My childhood home. That top bedroom was mine! (all 4 X 4 of it)

Hi folks I’m in Washington state visiting the family for my father’s birthday. I flew up as a surprise to dad, which he appreciated.

I was also thanked by some beautiful weather this weekend.

My parents have a lovely home and a very nice bathroom. The shower, on the other hand, is a different matter.

The walls are coated in medicinal blue plastic; I feel like I’m in a hospital shower, prepping before surgery.

The little plastic shelves are chock full of hundreds of random gels and body washes. Many of them 100% empty, caps missing, bottles smothered in dried remnants of what they were once filled with.

And somehow several of the bottles are permanently smashed, like someone let Frankenstein take a shower before a hot date!

I look around for anything masculine to clean up with.

One lone, widdled bar of Ivory soap…the texture of an elephant’s heel.

I have a feeling my poor father has to resort to washing with cucumber, cocoa butter and oatmeal jojoba when he just wishes there was as bottle marked “CLEAN”.

We make our way to Wal Mart for my routine visit. For when you want to feel like a supermodel.

I peruse the men’s clothing section, overwhelmed by the selections of formless, colorless, oversized options. Many with elastic wastebands. Their “Small” size best fits a small horse.

On the way home from purchasing some $12 dollar shoes, my mother tells me the conversation she had with my 6 year old niece.

“I want some cheetos”, Ava insists.

“I’m not going to buy those anymore because they make grandma fat”.

“But you already ARE fat” Ava pleads.

Then while tailgating someone in front of her, I tell her “Rear ending him won’t prove your point, Mom”.

“I’ll do what I want!”

Onions from my mother's garden.

"Take a picture of my carrots, too!"

We hang out a bit at home, I do a little writing, my father tinkers with the 17 computers that surround his recliner and my mother begins to prepare her famous Bacon Pineapple Baked Beans. BPBB, for short.

BPBB!

I see, out of the dozen or so cans of baked beans (she cheats a bit) she had purchased, two are left.

“Why didn’t you use these beans? Too much?”

“You can never have too much beans!”

“Why didn’t you use THESE beans?”

“Because I had too much!”

Let the Popsicle frenzy begin!

Pool time! (Ava showing off her six pack)

Ava and Liam's little house....spoiled brats.

While everything is cooking, Mom and I head out to do a little shopping and as we park at the shop, she says “Where’s my wallet?”

After a panicked 5 minute strip search of the vehicle and calls to father and the grocery store we were just at, we drive back home for the much anticipated full body cavity search of the residence.

She finds it in another purse, oddly enough. While the phone is propped in her ear to the bank, cancelling her credit cards.

We drive back to the shop, we park , then, “Where’s my cell phone?!”

I get out of the car immediately “I’m not doing this again mom, let’s go!” “But..” “Forget it, it’s fine, let’s go!”

When we arrive home, I hear “Who’s BBQ’ing the meat?”

“Dad can do it!” I respond.

“It’s his birthday, you do it!” mom retorts.

Then I hear her mutter in the kitchen “I have a houseguest that does nothing but sit on his butt on his blackberry”.

Kids, 24 - Popsicles, 0

My grandparents and rest of the family arrive for the BBQ. We finish eating in what it appears to be 38 seconds and then adjourn to the lawn to watch the kids play in the pool and on the expansive swing estate/play compound.

I must admit pangs of jealousy strike on occasion as my rusted old swing set from childhood pales in comparison to the behemoth fun factory for my niece and nephew.

Lovely country table setting...crystal bowl filled with DORITOS.

As my father inadvertently gives 2 year old Liam a glass of wine, I overhear my grandfather coming from the house telling my mother the asparagus I grilled “was a disaster”.

To be honest, he didn’t know who cooked it but was ready to give his 3 cents on the proper method to ensure a baby food like texture.

My British grandmother mentions she had purchased a smashing hat I might like and I ask suspiciously where she bought it from.

She thinks for a moment, realizing my accusatory tone, and says the name of the first non-thrift store she can think of.

My facial expression is incredulous.

“No, Bryan. I haven’t been to one of those places in weeks! I’m over it. Done with ‘em.”

Watching the insults fly...

Snow White demands more popsicles!

Costume change #7

As I play on the swings with the kiddos, I hear my grandmother enquire loudly “Does anyone know how much Bryan weighs?”

“Grandma!” I yelp.

“I just wanted to make sure the swingset can hold the lot of you”.

We enjoy the rest of the afternoon, have a brief rest and then head out to take dad to see Harry Potter for his birthday.

Dad hates driving too fast (or too slow), hates crowds (actually, just people) noise, uncomfortable seats and any sort of waiting.

So, we gave dad quite the birthday gift with all of the above!

As my trip comes to an end, I must admit that I love coming home. I’m utterly relaxed, love spending time with my family and their beautiful home…

…and let’s face it, these blogs write themselves!

Exhausted after winning the popsicle war...