I'm so lucky to have married into a very close knit family. Every year we have a family reunion with lots of food, games, laughter and love...
Jazzie and her cousin. They both have such gorgeous long hair!
Time for games!
Matt's grandmother is 98 years old. She is fabulous! Matt gave her a ride from the car to the park shelter and she loved it :-)
Tahlia caught her first fish!
I love that all of the bigger cousins in the family like to play with the little kids.
The girls are lucky to have a great grandmother. She has 5 children, countless grandchildren, great grand children and even 6 great-great grandchildren! Jazzie keeps saying she is hoping grandma will make it to 100 so that we can have a 100th birthday party for her. At the rate she is going now, I'm sure grandma will be here for it!
This past Friday we celebrated the fact that Jazzie and her friend K. have been home for 10 years. The girls have been friends ever since we came home from China and every year our families get together to celebrate.
And from years past (I'm missing a couple of years):
Wow, already a week since my last blog post. After a great spring break, the girls are back in school and life has gone back to normal. Alex came over during spring break and it was great to see him again, although we missed Winnie :-(
Matt with son, son-in-law and grandson:
Easter at Mimi and Pappa's house:
I love these pictures of Alex helping Jazzie with her math homework.
Yesterday we dropped the girls off at Cera's house so that Matt and I could go to my brother-in-law's birthday party. The girls helped Cera in the garden, helped her with the kids, they went out to dinner and when we came and picked them up in the evening, they were sitting around the table playing a game. Cera even paid the girls for being "mother helpers". I told the girls how lucky they are to have older siblings who chose to play a big part in their lives. I hope they really appreciate it, because I certainly do...
We are on spring break and wouldn't you know that it has snowed since Sunday? We knew this was coming and since Saturday was a relatively nice day, we decided to head to our favorite part in the city: Sawyer Point along the Ohio River. Some cellphone pictures:
We had a fun filled weekend! After attending my nephew's birthday party, Matt and I went to the annual Ohio Valley Voices Gala.
The theme this year was "Come To The Islands".
Matt got up and gave a very heartfelt speech. As the parent of a graduate of Ohio Valley Voices and a member of the Board of Directors, he is very passionate about the school and it shows. There were a lot of tears during his speech. I'm very proud of him...
It was a great evening with cocktails, dinner and dancing. The band was by far the best band we've experienced in all the years that we've been attending the gala. If you are in the Cincinnati area and you are ever able to go and see a performance by "The Naked Karate Girls", I HIGHLY recommend you do. No worries; they are not naked, nor are they girls or do karate ;-) As their website states: "Dis ain't just another band, dis is an experience."
To top of our fun filled weekend, we attended Matt's grandmother's 98th birthday party. The woman is feisty, spunky and funny! As we we were leaving she told me: "I hope you look this good when YOU are 98!". All I can say is that I hope so!!!
Matt's side of the family has been getting together for an annual family reunion for over 70 years. I find this quite amazing and special, since my side of the family has never done anything remotely like it. The day is always filled with lots of food, laughter, games and chit chat. Some pictures from this past Sunday..
Crock pot city:
Matt and his grandson :-)
Looking at photo albums from reunions past (we have pictures going back to 1949 and a family tree dating back to 1695).
Kids games, including throwing a marshmellow in a bucket:
Blowing a cup across the table:
Moving a cookie from your forehead to your mouth without using your hands. This made for some pretty funny faces!
Matt's grandmother. She'll be 98 years old and she is a hoot! Incidentally, she has been the oldest family member attending for many years now :-)
Water balloon toss for the adults. This is a tradition and a fierce competition every year. The winners earn bragging rights for the year to come. Matt and I came in third and I was the last woman standing, so not too shabby...
Picture courtesy of Tahlia who took pictures during the balloon toss.
Kids water balloon toss:
Jazzie and her cousin won this year:
After the balloon toss, it's a free-for-all with the left over balloons.
Our portion of the family represented at this year's reunion (we missed you Alex and Winnie!!!!)
Great grandma in the middle with just two of her five children and just SOME of their offspring (I believe there were 65 people in total on Sunday):
Aaah... what a great day. But all that family fun in the park made for some pretty dirty feet ;-)
The day of our reunion, there was also a Memorial Service for a local soldier who died in Afghanistan recently. This was one of the scenes and it was SO cool:
This was one of those weekend that I didn't want to end. Not only was the weather perfect (on my Saturday morning run I definitely felt a touch of fall in the air!), but we also had fun as a family AND we got some stuff done around the house that had been on our to-do list for a while (like clean the deck and clean out the garage). A fun and productive weekend with perfect weather. Who could ask for more?
