Trip

Friday fun

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Trip on December 21st, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Friday was a fun day in between Thanksgiving and the Christmas celebration. There was plenty of time for some family fun.

It may have been November, but we still got out on the lake for a boat ride. The kids immediately found a seat in the back.

Boat ride

Selfie

JJ managed to fall asleep in his seat on the boat. That can’t be comfortable.

Nap time

Since we would not be together at Christmas, we exchanged gifts with Uncle J, Aunt ‘Chelle, Emmie, and JJ. Leah might have been excited about this clay charm-making kit.

Presents

Whoah

Tennis skirt

Of course, there were Shopkins.

Shopkins

Aunt ‘Chelle had a fun nighttime activity. Put glow bracelets in water bottles, and use them for bowling pins. Molly got almost all of them on this roll.

Night bowling

Nice toss, Leah.

Night bowling

She also set up a ring toss. Leah’s aiming perfectly with this toss flying through the air.

Ring toss

By Friday evening the place was getting pretty full. Almost everyone had arrived, and that meant for a very crowded dinner table. The three brothers took up positions together at the end of the table (though they did not supply us with pizza).

Three brothers

All this is still preliminaries, though. The main event was still to come on Saturday.

Thanksgiving day

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Trip on December 20th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For Thanksgiving day, we were joined by lots more family. It was a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal, since a more traditional meal was already planned for Saturday.

Thanksgiving

Other half of the table

After leaving the cold of Maryland, we really enjoyed temperatures in the 60s in Alabama. The girls had a bunch of fun on Uncle J’s truck.

Outdoor play

Who needs fancy toys when you’ve got a bunch of rocks.

Rocks

JJ loved playing in the rocks as well.

More rocks

JJ’s still in the rocks, but Leah’s stealing the picture showing off her dance moves.

Leah photobomb

Emmie was rocking out to the music. An empty cream soda bottle makes a great microphone.

Rocker

Sisters, best friends, by a lake.

Sisters

It was too dry to make an outdoor fire, but that didn’t stop us from making s’mores.

Marshmallows

Happy Thanksgiving!

Southern Thanksgiving

Posted in Celebrations, Family visits, Trip on December 19th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Every year, Jen’s extended family (meaning all the way out to second cousins of hers) gathers for a Christmas celebration. Occasionally, this celebration has happened around Thanksgiving. This year, they decided to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend at the family lake house. So, we flew down the Tuesday before Thanksgiving for some family time.

The crowd at the lake house grew over time. Our first night, it was just G’Mom, Grampa, Aunt ‘Chelle, Uncle J, Emmie, JJ, and us. It was great to be together the next day, as it was G’Mom’s birthday. So, her brother came to visit for lunch.

Family lunch

Emmie showed off her skills and gave us a violin concert.

Violin concert

Molly didn’t have her viola to play, so she borrowed Emmie’s violin. I was amazed that she played it very well. The strings of a viola are shifted lower than a violin, so she just played songs on strings in different positions from what she was used to without any trouble. I know I couldn’t pull that off on a guitar.

Different instrument, no problem

Then it was time for some birthday presents.

Happy birthday G'Mom

Presents

Presents

Jen made G’Mom a delicious pumpkin gooey cake in lieu of a birthday cake to celebrate.

Birthday cake-ish

Happy birthday, G’Mom! So glad we got to celebrate with you.

US Open trip

Posted in Family outings, Sports, Trip on September 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

For many years, I’ve wanted to go up to New York to the US Open, but I’ve never actually made it happen. It’s usually the first two weeks of school, and there’s a lot going on around home. Not to mention that it’s expensive. But this year was going to be different. Since Leah has now really gotten into tennis, I figured I had at least one other person who’d be really excited about it. So, I decided I was going to make it happen this year. Or at least try really hard.

Because of school, the only time we could go was Labor Day weekend (the middle weekend of the tournament). This is the worst time to go, as it’s the most crowded and the tickets are more expensive (supply and demand). I’m a USTA member, which meant I could get early access to ticket sales. But, the day they became available, there were already very few tickets available and they were very expensive. Hotels were also expensive. So I waited and kept checking. Things did not improve.

