Hamburg, Germany

Rise and shine! Isn’t getting up at 4:30 in the morning what you want to do on vacation? It seems many of our vacations include that!

We were up early, as we had to catch an early flight to Hamburg, Germany, where my Grandmother was born. I was really excited to go, so getting up wasn’t so bad; Zach and Zandra are pretty non-complainy kids (except when Zach complains that we all walk to slow for him), so all was well.

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We landed in Hamburg, and were greeted by my grandmother’s cousin’s son. So what does that make him to me? Not really sure (I will find out, but I’m too tired to think!) but, family!

He took us to his home where his wife had prepared a beautiful, traditional German brunch – much like I remember having at Granny and Papa’s: meats, cheese, different breads, fruit, hard boiled eggs and pastry. I had been reminiscing in the morning with Zach (he tolerated my walk down memory lane) and telling him how I always sat with Papa, and he would always give me a faint nod when he knew I was done eating (for whatever reason – but I was often a picky eater) and then wiggle his ears to make me laugh. He always let me have dessert (because your stomach has a separate compartment for it…)

Anyhow, Thomas’s son and grandson (a cutie) also joined us, along with his sister, Sabina. We had a lovely visit, before heading out to the Ohlsdorf cemetery where the Wohlwill and some Warburg family plots were. I was sad to hear that the plot of Momi (my great grandmother Helene Danckwardt, as well as Granny’s sister Anneliese Danckwardt no longer had a stone, nbut apparently are still buried there (??) I was especially sad as I know that Granny had so carefully preserved her history for us, and I had spent years talking to my kids about that history. I was excited (I know, it sounds strange) to see the graves of Momi and Anneliese.

Anneliese had passed away in the summer of 1935. Granny writes, “Anneliese had been working in various positions in the childcare field. Before she died she was in a holiday home for children in Bavaria. That is where she became ill with strep throat, and it got out of control….there was a cremation and she was buried in Hamburg, in the Wohlwill family plot in Ohlsdorf Cemetery “

I am prone to strep throat, and I remember falling very ill with it in the winter of 2007. So ill, that I had to pull over on the side of a highway and call for an ambulance. But of course, in this day and age, it is easily treated. I remember my Grandmother calling me; she always called me when she heard I had strep throat, but this time was particularly concerned that I was not taking care of myself (I was a single mom with my two young boys). Zach is also a strep magnet, so Granny was always concerned. My kids know very well the story of Anneliese, and we have all talked about how a simple illness, one that we have had so often in our house, could take such a young life.

Momi, is a name that was often heard in my house growing up and I have talked frequently about the stories I heard about her. My mother was very close to her, and what little German she speaks, she learned from Momi.

So not to see the stones for Momi and Anneliese was sad for me:( But, “Do not stand at the grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep…” They are there in spirit…

The cemetery itself is simply beautiful, so I was happy to have a chance to see the grounds and feel that peaceful feeling, and still see some family plots.

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These guys were troopers:

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We got one picture as a group:

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Following the cemetery walk, we headed to Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland, which was super cool:

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Everything is miniature -countries from around the world. It goes dark every 15 minutes.  There is an airport and everything!

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We then walked the port:

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Thomas also drove us around the port for a bit, then took us to see “Wohlwill Strasse” (Wohlwill was my great grandmothers surname):

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By then ,we were completely exhausted! We headed in for a nap and Zach wanted to watch the soccer game too.

We squeezed in an awesome traditional dinner at “Old Commercial Room”, where we tried the famous Labskaus, and then we had some mains: schnitzel for me, fish for Zach and Rob, and curry for Zandra.

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It was so delicious! We laughed so hard at the portion size of my plate and Zach’s!

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We raced back to the hotel so Zach could watch more soccer and the rest of us just chilled! What a great day!

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Stories of a Family

Just to warn you, these next few posts may be long as in addition to our travel log, I need to include some family history:)

One of the reasons I even started blogging was the last conversation I ever had with my Grandmother, Erika Danckwardt Busing right before she passed away. Granny was always a curious and interested Grandmother. She always asked many questions and listened to every detail. After years of stories we shared, she turned to me and said, “You need to write. You need to record your stories and share those adventures so that you always have them.” She died a few weeks later.

I had always kept a personal journal (and still do sometimes), but started to blog privately at first, shortly after Granny passed. I took this blog public in 2011 to share more with friends and family who were interested in our adventures and have never looked back. Sure, I have weeks of nothingness to record, but I try to at least keep up with the bigger stuff. I am a huge advocate for writing (as most of my clients know). I love the saying, “I write, so I know what I think”. It helps me make sense of things.

