2015 in Review: Happy New Year!

January started with some fun skiing, perhaps as a sign of the intense winter to come? First the kids went to New Hampshire with Leo's mom and sister. During the drive they were listening to an audio book of "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer and the kids liked it so much that they kept begging to take the longest route possible wherever they went. At the end of January we went with Barb, Jarrod, and Grace to visit the Dills for a great ski weekend at their new house.



  
Skiing in Bretton Woods, and Grace and Julia with Jack Dill in Waterville Valley

For February Vacation, we took our usual pilgrimage to Snowbird, Utah with all of Karen's family plus Leo's sister Katya. Unfortunately it seemed that we had more snow in the East than there was in Utah, but we had fun anyway, mostly skiing fast on the groomed slopes. On the day of our flight back we had fun visiting the Utah Museum of Natural History.

  
Utah fun

In March, the snow was still going strong. We had a few minor leaks here and there that required a few well-placed buckets, and we had very impressive and scary-looking ice dams, but overall our house survived quite well. The kids' band concert was scheduled and snowed out three times and eventually they just gave up on it. We also had a record number of snow days and an entire week where Karen just worked from home because of the snow and train situation. The snow didn't totally go away until mid-April. We're hoping this year won't be quite so bad!

  
Karen standing in snow up to her hips and Julia with our impressive icicle collection

We continued our tradition of going to PAX East (a huge gaming convention) and one of the highlights this year was getting a signed Foxtrot comic from Bill Amend. Leo is a huge Foxtrot fan and had shared his collection with the kids, who also love it.


Julia and Foxtrot author Bill Amend

We've had our cats Kisa and Oedipuss since April of the year 2000. They were a mother and son that we adopted through the MSPCA and were much loved by the whole family. Sadly after 15 years with us, both of them died this year, a few months apart. We really miss them.

  
Our beloved Kisa and Eddy

In April, we took a fantastic adventure vacation to Costa Rica (Costa Rica album). We found it a beautiful and welcoming country. We rented a car and braved the really terrible roads to visit Rio Celeste, the Arenal volcano area, and Tamarindo. Unfortunately Karen managed to sprain her ankle badly, not while doing any of the high risk activities like waterfall rappelling, tubing, caving, or zip lining, but just walking down the sidewalk, and Julia got a zipline burn on one of her arms, but everything turned out fine. The kids said their favorite activity was tubing down this very intense stream. Ironically this tubing was Karen's least favorite activity since while they found it thrilling, she was terrified they would all go splat on the rocks. The kids' very first horseback ride happened during the trip. Gregory got a really grumpy horse who always wanted to be at the front and tried to bite all the other horses when they wanted to pass, which we joked was his perfect match.

  
  
Costa Rica

It will probably not come as a big surprise that the kids enjoyed their birthday parties. Julia had a sleepover where we tie dyed shirts for both the girls and the stuffed bears we bought as favors, and Gregory had a party half at home and half playing laser tag.

  
Pictures from Julia's birthday party

In May, Karen's parents came for a visit and we had some great family time, playing bridge, celebrating some birthdays, and taking a trip to Six Flags with Bepa.


Six Flags with Bepa

Gregory's 8th grade class took a trip to Washington DC which brought back memories of Karen's 8th grade DC trip. He had a fantastic time with all his friends.


Gregory's DC trip

This year marked 20 years since Leo and Karen met. The momentous event took place on June 17, 1995 at South Station bus terminal so Leo and Karen set out to find the spot again. A new bus port was put in around that area so it was a little hard to tell, but a picture was taken at roughly the right spot to mark the occasion.

  
Then and now - a picture from the summer we met and this year at the spot we met

Due to all the snow days, school went extra long and we had to pull the kids out a few days early in order to leave for our Prague adventure (Prague album) with Karen's parents and Leo's mom and sister. We had some time to explore Prague and meet up with Leo's old family friends Masha and Olya Volynsky, and then the highlight of the trip was a 6 day river boat cruise. In the morning we would get off with our bikes and then ride 15 to 25 miles to meet up with the boat at our next stop. The kids absolutely loved the biking aspect of the trip as it's one of their favorite activities. Unfortunately the bike was just a smidge too tall for Julia so her poor knee had several nasty scrapes but she didn't mind, in fact she took loving pictures of the wounds. Karen's rented bike was electric so whenever the ride was uphill she would just push her magic button and become all powerful. It was great!

