The year started out with snow in Massachusetts and our annual skiing trip to Utah. Gregory is rapidly turning into an expert skier and Julia was finally old enough to really enjoy her lessons and learn enough to ski down the bunny hill with style.
Barb and the kids with the snowman they built
During the Febrary school vacation we went up to New Hampshire for some cross-country skiing with Leo's family. We went skiing, sledding, and ice skating and generally enjoyed the outdoors. Unfortunately Leo's grandmother had a fall and broke her hip while we were skiing, but she has made a simply amazing recovery since then. She and Leo's grandfather still watch the kids for us after school once a week and take them to swimming lessons at the local YMCA.
For the April school vacation the four of us went on a cruise to the Eastern Carribean leaving from New York City. It's not quite as convenient as leaving out of Boston like we did when we went to Bermuda, but it is definitely cheaper than flying anywhere. We like cruising because it is so low stress: the lodging, food, and transportation are all taken care of so all you have to worry about is saving enough room for dessert every meal! The cruise started by going to Puerto Rico where we visited a fort and bought some kites to fly. Next up was Tortola in the British Virgin Islands where we climbed through caves to a gorgeous beach. Finally we headed over to Cayo Levantado in the Dominican Republic where we spent the day on a beautiful private island and got burned despite all the sunscreen we put on. All in all, a very successful trip.
The spring saw a bunch of celebrations: Julia turned 5, Gregory turned 7, and Leo and Karen celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary (officially supposed to be celebrated with "aluminum" but foil didn't seem like a very exciting gift so we chose alternatives).
Julia and Gregory's birthdays
This summer the kids went to summer day camp for the first time. They went to Camp Westwoods where they had a great time! The camp does all the usual fun, campy stuff: swimming, crafts, dancing, cooking, ropes courses, archery, gymnastics, etc.
In July we went to Grace's 3rd birthday. We are so lucky to live less than an hour from Barb and Jarrod so we get to see them pretty frequently. This fall Barb has also been picking the kids up from school once a week and taking them all to gymnastics.
Grace's 3rd birthday party
Later in July we went adventuring with Karen's parents. It started with a 4 day river rafting trip on the Green River in Utah. Pluses of the trip included the gorgeous scenery, friendly guides and guests, generally delicious food (including s'mores!), jumping into the river for a float whenever it got hot, and occasional exciting rapids. Minuses included mosquitoes, biting black flies, recalcitrant tent poles, and the portable latrine known as the "groover". We had hoped that they would bring an inflatable kayak, but they didn't. Oh well. We did have the chance to try our hand at rowing during one of the quiet stretches.
After the rafting we drove to Las Vegas for another 5 days of vacation. We timed it to coincide with the bridge Nationals (at the Star Trek Hilton) so Leo got to play for a few days. This was Karen's first time in Vegas and there was plenty to see and do. We stayed in Excalibur which had a very nice pool area and a water slide. We visited just about every hotel on the strip and also saw Cirque du Soleil's Mystere, Sigfried and Roy's Secret Garden (with 14 week old tiger cubs), a comedy show, M&M world, Bellagio's fountains, and a full day at Circus Circus. As an early birthday present Karen also took Leo on a helicopter flight to the West rim of the grand canyon where we set down and had champagne and a snack. Karen's Mom also came along while Karen's Dad babysat. Thanks Dad!
Outside the Luxor hotel and with the helicopter on the floor of the Grand Canyon
And finally, the real reason behind the timing of the trip: we attended the wedding of Karen's friend Samantha which was in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. Unfortunately we were out of vacation by that time so after a brief but delightful visit to the Dill's house in New Almaden we had to head home after only a day and a half in San Jose.
Sam and Garrick's wedding
While we were away on our vacation we were having the finishing touches put on our kitchen. We knocked down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room and got new cabinets, countertops, lighting and floors. Overall it went quite smoothly and we are really happy about the more open layout and extra countertop space.
Pictures before, during, and after the kitchen project
In September Julia started public kindergarten and Gregory went into 2nd grade. Their school is just around the corner from our house and they installed a brand-new, fantastic playground over the summer so it has worked out very well. Julia loves her school, her teacher, and her new friends. Gregory's also very happy there. Over labor day we went camping and to Six Flags New England with Barb, Jarrod, and Grace.
In October we were overjoyed to attend the wedding of our close friends Dan and Amy. We continue to see Dan and Amy (along with Katya) almost every week for our "dinner and some anime" club and it was great to be present for their special day. Leo was one of the groomsmen and Julia was the flower girl. It turned out to be a perfect day in all ways.
Karen's parents came for another visit in the fall and among other things we visited Salem, Massachusetts. Yes, it was a bit cheesy but completely worthwhile for the picture below.
