Ohio Trip 2016

Summertime in Ohio is pretty awesome. This year the boys and I flew 15 hours there and back to get to spend about a month in Ohio with my family. We flew Taipei to Toronto, where we met my parents, and then drove 5ish hours to Cleveland. On the way there, the flight was easier than the drive. On the way back, the opposite was true -they gave me a very hard time on the flight back. Thankfully, we are back and well recovered from our jet-lag. Luke wasn’t able to come with us this time so we really missed him but the time really flew by.

We sure had a great month hanging out with everyone, celebrating Natalie’s 30th Birthday and Robby’s 2nd. My parents hosted a big, crazy family reunion and I got to see my lovely cousin, Jessica, and meet her husband and darling baby. We caught up with old friends, visited all the local playgrounds, ate a lot of ice cream, and went to the best ever Paw Patrol party (Robby’s Bday) complete with swimming after. Aunt Natalie was a huge help – babysitting the boys so I could go for a run or out for dinner with my parents. I also completed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Half Marathon which was a blast.  On the way back through to Toronto we stopped at Niagara Falls with the boys and then said a very sad goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa. Here’s a big photo dump of our trip. Enjoy!

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Summer in Ohio: Week 3

Our last few days in Ohio flew by. We had a lot to do including, shopping,

IMG_6180Catching up with old friends,

IMG_6207(I used to babysit for this guy below and his brother when he was Jude’s age!)

IMG_6172Bugging Grandpa at work,

IMG_6224And watching Sesame Street,

IMG_6220Our last night we all went out to dinner at our favorite pizza spot.

IMG_6230Jude was more interested in the desserts than the pizza.

IMG_6226We took the opportunity to take a pregnant sisters pic.

IMG_6232And one with all three sisters plus Mom.

IMG_6244Natalie helped out with Jude’s last bath,

IMG_6246And very early in the morning we said goodbye to Natalie at the airport as she made her way back to Seattle.

IMG_6260Mom, Dad, Jude and I got on a plane headed to San Francisco. Mom and Dad kindly decided to help me fly there with Jude, and also stay the weekend in San Fran (since it happened to be there wedding anniversary anyhow).

IMG_6261At SFO we tried to keep Jude from straying too far away by strapping on his monkey backpack (complete with a monkey tail leash).

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IMG_6272He was a little out of control on the leash so we opted for the stroller instead.

IMG_6276Jude and I had several hours before our next flight and Mom and Dad stayed with us and kept us company. SFO is a blessing to parents traveling with children. There are several play spaces throughout the airport. The one below called ‘Spirogyate’ had these cool black and white disks that would spin around and light up in different colors. Kids were going crazy over these things!

IMG_6285Another one we found had a cool caterpillar tunnel and other fun weather-related exhibitions.

IMG_6291Lightning!

IMG_6294Jude also enjoyed watching the planes,

IMG_6301And just hanging out with Grandma and Grandpa.

IMG_6297Before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye. As always, time goes way too fast!

IMG_6263Jude and I boarded our 13 hour flight to Taipei. With our flight over fresh in my mind, I was very, very nervous about this one!

IMG_6262This one turned out to be way better! It still wasn’t great, Jude definitely had a lot of crazy toddler moments, but this time he actually got more than one hour of sleep  – in fact, he got close to 6 hours! The big difference this flight was having an empty seat next to us and sitting in a row, rather than in the bulkhead seats. Jude could not get out and race up and down the aisles so easily.

IMG_6303We were also extremely lucky to have a nice woman next to us who was happy to let Jude sit on her lap and look out the window.

IMG_6304I get tired just thinking about flying with a toddler – it’s not easy! We had a great time away, back in the States with family, but it is great to be home again with Dada.

Summer in Ohio: Week 2

Our second week in Ohio has flown by. Jude has again spent most of the week outside.

IMG_4231He spent a lot of time down at the pond throwing rocks, blowing bubbles,

IMG_4236Watering plants with Grandma,

IMG_5975And wagon rides.

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IMG_6009In between these adventures we chat with Dada.

IMG_6196Boy, we sure miss him.  (He still gets lots of hugs and kisses through the phone).

IMG_6197Of course, it’s not all fun, play, and Facetime, Jude’s also been going into work and helping Grandma out.

IMG_6017The weather has been great so we were able to cook out one night.

IMG_4315Steak fajitas and corn were a real treat.

IMG_4316On Wednesday we got another treat- Aunt Natalie arrived! (And came bearing Elmo-themed gifts).

IMG_4332Things got a little crazy her first night in.

