Archives: Family

Photo Drop

Photo Drop

It is always a pleasure to go back home, speak my native language, savor the flavors I grew up with and admire the mountains. This time around it was very hard to leave, yet I felt content to have found so many of my loved ones smiling about their lives.

My mom and her husband Tommy laugh as they correct each other about insignificant details about je ne sais quoi, no one wins, they laugh, hold hands and move on. Their life just flows, adorned with smiles, orchids, tangerine trees and love.

Manuel and Antonio, my adorable little brothers, spend their summer playing together. Arguments come up and instead of dwelling on insignificant details, like they used to, they move on and continue to play. They are becoming friends and an incredible company to each other.

My dad sits in a gorgeous, two century year-old and recently renovated watermill / guesthouse that he and his wife Caro have been working on for two years. All four of his kids play with his granddaughter on the floor, while he sits back with Caro in his arms. His constant smile tells the whole story.

My beautiful sister, Bernarda, kisses her boyfriend in front of my grandma – she is in love. A ping pong table welcomes you when you enter their apartment, she has obviously found her soulmate.

My friends have started new jobs, most of them love what they are doing. Some wish they could retire in the next month, yet no one seemed to be terribly unhappy with their situation. They have each other, weekends for out-of-town trips and a lot of laughing material that could cheer up even the bitterest of souls.

This trip we also got to see many of my cousins, who I had not seen in ages. They too, seemed to be pretty at peace with their life.

As we travelled around Ecuador, I held in my hand a very precious book that had been in my reading list for over 2 years, but which I had not gotten around to buying – Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn.

This book narrates the stories of victims to some of the biggest gender-related injustices in the world, child prostitution and trafficking, honor killings, child marriage, Female Genital Cutting and infanticide. As I soaked in Kristof and Wudunn’s stories, I looked at my country with different eyes. I smiled as I saw women out and about, working, going to the market, handling money, dressed like they want and although there is much to do in Ecuador towards gender equality, I was glad to reflect on the fact that we are not doing too bad – in relation to many countries.

(Mami, no te tome ninguna foto con Milushkin… :( q tontera! )

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Personal Space – Ecuador +photodrop

Personal Space – Ecuador +photodrop

The hugs, kisses, smiles, the touching and the handholding is what makes me homesick the most. The casual personal conversations, the slang, smell, diversity, the music, mess and the mountains. It is easy to forget, when back in the US, that I indeed come from a different culture, a different part of the world and a contrasting reality to the one I now live in. I am blessed and endlessly thankful that I often get to come back to my country and share this world with Jaxon and Mila, for describing its magic would never do its justice. I am so proud and happy to be Latina.

We step out of our plane and it only takes us 30 steps to encounter an eager Ecuadorean who is ready to stroke Mila’s cheek. Mila turns her face around. We arrive to my mom and Tommy’s home and everyone in the house is ready to hold Mila, I warn them that she might not be happy and not to take it personally, she cries, they smile. My mom looks at me and says, “she must and will get used to it” and my crying baby is taken away. For many, this would be a terrifying story, nonetheless in Latin America this is what we do. Babies, for the most part, are considered a community investment and a happiness provider. So, indeed everyone has valuable advice and all hands must hold the chubby baby and steal a smile. For the first day Mila struggles, for in the US it is not often that her personal space is invaded. I love it. In my country, I must fight to have time with my baby, for if it was up to the people surrounding us she would always be playing somewhere else.

Apart from the invasive love, my mom’s endless hugs and the deep conversations Jax and I hold with our friend Adriana, who works as a maid in the house, we have been soaking in as much of the food, World Cup matches, family and relaxing as we possibly can. This week, we will be spending with my mom, Tommy, Berni, tio Soki, the dentist and Quito friends. Friday, we pack up and head to Zuleta to spend a week with my dad, Caro, my little brothers, wild condors and lots of Zuleta friends. Next Friday we will be coming back to Quito to say our goodbyes, before we fly out Saturday.

