2017 in Review: Happy New Year!

We started 2017 with a family New Year's at Heather and Vlad's house!

New Year's party!

We also had several fun skiing adventures: we finally had a chance to go cross-country skiing in Borderland again after a long hiatus, and Karen and Leo had a fun adventure with some Dills in Vermont.

Cross-country skiing in Borderland

In February, we had our usual great week of skiing in Utah with family. The snow was amazing and we had fun playing board games.This year we had a little time to kill before our flight home, so we went to "The Escape Key", where we worked together to solve the puzzles to escape the room and made it out with just 27 seconds to spare.

Alf's restaurant at Alta and at The Escape Key

We also continued to enjoy keeping Jewish traditions alive with our friends Nathan and Bridget. Here we are making our annual Hamentashen cookies!

Having fun with hamentashen

In April, we were very proud of Julia's all-girl team when they took first place at the Sharon Math and Science Tournament for middle schoolers in the area! We also took a fun Caribbean cruise, but swapped out a kid. Gregory went to Paris on a class trip, so we took our niece Grace with us instead. The four of us had fun as we gorged on chocolate (no Gregory to complain about too much chocolate!), flew kites in San Juan, swam with turtles, boogie boarded, went underneath a waterfall, visited a fort, zip lined, and hiked in the rainforest. Karen had wanted to attend the March for Science but it took place while they were away, so Karen bought shirts for herself and Julia and they had their own tiny little two person "march" in St. Maarten.

Scenes from our April cruise

Meanwhile, Gregory was having his own exciting adventures in Paris. He had qualified for the USAJMO, but the exams had to be taken on the days when he was in Paris. We managed to arrange for a local college student to proctor the exams for him at his hotel. One kind of sad benefit to this was that when there was a terrorist attack on the Champs Elysee (on the day when the high school kids were going to the Champs Elysee), we knew Gregory was safely taking his math test at the hotel. Luckily the other kids were also fine, having passed that spot a few hours earlier. Other highlights of the trip according to Gregory: playing bocce in the park, eating escargots, spending time with his friends, and seeing the sights.

Gregory at Montmartre

Then birthday season was upon us in full force. We're always away for Julia's birthday, and this year she never did get a party with her friends. Gregory took his friends to this fun place called Boda Borg, where you work in small teams to try to solve different types of physical and mental challenges. Both Leo and Karen had gone there for team building days with their respective workplaces. Gregory and his friends enjoyed it so much that they went again when it was his next friend's birthday!

This same period was also the start of a very sad time for the family, since Karen's Mom's health was declining. Her sister Barb went out to visit over a long Mother's Day weekend, and then Karen came out the next week, to help out and say goodbye. Carol died on May 23. Because her friends and family were spread out across the country, we planned two remembrance parties: one in Boston in June and one in San Jose in August. Both events were a celebration of her amazing and full life, as a brilliant programmer, dedicated mother and wife, active outdoorswoman, talented musician, puzzle lover, and ardent admirer of the arts. Karen worked with others to gather pictures and created a google drive album that captured many of the wonderful moments of her life. She is greatly missed.

Some favorite pictures of Karen's Mom, Carol

Though it was a sad occasion, it was nice to see lots of family and friends for the remembrance party for Karen's Mom at the Museum of Science. Several of Karen's Mom's cousins came and stayed with us for the weekend, and it was wonderful to get to spend time with them.

Visiting Boston sites with Patti and Nancy (Carol's cousins)

In June, Karen traveled to Uganda with other members of Brighter Brains, an organization she's worked with for several years, that supports humanist schools and orphanages. It was an exciting and intense trip, visiting many of the projects that she's been involved with. There was also a fun day of being a tourist while visting Queen Elizabeth National Park, where she got to see lots of interesting animals like elephants, hippos, water buffalo, water buck, and lions (although to be honest, the lion was far away and just lying there like a lump so it was hard to tell which was the rock and which was the lion). For anyone interested in more details, her daily email updates and pictures can be found here.


