Friday, January 31, 2014


Well, I think we're just about all caught up from my December blog hiatus. I have spent the entire month of January talking about the December holidays, but life hasn't stopped while I've been backtracking. So, let's get OFFICIALLY all caught up once and for all. This is our January in a nutshell:

Ellie rocked her first pigtails.

It's too much.

Because you can't just waste a 'do like that hanging around the house, we took Ellie to catch a weekday matinee of Frozen at the actual theater. Like real people! She has been to the movies a couple times before (as a wee babe), but this was her first time since being able to walk and talk. She LOVED it and left the theater saying, "Bye, Princess! I love you, Princess! Hug, Princess! Kiss, Princess!" and I nearly died. Since then we've had a nonstop refrain of "Princess 'puter? Snowman 'puter?" as she asks to watch either "Let It Go" or "In Summer" on YouTube. We've created a monster.

I'm surprised the popcorn didn't also get "I Love Yous" and hugs and kisses because she nearly ate her weight in the stuff.

We also took Ellie to a bouncy-house sort of place for the first time. HATED IT.

That's why they inflate these things, right? So you can sit on your dad's lap and pout and suck your thumb?

She has, however, been enjoying taking her doll stroller for walks.

Now this is more her speed.

Eric loves a good artsy shot.

We also had a couple of visitors this month: our friend Jeff came down from D.C. for a weekend, and my mom came up for a couple of days.

Ellie walking hand-in-hand with her Godfather Jeff

Ellie and Grammy at the mall play area

My mom brought Ellie a new rain jacket and a pair of rain boots, which Ellie became smitten with and insisted on wearing day after day despite clear, sunny skies. This week, when we finally had some rainy weather, she was thrilled to be able to actually put her rain gear to use.

Sporting the latest in toddler rain fashion

She has also received some new clothes that she has enjoyed modeling.

"Strike a pose, Ellie!"

And speaking of clothes, check out the Bat Twins...:

My Batfamily

...and the Hat Twins:

Oh, these two.

We also took an evening trip down to St. Augustine to check out their Nights of Lights, which is supposed to be one of the best holiday light displays in the world (so-named by National Geographic in 2011 and 2012). Unfortunately not everything was lit when we went, but it was still quite lovely.

Buildings along the waterfront all lit up 


Walking through an illuminated park

Speaking of beautiful sights, Eric enjoyed some lovely sunrise views (one of the few perks of his early school start time):

Hashtag no filter!

As for Achilles, he continued to battle his tongue control issues.

It's just sad.

And as for me, I had another regular check-up with my OB and all looks well with the baby. We have our anatomy scan next Thursday, which means that by this time next week we'll know if Plus One is a little Eric Jr. or a Meghan Jr.! Aside from that, I just continue to get round.

17 weeks!

And that was our January!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

This Post Is About Wasps.

Lots and lots of wasps.

I mentioned awhile ago that we have been battling a bit of a wasp infestation problem in our apartment. Most who know me probably know that I am rather bug phobic, so this has been quite unpleasant. And I'm still not entirely sure it has been resolved.

It all started one weekend a few months ago, when we returned from a morning outing and were relaxing in the living room. All of a sudden Eric stood up and suggested I take Ellie to play in her room. I recognized the "I'm about to kill a big bug that will give you nightmares" code, so I quickly escorted Ellie out and let him do his thing. Apparently the bug in question was a rather large wasp happily perched behind me. But it didn't end there, not even on that day. Three more of said wasp's friends came to check on his whereabouts as the afternoon progressed. So, great. Four wasps in our living room in one afternoon. They were doing their best to let us know right up front that this was not a fluke or a coincidence. We had a wasp problem.

The trouble was, we had no idea where they were coming from. Because that first wasp encounter happened on a rather warm day, the first day in which we turned on our air conditioning in a while, we thought maybe we had wasps in our air vents. However, as the wasps kept appearing afternoon after afternoon, regardless of the A/C status, that theory was quickly refuted.

