Back in the US, Back in the US, Back in the USofA

After 3+ months traveling, we (mostly I) were ready to be back in the USA.  Even if our Spanish was improving, it gets stressful and frustrating not being able to easily communicate with everyone.  One of our main motivations for getting back to the USA earlier was so that we had some time to drive around, visit friends and family, and check out cities and states where we might want to relocate.  Getting back to the USA in mid-August let us head out before the weather got too rough and the roads to Julie started closing (although we did get SNOW on our first full day in Montana, September 15).  While we figured we'd spend about a week in NJ, we ended up spending 12 days there so that I could spend my birthday with my family.

And what a birthday it was!  I figured being in NJ for a few days would be my only opportunity to get to a Yankee game this year, and August 26 fell on a Saturday - and the Yankees were home!  For a Saturday game at 1:05pm!  And the Keenas were around too!  So, the eight of us spent my birthday at Yankee Stadium, where Jacoby Ellsbury had a great game and the Yankees beat the Mariners 6-3.  It was also Paige and Ben's first time at Yankee Stadium, and the weather was 75 and sunny - seriously couldn't have been better, it reminded me of Pam and Brian's wedding (as Leonore says, she should really just start asking my mom to pick a date when planning a party, because the Santillis always seem to have great luck with weather).  The whole day went perfectly - Pam told us when they left Connecticut and we guessed accordingly at when we should leave to arrive at similar times.  I was driving, stuck in traffic at the exit ramp on the Deegan, and told my mom to call Pam and see - and they were about 1/4 mile behind us.  I told them to do something I'm vehemently against - be that guy who passes everyone and cuts them off so we'd be together.  It worked, and we were able to park right next to each other, making exiting and driving to Arthur Avenue even easier (except that somehow Adam and I got separated from everyone else when going back to the car, I went to the wrong garage, and it took us a good 20 minutes to find everyone else by the cars in the correct garage.  I don't claim to have a good direction sense, and Adam, bless his heart, let it go since it was my birthday).  And yes, after the game, we went to Arthur Avenue for birthday dinner, with Aunt Patty, Grandpa, Uncle Nick, and Aunt Kim joining us for a good dinner - pretty perfect ending to a pretty great 36th birthday.

But back to our return.  We got back on Wednesday night, Adam went into NYC on Thursday to see friends who would be out of town the next week, and I did laundry.  My parents had an appointment on Friday morning, Adam was still in the city, and I had SEVEN GLORIOUS HOURS ALONE, the first time I'd been alone in probably 4 months.  Words can't express how amazing those seven hours were.  We headed to Brooklyn on Saturday to see some friends, and brought Pizza Plus and Four & Twenty Pie back for dinner (this was at the request of my parents).  Even after heating the pizza in the oven, it was so freaking good.  I miss Brooklyn pizza.  Sunday was my mom's birthday, and we spent the day in Connecticut at the lake, getting to see Aunt Agatha, Uncle Henry, Uncle John, Aunt Nancy, and the Keenas, with my favorite niece and nephew coming back with us to Jersey.


Monday was the solar eclipse, which, honestly, was nothing impressive in NJ.  My cousin Karyn came down for the day with her adorable 1 year old daughter, Poppy, and we all went to the pool for about an hour, until they closed for 3.5 hours because of the eclipse.  Thankfully, Paige was with us so I didn't have to play in the pool all day with Adam, as she's part fish.  Also, I made ricotta stuffed squash blossoms with dinner that night, and they came out great.  Karyn took some home for her husband and they deemed them restaurant quality.

Tuesday was another first for Paige and Ben - me, Adam, and my dad took them to Six Flags Great Adventure!  I hadn't been in probably 10 years, and the five of us had a blast - it was so much fun, and so exhausting.  The highlight of the day for me was my dad's face when he got off Toro, a wooden roller coaster.  This is a ride that I went on 10 years ago and had the worst headache afterwards, to the point where I still remember this.  Paige didn't want to go, so she and I sat around waiting for the rest of them.  Dad didn't want to drink, eat, speak, anything - it was hysterical.  We finally got home around 9:30pm, and just crashed.  The rest of the week was not nearly as exciting, though Adam and I did make a fantastic dinner of roasted beets, arugula/watermelon/tomato salad, and pork chops with a red wine sauce for my parents on Friday night.


Adam was very, VERY good at the Justice League ride where you shoot things as you ride.

Yes, she's ridiculous.

Paige pretending that she rode El Toro.

After a couple of days of getting everything in order, we finally headed out on Tuesday morning for our road trip.  About 10 miles into the trip, the aux button in my car stopped working, and we made a note to get it fixed while in Davenport, as well as the visor on the driver's side which was also broken (note: my mom, knowing we were coming home, tried and tried and tried to get my dad to fix this before we got home.  He did not understand what the hurry was).

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