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My sister’s beautiful family!IMG_2269IMG_2277

Last Photo – Credit: Dani Perez

9 months

9 months

18 months ago you were merely a bunch of cells defining and dividing. Now, you love broccoli, think crawling is a complete waste of your time, babble papa all day and mama when sad and consider Yana, our dog, pretty much your best friend – the love is mutual. In those 18 months, mom and dad’s hair has grown some inches, we have put on and shed some pounds and have cut our nails various times. You dear, have gone from measuring nothing, to 30 long inches, from not having any bones to showing 8 1/2 proud teeth and gained 27 healthy pounds. Every day, we are awed by human development and completely terrified by the fact that regardless of how much we wish you stayed a baby forever, you keep growing.

At night, you have daddy’s curls and by day, mom’s wavy hair. Your eyes could be blue, grey or green, no one seems to know. Our best guess baby girl, is that like the mood of the earth, your eyes will change depending on the reflection of the sky. Your skin is light, so light I got in an argument with a Swedish woman at the book store who did not believe me when I assured her that you were not Swedish, but Latina. Every time you wake up rested, you smile – your teeth are so darn cute I cant help but to laugh – even at 3am. I hope you smile every time you wake up, forever.

Mom and dad have been thinking of an addition to our life, for we would love for you to have a buddy for our adventures. But it is hard to imagine any baby that is not you in our life.

I wish my memory stored every second of your life in my brain. How you smear avocado all over your face, how you eat grated cheese by the handful, how you hold your feet and squeak an assortment of sounds or how you patiently stroke mom and dad’s face until we wake up in the morning.

We are often asked what it is like to be parents. Our response always is that no one in their right state of mind would do it, we really believe it, for to love so unconditionally has to be the hardest, but also most rewarding thing we will ever do.

Happy 9 months on this earth chiquitita.

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My first mother’s day

My first mother’s day

My first mother’s day was absolutely perfect! We celebrated a day early, for the forecast was suppose to be much better Saturday than Sunday. It started out with the most incredible surprise ever (actually two)! Mila, while we were sleeping, logged into Amazon and bought me a Canon 5d Mark II (the best camera in the world! And one that I’ve been salivating over for more than 3 years – how she knew that is a mystery). She made sure to get me a used one in good condition so that I would not be totally intimidated to walk out the door with it. Jaxon’s surprise was taking the recycling and trash down to the curb, even before I woke up – crazy talk.

Then we followed our weekend ritual, walking to the beach (8 blocks away). On block two we made our usual stop and got two large Soy Chai Lattes and two ginger and peach scones – to make sure any calorie burned is quickly regained. Jax walked the pups and I pushed princess Mila in her carriage. In about 15 minutes we were faced with the immensity of lake Michigan; runners, bikers, moms, dads, sailboats and A LOT of dogs. As we strolled by, for the first time, we noticed that the end of our street is home to a off-leash dog beach! Yaku and Yana were so ecstatic that they did not even mind all the tiny edible dogs that surrounded them.

After our walk, we joined our very good friends Aaron, Delna and their 1/3 baby for tapas, followed by a trip to the local garden center (Gethsemane Garden Center), where we got tomatoes, lemon verbena and peppers. Our evening was relaxing, Mila hit the pillow around 6:30 and we talked, drank wine and gazed at the stars.

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To my mom

To my mom

In my life my mom, Maria Margarita de todas la más bonita, has taught me -

How to look at any object, wall and space like an open canvas craving to be made beautiful.
How to sit in a table lined up with complex layers of dishware and not get sweaty palms.
How to make orchids survive indoors.

She has shown me -

That any food can be made into an unforgettable meal with just a little tasting and instinct following.
That nothing gets better than a mom’s warm hug.
That what people say sometimes is better off left ignored.

She has prepared me -

To be open about my feelings.
To not feel completely ready to start my day before, making my bed, brushing my teeth and picking up my mess.
To always think about the other person’s feelings before saying too much.

My list could go on, for in my life I see a lot of my mom in me. And as I pull different skills to live life out of the memories and facts my mom bestowed on me, there is one that in this mother’s day is incredibly present.

Mom’s are not born with a manual.

If I could get a penny for every time my mom told me that during my life, I would probably be able to buy a delicious vanilla/chocolate sunday with dripping caramel and chocolate sauce, covered with almonds. It is now that I have my own darling, that I can constantly fall back on that phrase and relax, for there is nothing that could have prepared me for being a mother (other than my own mom).

