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We went to Efteling, and I didn't understand how to get to Symbolica (it is _through_ Octopus! Silly me!) during the half hour before regular hours for people staying on property. Oh well! We did a lot of rides, and I bought the photo pass. We went back to the room to rest, and then later with swimming. A. didn't realize that 1,3 m meant More Than 4 Feet Deep, so she got over her 4 Feet Deep phobia and had a ton of fun.

Then we went _back_ to the park to see what it looked like after dark, when we realized it was open really late. Lots of fun, but exhausting.
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We went to the Netherlands and spent a few days at Efteling, followed by a few days staying in Diever and visiting Fryslan pretty much all of those days (yeah, not the smartest thing, but we really like Diever, but Fryslan is where family is). I'll try to catch up on blogging over the next few days and backdate the posts.

Today's activities Include:

Cleaned fridge (tossed food that had gone bad and actually cleaned the two main drawers)
Went grocery shopping
Lunch at Julie's Place with T. (I accidentally hockey pucked my burger that I was going to eat at home, when someone came to the door)
Talked to the powerwasher / painter (that's who interrupted the lunch process)
Bought a can of paint
Picked out a color for the deck stain (will be buying that gallon tomorrow)
Wrote checks, one to the person who did the shower (finished!) and one that is complicated to explain
Went to a birthday party after shopping for birthday presents for the two kids whose birthdays were being celebrated
Sent invites for my daughter's upcoming birthday party
Sent documents for my son's physical to someone at the school who needs those
Sent documents to transportation for the kids
Sent a query to someone at my daughter's school about more transportation
Sent a request to The Bee Guy regarding stinging insects that appear to be nesting in the siding (discovered by the power washer / painter)
Visited the bank
Uploaded vacation photos
Caught up on email (mostly)
Made cole slaw and cooked bacon
Vacuumed and roomba'd (mostly construction dust) and swiffered walls in the master bathroom (ditto)
Put some pictures back up on the walls (taken down during construction)

I'm super forgetful from the jetlag, but otherwise seem to be doing okay. Kids seem happy, altho, predictably, got tired early.

ETA: Did a couple loads of laundry. I did get mostly unpacked last night, even tho we got back really late.

ETAYA: Downloaded the ride photos. Efteling is using Picsolve. This seems to be where a lot of parks and other attractions that do group photos are winding up.
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We got up not too early (at least not by that time zone -- by our home time zone, insanely early!) and had breakfast, returned bicycles and said goodbye to our host. We drove to Schiphol, stopping to top up the tank and to squeegee the very bug ridden windshield. We got to Schiphol around 11:30 for a 2:45 departure and returned the rental car. We really like BB&L. No surprises in pricing or anywhere else and they are very pleasant to deal with.

We checked two bags (one more than on the way out, but, souvenirs!). We got through the general security line and stopped at McDonald's for lunch and for a couple minutes at the play area. Then off to all those additional levels of security for returning to the US. I won't miss this passport when I renew -- they printed the bar code misaligned and it always causes problems.

We got to the gate in plenty of time and I carped at family for making me run for no good reasons and complained further because R. hadn't checked which boarding group we were in and missed our call. Oh well! We got our seats. My G-Ro did not fit into the overhead in the desirable direction; it had to go sideways. Fortunately, Delta Comfort or whatever they call economy plus has some dedicated bins so we had plenty of space. And then the fun began.

First, the tug couldn't let go of the plane. Then a gear something or other indicator light wouldn't turn off. We ultimately had to return to the gate while someone went and flipped a breaker (really, the whole world works on the principle of turning it all the way off and then on again, apparently), then fans had to be pointed at the brakes to cool them down (did you know taxiing resulted in overheated brakes in airplanes? I did not). I was terrified we'd run out the clock on the flight crew and we would need a replacement crew. Or the problem would require more maintenance and we'd all have to get off the plane for an unknown delay. But my fears were groundless. They served nuts, pretzels and water while we waited and the captain came out to explain matters and be good natured where all could see it. Customer service done right, Delta! Well done! We were almost 3 hours after our scheduled departure before we finally got in the air.