For weeks (possibly months, I can't remember), we regularly had wasps in our living room. They seemed to only show up between noon and 4:00, and there were more of them on days when it was warm outside but cool in the house. I started leaving our sliding doors to our porch open all afternoon in the hopes that any wasps that showed up would be enticed "outdoors" and then I could lock them on the porch until Eric could get home to kill them.

We realized they were primarily all showing up in the same general area: by the sliding door in the corner, where we have Ellie's living room toys generally and our Christmas tree over the holidays (both exactly the kind of areas where you want wasps to swarm, am I right?). We developed a theory that they must be coming from our fireplace and then heading straight out towards the light, as we couldn't see any other way they could be getting into that corner.

However, we never actually saw one appear. Just all of a sudden we would look over and there would be one by the door. We never heard them buzzing around behind the fireplace screen or actually saw any emerge from there. It was just our best guess.

Of course, I called pest control immediately. Several times, in fact. But, without knowing exactly where they were coming from, there was really not much to be done. The pest control guy would go outside and find a nest and spray it, and we would hope that was it, but then we'd be right back to killing wasps.

I was starting to lose my mind. I had to get over my fear of killing them myself, because otherwise Ellie and I would've had to live in her bedroom with the door shut until Eric got home every day. Eric bought me some wasp spray and I sprayed the daylights out of those pests. Luckily, although they were enormous (I described more than one as being the size of a small bird, and I was not entirely exaggerating), they were not aggressive and were pretty slow-moving. I wondered if perhaps their journey into our home was a hard one and they were pretty spent by the time they got here. Easy prey!

But despite my newfound identity as Wasp Slayer, our infestation started to take an emotional toll. I had nightmares about wasps. I would constantly think I was hearing them. I wouldn't let Ellie play in the living room for fear she'd find one before I did. I didn't want to sit at my computer and blog/work during the afternoons because I was constantly looking over my shoulder for more wasps.

After another particularly wasp-filled day, I called pest control again. The lady who answered the phone in the office said, "well, they can't get there till Monday. Can you wait?" This was a Wednesday. I said, "I have multiple wasps in my house every day and I have a dog and a toddler who wants to 'hug the bees.'" Her response: "Yikes! Be careful then!" Great.

On Monday, pest control was due to come, and not a moment too soon. I  had killed five wasps just during Ellie's lunch time and I was about to lose it. But then, I caught a break: I managed to spot a wasp on the baseboard underneath our fireplace. Upon further inspection (after killing it, of course), I realized that there was an entire chunk of the baseboard missing. WE FOUND WHERE THEY WERE COMING FROM.

As if on cue, pest control showed up and I pointed out the broken baseboard. He got down on his hands and knees and sprayed wasp spray into the hole. Within moments, we heard buzzing. And then, out came a dying wasp. Location confirmed! Pest control guy sprayed a little more then said he would send maintenance to patch the hole and help him figure out where exactly the nest might be. Finally, progress!

But, the pest control guy kicked the hornet's nest, so to speak. That one dying wasp that buzzed its way out of the hole was soon joined by nearly forty others. Most dying, some still alive. Let me repeat: FORTY DEAD WASPS ON OUR LIVING ROOM FLOOR. We just stopped cleaning them up for a while because they were coming too regularly.

I'm not going to torture unsuspecting victims with a picture, but if you have a morbid curiosity about what the baseboard and resulting dead wasps looked like, there's a lovely photo (one of the less wasp-y) ones here. (It may be less wasp-y but THERE ARE STILL WASPS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)

When maintenance still hadn't showed up hours later, and the wasps were still entering our living room at an alarming rate, Eric went down to our leasing office to get someone to take action. He basically had to drag a maintenance man down to our apartment himself to convince them this was an emergency. Then maintenance started talking about having to get quotes from a contractor, etc., etc., so this could take a while. Luckily, his boss apparently felt this was a problem to be handled quickly and they cut out a lot of the red tape. Within days our baseboard was patched.

We thought our problem was fixed. We did find one stray wasp flying around our living room one day, but we considered it a fluke.

