If you're familiar with our family traditions, you won't be surprised to know that this year started with downhill skiing in Utah with Karen's family (Utah Pictures). Julia's 3rd grade class had a project on family traditions and on her poster she included a picture of herself in Utah every year of her life! In fact, Karen's family has been going to Utah every year for the last 35 years. We also continued the tradition of cross-country skiing with Leo's family. This year we were in New Hampshire for February vacation (NH Pictures).
Utah on the left, New Hampshire on the right
In March, we went to a Hamenthashen party (Hamentashen Pictures) and also spent a weekend at Saddleback in Maine with Kevin, Allison, Jack, Barb, Jarrod, and Grace. It was windy and cold but we had a good time anyway!
The kids hanging out at Saddleback
Our friends Ryan and Jess came to Boston in April and stayed with us (Visit Pictures). They introduced us to some of their other Boston friends and we went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum, walked around Boston, and got ice cream - yum!
Visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum
For April vacation we took a cruise to the Caribbean (Cruise Pictures). Highlights included Blackbeard's Castle and the butterfly farm in St Thomas, Harrison's Cave in Barbados, rum tasting in St Lucia, and zip lining in St Kitts. Julia turned 8 while we were on the cruise.
Left - view of kids and our ship in St Lucia. Right - ziplining in St Kitts
Karen's cousin Jimmy relocated to Massachusetts in May and moved in with us for around 5 months. He brought both fun and some needed organization into the home! He helped the kids clean up and organize their closets and taught them how to do meal planning and cook lots of different kinds of food.
Gregory showing off his first pancake!
One of our big joys this year was that our dear friends and cousins Heather and Vlad had a baby boy. They made the announcement dramatically on New Year's Eve and then Karen threw them a baby shower in June (Shower Pictures). Keep reading if you want to see the cute pictures after he is born!
Guests at the baby shower
Another very exciting highlight of this year was our trip to Russia with Leo's grandparents (Short Version of Russia Pictures or Long Version of Russia Pictures). Leo left Russia in 1990 when he was 16 years old and hadn't been back since. We spent 6 days in Moscow, then took the night train, and spent 3 days in St Petersburg. Leo's grandparents were fantastic guides and showed us all the beautiful sights as well as taking us around to meet with family members. We especially appreciated the hospitality shown to us by Leo's 2nd cousin Kirill and Ded Vladik's cousin Bella.
Clockwise starting with top left - Kirill's house, Red Square in Moscow, With Aunt Bella at the Hermitage, the Gardens at the Summer Palace
In July Karen's second cousin Nathan and his Mom Cari stayed with us during his college search. It was great to see them and we hope he'll come to a college near us!
With Nathan, Cari, and Jimmy in our backyard
In August Heather and Vlad's son William was born (Pictures of Will's First Visit to Our House)! He's very cute and it's fun to have a baby in the family again.
Will at 3 1/2 months
Another summer adventure was when we went to Water Country, a water park in New Hampshire. We had put our valuables in a locker but had our towels and Karen's clothes in some bags that got stolen while we were on the slides. Poor Karen almost had to drive home in a swimsuit and no shoes but at the last minute she spotted someone leaving the park with her bag! She managed to get it back and although her shoes and a library book were still missing, at least she had some clothes!
We were planning to go camping two weekends in a row but "Hurricane Irene" came to visit the first weekend so instead we spent the time inside playing games. We didn't see any really serious weather but there were a lot of trees that came down in our area. Then for labor day weekend we did our traditional camping trip with Jimmy, Barb, Jarrod, and Grace (Camping Pictures). This year we went up to New Hampshire where in addition to the usual camping activities (hiking, s'mores, mini golfing) we also went ziplining and visited the "Polar Caves" where only Jimmy and the kids were brave enough to make it through the "Lemon Squeeze".
Scene from our campsite
In September we went to King Richard's Faire (Faire Pictures) and Six Flags, Julia adopted a leopard gecko that we named "Sandy" from one of Karen's co-workers, and Karen went to India on a business trip with two co-workers (Hyderabad Pictures). They had a weekend free and had a lot of fun exploring Hyderabad. Karen flew on India Airlines which allowed her to go on a spree of watching Hindi movies. She mentioned how much she liked them and in a really sweet gesture, one of the teams she works with bought her a whole set!
Karen at Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad
Our friends Alison and Tom introduced us to the Lantern Parade around Jamaica Pond (Lantern Parade Pictures). It's a really beautiful sight to see all the lanterns bobbing around the pond in the evening.
Posing with the lanterns we bought - maybe next year we will make our own?