Over the summer, Julia volunteered several days a week at Newton-Wellesley hospital. She had one assignment in the Receiving Department, delivering packages all around the hospital, and another in post-surgical care, refilling supplies like gloves and offering patients drinks, blankets, etc. She also finished up her assignment as Sharon's ambassador for Project 351, an amazing program where one 8th grader from each town in Massachusetts gets together for a year of service and gratitude. Julia had run a very successful clothing drive to support Cradles to Crayons, but hadn't finished sorting and packing up the clothes for delivery before school ended. We had a Zelevinsky family project to finish the sorting, and then borrowed Leo's Mom's van to drop off all the clothes. Karen arranged to run a family service day with Pega, and that's the day the drop off was going to happen. It got a bit exciting because the van started to break down on the drive there. It stalled several times, and finally broke down for good just as Karen glided into the parking lot!

Julia's ID and the many, many, many bags of clothing stretching across multiple rooms

Meanwhile, Gregory spent six weeks at the Hampshire College Summer Studies in Math (HCSSiM) which he enjoyed immensely. Leo did the same summer program around 25 years earlier. It's a great program because it covers interesting math topics while also having a great sense of humor and fun. Gregory made a deal where if Karen and Leo installed Snapchat, he would send one picture a day. This was a great, low-key way of keeping in touch. Karen sent lots of pictures of the cats and the family, and Gregory sent pictures of classrooms, fields, his professor's dog, and even his own wonderful face on occasion. Gregory made a lot of friends from around the country and world, and still chats with them regularly.

Gregory in front of his dorm at Hampshire College

Leo and Karen had a few adventures of their own, including a fun weekend at a bed and breakfast in Vermont with Heather and Vlad.

Vermont trip!

Finally, the last hurrah of the summer was a big family trip to Oregon to see the total solar eclipse. It was a little bittersweet since the trip had been planned with the hope of going with Karen's Mom, but it was still a wonderful time. We started out in San Jose in order to have the West Coast memorial party, and then drove up to Oregon with 9 people: the four of us, Karen's Dad, Karen's Aunt Linda, and Karen's sister and her family. We stayed in two different airbnb houses, first in Lincoln City and then in Medford, Oregon. The first destination involved some really fun hikes on the beach and the actual eclipse. Our house was in the totality zone, but fog rolled in so we had to go a few miles inland to get a good view of the sky. It worked out perfectly though, and the actual totality was amazing - it gave us goose bumps! The second stop was planned around Crater Lake National Park, but unfortunately the massive forest fires made it so the lake was barely visible. We still enjoyed hikes in the park, as well as an exciting river rafting trip on the Rogue River. Full photo album.

Pictures from our Oregon eclipse trip

Shortly after we got back, the kids began school. It's exciting and crazy that both kids are now in high school!

Julia's first day of high school

Over Labor Day weekend, we went on our traditional cousin camping trip, this time at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire. The weather was only marginally cooperative with some massive downpours, so we spent one day on indoor pursuits such as watching movies and going bowling. However, it's always fun when cousins are involved!

Cousin camping trip!

Karen's Dad came to visit in October. One activity was a nice trip to Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. He stayed part of the time with us, and "bonded" with the cats. He insisted on calling them Fat Cat (Bliss), Mangy Cat (Momo, because he had a bald patch where Bliss scratched him, which has since healed), and Dark Cat (Rosie), which was somewhat amusing and somewhat insulting to our precious cats. It's anyone's guess whether he does it because it's easier to remember or because it's fun to get a rise out of Karen!

Over Thanksgiving, we followed family tradition and visited the Langs. We enjoyed delicious food from Karen's Aunt Marilyn, and played bridge and many board games. It is always a wonderful and relaxing time with family.

Thanksmas in Connecticut

Karen had a business trip to visit her California team in early December, so used the opportunity to also hang out with her Dad. They went biking with friends in Monterey, attended a Christmas concert, and went on a hike at Mount Umunhum.

Karen and her Dad biking in Monterey and hiking on Mount Umunhum

The final trip for the year was a Caribbean cruise with the four of us, Karen's Dad, Leo's Mom, and Leo's sister. It started out in a very exciting and harrowing fashion. An ice storm in Boston caused major delays in our flights, so we had to run as fast as we could straight from the plane to the port in Fort Lauderdale, completely ditching all our checked bags. Luckily we got them back safely two days later, at our first port. The cruise was great fun: sliding down waterfalls, exploring the history in Santo Domingo, and enjoying the beaches in Curacao and Aruba.