Delta -- at least on this flight -- has a vegan option which is also low sodium (and low fat because ... vegan?). It was korma and super tasty altho A. hated the smell of it. I farted because beans. We passed bits of meals around among the four of us, and between that and the bag of food I brought (paranoia) we all did okay.

The actual flight was uneventful, however, there was a woman in traditional African (no, I can't specify beyond that, however wait and we'll learn a bit more) dress who was rolled up to the plane in a wheel chair. She didn't look young, and she had that look to her that made you think she probably had looked ageless for decades and the not-young could have been very old indeed. In any event, I can only imagine what she thought of the delay. As we were landing, she got up, presumably to use the facilities? Or perhaps out of some anxiety or misunderstanding. They had announced on the PA earlier, looking for someone who spoke Swahili ("or anything like Swahili"), so I'm not sure communication had been established with her. Of course there was nothing for the attendants to do at that point beyond gesture to sit back down. The passengers seated near her helped her not fall down -- she was standing throughout the actual landing, which I have never, ever seen before. And I had seen her delivered to the plane in a wheel chair. Why I Don't Fly Certain Elderly and/or Anxious Relatives, right there, in person. I hope she makes it to wherever she is going; she'll have a heckuva story to tell her family when she gets there.

ETA: On the drive to Schiphol, I saw signs for "Mysteryland" and a lot of cars. Turns out that is a music festival.
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On Friday, we got up a little earlier than usual. After a quick breakfast and packing up for a long day, we went to Heerenveen to pick up A. Then we drove to Holwerd, to catch the 10:30 ferry, but all the ferries were running late all day. Oops! Had I known, we probably could have caught the late 9:30. Oh well! We met P.-J. there.

We got coffee and snacks on the ferry, including an Oreo Doughnut. Which is super weird, and T. liked it; A., not so much.

We had lunch reservations in Buren at StrAnders, a fish restaurant. We had mussels for an appetizer. Really good! With celery and sea weed. I got cod. R. had a seafood plate. P.-J. and A. had the quiche. The kids had chicken wings. T. liked his. "They have a stick in it." Which is the bone. I think this is the first time he's had bone-in chicken. We're branching out a little. A. (my daughter) just ate frites. Which is fine. And honestly, while in the Netherlands, you should eat frites. They are better than here in the States.

T. and R. rented bikes to ride to Buren with P.-J. The rest of us took a taxi.

We caught the very late 2:30 ferry returning. R. picked up a bottle of Nobeltje at the shop that sold only that; I don't think it was there last time. They couldn't read our cards, or take cash, but the nice man running the shop worked with us to take cash anyway. We really appreciated it, because we haven't had a bottle of Nobeltje since 2004 and wanted one. I'd wanted to have lunch at Hotel Nobel and get one there, but I just couldn't figure out a way to make the menu work for the kids.

We returned A. to Heerenveen, then went home to Diever. T. and I went down to the snack bar and I also ate some food that we had already. R. and T. both went for bike rides (separately) since the ride from the ferry to Buren was so short it barely counted. Then we all packed up for our departure the next day.

ETA: While we were having lunch, A. told a really great story (more than one) about how she and J. (her deceased husband) got together. As children, they met while on vacation (camping, if I understood correctly) but she was quite young (about 12) and he a few years older which makes a big difference at that age. Fast forward to when she was 28 (funny stories about a group at work buying a lottery ticket, winning a bunch of money and going to the south of France or some other beach on the Mediterranean with other young women. Bikinis!) and working for (I've forgotten the name of this organization AGAIN -- I think of it as the Dutch AAA, but it isn't about cars or driving but is about travel and reviews) in Arnhem. They met on the street, recognized each other and got married less than a year later. Fantastic! P.J. had heard the camping (?) part of the story but not how they reconnected.

ETA: Not sure which days we saw this, but I figured I'd put it here. We saw this boat more than once; very cool looking!

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolle_Domus_(schip,_1914)
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T. and R. went to Aqua Zoo Friesland; we did that with A. four years ago but it really tired her out. They've added to it since then. They had a good time.

A. and I were super tired, so we just hung out at the house all day. By the end of the day, not nearly so tired. Sometimes, we just need a day off.