Some phone pictures from our weekend:
A typical family date consists of going out to dinner, browse at the bookstore and then go for icecream.
Tahlia has discovered Bop Magazine:
Matt and I at the bookstore, thinking about next weekend when the girls are going on a sleepover at Cera's house and we will get to have a real date:
Saturday we headed to my very favorite part in the Cincinnati - Saywer Point Park. We had a picnic where I took this picture of Matt and Jazzie and their faces froze at a very unflattering moment ;-)
We walked over the bridge into Kentucky (view from the bridge towards the Cincinnati side):
Once on the Kentucky side the girls played in these fun water hamster balls:
We traveled to Vancouver to attend Alex and Winnie's wedding. It was a weekend filled with festivities and it was amazing. I have SO many pictures I want to share; way too many for one post. So I will break the photo's up in order as the events were happening. The wedding took place at the beautiful home of Winnie's parents and we never felt more welcome. It was a beautiful time of two families coming together:
Saturday morning we had a huge brunch filled with Chinese and American staples. The entire family worked together as far as cooking, setting the table, etc. During all of that a justice of the peace arrived to marry Alex and Winnie. This was just a legality, as Alex and Winnie had a very specific idea of what they wanted their wedding to look like, which was not until the following day.
Signing the marriage certificate:
Cera signing as the witness:
Alex and Winnie joined hands and some traditional words were spoken by the justice of the peace:
I love this picture of Matt looking on and smiling during all this.
Right after they were pronounced husband and wife:
I love how informal this was, as we were all in our regular clothes, running around to get brunch ready. But we all stopped to witness the moment and after that it was right back to work ;-)
We are fortunate to live just a couple of miles from a large Nature Center. We've been going on hikes there for many years, so when it turned out to be such a beautiful day on Saturday we loaded up the entire family (including Lily) to go hiking in the woods.
We always have to stop at the creek so the girls can climb the rocks and practice their rock skipping skills.
About a week and half ago, we had our family portraits taken by the very wonderful Erin Dial of Leppert Photography. Erin put some of her favorite photo's from that session on her blog. Here are just a few of mine...
We went to the pumpkin farm this past Saturday. The same farm we've been going to ever since Jazzie came home. I have taken a picture of Jazzie (and later with Tahlia) with Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann each year. Here is Jazzie; her first October home:
You may remember that Tahlia's first year home was difficult. We were not able to get a picture of the girls with Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann together that year, because this is the way it was like most of the time:
Luckily, things have gotten better over the years ;-)
So there we were again this past Saturday and of course we made a beeline for Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann. But this year, we had another addition to the picture:
These two wonderful people hosted our family reunion this year. Typically, our family reunion is hosted by a family member who rents a shelter in a park. Very seldom do we have a reunion at someone's home. Not only that, the reunion typically lasts for several hours, not several days.
However, since uncle Ed and aunt Maria live in Maryland and run a Bed and Breakfast, they invited the entire family to come to their beautiful home. They own an amazing property and having 50 people stay in their home for several days was no small feat, I know.
When it came to leave, I went to thank uncle Ed and aunt Maria and I was overcome with emotion (didn't see that coming!). I just wanted them to know how grateful I was for everything they did while our family was there. They went above and beyond with the food, the activities and their hospitality. We truly had an amazing time and I am so grateful for the memories we were able to make for not only Jazzie and Tahlia, but for all of us. With my family living so far away, I am extremely grateful to have married into such a loving and fun family.
If you are looking for a place to get away on Kent Island along the Chesapeake Bay, I highly recommend Maria's Love Point Bed & Breakfast. Not just because they are family, but because their place is amazingly beautiful, because you will be showered with kindness, because aunt Maria will cook you a gourmet breakfast and because you can visit Washington D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore, all within an hour. Check out their website here.
Uncle Ed and aunt Maria, thank you for your kindness, for making all of us feel so welcome and for ALL the memories. I appreciate each and every single thing you did to make this the fabulous experience that it was for the entire family.