Caribbean cruise!

Game of Thrones: Conquest, the game that Leo was working on was released and has been doing well. Leo had a great time with his friends at the AWS conference in Las Vegas. In addition to attending some educational talks, he got to eat lots of delicious food and do other fun activities, such as going to see Penn and Teller and hiking in the desert. He continues to enjoy bridge, MTG, disc golf, and a bit of yoga, just like last year. He and Karen took ballroom dance classes in the Spring. Karen had to miss a few classes, so Heather was a good sport and filled in. He is still playing a lot of mobile games, notably Rival Kingdoms, Clash Royale, and Golf Clash. Finally, he loves driving his new all-electric car, a Chevy Bolt.

Leo at Amazon Reinvent

Karen finally has big work news this year! After 19 years at Pega, she's making a major career shift starting January 19, 2018. She's going to combine her love of building software with her love of helping others and become a technology consultant for non-profits. Ironically, the first tool she needs to learn is Salesforce, one of Pega's biggest competitors. She is very, very excited about this new adventure! Her first target is Brighter Brains, the non-profit that she went to Uganda with in June, and that she is currently president of. Everything else in her life is pretty similar to last year: UU church, weekly volunteer tutoring at a shelter, love fests with our cats, hanging out with our friends Alison and Tom, etc. Karen is continuing her fiddle class, but now playing a violin inherited from her Mom. It's nice to be able to keep that connection. A recent book Karen loved was "Inside the Nudge Unit" by David Halpern. A few of her favorite podcasts are Reply All, The Longest Shortest Time, Planet Money, and How I Built This.

Karen on a deep sea fishing trip with co-worker friends - she'll miss them!

Gregory is a junior in high school and recently got his driver's license! That has brought a lot of freedom, and he's also nice enough to give Julia rides as well. He's quite busy this year, with 5 AP classes, a part-time job tutoring at the Russian School of Math, and various other school and church activities. He's really enjoying playing badminton, and plays nearly every week with his grandmother, as well as during Eagle block at school. Also, he ran in a 5k with Anya and came in first in his age category and 23rd overall, which was pretty good since he hadn't prepared for it. He studiously avoids looking at or thinking about college, probably to drive Karen crazy, but he at least seems to have areas of interest: math and computer science. He spends his time gaming, procrastinating, spending time with friends, and participating in WOOT (google it lol, hint: it has to do with math olympiads).

Gregory got his license!

Julia graduated from 8th grade and started high school this year! She finished off her middle school years with a fantastic Washington D.C trip, with highlights including visiting her uncle JC's' grave in Arlington National Cemetery and going to interesting museums. She has joined many new clubs now that she is in high school. She is a part of the math team, science olympiad team, the economics club, SMST, and student mentors. Additionally, she has started volunteering with Karen and Greg at a shelter once a week. She loves the high school and spends a lot of her time doing schoolwork and spending time with her friends and cats, and before anyone objects, yes, the cats are also her friends, but she said that they deserved special recognition. She loves playing tennis and has started playing with a couple of her friends twice a week at a club! She looks forward to learning more and meeting even more new people in 2018.

Julia with Bliss, and with her beloved great-grandparents

Finally, Bliss's hobbies include meowing loudly, trying to escape the house, bullying her children to steal their food, and engaging in massive love fests with Gregory. Momo loves to aggressively plop himself on Karen's lap for a nice rub, with very little consideration as to the state of her laptop or what else she might be trying to do. Rosie enjoys balancing like a tightrope walker on the railing for the indoor balcony, causing Karen to close her eyes and moan about "bad life choices". All of them greatly enhance our family in their own way and we love them dearly.

Momo and Rosie showing off their personalities

We're very grateful to have had such a wonderful 2017 and we're wishing all our friends and family a happy and healthy 2018!

Bonus picture: the Zelevinskys with an honorary family member

Previous years' sites: 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016

Have a great 2018!