  
  
Prague

We got home and just a couple of days later we celebrated July 4th in Boston and then the kids headed off to San Diego for a 3 week math camp. Leo was nervous about having the kids travel to San Diego by themselves, but everything went off without a hitch. Julia had to be the one in charge as Gregory spent most of the travel time, including walking, playing Hearthstone on his phone. They apparently had a great time at camp but were too busy to send enough updates to keep Karen happy, so she resorted to cute cat pictures to try to guilt them into writing to us. After their math camp they went to Emagination computer camp like last year.

  
Various pictures Karen sent to try to guilt the kids into writing more emails

Those with keen eyes probably noticed the reference to kittens (and picture of a kitten) in the picture above. Yay kittens! Our kittens are definitely the biggest piece of news this year. Julia asked to adopt kittens as her birthday present in April. Because of our Prague trip and the kids camps, we decided the ideal time to adopt would be in the second week of August so the kids could spend lots of time with the kittens before school started. Karen started calling local shelters in early July to figure out who would have kittens ready to be adopted at that time. She heard back from the Medfield shelter who not only had kittens who would be around 9 weeks at that time, they were also looking for an immediate foster family for the mother and her five one-month old kittens! We figured this would be a great way to make sure the kittens were well socialized and to be able to pick the kittens that we wanted. It helped that our friends Matt and Alex were staying with us for a few months so we had more people to play with the mother and kittens while the kids were away at camp.

The kittens were SOOO cute and adorable. We couldn't get enough of them (and still can't)! In the end Julia and Karen convinced Leo that three cats weren't too much more work or allergens than two, and we adopted the mother cat Bliss, as well as two kittens we named Momo and Rosie. Matt and Alex adopted one of the girl kittens, and another family adopted the final pair of kitten brothers. Karen was able to get in contact with this family to share their history and get some pictures of the kittens settling into their new home. Karen may or may not be still Facebook stalking this family in the hopes of more kitten sightings. We're all in love with our kitties and spoil them. We already had one cat tree but we bought a second giant one with three perches that they all love. The kittens also acted as a lure for visitors so we had a chance to see Dan, Amy, and little Cordelia, as well as Tanya, Niell, Tony, and Lizzie.

  
Just a few of the thousands of pictures we've taken of our kitties

We need to keep this newsletter an accurate reflection of our year, which means talking about our new cats incessantly. Here's more about each of them:

  • Bliss (aka Blister, aka Blista, aka Miss Bliss, aka Mister Blister (a very unfortunate nickname that Gregory coined)) - "Big-boned", snuggly, sneaky (at least when she's plotting to escape out the front door), moody, wise, affectionate (she loves to climb into our laps and rub against us)
  • Momo (aka Sherlock Molmes, aka Molmster, aka Molmsta, aka Molmie, aka Little Buddy) - adorable, curious, funny, cuddly, brave (attacks vacuum cleaners), doesn't mind water, easily distracted
  • Rosie (aka Roaster, aka Roasta, aka Little Princess) - intelligent, graceful, fiesty (but always looks innocent after a pounce), independent, cautious, persistent, svelte

For those who made it through this cat section and are still hungry for more, here are some links to some of the picture highlights of our kittens. They are spectacularly cute: Little kittens, Kittens, Five week old kittens, Seven week old kittens, and More kittens.

    
Meet Bliss, Momo, and Rosie

The summer season ended with our traditional family camping trip with Karen's sister and cousin and their families. This year we returned to Vermont for the Brattleboro garlic festival, some beautiful hiking, disc golfing, and fun around the campfire.


Camping in Vermont

Gregory started *gulp* high school this year. Here he is on his first day!


Gregory going off to high school

The kids get the Jewish holidays off in Sharon so we often take a long travel weekend at this time when others generally aren't travelling. This year we decided to go to Niagara Falls (Niagara album) since it's a famous site relatively close by that only Leo has seen (and didn't really remember anyway). The first few days were rained out so we played in the arcade, did indoor mini-golf and laser tag, saw the Niagara IMAX, and went swimming in our hotel's indoor pool. We finally had some great weather for the final full day and managed to fit in all the key sightseeing: walking around the falls, Cave of the Winds, and the whirlpool boat. Gregory really loved this laser light show they had one night - he's in kind of an eye-rolling "whatever" stage right now so it was great to see him really excited about it.

  
Niagara

The kids wanted to hang out with friends for Halloween so we have absolutely no pictures of them, but we do have this super, amazing picture of Momo as Count Catula!!