Eventually I came up with an alternate plan - just go for one day. That would mean only buying tickets for one day, and no hotel stay. And, in reality, I’m not sure the rest of the family would be up for multiple full days at the tournament. I also decided to wait till the last minute to purchase tickets in the hopes that prices would drop as sellers tried to unload them.

My plan ended up working well. I bought tickets from Ticket Liquidator on Saturday to see the tournament on Sunday. They were even tickets with reserved seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, not just grounds passes. Then we woke up early and left our house at 7:45 to drive up to New York. It took a bit under four hours of driving, then an hour to get parked, shuttled, and in the tournament.

Our first stop was to see Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad (unseeded Americans) play doubles against Tímea Babos and Yaroslava Shvedova (the number 3 seed). They were playing on court 11, which is a great court. We sat in the stands, though we later returned to court 11 for a different match and sat on the other side right next to the court.

US Open

The Americans lost the first set 6-0, but came back to win the next two sets 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the quarterfinals.

Townsend forehand

We then found our seats in the giant Arthur Ashe Stadium to see American Madison Keys (#9 in the world) play former #1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Arthur Ashe Stadium

Madison's serve

The girls loved being in the stadium, despite the fact that our seats were way up high.

Tennis girls

Madison Keys lost sadly. The next match up on Ashe was the headline match of the afternoon featuring Raphael Nadal. The girls wanted to stay and watch it, but I really wanted to explore the grounds a bit. I assured them that we had plenty of time to see Nadal play, though, as his matches lasted forever. So, we exited the stadium to see if we could catch some tennis action a bit closer up.

When wandering around the grounds, Jen saw this couch made of tennis balls. She knew we had to get a picture on it.

Tennis ball couch

We then headed back to court 11 to see Bethany Mattek-Sands and Lucie Šafářová take on Karolína Plíšková and Julia Görges. This time, we sat on the opposite side right next to the court. I joked with Molly that we could reach out and grab their racquets we were so close (we did not do that, though).

Courtside

Lucie Šafářová gets seriously high in the air on this forehand.

Safarova forehand

It felt like Bethany Mattek-Sands might run into me as she ran for this backhand.

Incoming

Bethany Mattek-Sands ripped this forehand.

Mattek-Sands forehand

They pulled off the comeback upset, winning 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 and advancing to the quarterfinals where they faced the other Americans we had seen earlier in the day. Mattel-Sands and Šafářová won that as well, and ended up winning the whole tournament. They were awesome to watch, and I was glad to see them have so much success.

They won!

We then headed back to our seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, where Raphael Nadal was playing Lucas Pouille. Despite being out of the stadium for almost two hours, we only missed the first set of that match. As Nadal often has epic matches, I was sure there would be more more to see. He did not disappoint us.

Epic match

Lucas Pouille really impressed me (and the rest of the world). He’s now my favorite up-and-coming player. He had a ton of heart, and never gave up. It also helps that his playing style is quite similar to mine, and he plays with the same racquet as me. It makes it easy to identify with him.

Pouille serve

Here’s Nadal’s famous forehand.

Nadal forehand

This match lasted a long time, but the stadium remained mostly packed throughout despite that. This panorama also gives you an idea of just how high up our seats were.

Packed stadium

Here, Nadal is about to serve the final point, and the match clock stands at 4 hours and 7 minutes. It was a seriously long match (the longest of the tournament). During the 5th set, Molly and Jen were ready to leave and beat traffic. Leah and I, however, would not consider leaving such a great match before it finished.

Really long match

Pouille pulled off an incredible upset, defeating Nadal 8-6 in the fifth set tie-breaker. Sadly, he went on to lose his next match to fellow Frenchman Gaël Monfils.

Upset

Then we bought some T-shirts and headed to our car. Thanks to folks arriving for the evening session, folks leaving from the day session, and folks arriving for a New York Mets game (the stadium is next door), getting out of the parking lot was a pain. It took us about an hour, and then we drove home. Leah was asleep before we got out of the parking lot, but Molly stayed awake until we were on the New Jersey Turnpike. We ended up getting home at 1:22am, ending a very long and very fun day. I’m tired again just writing about it.

