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I forget the great title I had for this post!

I had a pretty good title for this post, but it escapes me, probably because I actually wrote two different posts for what this will end up being. Which is loooong.

I was in NC from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning. And man, did we fit a lot into those few days.

It started off pretty smoothly. Because flying stresses me out and we had to go through two tunnels, J and I left the house, 30 miles away, about 2.75 hours before our flight was scheduled to leave. Even though it took us just under 40 minutes to get there, I still felt nervous, so I decided not to wait for the airport van/shuttle that takes you from a shelter in extended parking to the beginning of the airport. I was afraid the next one might not come for 30 minutes (I did not walk up to a shelter to actually confirm this). After dragging several bags for over 10 minutes, I regretted that decision. Fortunately, we made it through security pretty quickly, although clearly the novices we are at flying, we had a full water bottle. Fortunately again, the security guy did me a favor and dumped the water out so I could keep the J's beloved water bottle.

Once we got to the terminal (is that the right word?), we ran into my mother and nephew, who were already supposed to be on a plane to somewhere (they fly standby because my little brother is a pilot, and they sometimes have to take two flights to get somewhere). They did not make it on that flight, and Mom was without a working phone to plan when and where she would go next. So she asked me for my phone. I did not give it up willingly or cheerfully. But eventually I did say good bye to my beloved appendage. Since I had not confirmed exactly where my older brother was picking me up once I got to Raleigh, I was somewhat unsettled by this, but I figured we would work it out.

We eventually made our way onto the plane, which, as usual, started off with my ears tearing up. Fear always sets in for me. But because J said she was worried about the plane crashing, that actually helped to calm me (I did not let her see me teary). I told her chances were so slim that anything would happen, and although I could not make any promises, I was pretty sure we would be fine. Clearly we were, because I am writing this. :-). Worth noting is I could not help but think if our plane was crashing or hijacked, I would not be able to call the hub to say our final good byes, since I was sans phone. That bothered me. Yes, I know that makes me slightly warped.

We arrived on time, my older bro did not (which is pretty typical), and we fairly quickly made it to his place. After spending about 20 minutes decompressing, my bro and his youngest and I set out for a walk on various trails and through many neighborhoods. Two hours later, we were finally back! Within an hour of that, my bro dropped J and me off to see a college friend I had not seen in 21 years as well as her family. We had a nice evening together; it was hard to believe it had been that long.

The next day, J and her three cousins went to a morning soccer camp while bro and I watched. J was not happy. Every water break, she told me how much she hated it, me, her life, etc. Good times! Eventually she settled into tolerating it, and I even saw her smile and hustle a few times. Still, I just don't see her wanting to play the sport.

We had pizza for lunch, attended a long Good Friday service, and before long, my little bro's four kids and wife, along with my mother (and phone!), arrived (Mom and the one nephew had to fly to TX, where lil bro and family live, and fly out the next day). Craziness and chaos ensued and pretty much stayed that way for the next 48 hours! About the only time it was quiet was when the kids were on electronics.

Saturday after a couple of errands, most of us went to the Hurricanes game. My older bro had taken me to one about 14 years ago (I think), but since it had been about seven or eight years since my last game (Pens), I was excited. I proudly wore a Pens tee, but was all in to root for the Hurricanes and particularly happy to root against Philly!

Our seats were pretty good, club (2nd) level, complete with a server. I had J and my two nieces, my mom was down lower with three nephews, and older bro and wife were in a suite. J was particularly excited to see her (former) favorite player, Jordan Staal, get a goal and an assist. Unfortunately, we left after the second period to get to an egg hunt, which was nice, though J is a little old for that.

Here are a few shots, taken with the crappy iPhone 4.

I appreciate that PNC is in the name, much like it is in/at PNC Park.
I have no idea if the Pens do anything like this, but there were also a bouncy house.
This one was taken without my zooming. It is a shame how empty the stands were about 15 minutes before puck drop.

I zoomed in on this pic, hence the poor quality.

Had to get the pic of Jordan Staal after he scored a goal!

That evening all 14 of us (little bro finally arrived) ate in a courtyard/outdoor play area of a burger place. We pretty much froze, but the kids were entertained with various games, including Connect Four and giant Jenga. See pic below. Sadly all that fresh air and activity did not help those eight kids go to sleep at a reasonable hour or without various chaos. 


This picture brought such a smile to my face; the kids were so cute running around in a circle holding hands.


The next day, a mere seven hours later, the kids patiently waited until all the grown ups woke up to find their Easter baskets. There was more chaos. Eventually, we made it to mass, there was playing outside after, and after Mom and I took a walk, we sat down to dinner.

The TX group realized they would not be able to fly out the next day, so they and my mom rented a car (for which little bro and I waited about an hour), and around 9:30 that evening drove a couple hours to Charlotte, so they could fly out from there early Monday. It was hard to say good bye.

The chaos left with them, and somehow the quiet was deafening. I finally got a good night's sleep, but when I woke up, I knew our trip was just about over. After a leisurely breakfast, older bro drove me and J to the airport about 1.25 hours before our flight was to leave (we are very different in that respect!), and we said our good byes. Fortunately, I had sunglasses on, to mask those tears.

Before long, we got on the plane, and just over an hour later, we were back in the Burgh. As per usual, as soon as we got near the Burgh, I was overcome with a mixture of relief and Pittsburgh pride. I got a couple of cool shots. This was my best, since it captures the heart of the city while framing part of the pic with a plane wing. (The muddy Allegheny River is odd to me.)


All in all, it was a great trip. It had been years since we were all together. Maybe even before little bro's youngest was born (he is almost three now). It was well worth the money for flight tickets, and I am sure I will eventually catch up on sleep after getting about the 25 hours over four nights. I am not sure when we will all be together next, but I am pretty sure I won't be flying anytime soon for that to happen...

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