Friday, July 30, 2010

30th Annual Family Reunion

Warning: this post will be a long one, with lots of pictures! Brace yourselves!

Last weekend, Eric and I visited my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio for my family's 30th Annual Family Reunion, the first one that Eric has been able to come to! He had been to Cleveland with me twice before, but both visits were at Christmas time so I was excited to introduce him to Cleveland in summer and the fun that is our family reunions. I love that my family makes such an effort to get together both at Christmas and in the summer each year! It's always so nice to see everyone.

Eric and I actually flew in to Pittsburgh rather than Cleveland, to save a little money on airfare. I have family in Pittsburgh, and they were kind enough to offer to pick us up and take us to Cleveland with them. So, Friday morning we gathered our belongings, dropped Achilles off at "camp," and made our way out to JFK to catch our teeny, tiny flight. The plane was very small and the flight only lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes. We arrived in Pittsburgh around 2:15, where we were greeted by my Uncle Mark and Sarah. We got right on the road to Cleveland and arrived there between 4:30 and 5:00. Most of the family was there already: Heather, my mom and Gary had arrived on Thursday, and my Aunt Rachel and cousins Adam, Jacob, Zita, Molly and Arturo had arrived earlier in the day. Shortly after we got there, my Uncle Peter and Rosemary also arrived, so all were accounted for! We spent some time chatting in the back yard and catching up.

Family milling about and saying our hellos

Aunt Rachel, Mom, Molly and Zita relaxing in the yard

Eric did not waste any time before he dove right into one of our reunion traditions: horseshoes! It just wouldn't be a reunion without a horseshoe pit in the yard.

Eric playing horseshoes

Gary and Adam

While the men played horseshoes, the women also dove right into our regular reunion/Christmas/everyday tradition: red wine. Mmm hmmm. It seems that times are changing, though - my mom, once the champion wine-drinker of the family, now has slowed way down and let the next generation (namely, Heather, Molly and me) take the lead. Sorry to call you out, Mom, but don't worry - your tradition will remain strong with us.

Our wine glasses, sporting Molly's new travel-themed wine charms

For dinner that night we had pizza and a delicious salad prepared by my Mom, Gary and Heather. Dinner was followed by an extra special dessert for the July birthdays - cake! You see, there are a lot of us with July birthdays in my family. My Uncle Mark and Gary were born July 21st, and my cousin Adam and I were born the 22nd. Plus, last year my newest cousin Jackson was born on July 7th, but unfortunately his family was not in attendance at our reunion this year. We also include my Gramps in the celebration, with his birthday being on August 1st. Happy birthday to my family!

Mom singing "Happy Birthday" and bringing out the cake

Adam, Gramps, me, Gary and Uncle Mark blowing out the candles (they were trick candles, though!)

The rest of the family watching the candle-blowing-out

Birthday cake

We spent the rest of the night sitting around, watching the Indians beat the Rays on TV, and catching up. Always a nice time!

Family chatting in the dining room

A little after midnight, Eric and I bid farewell to the family and went to my friend Megan's house for the night. She was kind enough to offer her house as a "hotel" for Eric and me, and the accommodations were fantastic! Thanks, Meg!

The next morning, Molly and Heather picked us up from Megan's and brought us back to the house after a quick stop at Marc's (a discount grocery store) - Eric's first Marc's experience! I'm sure his life is complete now.

Eric enjoyed the Marc's mascot.

Back at the house, my cousin Jacob and his wife Zita were already busy preparing a delicious Hungarian meal for lunch. Heather and my mom helped Zita make little balls of dough for the soup, while many other family members played wiffle ball in the backyard.

Go, Eric!

Eric, Gary, Molly, Adam and Jacob playing wiffle ball

Zita, Jacob, Uncle Peter and Rosemary slaving away in the kitchen

Heather and Mom making dough balls for the soup

The lunch was fantastic. Jacob and Zita made a delicious soup, some onion cheese spread, fresh bread, sausage, and some walnut and poppy seed dessert breads. It was all very tasty! They also took the time to explain to us how to eat the soup (add slices of pepper to give it more kick) and what everything was before we dug in.