Karen's life dreams are now fulfilled

Karen took a business trip to India in November, stopping by the usual Hyderabad office as well as her first ever trip to Bangalore (Bangalore album) where she went to the office for a day and then spent Saturday sight-seeing. The giant flower market in Bangalore was particularly memorable, but she also liked the temples, palace, and botanical garden. Karen's co-worker Das taught her to sing a song in Hindi, so they recorded it together and then she put together a video for her teams with the song and pictures of all the different Scrum teams. Link available on request (it's just a little too cringe-worthy to post publicly).


Karen in Bangalore

We spent Thanksgiving day itself with Leo's family and then went down to Connecticut to be with Karen's Aunt and Uncle (and Karen's sister and family) for our traditional Thanksmas, which combines the best of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Julia got a present of hair chalk, and applied some to Karen's eyebrows right before picture time. Gregory got money in a puzzle box that took him weeks to open! In the holiday time we also celebrated Chanukah and had our annual latke (and gaming) party with Nathan, Bridget, and their charming kids.

  
Thanksmas in Connecticut, with orange eyebrow picture by special request from Julia

The final trip of the year was a cruise (cruise album) from Florida to Mexico, Belize, and Roatan with Leo's grandparents, mom, and sister. Those familiar with our past packing failures may remember the year that we went to Mexico and the only footwear we brought for Gregory was snow boots, or the year that we went to Orlando and forgot ALL of Gregory's clothes except his swimsuit. This year we went on the cruise and didn't have a single pair of long pants for Gregory - this normally wouldn't be a problem except they had two "formal nights" on the cruise where shorts really wouldn't work. Gregory borrowed a pair of pants from Leo, Karen used a hair band to keep them from falling down, and Julia walked just behind Gregory so no one could see how silly it looked from the back (it looked fine from the front). The cruise was great fun - we went snorkeling, cave tubing, zip lining, ATVing, and monkeying (i.e., seeing monkeys). Phew! Oh and we also ate a lot, as is traditional when on a cruise!

  
  
Caribbean cruise!

Leo continues to greatly enjoy working on and playing Lord of the Rings Online. This year he got to go to Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco with a bunch of his friends, which was a great experience. He also continues to enjoy bridge, karate, MTG, and disc golf. Another huge life experience this year was sitting on a jury. He was the foreman of a 6-person jury. The defendant was accused of two counts of assault and battery and one of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon (his soft tennis shoe). He was found guilty of one of the assault and battery charges. The whole experience took two days, but it was great to be a part of the justice system. Leo started doing yoga at work a couple of days a week, and although he is still quite inflexible, he is slowly getting better.

  
Leo teaching the young ones the ways of the Zelevinskys

Most of Karen's core interests are the same: working as an Engineering VP at Pega, being involved with the UU church, playing guitar, strategic board gaming, podcasts (Planet Money, Freakonomics, Serial, Start-up, and This American Life to name a few) and reading (mostly while commuting on the train and subway). One book that was very thought provoking was called "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz, which proposes strategies for being happy with "good enough" rather than engaging in counter-productive efforts to maximize. One new passion this year is supporting Bizoha, a humanist school and orphanage in Uganda. Karen recently joined the Board of Directors for Brighter Brains, which helps to organize the Bizoha school. It's a very low key gig, but she's happy to be a part of such a great organization.


Singing and playing guitar at the Sharon preschool

A typical day for Gregory (according to him):

  • Wake up at 6
  • Check schoology (a website with school work and grades)
  • Eat cheerios and milk with craisins while playing Hearthstone
  • Do homework for 10 minutes
  • Leave to catch bus at 7:40
  • Go to school
  • School
  • More school
  • Eat Lunch with people
  • More school
  • Sometimes do math team, guitar lessons, marimba, or RSM (Russian School of Math)
  • Eat cheerios and milk with craisins
  • Sit in my favorite chair and play Hearthstone while Bliss tries to sit on my laptop and Momo lies on my bed
  • Eat cheerios and milk with craisins
  • Eat dinner
  • Sometimes watch Magic videos with Dad
  • Go to bed

  • One of Gregory's rare Facebook posts this year

    Julia is a 7th grader who loves cats, goiters (don't ask), and taking pictures of her injuries. She made a website of our adorable cat pictures. Check out her website here! Julia reports that highlights of the year include pineapples..., pineapples..., and more pineapples. Other highlights include THE KITTIES!, sleepovers with friends, our Prague biking trip, and being allowed to bike to school. Julia also got glasses at the end of this year! In addition, she said she is really enjoying being able to spend quality time with her great-grandparents and appreciates their love.

      
    Julia with her new glasses and with her great-grandparents

    We're very grateful to have had such a wonderful 2015 and we're wishing all our friends and family a happy and healthy 2016!




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