We arrived at Matt's uncle Ed's GORGEOUS Bed and Breakfast yesterday. For now it's just us and Matt's sister and her family, but the rest of our family will be arriving today and tomorrow for the reunion. We will be heading into Washington DC today for some sight seeing. Here are some pictures from yesterday:
Playing soccer with Alex and Winnie in the backyard:
Walking on the dock:
Alex and Winnie:
I went running this morning while watching the sun rise over the Chesapeake Bay. What a GORGEOUS way to start the day!
Today was an absolutely gorgeous day. Sunny, low humidity and temperatures in the low 70's. Perfect for this momma. So I decided I wanted to spend the day together as a family, visiting some of my favorite places here in Cincinnati. We started by visiting the Conservatory in Eden Park for the annual Butterfly Show.
After visiting the butterflies, we drove a bit further into the park, to the picnic area overlooking the Ohio River. Time for lunch:
I love this overlook!
To round out the day, we drove a short distance to Sawyer Point, which is a park along the riverbank. LOVE that place!
Wow, it is so quiet in the house! After a long weekend filled with family, it is back to the daily grind again. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year. Matt's side of the family was here on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the time we spent with Alex and Winnie who came down from Chicago and with Cera, John and baby J.
It was awesome having ALL the kids here. It doesn't happen very often that our entire family is together, so Matt and I enjoyed having them all here. I just kept telling Matt how great it was to have everyone together. The fact that there was a grandbaby made it that much more special :-)
I was thrilled to be able to take a group picture of all of us. However, that picture will remain a secret since it will be used for the Christmas card.
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life.” - Richard Bach
You might remember when I blogged last year around Christmas time about Jazzie's reaction to finding out that Cera was pregnant. We were at Matt's parents' house at the time and Jazzie was not happy. In fact, she was heartbroken. She cried for a long time, because she was scared that Cera was not going to be there for her anymore. Cera had Jazzie on her lap in my mother-in-law's red comfy chair for a LONG time and tried to reassure her that things were going to be okay. She tried to explain to Jazzie that she was still going to be her big sister, that she would still have the girls over for sleep-overs and that nothing would change. You may remember these pictures:
It was so sad. However, this past Sunday we were at Matt's parents' house again and at one point I looked over and saw this scene:
Jazzie and Cera were sitting in the exact same chair, but this time baby J. was there as well:
And just like Cera had promised Jazzie back in December, everything turned out to be okay. As a matter of fact, everything turned out to be great :-)
We made our annual trip to the pumpkin farm today. I thought it was wrong that the temperature was in the mid 80's. When I go to the pumpkin farm, I want to wear a sweater and jeans, not shorts and a t-shirt! Anyway, some pictures...
Of course I had to take a picture of the girls with Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. It's a tradition, after all...
However, this year Cera, Dudas and baby J. went with us!
After the Aquarium the girls and I had lunch outside on the patio of one of the restaurants by the aquarium. It was such a gorgeous day, so we decided to cross the Purple People Bridge into Cincinnati.
At the end of the bridge is a great park. We strolled alongside the Ohio river to a wonderful playground where we played for several hours.
Then it was time to make our way back over the bridge:
We ended our outing with some ice cream, which we ate overlooking the river and the city.
It really was an amazing day with my girls and I was glad I was able to end the week on a good note. I felt much better...
I love this shot of Cera and Tahlia smiling at S.:
Matt and Lily, who is a COMPLETE daddy's girl:
Auntie Tahlia looking down on baby J.:
She got a bit alarmed when J. started to cry :-)
As Cera was nursing J, Jazzie had a lot of questions. My Jazzie is a very deep thinker and she is always full of questions. Cera has always been so good with the girls in answering all their questions honestly and this time was no different. I am so grateful that the girls have an older sister to look up to and learn from.
I have noticed before that when I (or Matt for that matter) hold a baby, Tahlia seems to get a bit withdrawn and uncertain. It's almost like she doubts my love for her when she sees me holding and cuddling someone other than her. The same thing has been happening now that Cera has had her baby. Tahlia wanted to be held like a baby, too :-)
We are home from our family vacation in Kentucky. We had a great time. I know it sounds corny, but there is nothing like being with family. Here are some more of my favorite pictures. The last ones, I promise ;-)
The girls eating s'mores:
Tahlia and Alex:
Jazzie and Keely playing Chinese checkers ;-)
My youngest nephew Skyler. How cute is he???