IMG_4335The next day we were up early and Jude and Nat spent some time catching up and cooking.

IMG_6044And then cleaning up after.

IMG_6049It’s been great having more helping hands around. At 29 weeks pregnant (!) it’s been nice to have a break to put my feet up, or fit in a work-out.

IMG_5974We’ve attempted taking Jude out to eat a few times and it’s always a challenge. He’s not really into sitting in high chairs these days and would prefer to sit on Grandpa’s lap and make a mess.

IMG_6033We found a place way better than any restaurant to take him – a splash park.

IMG_6052It’s a free, outdoor, splash water park, located not too far away. It’s the most amazing thing! Jude loved it!

IMG_6060Next to the splash park is a playground so we went up and down the slide after to dry off.

IMG_6061On Saturday we threw a little baby shower for Jen. We left Jude with Grandpa and went out for a bit of pampering.

IMG_4396We had pedicures,

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IMG_4395Back home we met back up with Grandpa and Jude and soon after Rob arrived. We showered the parents-to-be with presents.

IMG_6084And then had cake (which Grandpa and Jude were in charge of picking up earlier in the day. Note that it is a little lopsided due to a little incident where Grandpa claimed he had to choose between dropping the cake or dropping the baby…).

IMG_4399Come August these two will have a little baby boy!

IMG_4398And Grandma and Grandpa will have their second Grandson!

IMG_4397On Sunday we had another family gathering this time at Jen and Rob’s. They cooked a beautiful Italian feast in honor of my Grandma, who passed away last October. She was born on July 19, 1921, so we thought it was a fitting time to celebrate her life.

IMG_4402After dinner Jude took a spin around the yard in the wagon.

IMG_6125It’s been a great second week,

IMG_6127And we still have a few more days left here to play outside.

IMG_6103To be continued…

 

Summer in Ohio: Week 1

Just over a week ago, Jude and I packed our bags,

IMG_5650And said bye bye to Dada.

IMG_5684We flew together 11 hours from Taipei to San Francisco.

IMG_5686It was a long, exhausting journey but I knew it was the last time before baby #2 that I could fly solo with Jude. Thankfully my Mom met us in San Fran and helped us fly the rest of the way to Ohio. I could dedicate a whole post to flying along, with a toddler, 27 weeks pregnant.  It wasn’t easy but we survived.

IMG_5687Touching down in Ohio and seeing Grandpa was a great feeling. We made it. No more flying (until we return to Taipei on the 25th).

IMG_5721We spent the first few days hanging out around the house,

IMG_5748Catching up on all the sleep we missed out on.

IMG_5767We hit a local playground,

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IMG_5801Jude loves helping Grandma in the kitchen.

IMG_5806And with the clean-up after.

IMG_5929And watching cartoons on Grandpa’s giant TV.

IMG_5822We made a trip to Target for diapers and ran into Scout there.

IMG_5807And then in Grandma’s office we ran into St. Jude.

IMG_5834Jude’s not a big fan of shopping so thankfully a lot of the malls also have a kids play area.

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IMG_5943And a frozen yogurt store is never far away.

IMG_5855Grandma and Grandpa have been helping with mealtimes, diaper changes, and his nightly routine – which has been a nice break for me.

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IMG_5960We headed over to Aunt Jen’s and Uncle Rob’s one hot afternoon for a pool party.

IMG_5892They have a perfect little area in the pool where Jude could stand up and play in the fountains.

IMG_5894He got to venture out into the deep end in his float.

IMG_5881We had to lure him out of the pool with snacks.

IMG_5883Breakfast with Grandpa has been one of Jude’s favorite times of the day. Grandpa shares his fruit and cheerios.

IMG_5859We took a ride with Grandma one afternoon out to Fairport Harbor beach and played in the sand.

IMG_5912And a little bit in the surf.

IMG_5916He’s had lots of treats like McDonald’s,

IMG_5901Donuts,

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IMG_5946One of the best things has just been being outside in comfortable weather, running around in the grass – something he doesn’t get to do in Taipei.

IMG_5951It’s been a real treat for both of us.

IMG_5958To be continued…

 

 

 

The Rest Of Our Unexpected Trip

Despite being a very sad time, we tried to have some fun moments during our trip to the US.  Jude, perhaps, had the most fun in this wild contraption – ‘the Jumperoo’ – it played music, made animal noises, and kept our little guy very entertained.  He needed all the entertainment he could get as, after the funeral, I came down with some nasty bug – a super duper bad head cold which pretty much deemed me useless.

