Family Reunion in Lodi, California (Featuring the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport) by Nick Shell

My wife is the 9th of 10 kids. That means that nearly 10 years ago when we got married, I instantly became an uncle to more nephews and nieces than I can count; even still today!

Every summer, we take a trip out to northern California where my wife is from, which ultimately leads to a family gathering or two.

This year, it was an all-out official family reunion; which happened to take place in a city made famous by a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Lodi”.

The town is just a 30 minute drive from where we were staying with my mother-in-law in Walnut Grove. This made our first outing in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport we had for our 2nd week in California.

What was most interesting to me about the family reunion was how independent our 7 and a half year-old son was. I toted around our 2 year-old daughter most of the time, while keeping watch on our son, who was constantly migrating with his older teenage cousins.

In fact, at the end of our 2 week trip to California, I asked my son what his favorite part of the entire vacation was. His instant response: “Probably the park with all the family.”

I can appreciate that he enjoyed sort of tagging along with the older kids and that they totally engaged him the entire time.

Whereas I have one child who is still understandably in need of constant attention and direction, my other child is finding his identity in spending time with other people. This is a good challenge for him; I can clearly see this as part of his character development.

It was also great that one of my sister-in-law’s family was staying with us at my mother-in-law’s house. Therefore, it was almost like my wife and I had two free baby babysitters the whole time: a 15 year-old and a 19 year-old.

Whether it was the old bouncy house in my mother-in-law’s backyard, or the hot tub, or just playing with retro toys leftover from the 1980s, both of my kids had some awesome cousins to entertain them.

Needless to say, every summer vacation we have out in California is a family reunion; by default.

Have you read all 3 of my blog posts featuring my family’s road trip to Lake Tahoe in the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport? Here’s a table of contents just to be sure. Click on the title of the blog post you would like to see:

Family Reunion in Lodi, California 
Family Road Trip to Lost Worlds Adventures in Livermore, California
The Big 50 Foot Long Slide at Mission Hills Park in Pleasanton, California
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Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation/2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

5 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Dear Jack,

A few days into our family’s vacation last week to San Diego to see Uncle Jake get married, we caught up with more of Mommy’s family at a bonfire at the beach. There were some of the family members there who we haven’t seen in years.

One in particular was your cousin Zach. The last time I saw him was when Mommy and I got married back in 2008, which was 2 years before you were born.

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

He was a teenager the last time I saw him; now he’s in his mid-twenties.

Zach took a special interest in you. You had an agenda to “make a lake” by repeatedly filling up a liter-sized water bottle and taking it near the bonfire where you had dug a hole.

For about an hour and a half, Zach excitedly (and patiently) walked back and forth with you from the beach to the “lake” you were making, knowing full well that the water would never actually fill up; but instead, simply sink into the sand.

However, you were happy because “it made the sand thick enough to make a castle.”

This bonfire family reunion also was a special event for you because got to have s’mores. (We brought our own special vegan marshmallows.)

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Your baby sister Holly slept through a good amount of it all. I don’t remember leaving until about 10:30 that night. No one was in a hurry to leave.

It’s a rare thing to be able to hang out on the beach, huddled around a bonfire.

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

But finally we made our way back to our hotel. Fortunately, because the 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander we drove had 7 seats, we were able to take a few family members back to their hotel as well.

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

I have many more stories to tell you about our trip. Stay tuned for more adventures!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Beach Bonfire Family Reunion (San Diego Vacation in a 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander)

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

11 weeks.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Dear Holly,

You met all of your great-grandparents in one weekend, in the midst of our family’s 1st road trip as a family of four; in which we drove from Nashville to Atlanta.

2016 Toyota Highlander Limited: 3rd Row Seat Space & Child Car Seat Placement

Granted, you were asleep during 95% of the drive, in the 2016 Toyota Highlander. But you woke up just in time to meet everyone and were able to get your picture made with them.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

First we drove through my hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama; where you met your Mexican great-grandmother, Lola Mendez Metallo; whose parents moved here from Michoacán, Mexico and settled in Buffalo, New York. I’m pretty sure she thought it was a dream that we stopped by, as we kept it a complete surprise we were coming.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

She was married to my Italian grandfather Albert Metallo, whose father moved here from southern Italy and settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I wish you could have met him too, but you were born about 8 years too late to meet him.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

We stayed the night at Nonna and Papa’s house that night. Your cousin Calla brought some leftover fireworks for Uncle Andrew to light and shoot off in the front yard, while I helped supervise for safety.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

It was quite a show. You were never once scared by the noise or the minor explosions. In fact, you took it all in with a straight face the entire time.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip) a6 a7

We spent the next couple of days in Atlanta, where visited the Atlanta Aquarium as well as the Delta Flight Museum. On the way back home though, we stopped by Flintstone, Georgia, right outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee, so you could meet my dad’s (Papa’s) parents; which is who we get our last name from.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Since we were just passing through and didn’t know what time we’d get there, it was a quick visit; as opposed to having a big family reunion. We’ll have to save that for a day when we aren’t in transition.

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Your Great-Aunt Rosa was there though, as she kept your brother Jack busy as she wrestled him.

I’m so glad you were able to meet your great-parents this past weekend. You are quite a big deal to them!

Love,

Daddy

Dear Holly: Meeting Your Great-Grandparents (2016 Toyota Highlander Family Road Trip)

Deviled Eggs are the Sushi of the South East

There are really only two ways to get authentic deviled eggs. A) Go to a “covered dish” church supper. B) Go to a family reunion. Deviled eggs are a delicacy, the sushi of the South. The key is finding a Southern woman who is willing to not only take the time to prepare them, but who also has the appropriate deviled eggs dish plate that keeps them from sliding around and tampering with the integrity of their presentation. And of course, as any deviled egg connoisseur knows, without the red paprika sprinkled on top, they’re simply just boiled eggs.