Then, it was Christmas Eve and we decided to light a fire in our fireplace. Being the one of us with fireplace experience, I went ahead and opened the flue. As I pulled down on that handle and opened the hatch, a whole bunch of something rained down onto the fireplace floor. I assumed it was ash or soot, but quickly realized, NO. IT WAS MOVING. It was a pile of about 50+ wasps. Most were dead or dying, but some were still roaming around our fireplace.

(Again, curious? Photo here.)

Oh, the nightmares! The post-traumatic stress disorder! The newfound phobia of fireplace flues! A month later I can still hear and feel the cascade of wasp carcasses raining down at my fingertips. Oh, how I shudder. And gag. HORRIFYING.

Needless to say, we closed that flue right back up. We have reopened it once since, and only four wasps came down. We have also found one more live one flying around our living room. So, I still don't know where we stand.

Our next step is to contact maintenance to make sure they did finally get with pest control to really knock out the source of the problem. I don't know how those two live ones have ended up in our apartment since the hole has been patched. I don't know how spraying wasp spray in a hole underneath the fireplace resulted in piles of dead wasps on top of the flue hatch. Frankly, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.


This is the stuff nightmares are made of, people. You know where you don't have this kind of issue? In New York City. Nobody has a fireplace full of wasps in the Big Apple, my friends. In fact, our entire time in both D.C. and NYC, we never had any sort of bug problem. Since living here for five months, we've battled an assortment of widow spiders, cockroaches, WASPS UPON WASPS, and an epic flea infestation (thanks, Achilles!). Oh, how I yearn for the concrete jungle.

Between my post-traumatic wasp stress and my over-awareness of every single nauseating smell in this apartment thanks to pregnancy, I'm pretty sure this apartment is ruined. We have to move.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pinehurst No. 2

I mentioned yesterday that Eric spent the morning of New Year's Day golfing the Pinehurst No. 2 course, which was the whole reason for our stop in North Carolina. It was a course Eric wanted to golf, and they happened to have a charming resort with a lovely spa (sold!), and it was a good overnight stopping point for our return trip from Cleveland. So, we stopped.

Because my golf knowledge is still seriously lacking (much to Eric's chagrin), I asked him to do a little recap of his golf outing to share. And thus, Eric's golf day:

* * * * *

View of 18 from the green

Among many nicknames, Pinehurst has been called the "St. Andrews of United States Golf," the "Cradle of American Golf" and the "Golf Capital of the World" (though there are many other places that lay claim to this last one). The resort itself has eight golf courses, six of which leave from the clubhouse on the property. The most famous is the No. 2 course, which has appeared on all 49 Golf Digest rankings of the top golf courses in America, rising as high as 9th in 2002. In addition, it has hosted more rounds of championship golf than any other course in the United States, including the PGA Championship (1936), Ryder Cup (1951) and the U.S. Open (1999, 2005, and this year!).

Thanks to the fantastic Evergreen Package and an even more fantastic wife, I was able to book a tee time to play the No. 2 course on New Year's Day. I realized there were decent odds that the weather would not cooperate, but I figured it was worth the risk. Because it was winter, the first tee time wasn't until 9:00, which gave me time to sleep in and ensured I would be able to finish at a reasonable time (which I did, in under 3.5 hours!). More practically, it also gives any frost plenty of time to melt. You can imagine my delight when the weather ended up being perfect that Wednesday morning, sandwiched between a torrential downpour the weekend before and freezing temperatures at the end of the week.

On New Year's Day, I hopped on the three-minute shuttle from the Carolina Hotel before 8:00 and arrived before the pro shop even opened. I was so early, the flags hadn't even been placed on the greens. I took some pictures of the grounds and of the Hall of Fame statues just off the 18th green.

Payne Stewart forever immortalized in a pose he struck on the very green he overlooks. See? No flag on the green.

After checking in, I met my caddie for the day and we headed over to "Maniac Hill," the driving range. I then took some more pictures and putted for a bit before teeing off and finding the first fairway, which has become pretty standard for me on these kinds of courses.

Donald Ross sign overlooking the first hole: "I sincerely believe this course to be the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed."

