Welcome to Ohio, my home state!
We arrived in Cleveland around lunch time. My mom and Gary were already there, having arrived the day before, as were my Aunt Rachel, cousin Adam and his girlfriend Abby (also a reunion first-timer!). As soon as we arrived, everyone greeted us in the driveway and as Adam held E.J., a little butterfly landed on Adam's shoulder then E.J.'s head. My Aunt Rachel said, "It's Nana!" and I just loved that thought—that our dear Nana came down from heaven to kiss my baby on the head to kick off the reunion. Logical? No, certainly not. But a beautiful thought nonetheless, and it gave me the warm fuzzies to start the weekend!
We unloaded the car, then Eric, Gary and Gramps left right away to play a little golf. Meanwhile, I fed the kids their lunches and put them down for naps. My Uncle Mark and cousin Sarah arrived during that time, and the Sharpnacks chose to spend the afternoon at the zoo. As for me, I left my kids in my mother's care and met up with my friend Megan and her husband Andy for a very nice visit.
I came back home shortly after my mom alerted me that the kids were awake, and the golfers and zoo-goers joined us shortly thereafter. This was when E.J. really started walking, much to my delight, and when he wasn't stumbling around he was exploring every inch of the backyard and/or finding things to climb on, preferably the stairs. Thus, we spent the rest of the weekend making sure somebody was on "E.J. Duty" at all times because that little guy is seriously hellbent on his own destruction.
He looks sweet and innocent, but that's how he gets you.
So mad that his awful mother keeps putting things in front of staircases and blocking his path
My Uncle Peter and Rosemary arrived just before dinner, which was a yummy spread of Kentucky Fried Chicken. My cousin Molly, her husband Arturo and their babies Santiago and Milena arrived that night, after my kids were in bed. They got settled in, then we stayed up drinking some wine and chatting.
The next morning, my cousin Jacob arrived with his wife Zita and their two sweet girls, Zazi and Kinga. Finally, all three reunion newbies had arrived!
The reunion rookies and their dads!
I know I've mentioned this before, but I just wanted to highlight the age range of the great-grandchildren (aka "The Greats") in our family. There are six of them, and the oldest (Zazi) is 3.5 years old. The youngest (Milena), at the time of the reunion, was four months old. The oldest three (Zazi, Ellie and Santiago) were all born within six months of each other. Of the youngest three, E.J. is the oldest, being nine months older than his baby girl cousins. Kinga and Milena are only a week apart! I just think it is so cool that they're all so close in age—there's so much potential for friendship there! They're so lucky!
In birth order: Zazi, Ellie, Santiago, E.J., Kinga and Milena
Once we had everyone together and ready to go, we set off for the day's outing: Memphis Kiddie Park! My little family had to miss the reunion last year (on account of E.J. being brand new and all), but last year they all went to this park and the little ones loved it, so we decided to give it a go again this year. Having seen how Ellie loved the rides at Idlewild, I knew it would be a hit! And it didn't disappoint. The kids rode all the rides, and were just about the cutest little things in the process. The entire family also joined in for a train ride, and a select few played a round of miniature golf. What a fun outing!
Killing us with cuteness as they head off for some fun
The four oldest Greats ready for a boat ride!
Watching the fun
Zazi and Ellie waiting their turn for a ride, tickets in hand
The three big kids on planes
Big cousins and little cousins!
My cousin Adam holding E.J.
Dads and kids on the roller-coaster!
My mom and Ellie on the carousel
Our miniature golfers: Gary, Eric, Adam, Sarah and Abby
The whole clan on the train!
As a side note, Memphis Kiddie Park has been there forever! My mom and her siblings were all talking about how they remembered going there as kids, and I remember going there as a child myself. How fun that now the next generation has experienced it together, too!
When we got back to the house, we had lunch and I got the kids down for their naps. Uncle Peter brought a water bottle rocket kit, and we went over to the Parma Park Elementary School fields to play with that for a while.
Ready to launch!
Back at the house, we played in the yard until our pizza dinner.
Walking around with Adam
Girl talk for Kinga and Ellie
E.J. with his Aunt Molly
Gramps enjoying the scene
After dinner, we took our family photo...
2015 Hesterman Reunion!
(We're a big bunch, but we're missing another seven members of our tribe: my Uncle Nathan and his family, who were unable to make the trip from Idaho; and my sister Heather, who is still in Japan.)
....then had a little birthday celebration for Gramps! We had a very tasty ice cream cake, and Molly, Zita and I gave him the gift we made for him: a collage frame with pictures of each of his great-grandchildren holding letters to spell out "GRAMPS."
Ellie and Zazi helped Gramps with his candles
Gramps's cake and gift!
After a little more play, Ellie, E.J. and Santiago took baths, then Ellie and Santiago went looking for lightning bugs. Then it was off to bed for the kids, and more wine and conversation for the adults!
On Sunday morning, we all went to church at Divinity at 9:00, as is tradition. The Pastor said some nice things about my Gramps in honor of his birthday, and considering that we had six children under the age of four (and Gary) in the pews with us, we were minimally disruptive, if I do say so myself.
Divinity Lutheran Church
After church we went back to the house and Eric took some nice portraits for everyone!
Then we just did what we do best: hung out and had fun together. We went back over to the school for more rocket-launching, and the kids played briefly at the school playground.
Ellie trying her hand at the rocket
Zazi and Ellie on rocket retrieval duty
Adam and Ellie on the slide
Daniel Tiger Ellie on the swings
Lunch was catered by a BBQ place, and was quite a tasty change of pace!
After lunch, we revived an old, Nana-initiated reunion tradition: the piñata! Molly made a piñata to look like Olaf, and I brought the fillings. It was meant to be the type of piñata where everyone pulls a string to release the goodies inside (so very three-year-old friendly), but in the name of tradition, we had to let the kids have a go and actually whacking it with a bat first.
Olaf piñata, ready to go!
Zazi hit first, then Ellie, then Santiago!
Zazi and Ellie digging through the loot
Zazi with her bag full of treats!
The kazoo was Ellie's favorite. It has since gone missing, so strange....
Kinga enjoying her spoils from the piñata
Aaaaaaand there goes E.J.
When the piñata fun died down, I put E.J. down for a nap and then the big kids had some fun in the little inflatable pool and sprinkler Uncle Peter and Molly brought.
The water was very cold but they made the most of it!
Zazi loved it!
When water play time was over, we just spent more time playing in the backyard.
Apparently Ellie serenaded Molly, Santiago and Milena on the kazoo for the better part of an hour. Bless them.
Ellie was trying to act out the Daniel Tiger show we saw at Idlewild and poor Santiago was just kind of like, "I like you, but I don't get you."
Pretend roller-coaster ride!
Santiago and Ellie, the next generation of HMM Broadcasting, interviewing Milena about her first reunion experience
Baby cousins holding hands!
That evening essentially marked the end of the reunion, as people started leaving: the Sharpnacks, Peter and Rosemary, and the Boston Hestermans said farewells that night, as did we in preparation for our early departure the next morning. Of course, we made sure to have a little more wine and bonding time on the lanai that night first!
We left bright and early on Monday morning, and Molly and her family and my mom and Gary left that day as well. And thus, another Hesterman reunion is in the books!
Thank you so much for such a great weekend, family!