Eric and I have been married for twelve years now!!! I am so incredibly lucky to be married to my best friend, and I love our life together.
Every four years, we celebrate by inviting all our wonderful family and friends to a Gathering like we had for our wedding. We plan a week with games, activities, and one particularly eventful day that we call Super Fantastico. This year we celebrated in Dallas. That wasn’t our original plan, but with Miss Maia being so young this ended up being much easier on our family.
We started the week with a few days at the Great Wolf Lodge in Fort Worth. We had lots of logistical problems, illnesses, and problems caused by the hotel, but we still managed to make the best of things here. The kids especially LOVED the water park and the magiquest game! The magiquest game was my favorite thing at the lodge too =) The kids got wands and they had to search all over the hotel, fulfilling various quests. There were riddles to figure out, treasures to “collect” by waving the wand at them, and various magical creatures to help. Serenity chose a unicorn wand, of course, and Donovan’s had a wolf on top. Serenity and Henry were particularly devoted to the quest, and Serenity got to go questing with Henry, Jack and Patricia several times. I was so glad she got to quest even when I didn’t have the energy to take her! The kids really memorized all the locations. When a clue asked for Pixie Perch they could take you right to the sixth floor!
Questing with Carson and Raegan =) Carson found things fast!
The crystal lit up when the magicians wave their wands at them =) They had to find five crystals.
Eric took the kids to the water park many times. They loved the slides, and there were places with water squirters. Serenity loved jumping from floating leaf to floating leaf. They are both getting to be good swimmers! Eric even got to go on the big slides with Casey and Barrett once when I was feeling a bit better. The time he went there were no lines so he got to slide to his heart’s content. Oh, and Maia got into her swimsuit to try out the pool once too! =) My Dad came up just for a day and he was a big help with the kids at the pool too. There are a ton of people at the Great Wolf Lodge, but it was still awesome when you’d randomly run into people you know at the waterpark and you’d get to hang out with friends while our kids played together. Mom treated everyone to ice cream one day =) And every night we’d play games in the nice little lounge Jason found near his room. Eric had selected a Fantastic game for every day.
So many people came to Texas to celebrate with us!!! From our college friends, Scott Hopper brought Alli and Nate to the Great Wolf Lodge for a couple of days, and Brian and Linh brought Samantha and Emily. Gavin and Jennie were there with Corwyn. A lot of my family came, including Mom and Dad, Mike, Kelly, Carson, Raegan, Jason, Tiffany, Braley, and Jennifer, Casey and Barrett. Mom let us have her car for the week, and my Aunt Jan helped by letting us store stuff at her house and then amazingly drove it all over to the rental house for us. It was such a great surprise!!! Jen barely made it due to extremely annoying car trouble, but the boys had a blast at the water park! And they stayed with us at the rental house for a night too. =) Then our amazing California family came all the way to Texas for Fantastico =) Jack, Patricia and Henry, Juan, Veronica, Aidan and baby Evie, Andrew, Marilyn and Evan, Eddie, Andreana and Pierce, Robert, Xiao and Jensen. Whew! It’s such a big happy group!!! I’m so grateful to everyone that came! I love you all! =)
Our room had a wolf den =) Serenity really wanted to see all the other kinds of rooms. Some had cabins inside.
Donovan Grandma and Maia =)
Grandma and Maia =)
On Monday we spent part of the day at Legoland and the Rainforest Cafe at the Grapevine Mills Mall. It was so fun! There was a demonstration of how legos are made, and a few little rides. On one of them you got to pretend to shoot Lego bad guys, which the kids loved! Oh, ok, I loved it too =) I liked seeing them build things at the various lego stations. And watching Serenity at the karaoke machine was awesome =) She mostly danced and it was adorable. They had built a huge model of the city out of legos, and finding our hotel made out of legos was hilarious. They also had a big star wars display. The kids chose some really cool shields from the gift shop, and then we headed over to the Rainforest cafe. We had some extra shopping time there too, and they actually had an OKAPI at the gift shop. Donovan just had to have that, it’s his favorite Diego episode of all time. When he says it, it sounds like Otafi, too cute. Serenity chose a little purple dolphin she calls Sparkle. Lunch at the cafe was fun and tasty, and several more people that hadn’t come to Legoland joined us. Eric and Juan brought Pierce since poor Andreana was still in the hospital.
On Tuesday we moved to the rental house. Since we’d changed our plan after we found out about Maia, there weren’t a whole lot of choices available in houses, but this one worked out for the most part. Serenity and Donovan slept on a pallet in the middle of the living room floor, joined by Casey and Barrett the first day, and Henry the last day. Eric slept in there with them. Maia and I had a corner in the sun room, but I had a mattress to sleep on thanks to the awesome Brian Vo!