At the end of October our gerbil baby journey began! You may recall that Julia adopted two gerbils last year. The older one died in June and since gerbils are social animals we needed to find a new "friend" for her. She didn't seem to get along with the other females that the gerbil breeder tried so in the end we decided to pair her with a male with the plan of ultimately giving the male back and keeping her with one of her daughters. They turned out to not be successful parents but by this point Karen and Julia were eager to have gerbil pups so we offered to be "foster parents" for a different pair and raise two litters of pups. We've had a really great time watching the gerbil babies grow and playing with them. Gregory even got in on the fun and adopted three of the pups from the first litter. We had several minor tragedies along the way - the first litter was born the morning of the freak Halloween snowstorm which knocked out our power for almost 3 days. When the temperature went down that first night while we were asleep, two of our pups didn't make it. But we did have 5 healthy and beautiful pups from that litter. There were eight pups in the second litter and one died in an unfortunate accident so now we have seven incredibly cute pups (Assorted Gerbil Pictures plus some shots of the gecko).
Left - Gregory, Julia, and Grace playing with the first litter of gerbils. Right - Our second litter sleeping in a pile
In other October news Leo and Karen went to a fantastic Weird Al concert with Dan, Amy and Matt, the kids dressed as aliens for Halloween, we went to Juliet's fabulous annual Halloween party, and when our town cancelled trick-or-treating because of the snow and downed power lines, we went trick-or-treating in our old hometown of Quincy instead.
Karen and Leo hosted Thanksgiving this year for her side of the family plus her Aunt and Uncle's exchange student Vivi from Brazil, our friend Matt, and a friend of Jimmy's. We also went into Boston one day to show Vivi the local sights, including the New England Aquarium and Faneuil Hall with all its holiday decorations (Thanksgiving Pictures).
Thanksgiving at our house!
We enjoyed several holiday parties in a single day in December. First was a tree decorating party with Heather, Vlad, and Will during which Heather and Karen attempted to sing and play Christmas carols on their guitars and Vlad did all the tree decorating (Tree Decorating Pictures). Second was a latke party hosted by our friend Nathan and Bridget with their two sons Noah and Jeremiah (Latke Party Pictures). Nathan makes unbelievably tasty sweet potato ginger latkes and we always love the chance to see them and how their boys are growing up!
Left - tree decoratng. Right - latke party.
And finally, our last hurrah for the year was a trip to the Bahamas with both Karen and Leo's families. The 14 of us had arranged to rent a house but then 3 days before we were supposed to leave on the trip, we found out that there was a problem with the house and it was not available. As you can imagine this caused quite a bit of a panic! But luckily everything worked out well in the end. Karen found some units at Harborside at Atlantis that were available and got a good deal since they would otherwise go emtpy. Atlantis is a spectacular resort and we had a great time on the water slides, aquariums, beaches, and relaxing with the whole family (Atlantis Pictures).
Clockwise starting with top left - Oma and the kids, kids in front of the awesome-looking water slides, the whole gang, and the kids in front of the huge manta ray
In general we're all happy and healthy, although despite Jimmy's best efforts we are still somewhat disorganized :) Left to their own devices Gregory would never change his clothes and Julia's hair would turn into a gigantic tangle, but we do our best. We're a geeky family and proud of it! Leo is very attached to his fanny pack despite the ribbing he gets about it at work and Karen would much rather read or play a strategic board game like Dominion or Small World than go shoe shopping.
Leo's still loving working on Lord of the Rings Online. His regular bridge partner of four years, Joon, had a tremendously successful stint on Jeopardy that we really enjoyed watching on TV. Unfortunately, Joon has decided to take a break from bridge for a while but Leo plans to continue playing bridge regularly with a new partner. He also is continuing his studies in Karate, with his latest achievement being a green belt.
Karen is thriving at Pega (13 years and counting) and is enjoying her Unitarian Universalist activites like teaching sunday school, and the new book club and movie club they started this year. She's also mildly obsessed with our gerbils and has finally gotten into facebook.
Gregory loves strategy games of all kinds (board games, iPhone games, DS games, computer games). According to him, his favorite things to do are ziplining, going on cruises, and playing Magic the Gathering. He also plays trumpet and guitar, but he doesn't practice all that much so he's not very good yet. :)
Julia likes playing with baby gerbils, having playdates with her cousin Grace, and doing arts and crafts. She says she loves to have her friends over to jump on our trampoline, play board games, and read books. She's still taking ice skating lessons and both kids now take tennis lessons thanks to Leo's Mom.
Thanks for your holiday cards and please come visit us this year!
Previous years' sites: