Images of a wedded weekend

As if one Wisconsin vacation wasn’t enough this summer. We got to do it again this weekend. For the second time in three weeks. This time for my cousin’s wedding.

It was another glorious trip filled with wonderful memories and special moments with family.

After a night of packing and preparation that lasted until 1 a.m.  – typical – we awoke around 7 a.m. Thursday morning to the sounds of Faye's crying and were on the road around 9 a.m. Interestingly, we were driving up on Kates birthday, just as we did on mine three weeks ago.

As it was three weeks ago, the drive was a pleasure, and the girls are becoming road trip pros.
Phoebe watched movies and colored. Faye slept, and we barely heard a peep from the back seat. In the front seat, Kates read a book and I had some Fun – the good vibes of their Summerfest show are still fresh in my soul – going on the iPod.

We made our first pit stop for lunch around 12:30 at a rest stop outside of Des Moines. We caught a nice breeze as we ate a picnic lunch under one of the gazebos. Kates had fixed sandwiches for us. The sun was bright, and Faye was completely content sitting on my lap. ... After lunch, the girls enjoyed working their legs, wandering the park land. Faye was overjoyed to practice her new walking skills.

Later, we made brief stops in Dubuque and Dodgeville, where we stopped at a McDonald’s and Phoebe explored the Playland.

We mused at the scenery as we drove through the Wisconsin bluffs, along the river and over the steel bridges. And arrived at The Farm around 8 Thursday night. The girls went to playing. And I popped in Field of Dreams as Kates put them to bed.

* * *

Friday morning, we headed to one of my old stomping grounds, Lake Mills. We met my parents and Joel’s family at Rock Lake.

It was a picture perfect summer day at Bartel's Beach.

Almost immediately, the nostalgia of my childhood living near the lake rushed back. The swimming lessons I hated. Riding bikes down Ferry Drive. Canoeing and motor boat rides on the lake. Ice skating on it, too.

I had forgotten just how beautiful and clear a lake it is.

And, of course, there's the serene beauty of the mill pond across the street.

After swimming for a couple hours with the kids, we headed downtown for lunch. We grabbed Phoebe some Subway on the way, but the rest of us had one thing on our mind. Hamburgers, cooked fresh American Legion stand.

To the locals, they're called sliders. And I couldn't describe them any better than my friend Frannie in Washington, who posted this to my Facebook wall after I posted the photo above.
Sliders are a fictional burger in these parts. People out here just don't understand the pure joy of grease running down your chin after the first bite, or the brown paper bag drenched in grease, or the sheer genius of putting them in the freezer to enjoy on a blustery winter day. 
Yep. Pure joy.

After our lunch, we enjoyed the surroundings of the city park. The kids ran from one corner of the triangle to the other. Kates and Stephanie took off on tour of the antique and craft stores surrounding the downtown block. Grandpa took the kids on a walk around the park perimeter. And I went on a walking tour, admiring my favorite buildings on the block and reminiscing a little more.

Many summer days and nights spent running, biking and sitting around the veterans monument ...

The large, old trees throughout the park ... 


The old-time signage that -- for the most part -- has hardly changed since my childhood ... And businesses that occupied Main Street. Anna Marie's Pizzeria. The country store where I bought so many packs of my first baseball cards. And Heimstreet's pharmacy, where I bought many, many more ... 

A lot of haircuts here ...

The historic library where I participated in many summer reading programs and performed several piano recitals.

And the architecture that surrounds the entire block ...

Eventually, we returned to the lake and swam for a couple more hours.

For dinner, Joel led us to The RodeSide Grill, a country diner off the interstate between Lake Mills and Madison. The food was delicious and the girls enjoyed their coloring. It was the perfect day to wind down what had been another vacation day filled with warm memories.

* * *

Saturday was the wedding day.

As usual, I was antsy to get everybody going in the morning. And, as usual, we barely made it out of the house on time. ... We had an hour drive from The Farm to the church in Madison, and we made it with about 10 minutes to spare. We barely had enough time to greet our family before we were being ushered into the sanctuary for the ceremony.