IMG_9076Thankfully there were plenty of people around to keep him entertained.

IMG_9179Jen dressed him up as Winny the Pooh,

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IMG_9171Before my sisters left to return to their respective States we managed to do one final outing to the pumpkin path. I was still feeling pretty crap but couldn’t pass up an opportunity to photograph Jude with giant pumpkins.

IMG_1759He wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about but went along with it anyway.

IMG_1784Such as good sport.

IMG_1793Even managed a smile.

IMG_1794I did too.

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We did a group shot to remember the occasion.

IMG_1829After Jen and Nat left, Mom and Dad pitched and helped out with Jude while I tried to rest and recover.

IMG_9182Jude would wake up at 6 or 7am and I would get to go right back to sleep thanks to them.

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When I was feeling a bit better we made a trip downtown to the Cleveland Zoo.

IMG_9252We did our best to show Jude all the animals but he wasn’t really all that interested.

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IMG_9246We made it an educational experience, too, by showing him just how small he is,

IMG_9266As well as how to ride an elephant (should he ever find himself in a situation where he needs to).

IMG_9295All of it made him pretty tired and he passed out before we got to the bears.

IMG_9324After the bears we came across a very scenic area of the park – perfect for father- daughter; and

IMG_9327mother-daughter photos.

IMG_9330The rest of the time we laid low – hung out at home watching ‘Elmo’s Song’

IMG_9240Sorting through old baby clothes my Mom saved,

IMG_9528And taking quick trips to Target to buy diapers.

IMG_2317We had just one night out to eat.

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The day before we flew I was feeling better but poor wee Jude had caught whatever it was I had.  So I stocked up on baby advil and such to help get him through the 18 hour journey. We said our goodbyes.

IMG_9367Despite being sick, Jude was a champ. He didn’t cry once on the trip home. He must have been excited for what was waiting for him at home…

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A Jumperoo!

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Goodbye Grandma

Jude and I just recently returned from an unplanned trip to the US. Just over a month ago my Grandma got pretty sick. Her kidneys began to fail and then everything else. She eventually passed away on the evening of Thursday, October 3rd. We arrived in Ohio on the day she passed, getting to see her one last time that afternoon.

Her funeral was held on the following Monday. My sisters, Jude, and I gathered with my Mom, Dad, and other close family members and friends to remember Grandma. During the church service I gave a eulogy and have copied it below in memory of my dear Grandma.

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Good morning. As probably most of you know, I am Melanie, one of Vincetta’s three granddaughters, and I wanted to say a few words today in memory of my Grandma and on behalf of my family.

Vincetta, Vinnie, V, Aunt V, Grandma, or Mom. We all knew her by something different but one thing is for certain she had an impact on all of our lives. And for me and my sisters being granddaughters meant our relationship with Grandma was based purely on love and on having fun.

When Jenny, Natalie, and myself were little we spent a lot of time with Grandma and Uncle Frank. Our parents used to drop us off at their apartment in Euclid where we would spend the night. I remember looking forward to these sleepovers knowing how much fun we would have. A sleepover at Grandmas almost always included a fashion show. After watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the Lottery, she would let each us dress up in one of her very fancy ball gowns, put on make-up, jewellery, powder, lipstick, and even a wig. We’d then parade around the living room pretending to be Vana White. Sleepovers also meant lots of good food. Grandma was an amazing cook and baker. Her signature dishes included rigatoni, fried cakes, and buns. For dessert her and Uncle Frank would always have individually wrapped apple pie from Convenient for each of us, they were loaded with and caked in sugar. In the morning Grandma would make each of us a cup of instant coffee. She justified it as okay to give children coffee by adding lots of milk and guess what? More sugar.

Later on Grandma and Uncle Frank moved to a condo in Mentor. They were closer to us so we got to see them more. My sisters and I have a lot of memories from this time. One thing that sticks with us all is the plastic yellow baseball bat they owned. The bat, most likely purchased from the dollar store, was meant to be used for protection. I can remember them hearing sirens drive by and they would both get all wide-eyed and Grandma would shout over to Uncle Frank to grab the bat and get ready. Grandma would instruct us all to stay quiet as Uncle Frank stood behind the door grasping the bat. Of course, nothing would come out of the event but we always stayed up a bit later and didn’t quite sleep as well on these occasions.

We especially remember driving around with them in Frank’s little red Ford Fiesta. Grandma in the front seat shouting instructions to Frank as he drove. Us three in the back, with the plastic yellow bat. We drove to a little store on Mentor Avenue where they stocked up on lottery tickets and candy bars.