I also write because it helps me preserve the memories, the feelings, the thin moments. I write so that I can capture all the moments that would be forgotten.

I write because I want to share with my family, most importantly, my kids. I want them to have a place to go to read about their growing up and one day to share with their children.

I write because Granny told me to write.

Granny herself was a huge record keeper. She kept letters, and mementos. She wrote her history, first for her children, then one for her grandchildren. Then, in 2004,my cousin Jocelyn, who had spent hours and hours and hours listening to Granny and recording Granny’s adventures and history, along with all the letters and mementos Granny had kept, complied an amazing book called, “Journeys Through the Century: Stories of a Family”. She is an incredible writer and the book is simply amazing to read.

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I read this book myself when I first received it. I read the book to my kids back in 2010, shortly after Granny had passed away. I read this book in preparation for this trip to her first home country.

I have read this book in the past few days in detail, reading out loud as we drove, or rested in the hotel room and marvelling at what we read, then actually going and trying to find what she talked about and seeing if I could retrace some of her steps… (luckily, with the help of some aunts, along with the book, we were able to find quite a few things).

For example, (Granny speaking about schooling): ” And I enjoyed it even more when I was older, when I switched to another school called Ernestinenschule.” I was excited to find the school:

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Or, “My parents went regularly into Lubeck, taking one of the horse drawn carriages. And when we were allowed to go shopping with them, we would end up at Niederegger for cake. That was the crowning glory of the outing”.

Our first stop in Lubeck:

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I loved being able to actually see the places I visualized and heard about. I am so grateful that she was a writer, a story teller and a recorder. I love that my grandfather was an avid photographer, and I think of him every time I see Zach pull out his camera, as he reminds me so much of my Papa who took “rolls and rolls” of film with every visit.

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I love that Zach is also a recorder. I gave him a travel journal 4 years ago and he keeps meticulous records of his travels. His journal looks very well used because it survived the flood in Fiji (and because he takes it on all his adventures). Both our journals:

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He’s been doing a lot of writing on this trip:

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He even fell asleep:

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Over the past several days,I found myself getting a little teary at times, as I’ve been reading, recording and experiencing.

I came across the final pages in “Granny’s book” as we call it, and found this poem. Granny, was also an artist, and a poet. She always wrote poems for each family on New Year’s (much like Rob does for our family at Christmas), and loved to paint with water colour (we have one of her paintings hanging inout living room). This poem, to me, represents her so well: her kindness, her compassion, her commitment to humanity and especially her family; her struggles and her gratitude. She wrote it for their 40th wedding anniversary on April 30, 1978 (coincidentally, April 30th was not only their anniversary, but my grandfather’s birthday, as well as the day my grandparents met and had their first dinner (sly guy, my Papa, used his birthday as a way to get her to go for dinner):

To you who walked with us on this long road

as we tried to share our home with the homeless

our riches in love and friendship, sustained by

our Faith, with many, exiled from their country

of birth…

 

To you whom we met on the way,

who stilled our thirst for friendship and support,

perception and understanding of the new land,

its beauty and its ugliness, its isolation and 

scattered resources in intellectual and spiritual wealth…

 

To all of you as we shared the joys and also

the sorrows of life,

gathering at Church and in each other’s homes many 

times…

 

And to you, our children, as we look back on

countless events, happy and sad ones, that you

and we shared in this closest of all human relations,

the family,

ups and downs in growing up, moving from city to country

and back again from the hills and the woods,

the lakes and the fields to the streets of the towns

and cities,

through sickness and health, happy holidays, and farewells,

Wedding bells and reunions…

 

And to you, the new generation, still children

with the future unknown, full of promise,

lovingly surrounded by parents and grandparents…

 

To all of you we say “Thank you” for being with us 

today on our fortieth Wedding Anniversary.

April 30, 1978 ( I was only 6 years old, and had just recently become my Papa’s “Kindergarten girl – plus 1”)

 

I remember sitting at my Grandfather’s funeral in 1994. Granny looked around the room: her 6 children and their spouses (one in Spirit only as he had passed several years earlier), their 15 grandchildren, many with spouses and significant others, and great grandchildren shortly on their way, and marvelled at how THIS was their legacy. They fled their home country and their families in search of a better (safer life); fleeing to an unfamiliar city and country, learning and speaking a second language, living in one room. They started with nothing, and here we were surrounded by huge, loving, highly spirited family.