I took T. down to the snack bar for dinner.

We did not visit A. today because she had the house cleaners in the morning and does her laundry in the afternoon. Also, good to have a bit of a rest before the big trip to the island.
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We had a morning visit with A. She gave me a lovely traditional Frysk bag with a silver closure and a hand made lined bag with needlepoint. The closure would traditionally have been reused -- a new bag made at intervals, so it is unlikely this is the original needlepoint, but it is particularly lovely to have as A.'s mother R. made it for her.

To be clear: the woman who, when my grandfather wrote to his brother asking to visit said, we're not having those people (JW's, that is) in my house, made a bag for her daughter, well: I have that bag now. I will cherish it forever, and the folding back together over time of the wounded family, which I really believe -- and which A. believes -- would have made the two brothers (her father and my grandfather) very happy.

After lunch, we visited Bourtange. R. and I went there in 2004. It is a star shaped fortification that has been restored and they do reenactments part of the year, and there are museums the whole year. The kids were tolerant; we visited all the little museums. The best part was the nerf cannons, where we got to shoot each other. Best museum exhibit ever! Altho the ride-on crane with the view of the wet lands around the fortification was neat, too.
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I went to the coop and bought some snacks. T. was asking A. for some of the cookies he remembered from a previous trip and I felt bad about that, and about not bringing her a gift. So I got some nice chocolate, some cherry pastries that had no milk products, the cookies T. remembered and some other things as well. T. bought his sitter a birthday card and we bought stamps and mailed it in the mail box on the side of the coop.

After our morning visit to A., we came back to Diever and had lunch at the Keer n Punt. There were a lot of bees, which A. did not like, and the kids complained a lot. After this, we mostly ate at McDonald's and at the snack bar at Keer n Punt where we could get to go food.

I _think_ this is the day that T. and R. went to Blue Lake and T. swam.
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Today was switchover day. We checked out of the cottage after breakfast and packing up the rest of things. We moved the car from the Bosrijk parking lot to the main lot for Efteling. We went on Symbolica one last time and a few other rides. I had an upset stomach, but had noodles at Toko Pagode and those helped.

We drove north to Heerenveen and visited A. I had no gift, so I felt bad, and there had been some confusion about when we were arriving in Fryslan, but that's okay, we had a nice chat. We went back to Diever in time for dinner and at at the Nieuws Cafe. We picked up bicycles. We chatted with our host. We wandered part of the Monday Market in Diever. And a woman gave A. a pink rose with a little card attached about how Jesus can help you with stress. A little weird, but she didn't ask for a donation, so I'm not going to complain.
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A. and I rode Symbolica; we went through Octopus during the early half hour and rode it with T. and R. A. and I had waited through an hour plus line the day before, but honestly, this wasn't that much shorter a wait.

She really likes the play space in the back of Octopus. It is pretty cool. We also did the Panda Droom movie (Saturday, maybe?) and the Haunted House (which was kind of boring).
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We were all half asleep when we landed. We retrieved R.'s checked bag without difficulty; I kept me and the kids back a ways so as not to distract him, but he would have let it slide by anyway except I called out to him to grab it. So I drove the rental car.

He navigated using google maps and the car GPS (we had them set the language to English). We arrived at Efteling but could not go into our room until 3 p.m. (this is always so sad, because I want nothing more than a nap when I arrive 6 hours earlier in the day).

We did go on some rides. I took A. on Droomvlucht, and it started pouring down rain when we came out. We tried to wait it out, but we got soaked. We went to Bosrijk and I changed us in the loo, but I took too long changing and she wandered off which scared me half to death. She has never done that before. After that, we just sat in the car until it was time to check in. It was blissfully quiet and no chance of anyone disappearing.

I tried to eat some lunch at Octopus, but I was still half asleep, and couldn't tolerate the smoked salmon sandwich I picked out and I think it had cream cheese on it anyway. Oh well!
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The shower work continues. A man from the water district came by, checked the water pressure at the service (fine) and then determined that the pressure reducing valve was set low. Really low. Like, 40. With my eager permission / encouragement, he turned it up to 65. Wow. The difference. Why didn't we do this years ago? Hmmmm?

