Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween 2016: A Tale As Old As Time

Happy Halloween from the W. family!

This year brings the fifth installment in our Halloween tales! (Past years: 2012 Snow White; 2013 The Little Mermaid; 2014 Peter Pan & 2015 Tangled)

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful girl named Belle.

She was the most beautiful girl in town.

However, her fellow villagers considered her "odd" because she always had her nose in a book.

Despite her bookworm tendencies, her beauty caught the eye of the town heartthrob. He was as conceited as he was handsome, and he was sure that Belle would jump at the chance to be his wife.

Belle, however, had much bigger dreams for herself and found Gaston and his chauvinistic attitude less than desirable.

Meanwhile, in a castle out in the woods, there lived a handsome young prince who had been cursed to live as a monstrous beast unless he could earn the love of another by his 21st birthday.

The life of a cursed beast was a lonely one.

The Beast was angry at his lot in life and spent a lot of time roaring ferociously.

One day, the Beast caught Belle's father trespassing in his castle after becoming lost in the woods. Belle came to rescue her father from the Beast's tower, and offered herself in exchange. And so, Belle came to live with the Beast in his castle.

The Beast and Belle got off to a rocky start, but Belle was quickly befriended by some of the enchanted castle servants, including a candlestick named Lumiere and a clock named Cogsworth.

Realizing that this could be the Beast's opportunity to find true love and break the spell, the castle servants did their best to bring Belle and the Beast together. Soon, a friendship began to form.

The Beast even gave Belle her very own library, with more books than she had ever seen!

Before too long, Belle and the Beast were sharing a lovely evening of dancing in the castle's grand ballroom.

It was a magical evening.

It was quite obvious that love was growing between Belle and the Beast.

The Beast was so happy to have a companion!

Meanwhile, back in the village, Gaston was fuming over Belle's rejection of his marriage proposal. Feeling threatened by the Beast, he stormed the castle and an epic battle began between man and Beast.

After besting Gaston, the Beast growled at him to leave the castle and never return. Thinking he had defeated his opponent, the Beast turned to Belle, only to be stabbed in the back by Gaston. Gaston lost his footing and fell from the castle, leaving the wounded Beast in Belle's arms.

As the Beast lay wounded, Belle embraced him and whispered, "I love you."

Those words were all that was needed to break the spell! Before her very eyes, Belle's Beast transformed into a handsome prince.

And so, Belle and her Prince lived happily ever after!

Happy Halloween, friends!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Pt. 6: Pinehurst, NC

We left Cleveland early on Monday, August 8th and made the 8.5-hour drive to Pinehurst, NC, arriving at our hotel around dinner time. We stayed in the same hotel we've stayed at for past trips, and it served us very well yet again! Of course, it didn't hurt that we arrived right at "free wine and cheese happy hour time."

Passing through three more states on our journey: West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina

All we did Monday night was cook a little dinner and get the kids in bed, after which Eric and I hung out and watched more Olympics. The Olympics are so good, right?

The next morning, we slept in late enough to miss the hotel breakfast (HALLELUIA, thank you vacation gods!), so Eric grabbed some Dunkin Donuts for us and then we all went to the hotel pool for a bit.

Swimming with E.J.

Ellie liked this fountain!

We didn't stay long at the pool because we were checking out that morning, so we got dried off and loaded up the car and then went over to the golf course for a little fun. The kids tried their hands at a little putting, and Eric got a couple of shots in, too (that is, when E.J. wasn't stealing golf balls mid-roll).

Thistle Dhu putting course

Looking so golf-y!

E.J. mid-theft

Such concentration!

Taking in that North Carolina sunshine

Lessons from Daddy

Ellie on the putting course

Eric, the kids and Putter Boy

After our golf outing we had some lunch at the clubhouse. I think I can safely say it's the first time I've ordered a hot dog (for the kids) at a place with linen napkins! After lunch we enjoyed the scenery a bit, then loaded back up into the car and hit the road for Florida.

E.J. using said linen napkin as a bib

Trophies outside the dining room

A beautiful day at Pinehurst!

The kids enjoying the rocking chairs

Us, too!

We arrived back at our blue house late evening, having driven through a good bit of rain in Georgia and Florida. But, we made it safe and sound, after a very long trip! It was a great vacation, but it was also good to be home!

Our final three states: South Carolina, Georgia and Florida!