To make a long story short, I really enjoyed the course. There is no rough (by design) and the pine straw and waste areas surrounding the fairways make it very difficult to lose a golf ball (which I didn't!). This is not to say the course isn't challenging, which it can be if you are not completely in control of your game; it's just that there aren't a lot of big numbers to be had. Jack Nicklaus described No. 2 as a "totally tree-lined course without a single tree coming into play." While he clearly wasn't talking about me, the recovery shots were pretty interesting/possible and only added to the fun of the round.

Left: This was the spot for my second shot on #11, which went straight through the trees and onto the green.
Right, top: Approach shot on 18; Right, bottom: Tee shot on 10

Besides having to control your golf ball and think strategically about placement, the greens are what really make Pinehurst so difficult. According to the resort, they are "some of the most complex and widely hailed in the world." Designed by Donald J. Ross, and steadily tweaked over the years after he relocated to a home near the third and fifth greens, they are the best example of his signature "crown" style. Though unkind to my score, it was pretty neat to watch approach shots that would be on the green anywhere else roll back 20+ yards off the putting surface, even with the over-seeded winter conditions. That said, I managed to roll in a 15-footer for birdie to shoot a backside 42, which may or may not have contributed to my fond memories of the round. Needless to say, I would play again in a heartbeat and can't wait to watch the U.S. Open this summer.

The second is a good example of the "crowned" greens at Pinehurst No. 2.

Teeing off on #5

Hole 4 (which will be a long 4 for pros, while 5 will be a 5)

On the 18th tee

* * * * *

Thanks, Eric! I'm glad you got to golf another course on your golf bucket list! And any time golf comes with a side of spa day for me, I'm especially game!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ringing in the New Year in Pinehurst, NC

We departed Cleveland early in the morning on New Year's Eve, after some slight last minute car-loading snafus. Namely, we had a bunch of junk left to put in the trunk of the car at the last minute (Pack 'N Play, box fan, etc.), but the snow had continued to fall overnight and our trunk was frozen shut. Luckily we didn't have so much leftover that we couldn't cram it all into the front passenger seat while I rode in the back with Ellie, so after trying in vain to de-ice the trunk for a while we finally just went on our way.

The weather and traffic gods were not nearly as kind to us on our return trip as they had been on our trip to Cleveland. Upon departure, we drove through snow for the majority of Ohio, with a windshield so iced over it was difficult to see. It became even more difficult when we finally reached some sunshine, yet our windshield washer fluid hadn't thawed out just yet. Needless to say, we pulled over for lunch STAT and hit up a car wash.

Our poor Floridian car!

We made it the rest of the way to Pinehurst without issue, in about eight hours. When we arrived we checked in to our suite at the Carolina Hotel, freshened up a bit and made our way downstairs to the Ryder Cup Lounge for our New Year's Eve dinner. The food was excellent and the server was very good, especially at taking care of Ellie. Ellie didn't love her grilled cheese much, but apparently she made a New Year's Resolution to try new things because at dinner she happily dined on some honeydew, a previously foreign fruit to her. (Anyone who knows Ellie knows that the mere IDEA of a new food showing up on her plate is enough to throw her into a fit of hysterics, so this was big). Naturally, she also enjoyed the french fries.

The exterior of the hotel and the rooms of our suite

New Year's Eve dinner!

After dinner we checked out the gingerbread house village in the lobby (Ellie loved the train running through it), and snapped some pictures of Ellie generally frolicking around the resort.

All of those houses are made of gingerbread/candy!

In the lobby

"Let's get this party started, guys!"

Back in our room, we posed for our picture we used to announce the coming of Plus One, and had some fun playing with our 2014 glasses. Then it was off to bed for the little one.

Ready to be a family of four in 2014!

Party girl!

Eric and I spent the rest of the evening lounging around, sipping champagne (for him) and sparkling grape juice (me) while watching the coverage from Times Square (and missing it) and eating take-out dessert from the Ryder Cup Lounge. Somehow, my pregnant-and-battling-a-cold self managed to make it till midnight, and we toasted our respective beverages while watching a split screen of the Times Square Ball Drop and the Acorn Drop in Raleigh. Oh, local television!