When R. got home from work and T. back from the sitter, we were picked up by car service and whisked to the airport, where we had fast food and got on a plane. We ate some more food (vegan option! Pity I wasn't hungrier!) and slept. Yes, we actually slept. Short flight, tho, only 6 hours. Morning came quick!

We continue to approve of Delta Airlines. Of course we love JetBlue, but they don't have transatlantic flights. Yet.
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We packed up in the morning and checked out, stopping to tell them about the electrical problem.

We drove to Santa's Village. We got there around 10:30 and had to park across the street, but the lines were not too horrible. It was a _really_ sunny day; I think I got too much sun because I had a wicked migraine by the end of the time in the park, and sitting in the sun driving home did nothing to improve things.

A. did the water park this time, and the alphabet game. We had lunch at the Mess Hall. I only got a couple pictures (A. with Santa) because we didn't do the log ride (A. is opposed to them currently) or the monorail (it is getting cramped for all four of us and the line can sometimes be long).

We unpacked very quickly upon our return and got through the laundry. I had done laundry twice at T.'s request at the hotel. I could probably bring fewer clothes for A., since T. keeps wanting to do laundry anyway. My sister travels that way and has really reduced the amount of clothing she brings for the family.

No dinner out -- mostly just snacked. We were happy to be home. Both kids have school on Monday.
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Mostly a repeat of Friday. The kids did more things together: tea cups, the two boat rides, Cinderella pictures. A. spent a lot of time on the land side of Splash Battle; she got a little sun. She lost track of me and wandered over to Loopy Labs and they called me on the PA. Ooops. I had told her where I was sitting, but she apparently misunderstood. Next time, I'll point.

We hung out in the room after, then went to 99's and did a little outlet shopping to get T. some headphones.
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We went to StoryLand. R. made A. pancakes in the room; I took T. down to breakfast for waffles. I remembered to bring my own english muffins so I didn't resort to eating a bagel (this is good, because they are huge, and they are all white flour and I'm a middle aged woman who needs a little whole grain in the morning).

Our season passes having been set up at Memorial Day weekend, it was easy getting into the park and we had a nice day. It wasn't hot, but A. wanted to do water rides, so we did Splash Battle and Doctor Geyser after changing into swim suits. We got really cold, but it was fun. We had lunch in the park and left in the early afternoon so R. could get a bike ride. The kids and I hung out in the room; they didn't want to go swimming.

We went to dinner at Applebee's after R. got back. T. left his headphones at the restaurant; they are lost now.

ETA: I had a brief conversation with my friend K., but I just couldn't maintain focus on the call and do stuff at the park so we gave up. I'm a little bummed; looking forward to next week's call.
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I finally did a little research on a persistent problem I have been having with Apple Notes. Somewhat randomly, text in my To Do Note gets turned into a link to something somewhat random. I fix them ... and then they recur sometimes in the same place or near it, sometimes elsewhere in the Note. Research suggests that (a) this is a known and persistent problem with (b) long notes that (c) sometimes improves if you start a new Note and move stuff over to it and shorten it up. So I did some of that. Mostly, I ganked a bunch of text out about a possible blog post and stuck it in a me-only post so if I ever want to think about it again I might be able to find it. It was probably never going to get turned into a real post anyway; it was a little too rambly and complex.

I packed my stuff for our long weekend in North Conway, NH. I had already helped T. pack, and packed A. I had to finish, tho, because we left today. I also packed up food and other stuff.

In the middle of packing, the play therapist arrived. Oops! I totally forgot about that. Oh well. We were home and after an initial round of complaints from A., she settled in.

The complaining was because she had come home from school wanting to watch The Little Mermaid II. I couldn't find it on iTunes and so we got the discs from the library. She didn't want to interrupt watching it to hang out with the play therapist, but they had fun once they settled in.

We were leaving for NH after R. came home from work, so I got a snack and a little food into A. We never had a proper dinner however and R. just had a bowl of cereal when he got home. We didn't want to stop at the Common Man on the way up (would have taken too long) and T. had eaten dinner already. We did finally decide we were too hungry and stopped at a McDonald's in Ossippee.