Kates wasn't sitting for much more than a minute before Faye started squirming, and Kates carried her out. We didn't see them again until after the ceremony. ... In the meantime, Phoebe sat beside me, wanting a play-by-play explanation of every step of the wedding. After all, of the several weddings she's attended with us, this was the first of which she had any understanding of what was happening.

Phoebe was comparing all of it to her knowledge of Disney fairy tales, and to her the bride was Cinderella.

When is the bride coming? ... Soon. Just wait.
Who are those other people? ... Those are the bridesmaids and groomsmen.
Why are they lighting that candle? That's the Unity Candle.

And the most important question ...

When will they kiss?

Finally, the couple kissed, and the post-wedding activities commenced. Our large extended family, which has grown further the last few years to include so many significant others and children that I've lost count, crammed the steps of the altar area for a family photo. We posed for a few more small group photos. Then we were off to our hotel for the evening.

Continuing the fairytale theme for Phoebe, the hotel -- with its grand atrium stretching several stories tall and skylights -- was a castle.

We passed the downtime between the wedding and the start of the reception by settling into our room and enjoying some snacks. As more of our family members arrived, we joined them around the bar and did some catching up. ... The party soon moved to the other side of the atrium, where we had a bounty of appetizers, and Phoebe and her cousins romped around the fountains and stairways. ... And from there, we moved into the ballroom for the dinner and dance.

As almost all wedding dinners go, the food was delicious. ... Kates and I decided I should have a side job DJing weddings because I own every music track played during the dinner portion, from Joshua Radin's "I'd Rather Be With You," to Ingrid Michaelson's "The Way I Am," to Uncle Kracker's "Smile." All great songs. ... When Faye started fussing during the traditional wedding toasts and slideshows, I  took her to the back of the room and rocked her to sleep for a short nap. It was one of those awesome Daddy's moments I cherish. ... Phoebe and Sophia had their picture taken with the bride, aka the princess, and then they watched in awe with a couple of their cousins as she shared a dance with her father. ...

We danced the night away, and had so much fun doing it. It was a classic big-family wedding reception, and being able to take the dance floor with Phoebe and Faye was a daddy-daughter experience I had long looked forward to. The music hopped as the DJ mixed the hits of the day with other wedding party favorites.

Faye bowed out for good a little before 9 and Kates took her up to our hotel room with Phoebe, too. Kates and I both knew, though, that Phoebe -- always wanting to be part of the action -- would change her mind once she got to the room. Ten minutes later, Kates texted me, "Phoebe wants to come back down. Can you come get her?" I went upstairs and escorted Phoebe back to the party. Just as cookies and pizza were being served.

Phoebe and I danced and conversed with aunts and uncles and cousins until almost 11 before calling it a night. For good.

* * *

It was almost 10 a.m. Sunday before all of us were out of bed and presentable enough to meet the family downstairs for breakfast. We enjoyed more conversation with each other as Phoebe, Faye, Sophia and Fred got in some more play time.

We headed to the zoo for the afternoon, but that adventure was cut short. We had seen a good number of the animals, and Phoebe and Kates had just finished a ride on the carousel ...

... when the sky let loose with a torrential rain. We'd promised Phoebe she could play on the playground after her carousel ride, but all we could do was wait inside the carousel house until the rain let up. When it did -- maybe 15 or 20 minutes later -- we headed for the car as fast as we could. The rain picked up again as we navigated Madison and it was so hard at times as we traveled the rural highways to my parents home that it was difficult to see the road.

Somehow, we arrived safe and sound at my parents and settled in with them to catch the end of the Brewers game, which they lost. Then, Dad and I went out to pick up a pizza for supper.

Eventually, we were returning to The Farm for one more night of sleep before traveling back to The 'Ville today. We saw a rainbow as we closed in on The Farm, but Phoebe and Faye were far asleep and missed it.

It was a fun weekend with so many wonderful images to savor.

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