On this mother’s day, I wish my mom -

A day full of rainbows, unicorns and great food.
A smile from the man she loves, followed by a passionate kiss.
And that your heart stops to feel all the love that Mila and I feel for you.

(On a material side note – your gift will arrive with the mailman shortly)

Thank you for being in our lives.
Thank you for calling every day.
And thank you for being so soft.

Te amamos -

Milushkin (La Reina de la Abuela) & Caye

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Once upon a time

Once upon a time

There is really nothing quite like the smell of summer. The lightness of the air carries away any concerns that occupy my mind, the breeze is so gentle, it embraces my body and for a moment it feels like my skin and the air are one. In this silky world, I can’t help to be swept away into memories of the Dominican Republic when I was a kid. The sound of leaves dancing in the wind, turn into waves splashing in the shore. I look around and my sister holds my hand, while we play in the sand and eat fresh mangoes. My skin is covered with Coopertone Babies sun block, a smell that still make my favorite’s list every time I walk by someone wearing it. In the background my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles chat while they enjoy fresh oysters with lime and ketchup, brought by a local vendor. We are all in Sosua’s clear waters and long, white, sandy beach.

Life is simple. All I have to ponder on is whether I would like to swim or lay in the sand. At night I’ll be exhausted and after a grilling of seafood for dinner, Coca-Cola ice cubes for dessert and a good shower. I’ll be surrounded by posters of sailboats drifting away into a land of dreams.

It had been a while since I last thought about my childhood in the DR. So many sweet memories, I spent the evening telling Jaxon everything I could think about. My cousins and their beautiful houses, my grandparents old house, their pool, the dog, the ice cream, but most importantly the feeling of being a blend of air, coconut, mango and love.

That’s the feeling I want us to live in, I tell him. While I dream of our beach home, back in the island of love – Dominicana.

Chicago has finally welcomed summer! Below, some life shots -

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My Parents in Law

My Parents in Law

I can truly say I have the coolest parents in law. Although bragging about ones in-laws is not common a thing, I have a lot to say about mine. For starters, they raised up Jaxon. So with no further corniness, you can all assume they did the most incredible job raising my husband. I can also go on about what incredible in-laws they are, but I am not here to write about that. I have gathered my thoughts today to tell you about their home, their lifestyle and their skills.

Luckily for Jaxon, his parents and most of their friends would indeed survive a climate (or zombie) apocalypses. Unfortunately for them, Jax, Mila and I would probably not survive it – this is why. Mark and Ellen, the in laws, make everything from scratch. In their pantry I can find ball jar after ball jar of preserved – beans, pickles, tomatoes, peppers, crabapples, blueberry jam, raspberry jam, blackberry jam, apple juice, rhubarb juice, they even have raspberry liquor, wine and apple cider they have fermented!

The treasure-pantry’s door has about 130 spice jars, most of them containing dried herbs that once thrived in the soil outside their house. Just a couple steps away from the survival-pantry-stash I run into, coffee, granola and roasted nuts all made by them. That’s right, every Sunday Mark roasts green coffee, granola and nuts, in a beautiful brick / stone wood fired oven they built,  right after he makes about eight loafs of sour dough bread. I can truly go on and on stroking their ego and keep making myself feel a bit useless (by a bit, I mean a very) – nonetheless, I will not stop and mention a couple more things because they truly deserve some paragraphs. If you open their freezer at this time of the year (early Spring) you would find frozen pesto, peas, strawberries, rasberries, blueberries, corn, beans, among other veggies that came straight from their garden.

As I sit and type this, I am resting in a couch they built, a couch that lays in the living room of the house they built about 30 year ago. That is right, they actually built a two and a half story, three bedroom house that features an in-house woodworking shop, garage, bachelor’s apartment, greenhouse, sauna – apart from the common living room, dining room, kitchen, porch, breezeway and playroom. When I say built, I actually mean laying bricks, digging holes, mixing cement, making sure it is insulated and all that stuff I know very little about.

