Sunday, July 17, 2011

A visit to The Willows

Every year we visit Susan's parents in Alabama at some point over the summer, and this year, we incorporated a visit to my sister and her family, who live just outside of Milwaukee, since we were flying out of the Milwaukee airport anyway (cheaper fares and shorter flight time than Minneapolis). They just moved to a new house in the country; really, it's more like a small mansion or estate, so we came up with a name for it: The Willows, after the stately Weeping Willow trees lining the road in front of their home.

The house is nice, but so are the grounds: several acres that include a small wooded area and rolling fields, plus an expansive lawn, with those willows lining the front. There is a small storage building next to the house. They are on a dead-end road, so there's not much traffic. At the end of the road, walking trails lead to the neighboring dairy barn and to the Schoenstatt shrine and retreat center; they are friendly with allof the nuns at the Schoenstatt shrine, as well as with the family that owns the dairy farm. In fact, when we arrived, they were nowhere to be found -- they were down in the dairy barn, watching the cows get milked.

Jaybird was too late to see the cows milked, but liked watching them in the field:

Later in the evening, they roasted marshmallows around the fire pit and had s'mores. The fireflies came out, making the whole scene rather magical. Mouse played on the rope swings in the willow trees until almost 9:30, while Bear and his cousins played basketball; then they all got together and played Indians.

Bear really connected with the boy cousins.

Mouse (left) and her cousins during an outing to a nearby wildlife area.

All the cousins together.

Mouse's older cousins took her under their wings for the few days
we were there, and Jaybird connected with a cousin her age.

Our kids really enjoyed seeing and playing with their cousins. Bear spent an entire afternoon making and shooting bows and arrows with a cousin his age, while Mouse spent the same afternoon hanging decorations (like Mason jars filled with colored water and bells and lights) all over the woods behind the house with her older cousins. (Both of the older cousins have blogs: The B and B Files and The Swan and the Willows.)

Besides visiting the Schoenstatt retreat center, where my sister knew all of the nuns (of course!), we also took a nice walk through an area wildlife refuge. But one of the highlights for me was playing basketball with Bear and a number of his cousins. We had such fun that eventually my sister and her husband joined us. Good, sweaty fun!

Someday we hope to The Willows.