The family has expanded with more and more spouses and great grandchildren (28 now, including my own!!)

That is the legacy I want to leave.

That is why coming to Germany is so special, and I’m so glad to share it with Rob, Zach and Zandra.

 

 

Last Day in Paris

So I know that whizzing through some cities at record speed is not everyone’s cup of tea.

And while I would love to leisurely stroll through the streets and spend weeks soaking in the culture, we work with what we have. And that was 3 days in Paris.

 

And boy, did we use those 3 days!

On day 3, we slept in a little (8am – our poor teenagers) and went early to catch the Musee De L’Orangerie open. I have to say, it was pretty cool being in Monet’s water lily room pretty much on our own. We got to enjoy this lovely museum with no crowds. I like how little it is too; it’s not overwhelming like many others.

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After the museum we took a long walk through the streets of Paris, stopping for breakfast along the way (which we ate so quickly because we were so hungry that I didn’t get a picture!) until we got to the Catacombs.

Luckily I had booked online, as the line up was insane!

The Catacombs were super cool.

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There were all these quotes throughout as well that were pretty cool. ^^^

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We then strolled back stopping in Jardin Luxemburg and rested.

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Zach and I got into a fight about using a selfie stick. It’s embarrassing. But, he does realize, between me living to embarrass him and then living to take pictures and record events, he ended up just giving in and leaving me alone about it. So, I got to use it (and got some pretty great pictures with it too! Including this one:)

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We made our way to Cosi for lunch and had a nice rest and sandwich there. The boys played a little game at the table, which quickly got too rambuncous!

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We made our day to Notre Dame, but the Cathedral was closed. Very disappointing.

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We went for ice cream across the way (very enjoyable – felt like we were in Italy!), and then headed to Saint Chappelle for the spectacular stained glass!

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Saint Chappelle:

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We caught a cab home (we were dead) and had a nap for a couple of hours. We were all exhausted!!

Despite being sore and tired, we headed back out to the Champs de L’Elysees, where we had a nice little dinner and then wandered around.

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Zandra got to check our Sephora, Zach went to the soccer stores and Rob visited a few car dealers!

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Zach was super excited that there was wifi on the ENTIRE street! ^^^

Our last stop (but not least) was up to the Arc de Triomphe. Spectacular right at Sunset.

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We climbed up and got some great views:

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We tried a few selfies:

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Then Zach succumbed to my using the selfie stick, and the real fun began:

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I captured one of my fave pics so far:

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And Rob captured some of the fun:

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We made our souvenir coins:

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The walk home was pretty with all the lights, but we were dead on arrival at the hotel.

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We had to pack up, hop in bed, snapchat (of course) and get ready for our 4:30 am wake up call!

Au revoir Paris! You have been good to us.

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Paris, Day 2

We sure know how to pack it all in. 29,000 steps and we also took the train and the metro several times!

We got up really early this morning as we knew we had a busy day ahead of us.

We had breakfast at the hotel, where they had the most delicious bread (and then gave us croissants, and pain au chocolat to go as we had missed them!).

We found our way to the RER station where we headed to Versailles to be there when it opened.

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We wandered the chateau and stopped for some hot chocolate at Angelines. It was super rich – really too rich for our taste! We then went out to the Gardens.

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Both Rob and I would have liked to explore the gardens more thoroughly, but the kids didn’t and then reminded us that it was their trip, so we gave in (sadly) and headed back to Paris.

We made our way to Sacre Coeur Basilica and took in the view and rested on the steps a bit to eat our croissants.

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We shopped a bit in the little area, and then headed to the first museum of the day: Musee D’Orsay.

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Housed in an old train station, it was pretty cool and beautiful. Thanks to Rick Steves, who gives amazing travel guides for cities and even museums, we went to all the “must sees”.

We were exhausted! We made our way to a little Café, called “Antiquaires” and had a really nice meal of escargots (for Zach, he wanted to try), duck and steak. It was really quite good! But the rest was so welcome, and the conversation at dinner was hilarious ( and the reason we do these trips!)

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After dinner, we headed to the Louvre (it was open late tonight) where we again, followed the superb Rick Steves “must see Louvre” guide and followed it to a tee….which of course captured the Mona Lisa.

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We were literally dying after all that, so headed back to the hotel for a good long rest.

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We took a quick walk to see some Paris lights, then headed home for the night!