Okay, so I could stop there, but I would be missing a big chunk of why I think they would survive the apocalypses - which is that the whole house is powered by solar panels and a wind turbine. Heating inside is regulated with huge masonry fireplaces, which I have to confess make for some uncomfortable nights for an equatorial heart in our second second story bedroom, nonetheless the whole house is heated and for my husband’s taste, it is the perfect sleeping condition – no coal fueled electricity powers this house.

Finally, the house sits in 35 acres of land, which features trails perfect for skiing during the winter and walking during every other season, a huge garden and a brick oven that hosts pizza parties all throughout the summer.

It is hard to comprehend how they have managed to become so self sufficient, while still living pretty normal lives. They too cruise the internet, stream Netflix, go on trips, go to work and use Facebook. The peace that surrounds their home, is one that captivated me from the moment I first walked into their home.

Below a photo drop

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M(i)ami

M(i)ami

Baba, mama, papa, dada are some of the babbles Mila shared with my sister, mom, uncle Soki and I during our time in Miami. If you were to ask my sister, she also taught her how to miau like a cat, neigh like a horse and do ojitos. Mila and I had the pleasure of spending three days with my mom at the beach, eating amazing food, shopping, cuddling and laughing lots. Since Mila was born, the three of us have talked through facetime almost every single day, which meant that this time (now that little chunks’ is more aware), she quickly realized who grandma was and within a few minutes she was happy in babu’s arms.

As a first time mom, I was a bit nervous about going in a trip without Jaxon. Plane time, bath time, meal time, diaper time… all times are better when daddy is around. But my mom made sure I had all the help I needed and was as comfortable as possible.

Gracias mami por unos dias hermosos. Nothing tops spending time with you! Te adoro
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Love letter – Dear Jaxon:

Love letter – Dear Jaxon:

Its been a while since I last wrote you a love letter and even longer since I made one public. Yet our distance inspired me to finally put down in words, feelings that have long lived in my smile. We have been seeing each other’s faces 24/7 for 5 years, 8 months and 3 days. In all of that time, we have only been separate for about 23 long days. Today, we sit apart yet I type in peace. Since my trip begun, I have been terribly busy admiring my mom’s smile, our daughter’s attempt to babble words and my sister’s infinite stream of laughing material. We have barely spoken in two days, yet my life is filled with endless serenity – because I know I come home to you.

It’s hard for me to write down all that you mean to me, for as I tell you every day – you, Jaxon Klein are my better half.

Thank you for making my life a living dream.
And for making me a mom.

Thank you for your smile and your eyes
And your touch and your smell.

Thank you for your honesty
And advice.

Thank you for your perseverance
And endless maturity.

And thank you for your dreams
And for mine.

 

I am endlessly in love with you. You have exceeded my prince charming expectations in every aspect of life, something I never thought achievable by anyone.

So, with no further corniness, all I’m trying to say is:

Good morning vida, hope you have the most spectacular day ever. Mila and I will be home soon.
Love you from here to there in lined up ants.

Te amo

 

Jax&Caye

Our Narwhal and Photo Drop

Our Narwhal and Photo Drop

I stand back and watch my sister awkwardly trying to hold Mila. She really wants to embrace her niece but after only a few steps, her eyes are wide and she is switching our daughter from one arm to another. Jax and I laugh, we both know it is time for Mila to be transfer to someone else’s arms. It was once suggested to us that we should start a diary about what people say about our daughter’s current weight. For our eight month old’s folds, length and body mass do not usually go unnoticed and people’s initial reaction is often hilarious.

She has been called a Michellin baby numerous times,  an obviously breastfed bady by almost every encountered and a starved child by those with an ironic sense of humor. The more rare comments have been, “why don’t you get a crane to hold her up”,  ”once she is tanned, she’ll look like a zebra” and “somewhere in the world some big parents are holding a tiny child wondering why they got a baby so small” (luckily she was born at home, so we are 100% sure she was not switched). All comments are well intentioned and other than one ugly stare we once got from a pregnant mom who was probably dreading birthing a child Mila’s size, everyone adores our chunky baby.

I really do not know how we ended up with such a big baby. According to her pediatrician she is 99% heavier and taller than all babies her age. Oh well, one day I’ll be looking up at my fifthteen year old daughter being all like “no, you cannot go to that party” while thinking “I probably should get in a stool next time”. Anyway, all I’m trying to say is… yes my baby is perfect and no she is not a year old and yes she has 9 awesome teeth to chew brocoli, so stop don’t think I’m giving her a choking hazard!