Jacob and Zita explaining the meal to us

Some bread, the onion cheese spread, and a plate of peppers, tomato and sausage

After lunch, the sporting events resumed with more horseshoes. This was when Eric really hit his horseshoe stride - word on the street is that he and Jacob were an unstoppable horseshoe team. They won five straight games (matches? rounds?), and counting! Go Jacob and Eric!

Family in the backyard

Eric and Arturo playing horseshoes

My mom and Molly seem to be super impressed with Jacob and Eric's awesome horseshoe skills!

Jacob and Gramps, our original horseshoe master

Arturo, Molly and Zita playing the role of spectators

 Our patriarch looking out over all the fun

And, while we're naming Champions of the Reunion, I should mention that my cousin Adam was the Ping Pong Champion, and Heather was the Wine Drinking Champion. Congratulations to the winners!

That evening we ate an early dinner of burgers, pasta salad and cherries, prepared by my Uncle Peter and Rosemary. Yum! Then we all piled into various cars and headed downtown to see the Indians play the Rays at Progressive Field. We were a little unsure whether the game would be played or not, as the game the night before was called in the seventh inning due to rain, and on our way downtown we drove through a torrential downpour. But, things cleared up fairly quickly. On our way we were also treated to some great sights of Cleveland, including a car demonstrating a very creative use for those old, worthless, hideous Lebron James Cavs jerseys: apparently they make excellent windshield wipers and mud flaps! Good to know.

Putting those old jerseys to use!

Heading towards Cleveland
(This picture makes me think of the "come and look at both of our buildings" line from this video! Ha!)
(And, if you liked that video, check out the second one, too! You have to be able to laugh at yourself, right?)

We found parking close to the stadium and made our way in. A few of us (Heather, Molly, Molly's fiancé Arturo, Eric and me) stopped for some pictures on the way in before finding our seats.

 Me, Heather and my mom walking towards the stadium

Eric and me in front of Progressive Field (although it will always be "The Jake" in my mind)

The girls

We're trying to mimic Grady Sizemore's face here, and clearly failing.

At Progressive Field they were doing a big Christmas in July celebration, complete with carolers, Santa Clause, and all the "A Christmas Story" fun you could dream up, including Ian Petrella (better known as "Randy" from the aforementioned movie) throwing out the ceremonial first pitch. Did you all know the "Christmas Story" house is in Cleveland? Well, it is, and for a mere $8 you can tour it and the accompanying museum across the street. That is definitely going on my Cleveland to-do list.

Santa and carolers inside the stadium

Heather apparently hates Christmas in July.

See the guy in the pink bunny suit (a la "A Christmas Story") on the dugout?

Ian Petrella, a/k/a "Randy"

In addition to the Christmas in July fun, they also gave out free Grady Sizemore bobbleheads. Grady is my favorite Indians player, so this was very exciting (although unfortunately, he is out for the year due to injury, so we couldn't see him play).

I love my new Grady bobblehead. Eric does not approve.

We had nice seats for the game, in a big block so we could all sit together. Thanks to Uncle Mark and Aunt Rachel for getting the tickets for everyone, and thanks to Gramps for treating!

 Left to right, top to bottom: Molly, Heather, me, Jacob, Zita, Mom, Gary, Uncle Peter, Gramps and Adam

Arturo, Molly, Heather and me enjoying the game

We managed to stay rain-free throughout the game, although it was BEASTLY hot. During the third inning or so, Eric and I went walking around the stadium to cool off a bit. Eric has now visited 11 different baseball stadiums around the country, and he said Cleveland was one of his favorites! Yeah! Go Cleveland!

At Progressive Field

Progressive Field

Heritage Park, honoring past Indians greats

The view from our seats

As the night wore on, we were treated to some fabulous sky views. As the sun set, the clouds just lit up and it was really gorgeous.

Incredible clouds over Cleveland

More beautiful sky

The view from inside the stadium

The game ended with a 6-3 Rays victory, which made Rays fans Eric, Gary, Mom and Heather pretty happy! We all piled back into our cars and went on home. That night, Molly, Arturo, Heather, Jacob, Zita, Eric and I stayed up late drinking and talking. Eric and I finally left around 1:30 to go to Megan's house for the night, but I hear the rest of the group stayed up for a couple more hours! Party animals!

The next morning we all gathered once again to walk over to church at Divinity Lutheran (my grandfather was a pastor there for many, many years). We filled up two pews! It's always nice to go back to our old church with Gramps.