Closing ceremonies

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 13th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Sunday we had some relaxing time in the lake house before cleaning up and heading to the airport. Naturally, the girls organized a coronation. Here come the princesses.

Coronation

Queen Molly and King Rhino crowned the two princesses.

Coronation

The entire royal family, including Great Queen G’Mom and Prince JJ as well.

Royal family

Later, we had some family music time. Here’s Uncle J on guitar, Emmie on violin, Leah on bongos, Jen and Molly on shakers, and JJ on harmonica.

Family music

And then we headed home to Maryland. Thanks for all the water fun!

Last day of water fun

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 12th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Saturday was our last full day to enjoy the water, so we made sure to take advantage. But first, some dry fun - Bingo!

Bingo

And then we were back on the tube. JJ showed that he didn’t need to use his hands.

No hands

After riding with JJ, Uncle J got to ride on the tube with Leah as well.

With Uncle J

Leah caught some air.

Flying around

Hold on tight.

In the span of 3 days, Emmie went from fear to fun on the tube. Two days before this I never would have thought she’d have such a grin. And yes, Uncle J got to ride for a third time in a row, ensuring maximum tiredness.

Big grin

Then it was Molly’s turn to get sprayed in the face with water.

Splash

No hands!

No hands

Not sure if she’s sticking her tongue out at me or tasting the lake water (yuck).

Tongue out

The kids started practicing rolling off the side at the end of their ride. Here goes Molly.

Roll off

G’Mom even got on the tube. She had a great time.

G'Mom too

No hands

Fun tubing

It wasn’t all grins; sometimes things got serious.

Serious tuber

We then had our second great uncle/aunt visit. Great Uncle Rick and Great Aunt Roxanne dropped in to hang out.

Another great visit

Saturday afternoon when we went to get in the ski boat, the kids noticed a snake in the fishing boat. None of us were sure if it was dangerous or what to do about it. Uncle J went and got his hunting rifle (not sure what he was going to do with it). Then our neighbor walked over and picked it up. He said it wasn’t poisonous, and he clearly knew how to handle snakes properly. The kids even all petted it once he had it. It’s good to have someone around who knows about snakes.

Snake in a boat

Saturday afternoon we took the boat out to some swimming destinations. Here are the four of us having fun in the water. We also checked out the rope swing, though it was too high for any of our kids at this point.

Swimming

We also went to swim at the rock. There’s a very high (maybe 30 feet) ledge, and a somewhat lower (10-12 feet) ledge. We figured we’d just watch, but then Emmie surprised us all and started climbing up. Molly quickly followed behind. After seeing another adult climb up to assist a kid who got scared, Uncle J and I figured we’d be climbing up soon. But we were wrong. They jumped on their own and loved it. Then they climbed up to do it again, this time joined by Leah. All 3 girls jumped a bunch of times.

The rock

We all slept well that night.

Skis, tubes, and sweet treats

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 11th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Friday afternoon at the lake gave me the opportunity to have some water sport fun. The kids sacrificed a few minutes of tubing so I could ski. First, though, we had to make preparations. It’s important to put weight in the front of the boat when it’s pulling someone, especially an adult man on a single slalom ski.

Front of the boat

I wasn’t sure how I’d do, but I managed to get up on 1 ski easily, and felt right at home.

Skiing

Out wide

Cutting across the wake

Then it was back to the tube. Molly picked up right where she left off.

Still having fun

And she caught some air.

Catching some air

In the air

Most people might close their mouth when the spray is hitting them in the face, but not Molly. She can’t stop smiling.

Fun spray

I joined Leah on the tube again.

Me and Leah

Emmie was warming to the idea of tubing, especially since she got to go with her dad.

Again

And she even smiled.

Smiling

Uncle J taught JJ some tubing moves.

Hands up

After tubing, we got some visitors. Great Uncle Ted and Great Aunt Jeannie joined us for a bit.

