we could properly celebrate my grandpa together.
So, on a Friday afternoon we caught a flight to Nashville, rented a car, and arrived in Huntsville close to 9:00 PM. Saturday morning, bright and early, I went walking with my grandpa, and then running with Carina. We then tried to go on a planned tour of Redstone Arsenal, but the tickets were sold out when we arrived so we bought tickets for Monday's tour, as well as tickets to see National Parks Adventure. Following the movie (which was wonderful), we headed over to Lowe Mill to see the latest in my Mom's studio and get some popsicles from Suzy's Pops. And then back to the house!
Backing up one step, while we were at the Space Center figuring out our plans with the Arsenal, I mentioned that my favorite most memorable t-shirt from our trip around the country had been my cat astronaut's t-shirt. So, imagine my surprise and pleasure when it was spotted as we were exiting the building! I opted for the bag instead of the t-shirt. :)
I spent the vast majority of Sunday working on photos for a slide show for Grandpa's Celebration. It was fun to look through what we already had, scan more, and then attempt to guess years on the photos with my Grandma.
Monday we were back at the space center and ready to go! This time we set out on our tour of the Arsenal without any trouble. We saw various things from the bus and then stopped at the International Space Station Payload Operations (where they work with the ISS), and then at the local Jet Propulsion Lab (not the JPL of California, but very similar). Following the tour we split and the adult women headed out to go shopping while everyone else headed back to the house. We spent the next several hours at Bridgestreet before meeting back up with the group at a local Vietnamese restaurant. Yum!
Tuesday morning we were back out walking (and Monday and Sunday, actually), and then running, and then yoga, and then hiking! And then more shopping, ending the evening with a party for Lauren's (and Grandpa's) birthday. I was so ready for bed that evening.
Wednesday we kept things much lighter so we'd have plenty of energy for the evening. Final preparations for Grandpa's celebration, and everyone was busy! I made little airplane cookies (which Rachel and Morgan generously frosted so I could work on other things), in honor of my Grandpa, as he'd been a pilot both for the airforce, and then later for himself.
The celebration was wonderful, held in the back of a little wine store not too far from home. There were a number of people there and we all just socialized, ate good food, watched the slide show, and then shared some wonderful stories of Grandpa. It was so special to have almost everyone there. We were missing my Uncle Gary (and Aunt Julie), but other than that all of Grandpa's children, grand children, and great grand children were there, as well as lots of extended family and friends. He will be missed.
Thursday morning we got up bright and early (again) and headed over to Bigfoot's Little Donuts. This would be the first time since our wedding that we'd had them, and of course it was poring outside. Undeterred, we made our way over and bought seven dozen donuts (though the total was definitely higher than that!). We brought the donuts back to the house and added them to the other delicious breakfast foods for our last full family gathering. And then after breakfast, we started splitting ways. Morgan and Mom left with Morgan's new car for Colorado, Michael and Rachel (and kids) headed out for Florida, and before too long we headed back up to Nashville to catch our flight home.
I was a lovely trip, for so many reasons, but particularly because I got to spend so much time with my siblings and parents.