California girls (and a groovy brother-in-law)

There were two tan, blond lil things of whom I am incredibly proud, running around our neck of the woods this week and just that simple fact made me so, so content. Add in their lovely mom, my sister, and their fun dad, and this PA gal was over the moon.

My sister Melinda has been bringing her California family out for annual visits to New Jersey and this year they decided to spend a large chunk of their East Coast stay with us. How awesome is my sister and how lucky are we?!?

We gave them the best mix of busy relaxation we could create and saw some new local sites ourselves. Melinda and Brad are great parents and wonderful people and they have raised two lovely girls who were equally happy swimming at the hotel pool as they were catching frogs, digging in the sand and testing out our local optical illusion, Gravity Hill.

It was a great few days and was so difficult to say goodbye. They said they had a fun time and we are already contemplating a trip to their part of the world in the near future.

A peek at their visit:

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Steve and Melaney, thank you

I am a sucker for weddings.
It doesn’t matter who it is, where it is, when it is or what’s going on in my life at the time.
It just matters that two people who think they are one another’s soulmate are getting up in front of all the people that matter most to them to promise a lifetime of “I love yous.”

But of all the weddings I’ve been to or participated in, I don’t know if anything can come close to the beautiful love that surrounded me this past weekend as my mom’s cousin Steve married his Melaney.

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It’s such a blessing to be surrounded by my mom’s family on a happy occasion. Our family has suffered a lot of setbacks and sadnesses recently, which made this special day even more memorable.

I had conversations with people I haven’t seen since I was in diapers; I became closer to those with whom I’ve lost touch; I smiled until my cheeks hurt and I held back happy tears until my throat was sore.

I watched as a room full of Steve and Melaney’s closest friends and family were each reminded not to take love for granted. My uncle held tight to his sweetie of forty-plus years as he nodded in agreement with the minister. I watched my great uncle cry tears of joy as his son walked down the aisle with his beautiful wife.

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There were windows on every side of the room we were in overlooking the beach and boardwalk at the Jersey Shore were I spent many a summer day.

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There were babies of all ages and sizes being passed around, often times the same two or three culprits stealing them away a bit longer (which I loved).

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There was dancing and singing and hugging and kissing.

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And did I mention a certain handsome ring bearer who did his best to push his car down the aisle (He was eventually pushed on his car, but did fantastic nonetheless)? How special that Melaney asked that we show off our little man on her special day. And Addison joined her cousin April as the loveliest, littlest flower girls.

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We spent several hours with another part of the family on Sunday and I continued to count my blessings. So many of us cousins gathered in one spot — new girlfriends, upcoming weddings and babies. We’re growing up but still so close. I love watching their parents interact, too.

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I’m a sucker for weddings, yes, but perhaps I’m even a greater sucker for family.

I felt every emotion in the course of three days.

Stress, anxiety and impatience in the hours and minutes leading up to our departure.
Gradual peace and contentment on an uneventful five-hour ride.
Excitement and more impatience as family members were spotted in a hotel and busting-at-the-seems joy when seven or so of us scrambled in a squished hotel room to ogle at little Addison in her first family appearance.

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Pride at the camera flashes going off in her direction, comments about how big, how sweet, how beautiful, how strong.
Relief at Zachary enjoying a swim in the hotel pool with his dad — how brave he’s getting, how strong he’s getting, too.

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Delight at easy, interesting conversations over a delicious dinner.

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And then Saturday, the Day of Love. I felt such love. For my best friend who shared a special day with me nearly three years ago; for not one but TWO amazing children that I loved watching being held by the people who once rocked me and soothed me at family gatherings from another generation. For my aunt, my uncle, the links to my mother, the incredible conversations and memories we created in a restaurant at the shore. For my mother, Uncle Paul, grandparents and so many others who were not there in any physical form but who I hoped were watching with the best view and probably the best perspective, too. Boy, did I feel their absence.

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And the love between Steve and Melaney. I cannot begin to thank them for reminding me of the value of love and to never take it for granted.

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I hated to see the weekend coming to an end, to say goodbyes that will hopefully be much closer to the next hello than they have been in the past.

I’m rejuvenated, refreshed, relaxed and so, so lucky.

It was a beautiful weekend.

My sister Melinda and her family are going to start their three-day PA adventure today and I cannot wait to see them. My nieces are beautiful, pleasant, smart and so sweet. They are spending half of their Jersey visit just to see us and our little world and again, the wave of happy emotions takes over again.

Enjoy your day! And tell your Valentine you love them. 🙂

Chochie sings to Addie

Melaney’s got a funny Valentine

The last seven days

I don’t like how quickly the weeks are going, but I am loving how each one becomes more fulfilling and more special.

We are just moments away from leaving in our packed-to-the-max car for five hours of Blues Clues and snacks being stretched from front seat fingertips to backseat hungry tummies for a wedding weekend with loved ones.

We wish you a great weekend. For now, our Happy Thought moments of this week…

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The force of July love

We were the most patriotic lil gang we could be yesterday for Independence Day. When you have two little ones, you have to pat yourself on the back when you remember to dress the kiddos in red, white and blue. Mommy success!

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Aside from the blue-and-white polka dots and American flag T- shirt, we had grilled goodies, games, a trip to the local fair, a couple of innings at a Little League baseball game and ice cream at our little nearby dairy.

But the best part? Sharing it all with Cousin Dan and his lovely lady, Dorothy. We love them for a million different reasons, but perhaps most of all for how fun they are and how they’re always up for anything, from making a cat head out of the fur they find from petting one of the cats to spending their holiday with our little family.

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We had a lot of laughs and so, so much fun, celebrating America’s independence and our dependence and need for the bonds of family and love.

The best summer of my life continues…

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Homeland

Our first of two back-to-back weekends in Jersey with the two lil ones could not have gone much better.

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The kids both handled the four-hour trip so well, with us only stopping once on the way out for food and diaper changes and once on the way home so Daddy could pee. (he’s worse than the kids!)

Their schedule was a bit off and the Little Man gained a new tooth, but their smiles never faded.

We spent most of Saturday passing babies back and forth and chatting in the sunshine of my Dad’s blue-painted back deck. As heart-warming as it is to hear Janet’s soft Nana Voice and watch my Dad admire his youngest grandchildren with bursting-at-the-seams pride, introducing Addie to a few special people made any potential screaming in the car more than worth it.

My Aunt Alice immediately fell in love with her great-niece; I saw it in her eyes.

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And gathering three children between myself and my oldest friend, Allison, was a really special moment. Her son Michael as this huge, gorgeous smile. Watching her with her son, I replayed so many of the moments we’ve shared in 20-plus years… From Girl Scouts to high school track meets, weddings and bridesmaids and a few stories we will never tell the kids.

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And getting to show off both of my children to my grandparents who are not doing so well was incredibly bittersweet.

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I was so calm, so happy, so relaxed among all our loved ones. I loved hearing my Dad’s same old stories and having snippets of Girl Talk here and there. I loved seeing how big my niece and nephew have gotten, remembering how I once held both of them in my arms when they were Addie’s size.

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I watched Scott in his patient ways helping Zack move down the stairs over and over and over and listened as he talked to his baby girl early in the morning.

It was a great weekend and a nice, comforting warm-up for next week’s slightly longer trip to southern Jersey for more family and many, many more memories.

There really is no place like home…

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