Checkin to the Residence Inn was largely uneventful, altho the light by one of the beds was not working and tripping a breaker after heating up. I told R. not to report it lest they determine the room was not occupiable (it was the last available two bedroom, and I didn't want a downgrade). We decided to tell them on the way out, and leave the light unplugged in the mean time.
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We drove home from Hershey. We stopped in Easton to go to Crayola Experience, which R.'s brother-in-law J. had suggested. The kids had fun. It is sort of a highly-branded, inexpensive, craft oriented children's museum. If you could convince your kids to NOT always want ice cream or the more expensive things in the shop, it'd be a kind of cool place to take a preschooler. There are water tables, coloring places, modeling clay stations, painting, little climbing structures, etc. My kids are a little old for it, but had a good time.

We had lunch at the McDonald's in Easton. I tried the "signature" recipe with beef, pico and guac. I had to send the first one back to get it without cheese and ranch (I told them -- but it doesn't show up right on the ticket and I don't know if the young man at the register did it wrong or if they haven't figured out how to accommodate on this item or what). It was tasty. The pico makes a nice replacement for the usual onion etc., and I love guac.

Once we got to Massachusetts, the thunderstorms hit in earnest, so we stopped for dinner in Auburn to try to wait out some of the worst of the storms + Worcester rush hour traffic. When we got home, unpacking went super fast. T. was incredibly helpful and didn't do anything to interrupt getting through that task. We got some of the laundry done; the sheets and towels can wait for tomorrow.

ETA: T. pulled a canine out in the van on the trip home. I wrapped it up in a piece of paper and stored it in the little display case when we got home. Not too many more of those to go for him. He warned us it was about to happen and then he told me when it had, so he could hand me the tooth for safekeeping. What a difference a few years make.

It was a really fun trip. Getting to see family was especially nice. I had been sure we would hang out with my sister and her family (this was a Cape Cod replacement and we've done this trip before) but I was less sure of the NJ side trip and as long as that wasn't scheduled I'd been reluctant to make plans with R.'s aunt in Harrisburg. Nevertheless, it all worked out.
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On Monday, we started out riding Comet. Then A. and I rode Trailblazer. We met up with T. and R. accidentally and the kids rode Wild Mouse together. I bought a photo pass for the day (probably should have bought the 3 day pass on the first day but whatever), and got the one with both kids. T. rode it a second time and I got that photo. A. and I stood in line for a while for Laff Trakks. After that, we were supposed to meet everyone else at the Aqua Theater to see a Seals and Sea Lions show but A. was not going for it. We went to Subway and had an instant replay of the previous day's lunch (with only one cookie this time instead of two). She wanted caramel corn on her way out of the park and was pacing herself. We rode Coal Cracker and got that photo. Then we went to Chocolate World and did the 4D show with my sister's family and bought some souvenirs.

No swimming because everyone but us went to the water park. K. and B. went swimming later anyway, but A. wasn't really interested in doing anything but playing Roblox at that point. We had Chinese takeout for dinner; I made the kids burgers and T. ate his but A. had filled up on caramel corn.

R. did some laundry while waiting for the food to arrive and while I was feeding the kids dinner.
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On Sunday, we were going to go to Laff Trakks during the first hour, but they only open Founders Way and the Hollow and Laff Trakks is way deep in Midway. Oh well. We rode the Comet several times and had a ton of fun. Then we lined up for Laff Trakks and rode it a couple times. After that, we split up (all 8 of us went on Laff Trakks, altho T. and R. went on Skyrush while the rest of us did Comet -- even my sister rode once!).

My sister's family and I had lunch at Subway and La Famiglia. They got a pizza and some subs. I got A. a cheese sub and bacon, and I had a veggie delite. She didn't eat her roll so I wound up having it later in the cabin with pb & j because a 6 inch veggie delite with no cheese is a little light on calories even if you have mayo.

Since R.'s family went to the water park, we did not go swimming.

A.'s food obsession of the day was a cookie s'more. Those things are enormous. She didn't even eat a fifth of it, but I did manage to get the rest back to the cabin fridge for later.

