(This is one of those posts for posterity. Feel free to skim through the details and just view the slideshow if you like.)
I really loved our extended weekend holiday, which was perfected by three days of cool summer weather. This year, the temperatures invited us outside instead of chasing us to indoor air conditioning.
This perfect weekend began Friday evening as Kent and I celebrated our anniversary a day early. Our friend, Diana, loaned us a picnic basket, and following an evening movie, we packed a dinner of rotisserie chicken, bread and cheese, Amano chocolate, raw veggies from our garden, etc. We found a dimly lit knoll at a local park and enjoyed our late dinner as the stars emerged. We had an hour to reminisce over the past 17 years of courtship and marriage--we've now known each other for half our lives!--before a group of young adults interrupted our solitude with a game of paintball. So goes living in a college town.
We spent all of Saturday outside working in the yard, with little breaks for a bike ride and walk on the river trail. In the evening, we went to our friends, the Millers', yard for their neighborhood block party where the kids competed in slow bicycle races and a sidewalk art contest. Kent and I played bocce and rode a tandem bicycle, both for the first time. When night fell, the teenagers set off grocery-store fireworks until we all turned our chairs to watch the Stadium of Fire explosions a couple miles away. I have fond childhood memories of gathering with neighbors to eat and set off fireworks, so I am glad to have this same tradition for my kids--and all I have to do is show up with a salad and brownies!
Following Church and dinner on Sunday, I invited my children to watch the rebroadcast of the Freedom Festival's Patriotic Service. The program was different than those of past years. It involved a lot fewer speeches and a lot more music and singing, as well as a guest soldier who told his story of being one of only a few to survive an ambush in Afghanistan. I liked the service enough that next year I may even attend it in person.
Our holiday tradition changed this year. For the first time in 15 years, none of us adults felt like going to the Grand Parade. Instead, I went for a morning bike ride and Kent and #1 set up flags around the neighborhood with the Young Women. #5 somehow also ended up along for the ride and was very happy to get a stick of gum from the driver of the truck he rode with. My parents dropped in for a quick visit as we packed the van to meet for a picnic with Kent's parents. I enjoyed the leisurely morning so much that I couldn't imagine how we got out the door by 8 a.m. every other year for the parade.
In breaking with tradition, we decided to check out what Orem City offered at the Scera Park. The crowds at noon were small (everyone was still milling around Provo after the parade), so we found a lovely picnic area and strolled as we liked through the displays. The men stayed behind to rest and play cards while Grammy and I took the kids to an outdoor pageant about our country and others gaining freedom. At the pageant's conclusion, the children shook hands with and thanked a current Airman and Marine who are recently home from deployment. We then visited the Days of 1607 Colonial Village. #4 helped stoke the blacksmith's fire. The village cooper helped the seven of us make a wooden bucket. (We couldn't figure it out on our own, and I'm still not sure how he did it by himself.) The local doctor showed us his tourniquet and saw for taking off limbs. #3 and I learned about using canons in warfare, which is truly impressive stuff! (It took a crew of 12 men to get off four canon shots per minute.) #s 1 and 2 learned to tat, and the four youngest were rewarded with lemon drops after sitting through a lesson at school. The festivities also include a tour through Ellis Island and taking the test and oath of citizenship, but that experience will have to wait for next year as the men were restless to leave the park before we finished with the village.
We let the children change into swimsuits and headed to one of our favorite magical places up the canyon. It is a little neighborhood in Pappy and Grammy's ward called Springdell. There, the houses sit in a horseshoe around a pond and playground and the neighbors gather in their front yards to chat with whomever is strolling past. Our friends, the Bratts, have invited us to their home there a few times, but they were out of town for the holiday. I had forgotten that some other friends we had met on our December Mexico work project, the Pattens, also live there. They invited us to sit and indulge in homemade ice cream and conversation with them. The kids splashed around in the ice-cold pond for two hours until the whole neighborhood seemed to sense it was bedtime and all the visitors packed up to return home.
It is weekends like these that I live for: having alone time with my husband, visiting with extended family, worshiping with my ward family, and dropping by to chat with friends. I love the summertime, and I love my home in this grand country.