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Paris – Day 1

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We landed in Paris after our 7 hour flight feeling a little fuzzy and tired.

Of course, when you travel, you have to make use of every second, so we had a full day of sightseeing.

We made it to our hotel called, “Hotel Palais Bourbon” and luckily they allowed us to check in right away. We quickly changed, refreshed and headed out.

We stopped at the bakery/cheese store that’s right beside us and got some baguettes and cheese and then wandered down to the Tuleries gardens where we had our first picnic with nice views of the Eiffel Tower.

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For the Euro games, they had a temporary ferris wheel, which we rode and had great views of the city.

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We then wandered the park a bit more, picked up our museum passes and walked to our meeting stop for our first tour. Of course, along the way, we came across “Angeline’s” and took a macaroon and Mont Blanc to go.

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Our tour was on a air conditioned coach (this wasn’t the part of the tour I was keen on, but we had to take is as the other tours were sold out) and it ended up being a great way to get an overview of the city, and catch up on a few winksJ

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We then visited the Eiffel Tower (skipped the lines – the main reason I booked the tour) and that was awesome. The heat was pretty intense though, and the lines are everywhere, but we took in the views.

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Next up was a cruise along the Seine, where we saw Paris by the water. But again, we were all a little tired so ended up having little snoozes:)

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Finally, we walked to a great little restaurant that I read about: where they simply serve steak and frites. What an awesome meal it was.

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We wandered back to the hotel (got side tracked with a street con that I won’t go into detail about…) and marveled at how lively the city was at dusk. Rob was on the phone on a daily call as he wandered with us, so still able to enjoy the view while working.

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By night, we were all pooped – jet lag kicked in, wifi was spotty and but we caught up with some communications….

Here we go…

It was around this age (8ish) when these two cuties decided where they wanted to go for their “15 trip” (It was a 16 trip, but we changed that to accommodate summer planning):

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Zandra had her heart set on Paris and every night for months and months (and year and years) we would do our good night routine and then decide where we would meet in our dreams. Paris was a consistent meeting place for us. We talked of the food, the lights, the Eiffel tower, the shopping, the dream of Paris.

Zach was pretty clear he wanted to go to Berlin. A boy who identifies strongly with family, he wanted to explore where some of his family roots originated and catch a glimpse of perhaps where his organizational skills and directness comes from (because we pretty much know it’s heavily influenced by the Busing genes in him:)

They negotiated to go together several years later, and ensured that because they were together they would get a little extra time.

Hamburg (and Lubeck) was added, as that is the other German city where my beloved grandmother was born and spent most of her young years and I couldn’t pass up the chance to see where it all started.

And of course, Prague was added because I always like to add a “little extra” to everything:)) See – good policy, “Do more to get  a four” has always been our mantra for school work, and I like to practice what I preach. Always a little more….

And TODAY is the day.

I love to plan for trips and we always have some simmering away. But when the day actually comes, I marvel at how quickly it got there and how I can’t believe we are leaving. TODAY!

When we chose these spots, the kids would be DOUBLE the age they were when they chose, so it seemed like it would be forever until it would happen. The days are really long, and the years are really short, because in a blink we are here.

Finalizing our carry on bags. Packing our snacks. Checking that we haven’t forgotten anything. We head out to the airport later this afternoon, and I know from there the camera will come out so I can document every moment to help solidify all those incredible memories I know we will be making….

See you in Paris!

 

Happy Birthday Robbie!

I can’t let this day pass without saying Happy Birthday to the most amazing husband in the universe!

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Life has been pretty crazy around here. Rob has been working a ton with his new job – although it is all good as it is challenging and rewarding and he is feeling that there is work to be done, and he’s ready to tackle it.

The kids are in the midst of exams and end of school stuff, (with two having their last exam today, and one with a few more to go, and the littles who have the rest of the month to get through — although Josh has a fun school trip next week). Then of course, throw soccer into the mix….

Work has been pretty hectic for me too, and of course, planning for the upcoming “15 trip”, which we are all super excited about, but I think we will only feel that it is real when we are sitting in that airport!

