An Easter weekend

The house is quiet tonight. It's somewhat of a relief and a little weird.

Wanting to celebrate the Easter weekend, and a little more than that, we hosted my family for the weekend. My parents. My brother and his two little ones. ... The plans came to be on something of an impulse. We wanted to show off our new house, and I felt badly they couldn't spend time with Phoebe for her birthday like we did the last two years -- on top of my lasting guilt for moving their granddaughter hundreds of miles away. We pushed the idea, and initially they weren't keen on spending the gas money; plane tickets were out of the question. But when my brother agreed to join us, it gave my parents the extra motivation they needed and we had all the makings of a joyous family reunion.

So the parents arrived around 3 p.m. Friday -- earlier than they planned and just as Kates and I were only halfway finished with our house-cleaning. Typical. ... I caught up with  my parents while I finished washing dishes and cleaning the kitchen.

Joel and his kids arrived a little after 5. He called me saying he didn't have directions to our house, but he was driving by the football stadium because he remembered me saying we could see the stadium from our front door. Kates and I looked out the front door just in time to see his car whizzing past our house. "You just passed us," I said into the phone as I tried to wave him down. He then spotted us waving in his rear view mirror, made an illegal U-turn and headed back toward the house. As Phoebe, would say Silly boy.

The fun began instantly. Joel was cracking us up with his humor. Sophia and Phoebe were running around the house and doing their little girl things. And Mom scooped up Freddie: The World's Happiest 14-Month-Old.

When Uncle Joel presented Phoebe with her birthday gift from him and Aunt Stephanie, the fun really began for her and Sophia. The gift: a play tent. ... Joel and I wasted no time setting up in Phoebe's room. Phoebe and Sophia took to it immediately and made it their (not so) secret hiding place from the adults.

Dad, Joel and I headed to Dairy Queen to grab a quick supper for the clan ... Afterward, the girls were itching to go outside to play in the sandbox. The rest of us followed. ... But while the girls only played for a short time before returning inside, us men stayed outside for a marathon session of shooting baskets, aka my sanctuary. Taking turns with the basketball, we talked careers and family and politics. We were still going strong when the sun set and I flipped on the outdoor lights -- a la "Field of Dreams" -- so we could see the basketball goal. I couldn't think of a better way to spend a Friday night, and it was past 9 before we finally turned it in.

The next portion of the night, getting the kids to bed, was a marathon session all its own. They were so riled up neither was in any hurry to call it a night. ... Phoebe, naturally, put up the greatest fight and it ended with an explosion of screams and tears. It was nearly 1 a.m. before we calmed her enough so that she fell asleep on her nest at the side of our bed.

* * *

As the sun broke Saturday morning the house was alive again. For it was a big day in The 'Ville: The Annual Easter Egg Hunt.

We got to the park just in time for the 10 a.m. start. Parents and their kiddos, sorted by age groups, stretched along the foul lines of four separate baseball diamonds. A couple of men directed us to the diamond for the 4 and under age group, and we found some open space down the left field line. Phoebe and Sophia once again played BFFs, holding hands all the way while carrying their baskets in their free hands.

We waited patiently for the start and tried explaining to the girls what to do when they got the signal to go. Then the whistle blew and it was 30 seconds of mayhem, as if finding one egg among the sea of dandelions in the outfield wasn't challenging enough. While I jogged alongside her, Phoebe actually got the hang of it quickly -- at one point she even pulled an egg from another squatting toddler's hand -- and had four eggs in her bucket when it was all over. ... Filled with pride, I added another mental check mark to my list of cherished father-daughter experiences.

Next up, the dying of the eggs. We fitted the girls with a couple of my old T-shirts, laid a sheet of plastic down on the kitchen floor and went to work. ... I only have vague memories of dying Easter eggs as a kid, and I wouldn't have known the first thing to do. Kates had all of the supplies and everything planned, from the rainbow of colors to the stickers they used to decorate their eggs.

Trying to keep the kiddos occupied during the afternoon, we took a walk to the playground on the university campus. ...

And we eventually ended up on the football field -- kicking a ball, flinging a Frisbee and doing some good old-fashioned running around. When we weren't looking, Phoebe and Sophia took off and were gleefully running the perimeter of the endzone.

When we returned to the house, Phoebe wanted to watch "Enchanted." I was surprised to learn Joel and his family hadn't see it and, thus, was happy to introduce them to it ... For the last couple months we've stored it on our DVR. But as luck would have it, Walmart had it for 10 bucks. So, during our subsequent run to the store for brats, buns and other food supplies, I picked up our very own copy of the DVD.

I grilled brats and hamburgers as it started raining. We ate supper. Cleaned up the kitchen and the rest of the night passed quickly. It had been a day full of activity. All of us were tired, and my parents and Joel had long drives ahead of them. ... While the others went to bed, Kates and I hid an assortment of candy-filled Easter eggs throughout the living room ...

* * *

The house started stirring around 7 Sunday morning.

The kids were slow to figure out the whole Easter egg hunt concept again, but eventually did find all of the eggs. And they proceeded to gather around the coffee table and dig into their goodies.

An hour later, Joel and his lot were loaded into the car and heading back to their home. ... The rest of us headed to church for the Easter service. And when we returned home, my parents loaded their vehicle and began their trek home, too.

If only the time didn't pass so quickly and the circumstances were more pleasant ...

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