The only room that wasn’t slept in was the game room that was kind of off by itself on one side of the house. It served for people who were up late or up early depending on what time zone their kids slept in. Lots of game time in that room! It was so much fun to see the kids having such a blast. Donovan especially loved following Aidan around, and I think Aidan liked being the “big boy” of this group. Henry and Serenity were often found playing computers or games together. They all really played well together, and they cooed over the babies as well =) Serenity was drawn to the adult games and watched several games of Seven Wonders.
Gavin, Andrew, Eric, Jack and once Juan played a cooperative card game called the Lord of the Rings card game. They stayed up multiple nights till as late as 3am trying to find Gollum. They really had to dedicate themselves toward the end to find Gollum.
Donovan playing with Evan =)
walking to the park
cool hair with Donovan’s new chopsticks
LOTS of board games =)
Playing Ping Pong in the rain
Some random crafty fun =)
Let Maia get a bit too close to Evie…
Singing Happy Birthday =)
On Wednesday a big group went to the zoo. Donovan got to see a real Okapi because the Dallas Zoo is one of the premier Okapi conservation centers. Serenity and Corwyn belted out “Let it Go” on some big rocks at the zoo =)
One day during the week Aidan came to me and said we really needed to do something for his Mom and Dad’s birthdays. He was so sweet! I felt really bad after I’d gotten over being sick and realized their birthdays had passed! I always think of Fantastico as being in July since that’s when my anniversary actually is, but obviously it was June! Aidan said they’d like cupcakes so I snuck out to a Sprinkles and picked out a bunch of fancy cupcakes to celebrate.
Friday morning Maia and I went to the Adventure Garden at the Dallas Arboreteum. It was my favorite place of the whole trip! Jennie and Corwyn drove me, and we met up with Jason, Tiffany and Braley and Kelly and Carson and Raegan. It was fun to mostly just be Aunt Chrissie again. I could play with my nieces and nephews and not really have to be in charge of anybody =) They had an amazing kaleidoscope that I could have looked through for hours, and I got to feed Maia in a treetop hammock. =) There was a secret garden with a maze! There were dragon misters, a sword in the stone, a tiny fairy village, and a xylophone! Plus riddles to help you find your way. I so want a secret garden!
Later that day Brian brought us all delicious Texas barbecue.
Saturday was Fantastico! We had an archaeology themed day. We divided everyone into four groups, the Indiana Jones group, Lara Croft, Carmen Sandiego, and the kids were on the Dora the Explorer group. I’ll talk about the kids day first.
The kids started with a scavenger hunt. They found adventurer hats, whips I’d made out of fleece, jewels, gold coins, maps, paper airplanes, artifacts (from the world landmark Toob). Oh, and they found rubber snakes too =) After they’d collected all their items, they were ready for archaeology training. They took their whips and used them to knock over cans that Jack had drawn awesome bad guys on. They loved that! Later they got dart guns I’d made out of pvc pipes and nerf bullets. They shot them at a Target at first, and then later used them to shoot at each other. This was such a big hit! Everyone loved it! I couldn’t help giggling when I used it, it really was fun! Next time I’ll make felt vests for targets. =) There were a few things planned that we didn’t get to, we always plan too much! But after they had practiced lots of explorer skills, they collected all the pieces of a map to some treasure! After they assembled the treasure map puzzle, they read the riddle. The Frozen treasure can be found where monkeys swing and flames abound. This lead them to the fireplace where they found a pinata with Elsa and Anna on it! This was a very sturdy pinata so everyone got a chance to whack it. =)
Meanwhile, the other teams were competing in their own events. In no particular order, the adults competed in:
Pin the Hat on Indiana Eric. I had a picture of Eric swinging a ten foot whip from when we were in college, and I cut out Indiana Jones hats. Jessica was the star of this game. Even after plenty of spinning by Andrew, she took one big step to the right and then walked straight to the poster! When it was my turn, I would have missed the poster entirely except Serenity yelled at the last minute, “LEFT MAMA, LEFT!! So I managed to actually tape my hat to the poster instead of the window. Nowhere near Eric, but still better =) After much persuasion Serenity gave this a try as well. She hates getting things wrong, so trying to stick a hat on when she can’t see seemed like a terrible idea to her. I finally convinced her that sticking it in crazy spots was part of the fun, so she took a turn and ended up sticking her hat on the wall in the kitchen. =) So I was too convincing I guess. Still it was fun!