Okay, on with our lives – My sister is here and we are having the most awesome time! We have gone shopping, eaten amazing food and talked A LOT. It has been almost 15 years since we travelled together without one of our parents and have to say it feels great! From being polar opposites during our teenage years, we have grown to be very similar in lots of core traits. I am enjoying her presence so so much! We also got to see our friends Devin and Kristy for a night and day! During their short visit, we toured Lincoln Park zoo, got an awesome mini architectural tour by my sister and spent way-to-long deciding where to have brunch – followed by way-to-much complaining about how much we over ate.

Ok after some babbling, the promised photo drop!

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Midnight Snuggle

Midnight Snuggle

Hey baby girl,
Yesterday night I was looking at the stars
Wondering what it is that I am doing wrong

See babe, I have tried it all
You have snuggled with a comforter
You have slept with just your sheet
And just in case, I have laid you with everything in between
And you still wake up

You have dreamed with just a onesie
And rested with pajama feet
I have tried long sleeve, short sleeve
With socks, no socks
And you still wake up

You have hung low without head support
You have tossed and turned on your own pillow
And just in case I have set you on my own pillow
And you still wake up

You have shared your crib with no one else
Snuggled close to mami and papi
Held two stuffed bunnies’ paws
And you still wake up

I have sang to you
I have read to you
I have hummed and I have shushed
And you still wake up

Hey baby girl, I think a lot
While holding you tight
Watching you dream
Wondering why it is that you cannot rest

You open your eyes and smile wide
I have no idea what you are feeling now
See, I have forgotten what being a baby feels like

I close my eyes and kiss your skin
I am ready for this midnight hug

cucu

A week in the wilderness

A week in the wilderness

“I don’t think anyone will believe me” was my brother Antonio’s response when his mom asked him if he’ll tell his friends he met his niece this week, “I am just too young”. This week we spent it in Andean paradise, surrounded by absolutely wonderful company – my two younger brothers, Manuel (9) and Antonio (6), my dad and stepmom, Fernando and Carolina, and for a few days my sister and her boyfriend, Bernarda and Juan Pablo. It is not common for my dad to have all of his kids in one place, but Mila brought us all together for some hiking, Monopoly playing, pizza making and lots of laughing.

The last seven days we were enjoying Caro’s delicious carrot cake and company, watching my dad and Mila fall in love, building yet another trebuchet with my brothers and making our baby girl into a true adventurer in the Andes. Many memories come tied to these mountains, but the biggest and most important one is of time shared with our family. I am happy to say that we leave with the same sensation of fulfillment and happiness of the time spent together.

The next two days will be spent saying goodbye to our family and friends in Quito. Introducing Mila to yet another family group and trying to grasp all the excitement that awaits us home.

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Courtesy of my brother Manuel:

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My tiny love – 5m and Chicago

My tiny love – 5m and Chicago

My tiny love:

My eyes are closing, yet I promised my heart I would write you some thoughts tonight. Five times you have crossed this country pretty baby, a 24-hour driving saga for every month of your life. This last drive took you away from your sandy beach and into a winter storm. For three days straight you have explored the windy city and its homes and stolen more smiles in a single shop than ever before. You now lay next to me, dreaming. Apart from mami y papi, everything has changed around you, yet you keep gifting us your endless smile. Moving is never easy baby, but we can truly say that you recharge our dreams with your giggles. You are starting to turn now and seem to grow used to the teething pain, for you are on the way to popping out your second tooth.

It wont be long before you start eating solids and you can hardly wait for it. You are extremely curious of whatever food we put in our mouths. At night you and I cuddle and although your night-time eating schedule seems more active, I am sure that one day it will just click and you’ll dream without interruptions.

Thank you Mila, from the bottom of our hearts, for being such a trooper. We are already impressed at how well you handle changes. As I always say, wherever daddy and Mila are is home, you seem to agree with me.

Te amamos. Felices 5 meses linda.