We drove 2,277 miles on this trip, and spent over 39 full hours in the car! Our kids are rockstars.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Summer Road Trip, Pt. 5: Hesterman Family Reunion

The 36th Annual Hesterman Family Reunion officially began Friday, August 5th at my Gramps's house in Parma Heights, OH. My mom, Gary and Aunt Rachel were the first to arrive (on Thursday), and we weren't far behind. As we waited for the rest of the clan to join us on Friday, our little family spent the morning downtown with friends while my mom and Aunt Rachel did the grocery shopping for the weekend.

Uncle Mark and cousin Adam arrived that morning (from Pittsburgh and Raleigh, respectively), and Eric, Gary, Adam and Gramps went golfing at Skyland. Back at the house, Uncle Mark kept our kids entertained before naptime.

Guys, I don't know if you've heard, but Uncle Mark is HILARIOUS.

The golfers!

Uncle Peter and Rosemary were next to arrive from Illinois, around dinnertime that evening. My cousin Molly and her family got in around 6:00 (also from Illinois), and brought with them our pizza dinner! After dinner the kids burned off some energy outside, and my Uncle Nathan and his family arrived from Idaho around 8:30 that night. My littlest cousin Jackson found a fast friend in my cousin Adam, bonded together by Pokemon! Once the little kids were in bed, the rest of us spent the rest of the evening drinking wine, snacking, watching the Olympics and catching up. You know, the usual reunion routine!

Santiago playing soccer with Adam

Ellie remains smitten with Baby Milena and here was happily offering her some of her own water.

Little E.J. in Gramps's baseball cap!

Saturday was designated Memphis Kiddie Park Day, so we donned the kids in their Olympics-inspired reunion T-shirts and headed out. My cousin Jacob and his family arrived from Boston that morning and met us at the park, thus completing the group for this year's festivities (all Hestermans were accounted for except for my sister Heather, who was still in Tokyo, and cousin Sarah, so it was a really good turnout!). The kids had a blast riding all the rides, and a select group (the Nathan family, Adam, Eric, Mark and Gary) played some mini-golf.

Ellie and MIlena modeling the front of the kids' shirts: the Rio Olympics log, but with Parma Heights as the updated city name!

The back of the shirts featured the kids' names and birth order numbers, in the colors of the flags of their parents' home countries (Zazi and Kinga are representing their mother's home country of Hungary, Ellie and E.J. are representing the U.S.A., and Santiago and Milena are sporting the Mexican flag in honor of their father'a home country!)

Waiting their turn for rides at the Kiddie Park)

E.J. and Santiago on a ride

Gramps and his four kids!

He's casual.

The boys loved the rollercoaster!

Mini golf!

E.J. and Grammy

Back at the house after the Kiddie Park, we had some lunch and passed the afternoon with backyard play and chit chat.

Gramps watching E.J. at play

Look at that follow-through! Way to go, Zazi!

Zazi and Ellie having fun inside with Uncle Adam

Molly reading to the bigger three of the "greats" (great-grandkids)

E.J. had a rough time waking up from his nap, but Uncle Mark was the cure for what ailed him.

Kinga's pigtails...oh man. I can't deal.

We also made time to take our official family portrait, plus a couple extras!

The attendees of the 36th Annual Hesterman family reunion!

The "grands" generation (minus Heather and Sarah, both very missed!) - I love my cousins!

And of course, Gramps and his Greats!

We had Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner that night, and carried out an old reunion tradition: the piñata! Molly generously provided the piñata and fillings this year, and the kids loved taking turns hitting Dory with the bat before pulling the strings to get their goodies.

This year's Dory piñata!

Santiago taking a swing at it!

E.J.'s turn!

The spoils

Oh boy, those pigtails are back at it again. Plus the blue eyes. And the cheeks. You're killing me, Kinga!

With my best cousinsisterfriend

Santiago and Ellie out for an evening walk!

E.J. and Milena (we bought E.J. this Joe Haden jersey on a whim at Walmart and he never wanted to take it off!)

That night, several family members had fun extracurricular plans! Aunt Rachel had her high school reunion, and she looked lovely for the event (plus, she was well-coached on what wine to drink from her wine-loving sister/nieces!). From what we hear, it was quite the affair and she returned that night with some great stories to tell!