Grandma was a great story-teller. During these visits my sisters and I would press Grandma to tell us one of her many stories over and over again. One of our favorites was about the man with three-legs who rode his bicycle around Euclid. The way she would tell these stories, with such conviction, made it seem as if she really, truly, believed what she would tell us.

We have so many great memories with Grandma and Uncle Frank when they lived in Mentor. They certainly weren’t your typical Grandparent figures but we loved their cooky and chaotic ways.

There was a terribly sad and confusing time Grandma went through after Uncle Frank died. He was her everything and I believe she felt absolutely helpless and lost without him.

So we stepped in and tried to fill that gap that was missing in her life without Frank. It was difficult and most of the burden fell on my parents. After Uncle Frank, they helped Grandma moved to and from various apartments in search of the perfect place. She always felt lonely and had a hard time being on her own, (a favorite quote of hers being, ‘get me out of this place’). So as a result she spend a lot of time at our house. We tried to keep the fun going with her by playing tricks on her, videotaping her as she read lyrics to rap songs, and even getting her to buy us and our underage friends beer when our parents were out-of-town. We knew we could trust Grandma with such a task as for those of you that knew her well knew she was a great liar.

After we moved out and onto college, the dependence Grandma had on my parents, especially my Mom increased. Grandma began calling my Mom over and over all day long and became obsessed with knowing where she was at all times of the day, as well as knowing when she was going to see her next. It’s hard to explain to anyone that doesn’t know just how many times she would call and how many messages she would leave. But a message wasn’t always enough to satisfy Grandma as she had a phone book and knew that if my Mom wasn’t home, she would be somewhere else around town. So she would call work and if she wasn’t at work she would start calling other places, like the mall. I distinctly remember being with my mom in K-Mart one afternoon when we heard over the loudspeaker, ‘Nancy Stokes, please report to customer service’.

Speaking of the mall, no speech about Grandma would be complete with out mentioning it, as she loved going there for the day to sit in the food court. She made many friends there, including with the cleaning lady, fast food workers, and other mall-goers. She continued to ask my Mom to take her up until weeks before she died.

Grandma was also a great animal lover. She especially loved our dog, Odie. After her daughter, Odie was always the second thing she would ask about when she called. ‘Where’s Odie, how’s Odie’? And she always, always had a bag of shredded chicken in her purse ready to feed Odie and our cats whenever she came over.

Despite her love of animals she wasn’t all that fond of babies but there was one, my son Jude, she couldn’t resist. She got to meet her great-grandson in July when we also celebrated her 92nd birthday.

Grandma was a determined person, which could sometimes be interpreted as stubborn. One great example of this is how she insisted on getting her driver’s license, even into her 90s, despite the fact she never, ever drove.

Before I end I want to talk for a minute about my Mom as she has been so incredibly amazing. As the years passed and Grandma’s demands grew. My Mom continued to meet them even if it meant having to sacrifice her own life. We would often encourage Mom to not to worry about Grandma or to skip a visit but she would never listen to us. She always always was there for Grandma and cared for her and helped her like only a loving daughter could. I truly admire my Mom for this. And I know that it will take time for my Mom to heal from this but I encourage her to remember that Grandma has a long, and very full life. She certainly lived longer than than I expected especially given the facts that she loved fast food, never exercised, was overweight, and has several serious health problems (including major back and brain surgery in the same year) and was never one to turn down a high-ball. Mom, Jen, and Nat, let’s hope these longevity genes were passed onto us.

Grandma may not have had all her fingers, nor all of her marbles at times, but that didn’t matter as she had a big generous heart toward her family and friends. I know she will miss us just as much as we miss her.

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Jude in the US (Part 3)

After 5 days in Arizona  we said goodbye to Natalie and flew to Ohio.

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One of the first things we did when we got there was buy Jude a car seat and

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his own special chair to sit in.

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Even with all the extra hands around there were times when we just couldn’t hold Jude. Plus, there are times when he just doesn’t want to be held.  So a baby chair is a necessity.

IMG_7780One of the next things we did was to bring Jude to meet my Grandma at her nursing home.

IMG_7737Jude slept through the initial meeting but Grandma didn’t mind -she had a great time just looking at him.

IMG_7746 When he finally did wake up she had even more fun.

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For the next few days we hung out around the house.

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Then on Thursday night  Jude had more visitors- Aunt Jen and Uncle Rob from Chicago.

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Rob came in for the weekend and Jen was staying for the week. Natalie also came to Ohio for the weekend as it also happened to be Grandma’s 92nd birthday so we were all going to celebrate that with her.

