Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Water, water everywhere

Our tradition for the last several years is to fly to Florida on Christmas Day to spend some time with the Brennan/Marino clan and soak up some December sunshine.

After a delicious and lively dinner at Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Mickey's, the first full day of our trip started out with rain but that didn't stop us - it was still warmer than Ohio!  Nancy and Chris, Grace's Godparents, took her to get her ears pierced.



Grace was very brave...she didn't even have one tear!  We love the rainbow flowers she chose as her very first pair of earrings.  Thanks, Aunt Nancy and Uncle Chris!

The rest of the trip was all about the water.  We went swimming in the pool every day for HOURS!

We watched the boats on the intracoastal waterway and looked for manatees.  The only sea creatures we saw there were jellyfish, though!

We took walks on the beach and found some great shells to bring back to our beach on the lake.

Friends from Ohio joined us on the beach for the day.  Grace, Madeline, and Jonah had a great time building sand castles, running in and out of the waves, and playing together.

Inspired by the boats and jet skis driving past the condo all day long, we decided to rent a jet ski in Boynton Beach.  That was so much fun.  Grace loved jumping the waves and going super fast!
It was a wet and wonderful vacation and a great way to end 2014.
Now that we are home we have a different type of "water" outside our windows....still pretty but much colder!

We are ready for 2015!  Happy New Year! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I guess we were on the "nice" list

Santa came....a day early since he knows we go to Florida on Christmas Day.

Grace woke us up at 7:45...she NEVER wakes up that early when we don't have to go to school/work. She was very excited to open her presents and to give presents to Kyle and me.  On the list this year were: a spy kit that came with a trenchcoat and night vision glasses, lots of Frozen stuff including Elsa, Anna, and Christoff dolls, an iPod touch, kinetic sand, and a wardrobe for her American Girl doll clothes.  Grace seemed pleased with what she got and played with most of it during the day before Kyle's family came for dinner.  Grace, Vaughan, and Elijah had fun with each other and they were especially cute showing off their magic tricks and playing Christmas carols on the keyboard.  I am so glad they have a close relationship!

Tomorrow we head south for some sunshine - I hope!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Making a difference one bike at a time

About 5 years ago the Stow soccer team got involved with a local non-profit organization called "Elves and More". Each December, this group made up of hundreds of volunteers build about 1,000 bikes which are then brought to a neighborhood known for poverty and open their trucks so every child gets a bike for Christmas.
Elves and More has been doing this work for the last 9 years. Kyle has been going for about 5 years with his soccer team and their parents. This year, they had a pretty big group.

Grace and I joined their group for the first time last winter. This photo from 2013 was on the Elves and More Facebook page taken by their professional photographer.
This is our second year going as a family.
Grace took this photo using my big camera.  Not bad!

On the bike build day you have to get up early and go to a cold, kind of dirty warehouse which looks like this when you first arrive. The boxes along the back store the bikes and the red cups are to collect the covers for the tire caps (where you inflate the tires).
Everyone hustles all morning building bikes, hauling boxes to be recycled, filling tires with air, and moving the bikes to the storage areas until the trucks come the following Saturday to pick them up and they are delivered the next day.  It is all kept very secret until the last possible minute.
Together, the volunteers built about 1,100 bikes this year. It is a great experience and a good chance to do something nice for the holidays.
Even though we don't get to see the children who receive the bikes (we think they are going to Canton, OH this year) we know we helped make a difference in someone's life.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hey, that's my hat!

My hat looks so much cuter on Grace! (She's wearing my gloves, too.)  Hmmmm.....

Saturday, December 13, 2014

All Aboard!

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad runs a "Polar Express" each winter between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We went a couple of times when Grace was really little but haven't gone the last few years.  Last year, she asked about it and I felt bad that I couldn't get tickets at that point since they always sell out.

Each Christmas we hang this photo on the refrigerator of our first Polar Express ride.
Grace wasn't too happy to meet Santa that year.  It was 2008 and she was about 1 1/2 years old.  We went that year and the next couple of years with Kellie and Dawson. Look how cute those two babies were!

And look at their little diapered, baby butts taking a peek over the seats.
This year I bought a membership to the CVSR so we didn't miss the opportunity to choose our night and the tickets we wanted.  The train leaves Akron's Northside Station for about a 30 minute drive to the "North Pole".  During the ride the elves lead the children in singing Christmas carols, the conductor punches their name in their ticket, and everyone enjoys some hot, hot chocolate and cookies.   When the train arrives at the North Pole riders are greeted by lots of Christmas lights, elves, Mr. and Mrs. Winter and their dog, and Santa and Mrs. Claus who drive by in their own little train and wave.  The woods past the town are even illuminated by the Aurora Borealis! No one gets off the train at any point and there wasn't any snow this year, but no one seemed to notice.
Grace was SO excited to go on the train ride and had a lot of energy during the trip.  It made Kyle and me really happy to see that innocent belief in the magic of Christmas.
She was much better with Santa this time....but, she has talked to him dozens of times since that first encounter in 2008.  And, Grace knows he will bring her presents if she is NICE!