Great visit

And after dinner it was time for some sweet treats. Uncle J made a fire so we could make s’mores.

S'mores

They were shockingly good.

Shockingly good

Emmie preferred the technique where you light your marshmallow on fire, then blow it out after the outside is nicely blackened.

Crispy

Roasting

I like this picture of Molly, Uncle J, and the fire. So serene.

Roasting marshmallows

JJ liked the picture too, and decided to insert himself into it.

Photobomb

Photobombs are hilarious

Photobomb face

Friday morning fun

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 10th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

While at the lake, some people (e.g. Grampa and Uncle J) would get up early to go fishing. Jen and I are not those people. Friday morning, the kids woke up and wanted to join in the fishing. Unfortunately the girls clothes were in our room. So, instead of waking us, they just went fishing in their night gowns.

Pajama fishing

Fish for JJ

Fishing with Grampa

Caught one

Once everyone was up and dressed, we made sure to get a family picture of all of us, complete with Lay Lake in the background.

Family picture

And here’s the four of us.

The four of us

Grandparents and their grandkids.

Grands

After taking a nice picture, can you believe they did this.

Gross

Then Jen and I took an intimate picture of the two of us. And Jeremy.

Third wheel

First time tubing

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 9th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Our first morning at the lake house, we woke up ready for some water sport fun. The girls were excited to try out tubing for the first time, but they had a little time to kill while we got everything together to head out on the ski boat. So, they borrowed Emmie and JJ’s fishing rods to try it for a couple of minutes.

Fishing

Fishing

Soon afterward, we headed out in the boat for some tubing. Since our girls had never seen tubing before, JJ and Aunt ‘Chelle showed them how it’s done.

Tubing

After watching JJ, Molly was ready to go. She elected to go with Aunt ‘Chelle as well to learn from her tubing experience.

Molly tubing

I went with Leah for her first time tubing. She loved it. She kept telling Uncle J to go faster. I eventually had to tell her the boat wasn’t going to go any faster.

Leah tubing

Emmie has tubed before, but is still trepidatious about it. She went anyway, and stayed on longer than she normally does. She said she was just doing it for her cousins :)

Emmie tubing

Molly loved tubing, and was excited to get a second turn by herself once Emmie was done. She smiled the whole way.

Again

Wow

Fun

Tongue

This is awesome

Grampa even got on the tube. Leah showed him how to do it.

With Grampa

Leah and Grampa had to hold on tight.

Rough ride

Crash down

Tubing is fun!

Tubing is fun!

Another lake

Posted in Family visits, Trip on August 8th, 2016 by c-had – Be the first to comment

We had 10 days at home, before heading to another lake - this time with Jen’s family. We flew to Alabama to see everyone and the family’s newly remodeled lake house (which we had not been to since 2007).

Our adventure started early with a 7:40am flight to Birmingham. Grams was kind enough to pick us up at 5:30am to bring us to the airport. With the time change, we landed before 9:00am in Alabama, giving us a full day there.

We first went to Aunt ‘Chelle’s house to hang out and play for a bit, as well as eat some lunch. Then we headed to visit Grandma Dot.

Visiting Grandma Dot

Despite living several states away, our girls and their cousins did the same VBS, so they learned the same songs and dance moves. They put on a performance for Grandma Dot.

Vocal performance

After visiting Grandma Dot, we stopped by G’Mom’s cousin Ann’s house to check out her doll room. Ann has been very kind to our girls over the years, giving Molly her beloved American Girl Molly doll and lots of great doll stuff for both girls. Here, we got to see where she worked.

Doll room

Then we headed to the lake house. After getting there and checking the place out, it didn’t take long before we were on the water. We took out the party boat (a pontoon boat) for a nice ride around the lake.

Molly on a boat

Boat ride

All the kids got a turn helping Grampa drive the boat.

Driving the boat

Driving the boat

Driving the boat

Driving the boat

And what’s a boat ride without snacks?

Snacks

After dinner, we were very happy to get to bed. It was a very long day.