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So with everyone present we headed back to the nursing home to celebrate with cake and presents for Grandma.

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The weekend flew by and before we knew it we said goodbye to Rob and to Natalie. I made scones the morning Natalie flew out and we spent had some family time.

IMG_1835Our last week in the US was a blast. Here are some photos from the week:

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And then all of a sudden it was our last day. Jude took a big long nap before we headed to the airport.

IMG_8004We took a few final snaps before we left (including Jude’s first time laying in grass)

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IMG_8022Then we said bye-bye

IMG_8035And made our way to our plane

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It was a long, exhausting journey but Jude managed to find some smiles for Mr. Lion

IMG_8046And of course more smiles for this guy when we finally got home.  We sure missed him.

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Jude in the US (part 1)

Last month Jude and I embarked on a big adventure – his first overseas trip to the US.

IMG_7397Luke didn’t come with us as he had his own trip to make to New Zealand for a few days to attend his sister, Renee’s wedding.
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After we said a very rushed goodbye to Dad, Jude and I set off to check-in and then locate the breastfeeding rooms. Taipei airport has wonderfully quirky ‘Hello Kitty’ themed rooms. They are clean and full of all the amenities a Mother could hope for. IMG_7424After a feed we made our way to our gate. IMG_7425

We flew EVA Air as they go direct Taipei-LAX.

IMG_7430We were lucky enough to get a bassinet for Jude so he didn’t have to be on my lap the whole time.

IMG_7431The bassinet attached in front of my seat (there was someone next to me too). Our flight took off around 7pm, perfectly timed for Jude’s bedtime.

IMG_7441He slept like a champ over the 11 hour flight, waking up as he normally does to eat. And before we knew it we were in LAX and I was ordering a much needed coffee. We had one more flight to go – to Phoenix – where I was meeting my parents and sister. Natalie had just moved to Phoenix to start med school and was going to have her white coat ceremony so we were all there to attend.

IMG_7444And we made it!

IMG_7613We spent the first few days just hanging out.

IMG_7454Mom and Dad first met Jude when he was only two weeks old and this was Natalie’s first time meeting him.

IMG_7473It was nice for me to get some rest with all these babysitters around.  Jude had a great time – reading books,

IMG_7640making funny faces, and

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watching American TV.

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Before Christmas

Sometimes no matter how much you plan life doesn’t always follow that plan. Our trip to the USA was a great example of this.

I was due to fly out a week before Luke and meet my parents in Arizona for a short getaway but ended up having to miss it and re-schedule my flight due to something coming up here in Taipei. Once I finally made it, and Luke had joined me, we planned to spend a few nights in Chicago but snowstorms across the North East led to a number of flight disruptions and our flight was cancelled not once, but TWICE (even after we switched airlines and purchased a new ticket with an airline who hadn’t made any other cancellations). We spent 12 hours at the Cleveland Airport trying to get to Chicago. Had we known, renting a car and driving would have been the better option. The last thing to throw our plans up in the air happened on Christmas Day when my Grandma had to be rushed into the hospital. She had caught pneumonia before I arrived and on Christmas Day my Mom found her in a not so good state so had to bring her in. This meant that my parents spent all day at the hospital curtailing our original plans of visiting Grandma and then coming home in the afternoon for Christmas dinner and presents. Well, we still had dinner and presents but it all happened much later after my parents had returned from the hospital around 9pm. So it wasn’t the holiday we had planned for but we still had a great time just being together.

So I’ll recap my trip in three posts- Before Christmas, Christmas, and Baby Shower. And after I have finished those, I will do one on New Zealand (where I was for a week after the States).

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The week before Christmas was busy.

It was filled with visits with Grandma.

IMG_7519Playing patty cake with Grandma.

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A Cavs game.

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They lost but we still had a great time.

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IMG_7541A trip to the Farmparks to see a Christmas Light display and check out farm animals.

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The light display was so-so but this global warming snowman was pretty clever.

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Luke and I went to a sports park where he tried out baseball for the first time (and did awesome!).

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We also braved the cold and went snowshoeing a few times.IMG_7583

IMG_7591We balanced out all this activity with some eating, including:

Pie at Bakers Square:

IMG_3171And Arby’s Roast Beef sandwiches

IMG_3204Natalie and I also managed to find time to bake up an assortment of Christmas cookies:

IMG_3208And of course, we did a lot of Christmas shopping. And apart from the whole day we spent at Cleveland Hopkins Airport it was a great week.