We celebrated Halloween in style. First we went to the annual Halloween party hosted by our friends Juliet and Scott. Karen was dressed as a tiger and Leo was a caveman with a leopard skin tunic that was just a bit short (think miniskirt length). Pictures of said costumes are not suitable for general consumption but can be obtained from Karen if an appropriate bribe is provided. We also attended the Old Timey Halloween party at the Unitarian church and on actual Halloween night we went trick-or-treating on Beacon Hill in Boston with Katya, Heather, and Vlad.
Gregory as Harry Potter and Julia as a half devil/half angel
The election provided excitement for November. The kids had their own vote at school and Julia initially wanted to vote for Palin because she was partial to the idea of a woman in power. Upon learning that Palin wouldn't actually be president she was content to have her be vice president. However after many passionate entreaties from Karen we ended up with a unanimous Obama household. Karen was excited enough on the day after the election to do her Barrack Obama dance while walking the kids to school.
We went to visit baby Jack Dill, son of our friends Kevin and Allison. It was fun to see a little baby again. Karen even enjoyed changing a diaper for old time's sake.
Leo demonstrates to Allison that our "baby" is bigger than theirs!
Karen's parents' long-time friend Gordon came to stay with us for a week over Thanksgiving because the bridge Nationals were in Boston (there are three Nationals every year). When Karen was a kid her family spent many wonderful Thanksgiving with Gordon and his wife Jean in Colorado so it was great to be able to return the favor and to catch up with Gordon. In addition to a large Zelevinsky clan Thanksgiving, Karen and Barb went down to Connecticut on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to spend some time with the Langs and to play some bridge. Also of note is that Gregory is thankful for his refrigerator (click here for an audio recording of his thanks - and no, we are not bitter that he is more thankful for the refrigerator than for us who have housed him, fed him, clothed him, loved him, changed his diapers when he was little, cared for him when he was sick, tucked him into bed every night, read him countless stories, and bought him many nice things (including a refrigerator!)).
Over Christmas week we took another cruise out of New York down to Florida and the Bahamas. The weather wasn't very cooperative but we still had fun seeing the Kennedy Space Center, snokeling in Nassau, and visiting a gorgeous beach in Freeport. The best part was the company, as there were 11 of the Zelevinsky family on the cruise. We dined, played games, attended Hanukkah services, relaxed in the ship's hot tub, and climbed the rock climbing wall.
Christmas Cruise - Julia's age group sang Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer at the kids talent show
After the cruise we visited Leo's new second cousin Anthony who was born in November. We enjoyed seeing Tanya and Niell and their New York City apartment. Plus that was a really tasty cheesecake!
The whole Zelevinsky clan came over to admire baby Anthony
Brief updates on the family: Jobs, house, unitarian universalist church, and basic interests still pretty much the same as last year. Leo still loves playing bridge and has also started playing Lord of the Rings Online (our friend Nathan is one of the developers for the game). Karen's longish train commute has allowed her to do a lot of reading over the last year. She's been sharing book reviews with friends on goodreads if you are curious. Karen also joined facebook and LinkedIn and reconnected with several long-lost friends which was fun.
Gregory's thriving in all his activities. He got very into Harry Potter this year: read the first four books (multiple times), watched the first three movies (many multiple times), played a gameboy game on his new Nintendo DS, and dressed up as him for Halloween. He got glasses this year and loves to wear them because he likes the way they look (perhaps because it is more Harry Potterish?) The kids also like to pretend to make potions, cast spells, etc around the house. It's a magical world around here :)
Gregory showing his karate moves
Julia has been moving out of the princess phase and into ballerina/Hannah Montana/all things "cute" phase. She's taking ballet, tap, and jazz and started piano lessons this year in addition to the usual activities. She still loves her stuffed animal menagerie and is a delight to have around. She's such a giving soul that nearly every week when Barb and Grace leave the house Grace has a new gift (Julia's entire collection of hair bands, her favorite ballerina kitty pen, etc). However at the same time she's also learning to stand up for herself and not always do what other people want. Karen had been working towards this goal but was dismayed to have it used against HER.
Julia at a rhythmic gymnastics performance
And yes, we do still have cats! Oedipuss and Kisa are well and enjoy wrestling, licking each other, and lying around the house. We also adopted two beta fish (Maggie Pinky Puff and Tyler Taqua Tuff) and a beetle (who Gregory grew from a meal worm at school). It's hard to know what they enjoy. Stay tuned for next year to see if any communication breakthroughs in fish or beetle language are made.
If you made it to the end of this saga, congratulations! It's tough to know when to stop when you are not limited by the size of a card or piece of paper! We hope all of you have a great 2009 and will keep in touch! Please come and see us when you can.
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