Mummy wrap: The three teams each got a couple of rolls of toilet paper and tried to wrap one of their team members. This was a ton of fun but we hadn’t really thought ahead of how to judge a winner… we let Donovan pick. He didn’t really like that though! But it was fun to do!
Bridge building: We made bridges out of popsicle sticks! They had to hold up a pile of books… and they all did! We finally had to move on to having people standing on them in order to get the bridges to actually break! That was hilarious all by itself. Trying to set the person evenly onto the bridge was an interesting task. All the bridges withstood Marilyn standing on them. It took Andrew to break one. =)
Paper airplane drop: The goal was to create out of paper a structure that would take the longest to float to the ground when dropped from the second story. Patricia came in second by making a speck of paper that took nearly four seconds to hit the ground. Jack won first for his cool spinning thing.
Name that archaeology movie site: We found an online quiz that had photos of various sites that had also been in movies. Way fun!
Board games: No fantastico is complete without board games. We played Pizarro and 7 Wonders. Instead of the usual way of playing those games, we had teams since two people from each team got to play the game. There was a third game on the list but we ran out of time. Teams had also been earning points all weeks by participating in the Fantastic Game of the Day.
Eric also made an extremely challenging obstacle course. First you had to dribble the false idol between the cones (soccer ball) while giant boulders (hula hoops) were rolling at you, and then shoot it into a tunnel …(playhut) Then throw the idol through a passageway (two croquet sticks). Next jump out of the tunnel and leap over another area (the tunnel) Then jump on stones over the lava while being shot at by ping pong balls. You had to step on the stones or you had to start over. In retrospect we made that part a little too hard. We probably shouldn’t have reloaded the ping pong balls so many times. People were extremely tired after that. Once across the lava you had to swap the false idol for the real treasure and reverse the path. Jennie volunteered to go first… because she figured that gave her the best chance before the ping pong ball thrower got good at throwing, and she did win! Eric came in second. At one point Jack was going around the ping pong table in circles because he kept getting pegged with a ping pong ball and he was just laughing helplessly. Definitely should have just let the ping pong ball thrower have one batch of ammo.
Hopping on one foot challenge: I’m not sure how we justified this with our archaeology theme, maybe it was just to practice defeating other treasure hunters =) In this game you basically hop on one foot while holding the other one, and you try to knock over other people or force them out of the circle. Jessica took out Andrew. Eric and Jack and Eddie were left. Eddie and Jack said that they should focus on taking out Eric, but they got distracted, and after Jack was out Eric beat Eddie.
Dart Guns: The adults got a turn with the dart guns too. They got three chances to hit the bull-eye. Xiao was the winner with a perfect first shot!
Perplexus: This is a maze game I got Eric long ago. The challenge was just to get as far as you can in three tries. The furthest someone got was maybe 12… out of 60. So we need some more adventuring practice =)
Geo Puzzle: We had a world map puzzle that each team took turns racing to complete. I think the Indiana Jones team one that one =)
Sunday was the last full day of our Fantastico Gathering. In the morning Eric and Eddie went ice skating with Serenity and Donovan, Brian and Samantha Juan and Aidan. Luckily Phillip, Sophia and Jessica went too, so the kids had a home base when they needed to rest. Texas Aidan was amazingly brave on the ice. Eddie was a great teacher! Jack, Patricia and Henry joined later for lunch and some playground time after taking Bobby to the airport.
Motion Math Pizza and Slice Fraction: Serenity loved playing these IPad games with Henry and Patricia and Aidan. Patricia said that whenever someone got one wrong they had to pass it to the other person. She said at first they were just trying it really fast, but they developed into really thinking about the questions first to try and get them right and they helped each other to figure it out too! It was awesome!
More memories that I texted myself so I wouldn’t forget: =)
Donovan saying “I want to sleep with Aidan and Aidan saying he wanted to try to sleep with dz.
Evan and dz actually playing together. “Ok, here’s the plan. We each have two cars, one in each hand
All of your kids are so snuggly! Ok, if anyone wants more kids, have them now so they will be three for the next fantastico. -Andrew
Eric’s fantastico game of the day a big hit.
I LIKE wolf soap! I’m a wolf pup! I will play with Maia so she doesn’t get fussy
Serenity dancing her was through magiquest.
Dz’s “call me ziggy zaggy the wolf.” they loves the wolf den
Serenity finally got to see kid camp room
Both kids loving water slides
Maia being very chill and a good sleeper for sick mama