 

Chicago:

We arrived three days ago to Chicago. We parked the trailer that holds 8 months’ worth of our possessions at our friends, Delna and Aaaron’s, place and have been nesting in their guest room ever since. We have hopped around looking at beautiful neighborhoods and have once again fallen in love with the city. Our friend Delna, has not only welcomed us to her home but has accompanied us to see apartments and has taught us lots about Chicago real estate.

After exploring the beautiful neighborhoods of the city, we have fallen in love with Andersonville, we crave its proximity to the endless lake, love its sense of community and beautiful shops. We are trying to find a place in the area, but if we do not, we will not be too sad, because we have four other favorite neighborhoods as well.

We have been taking photos with the iPhone. The big camera’s charger is in a box (due to my lack of forward thinking). So more photos will come once we begin to unpack.

 

For now we will continue to laugh, eat excellent food and kill zombies with Aaron and Delna.

PS: Chicago friends, once we settle down in our new home, your phones and inboxes will start ringing!

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Closing the year… Plan C

Closing the year… Plan C

I need to read more for my mind is starved of words, yet I know that half the battle is just getting started.

Happy holidays to everyone! We hope you had an amazing time with your families (for those of you that celebrated Christmas). 2014 is around the corner, so a joyous new year to all (of you who celebrate the lunar calendar).

These last few days have been spent celebrating, with close friends and family – the life and first Christmas of our daughter and mourning the death of Jaxon’s grandfather, John. Five years, four months and nine days have slipped by since Jaxon and I first held hands, he then had four grandparents, I had the pleasure of meeting them all, now only Ellen’s mom is alive. When Mila was born, she had a great great grandmother, Mama Lillie (my grandfather’s mom) who passed away less than a month ago just months shy of her 105th birthday. Time keeps ticking regardless of how much we enjoy its company.

As most ends of a year, this one came with much meditation about our next steps. This time, bringing us to the conclusion that we will be moving to Chicago in May. Being closer to Jaxon’s family and a hub airport played a big part in our decision, for it will make it cheaper to travel to see both of our families. Having studied only two hours north of Chicago and having my sister live there, meant that over the years we have spent a good amount of time in the city and have grown to appreciate it. When sailing down Lake Michigan, we stayed moored there for a week and a half and enjoyed sailing its water very much.

So, we will be saying goodbye to the lovely Atlantic, its sandy coast and beautiful people and hello to a world of new opportunities, gorgeous architecture, a shark-less lake and four season weather, in not too long.

Our time in Wisconsin has been incredibly fun, regardless of its -17 F chill that surrounds the house. Yaku and Yana are most definitely huskies and feel incredibly at home chasing squirrels in the snow. Mila is starting to teeth and is not very happy about this biological change, although she does appreciate that everyone is willing to lend her a finger to suck on. She has now completely outgrown 6 month-old clothes and dances between 9 and 12 month old garments! She weights a little over 20 pounds and is just a couple inches shorter than her 1 year old cousin. So, we indeed have a big happy baby!

We take off this coming Thursday and with tears in our eyes will be saying goodbye to the pups until the first week of March – as they will be puppysat by Ellen and Mark, while we fly to Ecuador for a couple of weeks.

Below some memories of these last weeks.

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From sand to snow

From sand to snow

Thursday early morning we embarked on a two-day jorney up to snowy Wisconsin. Taking advantage of our new car, Yaku was no longer shotgun, but rather shared valuable trunk space with his sister. Jaxon drove and Mila and I settled in the middle seat. The drive was much smoother than last time – Even though Mila was awake for most of it – hating her carseat.

A couple hours after leaving home, Jax got a sad call from his dad informing us that Ellen’s dad, John, had passed away that morning. With sorrow in our hearts we continued the trip, feeling happy that it was not long since we had shared some sailing jokes with him and that he had held Mila. As my grandpa, he is Jaxon’s sailing inspiration and we owe him our amazing journey down the rivers.

Now we sit cozy inside of Mark and Ellen’s home.

The dogs are outside terrorizing squirrels and digging holes in the snow, feeling sure they are half Husky. Mila is chomping away on her butterfly toy a little confused as to why she is so dressed up. Jaxon has taken on organizing the house computer drawer, entirely interrupting any possibility of anyone using the device and I am typing away for a few minutes before we all take off to cut our Christmas tree from their gorgeous property.

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