Brownie sundae for Eric and red velvet cake for me!

I don't think we're in Manhattan anymore, Dorothy.

I barely made it a minute past midnight before passing out, and it was just as well. Eric had a busy day of golf ahead, and Ellie and I had some fun in store, too!

On New Year's Day, Eric was up and at 'em at a reasonably early hour to go golfing, but I will share all the details of that tomorrow (or rather, he will). Meanwhile, Ellie and I had a very casual morning spent lounging in bed, watching the tail end of Wall-E and first few minutes of Up before heading down to the breakfast buffet.

She looks like she snuck out of her crib and hit up all the wild New Year's Eve parties without us knowing a thing about it....

The buffet was excellent and had everything you could possibly want for breakfast. In keeping up with her New Year's resolution, Ellie helped herself to some honeydew, blueberries, and my potatoes and bacon.

The only thing she really loved was the blueberries, and we made trip after trip to the buffet for "more berries, Mama?"

After breakfast we spent a little time roaming the property before heading back to the room to catch some of the Rose Parade before lunch and naptime.

Ellie relaxing on the veranda

Scoping out the spa


Eric returned from golf while Ellie napped, and we had lunch together before I ran off to the spa for a prenatal massage. I had plenty of time to relax by the pool before my massage, happily sipping my lemon-infused water and enjoying some peace and quiet. The massage itself was divine, and even included a small stuffed lamb for the new baby (Plus One's first gift!). After my massage I took my time in the locker room, showering, relaxing, just being. I didn't want it to end.

But, end it must, as I had to get back to the room to so we could load up the car and check out. Alas.

Before leaving the resort we snapped a few more pictures around the property.

Eric and Ellie in front of the hotel

Somebody get these two some sweet tea already, am I right?

After leaving the resort we went back to the golf course so Eric could take a few (non-iPhone) pictures, and we planned to play the putting course just like we did in St. Andrews, Scotland. However, Ellie was having none of that. I made the mistake of preventing her from being run over by a golf cart and that was about all the drama she could take and she fell apart. She wanted to golf, sure, but if you dared try to take a turn (or direct her in any way contrary to what she wanted to do) she lost it. So, we packed that up pretty quickly.

Ellie and the famous "Putter Boy" statue

My two golf enthusiasts

"Ellie golf?"

Oh yeah. She went there. And she went ALL IN.

Our plan after the golf course was to go to the "downtown" (an adorable little area with shops and restaurants) for dinner, and we did attempt that but our efforts were short-lived thanks to what I can only assume is early onset of the Terrible Twos. We ended up leaving a restaurant, having only gotten water, in favor of ordering pizza back at our hotel. Thanks a lot, ELLIE.

Actually, the rest of the evening was quite nice. We stayed in another hotel in Pinehurst for that night, and our suite was small but perfect for our needs and the Italian dinner we ordered in was tasty. We got Ellie to bed successfully and spent the rest of the night watching bad T.V. and reflecting on our great trip.

The next morning we went back to downtown Pinehurst to do a little shopping, then hit the road for our return to Jacksonville. The final leg of our trip didn't go as smoothly as we would've liked, as we ended up stuck in some bad traffic for quite a while that threw us completely off schedule. The traffic delay forced us to stop for dinner, which made us get to Jacksonville much later than we had hoped and thus, Ellie got to bed pretty late, too. But, we survived.

