Monday, August 17, 2009

The Simon family reunion and road trip

Until I received a save-the-date letter many months ago, I didn't even know I was a Simon. But the leadership of the Omaha Steaks Company, two Simon brothers, organized a large family reunion for all of the decendants of my great-great-great-grandfather Lazar, a Lithuanian Jew who married three--possibly four--times and whose grandchildren moved to the Council Bluffs-Omaha area around 1905. Two of his grandkids, cousins even though the didn't share the same grandmother, married each other and raised my great-grandma May, whom I was named after (I was Alma May before I married).
We just got back from the family reunion, which was a pretty classy affair. Instead of a picnic in the park and matching t-shirts, we were treated to two breakfasts at the Marriott and an after-hours (steak) dinner at the Strategic Air and Space Museum. I got to meet 2nd, 3rd and 4th cousins from California, Boulder, Israel, Virginia, New York, Illinois and Texas--plus a whole lot of Omahans. In fact, it appears I'm related to a sizable chunk of the Omaha Jewish population.

My Aunt Susie put us up in her basement since my mom and Rick were also staying there for the reunion. It was surprisingly comfortable, but my kids never settle down well when we're traveling, so we played musical beds for three nights, exploring every combination of sleeping companions and not sleeping all that well thanks to whining, kicking and A falling out of bed and biting open her lip. I think Josh described sharing a bed with A akin to sleeping with a hot, sweaty, urine-smelling leech, and he's pretty much on the money.

We also learned a few things about long road trips with kids, this being the first time we've driven both kids more than 150 miles from home. Lesson number one: if you've spent 30 minutes pre-packaging healthy-ish snack foods into a grocery sack, you shouldn't leave it on the kitchen counter. Lesson number two: the keys to backseat contentment are snacks, toys, books, The Wiggles, and a 2-screen DVD player. But mostly snacks.
On the way to Omaha we drove slowly, stopping in the Quad Cities to visit a playground along the Mississippi River and overnighting at a hotel with a pool just outside Iowa City. We had the world's largest cinnamon roll at the Machine Shed in Des Moines, which is just outside the entrance to Living History Farms, an amazing site with working farms from early Iowan history and a restored town from 1875. I wish I could have spent all day there instead of 3 hours.

We drove straight home after brunch on Sunday, only stopping to visit the Des Moines Botanical Center and eat a lunch of coal-fired pizzas and salad at Centro. When we were less than an hour from home, we pulled off I-88 in North Aurora. There we stepped into what might be the biggest grocery store I've ever stepped foot into to pick up some basic groceries and put the kids in their pajamas. Seriously, the place was the size of a Home Depot. It took 10 minutes to walk from the entrance to the dairy case. And there were three aisles of breakfast cereal!

More photos from our trip can be seen here.