Kings Dominion

When my mom came down from NY to visit us last week we thought we’d take a trip to Kings Dominion, a big amusement park just about 30 minutes up the road from us. And why yes they do have a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower there. John actually grew up taking annual summer trips to Kings Dominion so it was kind of cool to take Clara to ride some of the very same rides he took a spin on as a kid.

So many rides, so little time. This face is one I like to call “which one should I ride first?”

Actually, despite being a ride junkie at a few other places – like our visits to Funland in Delaware – she wasn’t as interested in the rides on this particular visit. She was so stuck on the idea of going to the water park area that she couldn’t bring herself to enjoy much else. Although she did stop to give some love to the various Snoopy statues around the park. This bended knee action kills me.

This one is entitled: Snoopy, let’s hug it out.

In a spur of the moment we-might-regret-this decision, John and I decided to ride something ourselves: the Drop Zone tower – one of those rides that lifts you up into the air (272 feet) and then drops you down at 72mph. There are a couple of YouTube videos (not ours) that capture the experience here & here. It was actually really fun slash totally scary. We did that thing where we giggled for ten minutes afterwards while we got our bearings again.

Once we were safely back on the ground, we headed to the water area so Clara could finally unleash her water-loving agenda.

For the most part it involved splashing water out of the baby pool.

And some synchronized jumping into the pool with Nonna. This kept us busy for a good 30 minutes.

After lunch we moved on to another part of the water area with all sorts of opportunities to get soaked. Clara still doesn’t like getting her head wet so she spent most of her time playfully dodging jets and waterfalls. Her favorite part was playing a game of chicken with this giant bucket that dumped water onto everyone who was standing below it every few minutes. Note the butterfly photobomb.

She loved the bucket because once it dumped there was a nice pool of water to splash around in.

We eventually wrapped up our time with the water because it was getting close to someone’s nap time. On the way out we checked out one more ride – the antique cars, which Clara loves to ride with John’s parents (they’ve taken her a couple of times already this summer since they have season passes and Clara is free ’til she’s 3). John and Clara were brave enough to let me drive (since it’s pretty much an auto-pilot thing). As a reminder, I only drove for about a year in high school before going off to college in NYC, where no one drove (I lived there for 6 years, then moved to VA, but we’re a one car family, so I pretty much haven’t driven much for the past 12 years, although I still have a license that says I’m technically allowed). From the photo below you can tell that Clara wasn’t sure it was a smart decision to let me take the wheel…

Has anyone else hit up some amusement parks or thrill rides this summer?

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Reunited And It Feels So Good

Two weekends ago we experienced our first family reunion. It was my mom’s side of the family and in honor of my Granny’s 90th birthday earlier this year, nearly 50 of us gathered at Carter Caves State Resort Park in Olive Hill, Kentucky (since it’s a short drive from Granny’s home in Huntington, WV).

It was a pretty brief trip, with folks arriving Friday evening and leaving Sunday morning. But we packed in a lot of quality time in those 40-ish hours. For instance, Clara experienced her first pony ride.

We also went on a short hike that the ranger described as “stroller friendly.” We’re not sure if he knew what a stroller was.

It was a fun hike nonetheless. Clara (and I) were in rock heaven.

Burger had fun too – although this photo is mainly to show my sister Emily that if she’s gonna photobomb my picture like a big weirdo, I’m going to put it on the Internet.

Here’s a better shot of us (with Sherry’s ol’ turkey leg shirt) enjoying the hike together.

But this trip wasn’t really about our little family foursome – it was about the family forty-some and getting to spend time with our cousins, aunts, uncles, etc, etc. That “etc” is mainly my sisters’ and cousins’ kids since I think there were about fourteen kiddos there who were under the age of ten. Including this troublesome trio of Clara and her cousins John and Emanuel. They were just touching the rock, but I think it looks like they’re ready to be frisked. Except for Emanuel. He’s about to make a run for it.

Clara also got to hang with our cousins daughter Elsa, whom she idolizes.

The reunion centered around a big picnic / cook-out on Saturday evening at one of the park’s shelters.

And it wouldn’t be a reunion without matching t-shirts right? And since my mom’s family is the Kelleys, we went with a kelly green theme (though the little kids got white shirts with clovers on them).

Here are the women that run this show / are responsible for this madness. That’s Granny in the center flanked by her daughters (and daughter-in-law on far left). My mom’s the one on the far right. The hilarious thing about this picture is before we snapped it, Granny put in a request: “I want to be airbrushed.” Ha!

Granny is the definition of a grandma with spunk. She’s always smiling and cheering people on and still always surprising us with great one liners. This picture is right after we presented her with the new TV we all went in on together. She stood up as we all chanted “Speech! Speech!” and then simply said “Thank you for the TV. It looks lovely.” and quietly sat back in her seat.

Her three daughters certainly inherited some of the spunk. Particularly my aunt Liz (far left) who made these t-shirts for the three of them.

But the gathering wasn’t just t-shirts and photo-taking. There, of course, was eating.

Between the watermelon and the icing that Clara’s smashing into her cake-hole below, I swear she ate some real food. At least I think she did.

At least she stayed hydrated. Did I mention she idolizes Elsa?

The saving grace for all of those with children was the big playground that was right next to the shelter.

Clara was queen of the swings. Or maybe with the way she’s clutching that Sleeping Beauty doll, she’s more like King Kong of the swings.

One of her favorite swinging buddies was her baby cousin Ben (John’s little brother). Clara just lights up around him.

And sometimes he does the same around her. Isn’t he a handsome devil?

This next series of photos cracked me up. Ignoring the fact that these two toddlers are related, this picture is like the epitome of playground flirting. Do you eat lollipops here often?

She said she’d go out with me!

And here’s Emanuel’s attempt to break up all of the mushy stuff. Not sure he was successful.

But perhaps Clara was learning the ways of her cousin John. Because at the end of the day she just wanted to steal his seat in the double-stroller next to his brother Ben.

As many cute photos came out of our reunion weekend, my favorite was probably this one – which is a photo taken who knows how many years ago. It’s Granny and my Papa back in the day. Such a charming picture of the two of them. Makes me wish he were still around to see all that this family has become.

Our first ever Kelley Family reunion went so well that we’re already starting to plan the next one (probably in 2014). Any fun family reunion tips or suggestions to make the next one bigger and better? Well, maybe not bigger. Forty-eight people was a lot already!

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