We all got up early this morning to wish Robbie a happy birthday and shower him with some gifts. The celebrations were cut a bit short as the three older guys had to race out for their exams. Rob and I were on our own tonight and went for dinner, and brought home some cake to eat while we fold some laundry (the glamourous life we lead!). This weekend we will do a nice big supper with all the kids and have a real cake to blow out the candles:)

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But what can I say about Rob that I haven’t already said a million times? I was thinking the other day about how awesome it is that our 4 boys have such an incredible role model in him. He is such a mix of kindness and firmness; fun and intellect; logic and compassion. He is our stable rock around here, the voice of reason, and the calmness that keeps us grounded. He can also be a little obsessive, but we even love that about him. He certainly is the kind of man I hope our boys aspire to be, and the kind of man I hope that Alexandra finds one day.

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I marvel that I have been so blessed to be married to such a guy. He truly inspires me and makes me want to be a better person. He also tolerates and spoils me, so what more can a gal ask for? I could name way more than 45 things (as I usually do on these birthday posts), but this year I will keep it simple.

He rocks.

I love this man.

I am so grateful for him and proud to be his wife. And I know the kids are proud to call him Dad and StepDad.

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All my love,

Meski

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Monthly Snaps of Life

It seems I can barely get a blog post written! Here’s a few snaps of what has happened around here:

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Lots of Reggie Cuddle time ^^^

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Not as much Mom time, but forced to sit and make some plans for our European adventure ^^^

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Please take me for a walk ^^^

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Project time… he thought it was supposed to be 10 feet. Something was wrong…it seemed longer than 10 feet.  We had a good chuckle. (It was supposed to be 10 metres (phew)) ^^^

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Reggie watching some TV ^^^

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Is the TV on, the computer on, and you are on your phone??? ^^^ Reggie is the only one focusing on the TV!

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Apparently “they cleaned the kitchen”. Whhaatt??? ^^^

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Church shenanigans ^^^

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Josh with blonde hair ^^^

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On Montreal trip… pretty much the phones dominated. We enjoyed Gigi’s pizza and subs though ^^^

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Montreal with our friends ^^^

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Walk by the lake with my girl ^^^

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Visiting our old stomping grounds at McGill. Both Rob and I went there but different years ^^^

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Sam the man ^^^

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Love these cuties ^^^

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We love our poutine! ^^^

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Church at Gran’s (Kirkland ward!) ^^^

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Ste Anne’s picnic ^^^

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Out for some good old fashioned fun ^^^

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Entertaining himself at Gran’s house (aftering gorging on all the homemade desserts!! )^^^

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One more McGill pic ^^^

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Traditional Victoria Day celebration. Only Sam to hang out with us this year:( Others were all in the crowds with friends ^^^

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Oops missed these Montreal ones – Sam was the only one to brave the pool (although this was the jacuzzi part!) ^^^

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Sam at the school folk dance festival! ^^^

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Way to go Sam!! ^^^

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Winning the West Rouge Cup Tournament ^^^

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Captain giving out medals ^^^

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First day on the job! ^^^

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The Davidson Stand ^^^

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Looks like he’s going to pull out a card!!?? ^^^

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School Athletic Banquet ^^^

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Sam’s sleepover for his upcoming Birthday ^^^

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Josh in Ottawa for a soccer game ^^^

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Stopping for dinner on the way home from the day trip to Ottawa ^^^

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The weary parents ^^^ Love my travel buddy, Christine!

That’s it for now! Figure I need to clear off my phone to make way for our upcoming European adventure with Zach and Zandra! Yah!

 

Gabe’s Prom

Gabe had prom the other night and I was able to capture a few pictures of him and his date before they went for the the full night celebrations:

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The box was a little tricky to open ^^^

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A little shadowy:( I was hoping to take some pics in front of our home garden, but we went to the hours that was hosting the pre-prom party, so had to make do!

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Zach’s soccer tournament

And let the tournaments begin!

(Well, actually they began at the end of March when Josh was in Tremblant, but I wasn’t able to attend that one.)

This was Zach’s first one this year.

His team had some changes this year because of some challenges his coach had with his soccer club. As a result, the team changed clubs. Most players stuck around, but a few left. They still did awesome and won the tournament in their division! Hopefully off to a good start this year!

It was FREEZING cold –  hailing during one of the games! We were wrapped up in blankets and jackets and still cold! I snapped a few pics, but my fingers were numb. Luckily, a Dad of one of the boys on the team took a ton of pictures and posted them for us all. He got some great ones. Forgive me or posting so many, but they do tell a good story:)

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Then there is this whole series that makes me cringe worrying about concussions:

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It was a little cold. They laugh at my Spiderman blankets. There was a time when they BEGGED me to buy them and wanted to use them all the time…and they were begging to use them to stay warm near the end of the game too!

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This was too close for comfort:

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