Did I mention that we went to Arizona at the end of April? Oh, what? It's almost July you say? I hadn't noticed. So let's just pretend it's early May and I'm not nearly two months behind in posting about our family reunion/vacation weekend. Agreed?
After much arranging, conversation, and argument, the three Sands brothers and spouses and children, the Schuhrke families, stepbrother and spouse and children, and stepsister and children, all convened in Phoenix, Arizona for three delightful days of brother mocking, architecture, ice cold swimming, grilling, In and Out burgering, shopping and general merriment, topped with some Mexican seafood and more eating.
Tom and Bree, Joe's stepbrother and his wife, live in Phoenix and have two adorable kids, Trevor and Nathan. All of our families get along extremely well, our nephews Connor and Jack are close in age to Trevor and Nathan, and both Katy, my sister in law and Bree are teachers, so there is an abundance of good will, things in common and good conversation amongst the women folk too. Leslie, Joe's stepsister and Tom's sister, also lives in Phoenix with her three kids so it was a veritable family reunion all weekend.
And of course since we are in Phoenix, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, Joe had to squeeze in a couple of architecture adventures. These photos are from the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium on the Arizona State campus. I was back enjoying some leisurely alone time at the hotel while Joe was out attempting to photograph every possible attractive angle of this lovely building. It is pretty, isn't it? I got a quick drive by later, when I was fully awake and properly caffeinated.
After some early morning architecture photography and reading/lazing hotel appreciation, we headed over to Tom and Bree's house for a late breakfast, sun worshiping and just hanging out. Tom and Bree are wonderful hosts. We were never bored, hungry or unattended. Drinks, snacks, full meals, more drinks, just true family hospitality. It was a delight. And so nice to get a chance to spend some time with everyone together. Though it was too short a visit.
Tom is a motorcycle police officer in the city of Chandler. He is the kind of upright, strong, seriously funny gentleman that should be out there protecting the citizens. And the man's motorcycle boots, which had to be custom made, are the biggest boots I've seen in my life. The man has calves the size of small trees. Damn.
Bree is the warmest, kindest women. She welcomes you into her house, chaos and all. And never stops trying to feed you. Her laugh fills the house and she can silence a whining child with just a look. I wish she was my next door neighbor.
We sat outside in the rather mild, dry 90 degree heat. Jackson's cheeks were pinking up in the warmth and he kept asking Katy to poor her cold water on him. A little dab here and there, he asked for more, and when Katy obliged with a bit more than he was used to, he reacted kind of strongly, for about 30 seconds, then he asked again. Kids.
The little boys ran around the back yard, riding all of the different tricycles and bikes, playing in the play house, getting pinker and pinker. That little ginger, Connor, got some sunscreen reapplied and hopped in the pool with Uncle Jo Jo. The water in the pool was frigid. Unheated Arizona pools are warm and delightful by June, but in late April, not so much. And then there was the sprinkler.
There was mud and chaos and fun noodle mud bats and joy and little boys covered in grass and splattered mud. And I think everyone got a bath later.
And then tragedy struck. Jon Sands' one pair of flip flops broke. They just let him down, right there in the backyard. So we were forced to go shopping. It was horrible. Ok, it wasn't, it was awesome.
Did you know that Arizona has a decidedly higher ratio of sandals for sale at all shoe stores than anywhere in the Midwest? I base this on thorough research at DSW, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and Famous Footwear. Because Jon Sands is picky. And until he found the perfect black, inexpensive flip flops, his mission was not complete. I bought two pairs of sandals during our quest. I was just trying to be supportive.
After Sandal Quest 2011 was completed, it was time to get back to Tom and Bree's and head out to dinner. Leslie kindly offered to watch the kids while she finished some college homework, thanks, Les. So the adults had a night to ourselves. Tom and Bree had chosen a down-home laid back steak joint just outside of town. We took the thirty minute drive, through the beautiful desert country to San Tan Flat Saloon. This place was wonderful. With a huge outdoor space filled with tables, fire pits, a big stage for performances, and packed with all kind of people. There was a wedding going on actually when we arrived. Right there in the middle, a very young couple got hitched, bridesmaids in short shiny blue satin and stacked white flip flops. My kind of restaurant. When the couple posed for photos after the ceremony, they made out so fiercely I was afraid they might lose a filling or two. While their proud parents looked away. Awesome. We went into the inside section of the restaurant, beers, laughter, steaks, air conditioning. It was a good night.
The next morning Joe had convinced his brothers to go on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, Taliesin West. I was on the fence since we'd been there before. But the place is so peaceful and beautiful, and the weather was so mild that morning, that I tagged along too. We took the hour and a half tour, wandered around the campus and into select buildings. I could hear Joe vaguely grumbling that he knew more than the kind elderly gentleman who was our guide knew. Joe is discrete but you could tell. He kept interjecting stories for our small group. Wanting to make sure we got the full impact of the place.
And it was just a gorgeous as I remembered. Tucked into the landscape like it just grew out of the natural outcroppings. After the tour was finished, and roughly 400 photographs were taken, the dads of the group headed back to their families and Jon, Joe and I searched on Yelp for a perfect local restaurant. And boy, did we find it.
Baja Joe's. Oh, Baja Joe's. Your seafood appetizer tempted and sustained us until the main course. Abalone, octopus and fresh shrimp squirted with lime juice and left naked and perfect. Then the Sands brothers ordered the most fascinating and decadent seafood entree I've seen. It was delivered on a tall footed clay pot shaped like a fish. And covered in an array of seafood treats. They scarfed it down with the happiest most satisfied smiles I've seen on either one of them in a long time. See below?
Oh and melon margaritas, because it's vacation lunch.
After lunch we drove back to our home base at Tom and Bree's. More pool, more hanging out with the kids, and prep time for the barbeque that evening with the whole family, including Leslie's kids Anissa, AJ and Kayla.
Dueling photographs were taken.
Mothers were tortured with fun noodle antennae.
The kids "painted and cleaned" the play house. They ran and screamed and longed to get in the pool but didn't. The evening began to wane.
The night sky dimmed and we quickly realized that we needed to capture a full family portrait on this rare occasion of all the siblings in one place and the same time. Tripods and cameras came out, crying exhausted children were calmed, and we got our shot.
I feel so lucky to a be a part of this crazy family. Joe and I headed back home the next morning, though we would have loved to stay longer like Jim and Katy did. I can't wait until we are all together again, and we can listen to the gentle, loving cruel mocking that comes from four brothers all sitting around the same table. Midwest Sands Schuhrke Extravaganza 2012?
I forgot to mention, most photos by Joe Sands, a few by Jim Sands and maybe one or two by yours truly.