It really was a fabulous trip - both our time in Cleveland and our little extra stop on the way home. Pinehurst No. 2 was one of Eric's top golf courses he wanted to play (but again, he'll tell you more about that tomorrow), I loved the spa, and the resort/town were so charming. It was a delightful way to bid farewell to 2013 and kick off our new year in 2014!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Christmas in Cleveland

On December 26, we departed on our longest road trip (with kid in tow) to date: from Jacksonville to my grandfather's house in Parma Heights, Ohio. The trip was estimated to total about 14 hours, and we decided to split it up over two days, with a stop at a hotel just before the mountains in Virginia on Day One. Ellie has been a little hit-or-miss in the car lately (especially on our trips back and forth to St. Petersburg) so we were a bit anxious, but have you ever checked flight prices from Florida to Cleveland around Christmas? Astronomical. The cheapest flight I could find would have run us about $400 EACH, and that flight would've departed around 5:00 A.M. on December 26th, had a layover, and ultimately ended up in Akron, which would mean we would also have to rent a car and drive an hour to Cleveland upon arrival. Then, the return flight (also with a layover) would have delivered us to Tampa at 11:50 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Tell me that doesn't sound like The Flight Itinerary Of Nightmares when traveling with a toddler, am I right?  And all for the bargain price of $400 a piece!

So, needless to say, driving was our best option. We decided to turn it into a little road trip (that's just our style) and planned a stop in Pinehurst, NC on the way back, so Eric could golf at yet another super fancy golf course and I could get a divine prenatal massage to kick start our year in 2014. Everything sounded grand, and we had just two major variables to worry about: Ellie and the weather. So, we crossed all extremities that could be crossed and went for it.

As it turned out, on the way up, both the weather and Ellie cooperated beautifully. Ellie got a bit fussy from time to time, sure (don't we all on that long of a trip?), but overall she was an ANGEL. And when she did get upset, just holding my hand was enough to calm her. Also, we made frequent stops where we allowed her to run around. That coupled with a few well-timed cookies made for a pleasant trip. And, there was nary a snowflake to be seen, so the weather was even on our side. We made great time to our hotel in Virginia, had a nice dinner then passed out, woke up the next day and made good time to Cleveland. Road trip victory!

Road trip!
Top row: Rest stop in South Carolina; holding hands to settle my girl.
Bottom row: Lunch with friends along the way; admiring the mountains in Virginia

We were the first to arrive at my grandfather's house on Friday, with Molly, Arturo and Santiago (via plane from Illinois) mere seconds behind. My sister Heather came an hour or two later (also via plane from Florida), and that was the group for the evening. We dined on Gramps's infamous homemade chicken noodle soup and entertained ourselves in various ways...some stranger than others, thanks to Eric's love of a challenge. And juggling.

Left: Eric and Heather debated whether standing on one's foot for a long time required more physical skill or "heart." Then they had to try it to find out for sure.
Right: Molly and Gramps on their iPads; Eric giving Heather a lesson in juggling clementines.

The next day, the rest of the clan arrived: My mom from Florida; Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark and cousin Adam from Pennsylvania; cousin Jacob, Zita and Zazi from Boston; and Uncle Peter and Rosemary from Illinois. That evening, we had our Christmas feast. Our family has grown so much that we now had to add two card tables to the living room to accommodate everyone!

Gramps, Aunt Rachel and Uncle Mark carving the ham

The big table!

The living room tables

After the meal, we opened our Christmas poppers and had some fun with the jokes and prizes inside.

Christmas popper time!

Ellie was psyched about her paper crown.

Uncle Peter showing off some questionable prizes

And, of course, we had to take our Annual Paper Crowns Photo.

Hesterman Family, Christmas 2013!

On Sunday, we took up three pews at Divinity Lutheran Church, and the babies were as good as gold. (Seriously, three toddlers at one church service with ZERO meltdowns? Angels, I tell you!) Then we returned home for some photos.

With my mom, Heather and Ellie

We tried to get a picture of the three babies, but two of the three weren't having it. ELLIE WAS THE COOPERATIVE ONE THIS TIME!

Then, it was time to exchange gifts. There were some lovely presents given, and Eric and I used this time to share our good news of Plus One with Gramps and the rest of the family. I gave him a four-picture photo frame, and filled three of the openings with pictures of his three current great-grandchildren. In the fourth spot, I put a little note that said "Photo Coming This Summer: New Baby W.! Your next great-grandchild is due July 1, 2014!" Everyone was very happy for us and quite congratulatory!