Going for his very first swim:
Matt and his dad:
Men's bocce ball:
Tahlia enjoyed doing cannon balls with the boys. She has absolutely no fear ;-)
Sunday was our last full day in Disney World. We had an awesome vacation. We came back to the Wilderness Lodge, because we had such a great time last year and once again, the Lodge did not disappoint us. I would highly recommend staying there. I love Disney World; it makes for a great family vacation, although it can be exhausting. We were on the go every day (although we did relax by the pool every afternoon to escape the worst of the heat) and the girls never went to bed before 11 PM. To say they are exhausted is an understatement, but hey, that is what vacation is all about!
We decided to spend our last day at Epcot in the morning, we went swimming in the afternoon and then headed back to the Magic Kingdom one last time...
Time to re-hydrate:
The pictures are not in focus, but it was hard to shoot over my shoulder as the ride was going ;-)
Time for a smoothie before watching the parade and fireworks:
On Saturday we headed to Hollywood Studio's where we had lunch with our neighbors at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. That was an experience! It was quite hot, so we headed back to the hotel so that we could cool off in the pool. In the evening we had a very special meeting planned with Debby and her two girls. I met Debby online several years ago. We shared a connection right away because her oldest daughter Lindsi has a cochlear implant like Jazzie. We always thought our girls would hit it off and since Debby lives in Florida, she offered to meet us for dinner. We took the girls to a special Cinderalla Dinner at the Grand Floridian. Not only was dinner great, the meeting with Debby and her girls could not have gone better! I instantly liked Debby and her girls are gorgeous! We had dinner and afterwards came back to our hotel so the girls could swim and Debby and I could chit chat :-)
After swimming the girls did crafts in our hotel room until after 11 PM. We all really hit it off and the time went by way too soon. If only we lived closer...
And the evil stepsisters, who were actually very funny!
Jazzie and Lindsi:
Tahlia and Jamie:
Jazzie got picked to dance with Prince Charming! She later mentioned it was embarrassing to dance in front of everyone, especially since she didn't know the steps ;-)
Then all the kids got to dance with the stepsisters:
Debby, thank you for taking the time to come and meet us. The girls had a great time and so did I! I truly hope that we can meet again some day soon.
We spent the entire day at Blizzard Beach today. What an awesome day we had! The girls went on just about every water slide they were tall enough for and simply had a blast. Matt and I did, too :-)
I did not take my camera to Blizzard Beach, so no pictures from today, but here are some from yesterday when we went to Epcot...
We went on Test Track (the girls loved it), we went on Soarin' twice (my favorite attraction in all of Disney!), and visited a bunch of other attractions and walked around the World Show Case.
We found Belle in the France pavilion....
Snow White in the Germany Pavilion...
And Mulan in the China pavilion...
We had lunch in the Japan pavilion where our chef cooked our meal right at our table. The girls really enjoyed that.
While in the Germany pavilion, we bought some chocolate and a treat for the girls:
Jazzie was thrilled to find out it was black licorice ;-)
And Tahlia enjoyed her gummy bears...
Here is a picture of "Aloha Joe", who gave the girls a BUNCH of stickers...
We weren't expecting to stay at Epcot for as long as we did, but we stayed until it closed. It was great day, but tiring. I guess it's true when they say what Epcot stands for: Every Person Comes Out Tired. I know we did, but we are having an awesome vacation. It is going by way too fast!
Twelve years ago on this day, Matt and I got married. It was a beautiful day then (sunny, but kind of cool) and we are having the same kind of weather today.
I have posted this picture before, but I am too busy to find or take another one right now. Matt and the girls are in the basement setting up the Wii which he got me and the girls for our anniversary (you may not think it's a romantic gift, but I LOVE it!). Soon Jazzie and I are going on a shopping spree and later today Cera and John are coming over so that Matt and I can go out tonight. Sushi!!!!
Since it is Spring Break, I am trying to make a conscious effort to do some fun things with the girls. Today was a picture perfect day. After breakfast we headed out and did one of our favorite things: we painted some pottery:
So many colors, so little time :-)
As the girls painted, I simply enjoyed watching them. Here is my view:
And of course I had to have a little something from my very favorite coffee shop. I used to work at Coffee Please and it remains special a place which holds some very special memories (more on that tomorrow):
After the girls were done painting, I took them out to lunch at the mall where they were able to meet the Easter Bunny. After lunch we were off to the park, because it was a gorgeous spring day...