Cousin Claire arrived into Chicago on Monday afternoon. She was flying as an unaccompanied minor, so after going through security, I was able to go right to the actual gate to pick her up. Unheard of, and so fun! I miss that! We drove back to Fairfield from Chicago, and then we dropped our stuff off at my house. Claire got to meet Avery, and of course he was freaking-out excited! Andrew cooked us dinner that night, and then we went out to the country to see the lightning bugs. There are no lightning bugs in California! I don't know if it's the humid weather, or what, but the lightning bugs are absolutely thick. It's like a glittery wonderland out in the country. When we got back to my house, we looked through a packet of pictures and letters my Aunt Twila (Claire's grandma) had sent. It was so cool to read letters my mom had sent them when I was little. I also love seeing anything with her handwriting. We ended the night with playing a little Guitar Hero.
We slept a little late the next morning and then had pancakes for breakfast. I had to work at school for a bit :( before our day started, but when we got around, we headed to Eldon to the American Gothic house. They have a new visitor's center, and it's very nice. I learned a lot! We stuck our heads through the cut-out in the center, but that was mere practice for the big event.
They actually provide costumes, so you can dress up and go stand right in front of the house. Even though it was about a million degrees outside, we had so much fun doing this! :)
After one last picture in the foyer, we headed back out into the oppressive heat.
We went through the cemetery, and Claire saw where her great-grandparents and her great-great-grandparents were buried. Then, we took a short jaunt around the square. It was so hot, but that didn't stop us from visiting the Chocolate Cafe!
Claire & I stopped home long enough to grab a snack and let the dog out, and then we were off to Iowa City. We had a rest stop at the Cheese Factory in Kalona, and Claire got to see an Amish family in a horse and buggy. In Iowa City, we drove around and saw all the sites, and that's when the dark gray clouds started rolling in. They were low and pretty scary. The wind was blowing like crazy. I called Andrew to make sure there weren't any tornado warnings, and we headed to the mall. By the time we arrived, it was pouring, and I mean POURING. We ran from the car, and we were totally drenched by the time we made it inside. Some of the stores in the mall even closed because of the weather. I'm not sure what is up with that, but oh well! We purchased the ever-important Iowa Hawkeye shirt for Claire and just walked around the mall a little. We picked Matt up from work and had dinner at Hu Hot.
Driving back to Fairfield in the rain is not my normal idea of fun, but it's somehow a lot more tolerable when you're looking at a full double rainbow! It was stunning, and until the sun went down, Claire had maybe the prettiest sunset I'd ever seen to light up the sky. The sky was lavender, peach, and fuchsia. I'd never seen anything like it. It had cleared up enough by the time we were ready to see more lightning bugs, and then we went home to crash.
Day 2 of the Iowa Adventure started with crumpets. Claire finally got to taste them, along with English marmalade. Next stop: the Jefferson County Fair. Nothing says Iowa quite like that! Claire finally got to see pigs, and they were clean too... that's a rare thing! We stayed long enough to look at all the animals and the exhibits. We headed back to school so I could put the finishing touches on closing up my room. Claire was very helpful, and I really appreciated the extra set of hands. We met Andrew for lunch at Revelations.
We changed into our grubbies and headed out into the timber to hunt for geodes. I'd never done this before, as long as I've lived in Iowa, but the Jefferson County naturalist (Love ya, Therese!) gave me some good tips. I thought it would be fun for Claire and I to try. It ended up being WAY easier than I thought it would be. We found some beautiful geodes and a couple of big ones that we couldn't crack.
After showering and changing, Claire got to meet Emma & Jack (Jason & Suzanne too), and then we went out to my dad's farm. He got to meet Claire, and he helped us crack open those last 2 geodes. One was especially beautiful. We went back into town to have dinner at George's, and then it was back to the Jefferson County Fair. Andrew's son Zach was singing in the Bill Riley Talent Show, and I wanted to be sure and hear him. He sang in an a capella trio, and they did a great job, earning 3rd place! One last visit with Andrew, one last viewing of the lightning bugs, and one last Guitar Hero challenge finished off Day 2.
Unfortunately, Claire is leaving Iowa today. Boo hoo. I'm so glad she got to visit though. Actually, she had been to Iowa before, but since she wasn't even born yet when Kelly, Steve, Cameron, & Kate were here for Mom & Mike's wedding, it doesn't count. Now she's really been to Iowa. I hope it will be the first visit of many.
Love you, Claire!!!! :)