Top row: A gift for Ellie!; Sweet Zazi
Bottom row: Gramps opening his gift from us; showing the rest of the family!

After gifts we had our annual carol-sing.

Yay family singing!

The rest of the day was spent relaxing in various ways. Much of the family spent the afternoon watching the Browns...

And thus, a new generation of Browns fans prepares for a lifetime of heartache.
(Ellie's sweatshirt is "vintage" - it belonged to Heather and me when we were little!)

...while the grandkid-generation ladies got a little crafty and made Christmas shirts. This craft was inspired by my beloved (and sorely missed) Nana, who took it upon herself to make poinsettia sweatshirts for all the ladies of the family back when we were kids. Molly wore hers to a Christmas party this year and we were all struck with the nostalgia and the urge to channel our inner Nanas. And so, we crafted.

Molly sporting Nana's creation this year

Hard at work!

The finished products! (Unfortunately, Heather left before they were all dry and ready to wear, so we couldn't get an actual picture of the four of us in our shirts, but through the magic of Photoshop, you'd never even know!)

That afternoon there was also a slight mishap, wherein the barely-hanging-in-there-for-years-now bathroom door knob finally gave up the fight for survival, leaving poor cousin Adam trapped in the bathroom. With the help of a great many family members and even more tools, he was successfully freed. A happy ending!

It was far more of a project than expected.

How many hammers does it take to get one cousin out of the bathroom?

That night a bunch of us made the trek downtown to see a Cavs game at "The Q," which was a first for me. The Cavs ended up tying the game at the very end to go into overtime, but alas, they couldn't pull out the win. But, we had fun nonetheless.

Go Cavs!

At the game

The whole gang! (The rest were back at the house on baby-duty)

On Monday, most people spent the day relaxing around the house, as the snow had finally arrived:

View from upstairs on Monday morning

However, regardless of the weather, Eric, my mom, Ellie and I decided to do some sightseeing. Specifically, we wanted to see the house from the movie A Christmas Story. You may or may not have known that the movie was filmed in Cleveland, but indeed it was, and the "Ralphie's house" has been restored to how it looked in the film. We've been wanting to check it out for some time now and finally got our chance. It doesn't take long to go through the house, and there is also a little museum to check out. The house was fun because it's not so "museum-like," so you're able to touch and interact with the displays.

Top row: The exterior of the house; all of us on the front porch
Bottom left, clockwise: Ellie and me hiding under the sink from the "old man": Eric trying to solve Orphan Annie's code in the bathroom; "you'll shoot your eye out!"
Bottom right: Ellie mesmerized by the soft glow of electric sex

Back at home, we just spent some more time with family. Everyone was departing either that night or early the next morning, so we enjoyed our last hours of visiting before saying our goodbyes.

Left: Ellie and my mom
Right: Hugs good-bye from Zazi; cousins and babies!

Overall, it was a fantastic visit. It had been a few years since I was able to be there for the actual Christmas celebration, and it was so nice to be back. Christmas at Gramps's house with my cousins is a huge part of my childhood memories, and a very cherished part at that. It meant so much to me that Ellie, Santiago and Zazi also got to experience it all this year, too. By far the coolest part of the visit was seeing our little ones taking part in decades-long traditions that were such a big part of my growing-up experience:

"Kids' table!" (Okay, so it was just for a photo-op, but they'll get there for real eventually!)

Singing carols

Duets on the piano

Ping pong in the basement

There's this post in the basement on which my grandma recorded the height growth of my mom and all her siblings, and then the grandchildren were recorded, too. This Christmas, we measured the newbies, thus adding a new generation to the post! Santiago was a good sport but the girls hated it. The fourth picture shows where they all fall!

Ellie also wanted to measure her baby doll!

And, my most favorite picture of the whole trip, of Ellie doing the best thing of all: spending some quality time with her Great-Gramps.

As usual, I just want to say thank you to my family for continuing to make the effort to get together like this. It means so much to me to still be able to do things like this, and it means even more to watch my own child(ren) participating. Hopefully someday Ellie will treasure these times with her family just as much as I do.

My family!