After church we decided to take a family photo, just like we do at Christmas except without the paper crowns. We had more people in this reunion photo than we did at Christmas, and it's always great to see our family grow! Only my Uncle Nathan, Aimee, and cousins Alex, Taylor, Henry and Jackson were missing. Other than that, we were all able to come together and I'm so glad. (Of course, if we keep adding to the family at this rate, soon we're going to have to find a new photo-taking-spot because we won't all fit around the couch anymore! That's a good problem to have, though.)

The whole "tribe!" 
Back row: Eric, Uncle Peter, Jacob, Zita, Arturo, Gary and Uncle Mark
Middle row: Me, Rosemary, Gramps, Heather, Molly and Mom
On the floor: Sara, Adam and Aunt Rachel

Time to be goofy!

After our photo session, Molly and I headed back to Marc's to pick up supplies for our lunch. At every reunion, each separate family is assigned a meal to prepare for everyone, and this was the first year that Molly and I were assigned our own meal separate from our original families! Aw, we're really growing up. We were assigned lunch together, and we just put together some cold cuts and other sandwich stuff, plus leftover pasta salad and fresh fruit salad with my Nana's dressing. Delicious, if I do say so myself!

Preparing lunch for the family

After lunch we did more chatting, some people played more sports, and others just tried not to fall asleep. You'd be surprised how exhausting visiting and eating can be!

Heather, Eric, me and Aunt Rachel relaxing in the living room

That afternoon, Molly and Arturo were the first to leave. We said our goodbyes, then Eric and I ran up to Walmart at Parmatown Mall for a quick errand. I decided to take a little detour on our way home and took Eric past my old house (where a number of changes have taken place: they ripped out my old climbing tree, the bushes are a bit wild, and the bowling alley adjacent to our yard has been torn down) and to my elementary school, where we walked around a bit. We peeked in the windows (I saw my first grade classroom, Heather's kindergarten classroom and the cafeteria) and I shared stories of my memories from my time there. It was really nice to go back and remember those days and share that with Eric. I'm glad he has been able to finally really see where I grew up.

Sitting on the steps of my old elementary school

Playing hopscotch on the playground where I used to have recess.

When we got back to my grandpa's house, we were just in time to bid farewell to my cousins Adam and Sarah who were heading back to Pittsburgh. Then we all had a taco dinner prepared by my Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark, and after dinner Jacob and Zita had to leave to catch their flight back to Boston.

Once the place started to clear out a bit, Heather and I started to feel brave enough to take Eric up on his offer of a little wiffle ball. You see, my family is not the most athletic, and I am particularly athletically-challenged (and very self-conscious about it). But, with a lighter audience I gave in and we really did have some fun! I even hit the ball! I amazed myself, frankly. Heather also did a great job, and my mom joined us after a while, too. It was a first, I must say, but we had a great time.

Eric pitching to me

Heather at bat (and totally dressed the part)

Heather as catcher

My mom at bat, Heather as pitcher and me in the outfield!

Once again, we spent the rest of the night relaxing and chatting and drinking wine. We were treated to a beautiful full moon rising over the trees in the backyard, and Heather and I spent some time talking outside so we could watch the lightning bugs. Eric showed Gramps and Gary all of his various golf pictures and yardage books, and Aunt Rachel, Mom, Heather and I had some girl talk on the lanai. After the "adults" (I put that in quotes because really we're all adults now) went to bed, Heather, Eric and I watched a movie and got ourselves packed. Then it was time for bed!

The next morning everyone woke up early. Uncle Peter and Rosemary came to pick up Mom and Gary, who they would be dropping off at the airport in Columbus on their way back to Illinois. Shortly after they left, Eric and I left with Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark to make the drive back to Pittsburgh to catch our return flight. Only Heather and Gramps remained then, and Heather left a few hours later.

Our trip back to NYC was uneventful and Achilles was pleased to see us. All in all, we had a great weekend. I am so glad Eric finally got to experience a reunion, and I am even more glad that my family makes the effort to do this every year (and has done so for 30 years in a row now!). I pray that we continue this tradition for many more years to come! I love you all!

Quick note: I'm sure nobody cares about this except my family (and heck, if you're still reading at this point, chances are good you ARE family), but if you want to see the rest of my pictures from the reunion (yes, there are more!), they're all up on my photo share site!