Unfortunately, my cousin Taylor ended up feeling pretty under the weather for most of the weekend, which altered plans her family had for Saturday night. The original plan was for all of them to go to Canton for the Hall of Fame game, but she and Aimee decided to stay back. Gary took Aimee's place, and they all made the hour (plus) drive to Canton, parked and went in to the game, only to find out that the game had been cancelled because the wrong paint had been used on the field and it was deemed unsafe for play. They sat in traffic forever to get back. Can you imagine? What a mess! They didn't get home until late that night.

As for the rest of us who stayed put at the house, as soon as the kids were tucked snug in their beds we resumed the ritual: wine, snacks, Olympics, chatting. Honestly, it's my favorite part of the reunions! (No offense, kids.)

Sunday morning was church morning, of course. The kids were very well-behaved and looked adorable in matching church clothes! After church we had our usual portrait session for all the families.

Gramps and his kids, in age order!

The Peter family

The Becky family

Zazi and Ellie really hit it off at this reunion. I love this picture of the two of them!

Santiago and E.J. looking oh-so-G.Q.

I mean. Honestly.

We kept ourselves busy the rest of the day with crafts/coloring, pop bottle rocket ships, Mentos/Coke experiments, and playground and backyard play.

Uncle Peter's rockets are always a hit!

Rocket launch spectators

Ellie and Grammy


Santiago got the rocket!

Mentos in Diet Coke! It really is a thing!

Zazi and the church

The late afternoon led way to a new form of entertainment: water balloon fights! We went through tons of water balloons and everybody had a blast (except Alex, maybe, whose phone sadly fell victim to all the water fun!). All the play was followed by an huge group clean-up effort (hello, billions of balloon pieces scattered all through the grass), after which the children were rewarded with Olympic medals for all their hard work. (Oh, to live a life where people give you medals when you clean!)

Henry is after Uncle Peter!

Zazi, Henry and Jackson are ready to go!

Ellie and Henry teaming up against Jacob

Ellie going after Arturo (she didn't like the exploding balloon situation, so she chose to squeeze water out of the tiny hole at the top instead of smashing them!)

Milena and Kinga with their medals

That evening we had BBQ for dinner and some of us went for a nice walk around the neighborhood (Jacob and Zita were hunting Pokemon!). When we got back, the next door neighbor brought his bunny over for a visit!

Jacob showing Ellie the Pokemon Go app

A little off-road exploring!

Quick break at a playground

The visiting bunny

Then sadly, that was the beginning of the end. Uncle Mark and Adam left Sunday afternoon, and Jacob and his family were leaving early Monday morning, so we started the good-bye process. Ellie spoke for all of us when she plopped down on the stoop with her head in her hands, sad as could be because she didn't want to say good-bye to her cousins.

Poor thing. Been there, my friend.

Cousin love! This just warms my heart. I have always loved visiting with my cousins so much, and I hope they all grow up feeling the same.

Unfortunately, the Nathan family's Hall of Fame Game bad luck continued upon their departure, with flights delayed and cancelled like it was nobody's business. Poor souls! Such a long way to travel, and to deal with all that hassle...bless them. As for the rest of us, we departed early Monday morning, followed by the Molly family, Aunt Rachel and my mom and Gary. And that was the reunion!

Before leaving, I made sure to linger a little longer and say some extra goodbyes to my Gramps's house. While we were there for the reunion there was serious talk about him moving to an assisted living facility, just to make life a little easier for him (well-deserved after 94 years, I must say!). Of course, that would mean the end of a very long era of family gatherings at his home. My mother's generation grew up there, and mine basically did as well. Even as recently as last year, my son was taking his first steps in that house. That house has been the setting of countless happy memories for our family, and for the past 21 years it has been my anchor to my hometown. I never really had to say goodbye to Cleveland because we were always going back to that house; it remained constant. As this year's reunion drew to a close, my heart ached to walk through the rooms as my mind brought forth vivid memories in each. It's hard to say goodbye to such a place. But, at the end of the day, those beloved walls are just walls, and I will forever be thankful to them for housing my family and my childhood and my memories. It was a good house.

My Gramps has since moved to his new home and I'm so pleased for his new venture. Thank you, Gramps, for hosting our family and building this incredible clan! We love you so much.

Thank you, family, for getting together for another great reunion weekend! I'm so lucky to be a Hesterman.

To see the full set of reunion photos, click here.