I bought A. and my nieces the $19 game voucher booklet. A. played many different midway type games. Obviously, these are mostly unwinnable (except the ones that give crap prizes that you then trade up for slightly better crap prizes). But I mostly was focused on having her play, lose, say thank you and walk away with the knowledge that she'd get to play LOTS of different games during the day. I did NOT want to reinforce an already terrible cycle she's in with arcades and her sitter where she throws temper tantrums if she can't stay long enough to accumulate tickets for a crap prize that I could have bought on Amazon for a lot less money. I am reasonably certain that this is actually a huge emotional regulation task I've taken on, but given the problems some adults have with gambling addiction, I think it is worth it. Probably.

A. and I went to Chocolate World when we were feeling the sun and did the tour. There was a really long line, but it was okay.

R.'s aunt came up from Harrisburg to visit. She had come up in 2014 as well. It's always a pleasure to see her. She got a divinity degree a while back, and officiated at our wedding, which was really sweet.

R. (my sister) did taco night. This turned out to work really well, since we'd debugged the food issues ahead of time. Three of the kids had quesadillas. R. (husband) had some of the costco rotisserie chicken. I brought cilantro, fresh tomatoes and a can of Bush's black beans (low sodium). My sister had guacamole and two kinds of salsa. And we had a ton of fresh romaine. So the person with gluten issues had a salad. My husband got to avoid allium. I easily avoided milk products (there is some whey in the taco seasoning my sister uses so I had the chicken and beans). There were even gluten free corn chips -- I had brought flour tortillas so that was no go for the gluten free person. Since tacos are assembled one at a time, it was easy enough for people to get what they wanted and avoid what they shouldn't be eating. No one went hungry. Burgers would have been trickier for gluten free, but we probably would have just put together a salad and chicken plate for my husband's aunt and it would have been fine. Again, last minute on family visit planning but it worked out great.
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Because we were staying at an associated camping facility, we got one hour early entry. I had not bought tickets, because I had been very uncertain about the family visit timing. In the event, I just bought three day tickets and figured if we needed a fourth day we'd just buy it later.

We did the kids' rides first with my sister's family, while R. and T. went on Skyrush and Comet. Then we wandered around and did some more stuff like Trailblazer, which had been closed for refurbishment in 2014. I love that ride. It isn't a kiddie coaster but more like a junior coaster.

A. wanted to buy lots of food things so after we did the shortest of the Triple Tower (new for 2017), I gave in and bought her Dippin Dots. While she was eating them, I went into Gourmet Grille, which was poor planning from a food allergy perspective. I bought the carrots, celery and hummus, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. So I had lunch and A. sort of ate a little lunch. We also bought some popcorn. We left in the early afternoon because it was crowded, our feet hurt and we had done enough rides for the day.

When my sister's family came back, A. and I joined my nieces and their father in the pool while my sister did some laundry next to the pool and chatted with us. They were very tired and had gotten a lot of sun, so I said let's do burger nite at my cabin. We had planned two nights cooking and one night takeout; this was my night to cook. It turned out really well, even tho we didn't have a grill and cooked the burgers (bubba burgers -- costco burgers are slightly better, but bubba burgers are great) in a pan.

I didn't buy T. and R. a photo pass. I probably should have. Oh well.
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Friday New Jersey McDonald's applebees arrive after dark

On Friday, we drove to New Jersey. We stopped at a McDonald's in Connecticut for lunch. I think we've stopped at that same McDonald's on a few previous trips -- it's in a mall in Southbury, IIRC. Then we drove to New Jersey, where we visited R.'s sister, brother-in-law, niece (who just graduated. Congratulations!), nephew (who just finished 8th grade, also Congratulations!) and mother. The kids swam in the pool. We all hung out and chatted and had a pleasant time. Because we are on very different dinner schedules (we eat early at 5 and they eat very late), we left to go to Applebee's in Union before continuing on to Hershey Campingresort. We haven't been to Hershey for 3 years. Once again, we met my sister and her family. It's a much shorter driver for her. We did this in lieu of a trip to Cape Cod this year, because of other planned travel and not wanting to have a completely overwhelming summer.

We got in after dark, but my sister had already checked us into our cabin, so we just unloaded, made beds and slept in them.

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