Farewell 2015

After 10 years of working from a home office, I had to start commuting a few days a week which toppled the work-life balance once again. I also managed a huge project which pushed the balance more to the work side. Work hat versus Mom hat, the balance effort continues.

Although Juliana had pneumonia in December, most of us had a healthy year. Scott developed neck pain and numbness in his arm/hand in the spring which resulted in disc surgery in September – this was my least favorite part of the year. Now on to some of the 2015 highlights.

Juliana finished third grade and started fourth. The boys graduated Kindergarten and moved on to first grade.

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We went on several vacations last year. Scott and I went on a cruise which we timed perfectly with one of the coldest weeks of the winter in Pittsburgh. School was closed three days that week while we were cruising tropical waters and visiting Honduras, Belize and Mexico.

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We went on a quick family vacation to Washington, DC in July. We dragged the kids through lots of museums and memorials.

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In September we split our vacations. Scott went to Ireland with his parents and brother and I took the kids and my mom to Disney World.

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We went to several concerts with friends.

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This was the third year that we had season passes for Kennywood. In addition to taking all of the kids several times and going with friends, I also took each child for a solo day where they got to choose all of the rides. Wyatt was tall enough to ride several more thrill rides and he took full advantage.

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After a few years of going to a fair amount of Pirates games we purchased 2 seats of 20-game season tickets. Since Scott wasn’t able to attend many games I went to a lot of baseball games this summer.

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It wasn’t a perfect year but there were a lot of good times.

The Story Behind The Christmas Card

There has been a family picture on our Christmas card for the past three years and that was the plan for this year as well. Coordinating outfits were selected, a location was determined and the weather was simply perfect. It was a lovely November afternoon and everything was perfect until Scott woke up sick that morning – too sick to be away from home for even an hour. Rescheduling wasn’t an option so we proceeded with the plan to take pictures without Scott.

When we arrived at the park, I told Michelle that Scott wouldn’t be there so we would focus on pictures of the kids and I would want a few with me but we wouldn’t use any of those on the Christmas card. We both remembered what happened in 2011 when I included a picture of me with Juliana and Ruslan and some people jumped to crazy conclusions.

So we proceeded with pictures and there were so many good ones. No single perfect picture of the 3 of them that I wanted to use alone on the card but lots of great individual pictures – I had a challenge deciding what to include. I had no doubt that the picture of the boys fighting with sticks would make the cut, but I wished there was space for the next two photos in the series as well.

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And there were these individual photos that I loved but didn’t make the cut.

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Too many great pictures was a pretty good problem to have. Juliana, Ruslan and Wyatt were very cooperative that afternoon and having a wonderful photographer that they know and love made the experience even better.

I am so happy to have updated pictures of me and my weasels (in the picture of Juliana and me, she is standing on a step – she isn’t quite that tall yet). The picture of the 4 of us would have been perfect for our Christmas card if Scott would have been sitting next to me. Next year…

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Traditional Christmas with a Lot of Star Wars

I was really looking forward to Christmas this year. Juliana is heading into the pre-teen years and I know our years of wrapping lots of fun toys are numbered and soon the only present options will be electronics and gift cards. It was also a year of Star Wars presents.

My brother and sister-in-law arrived in Pittsburgh Tuesday night and stopped at the house to see the kids before heading to their hotel. Wednesday we met at the movie theatre to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Scott had already been to the movie and we were both excited to take Wyatt since he loves the Star Wars movies so much.

Wednesday night was family meatloaf night at my parent’s house. Why meatloaf…tradition. We had it one year on the night before Christmas Eve and we have had it every year since. I wrapped the last of the presents that night.

Christmas Eve we headed to my parent’s house in the afternoon. My dad was outside with his new drone which provided lots of entertainment as he attempted to learn to fly it. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon, so Ruslan was able to drive his police car for a while (a Christmas gift from 2 years ago).

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After stuffing our faces with turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and lots of other food, it was time to open presents. My brother and my parents bought lots of Star Wars toys for the boys – the masks are all voice changing which adds extra fun to light saber battles. Even Scott received Star Wars toys. When Wyatt opened his box of clothes, he removed the Star Wars underwear and added it to the toy pile so all of his important stuff would be together. Juliana’s favorite present of the day was Grace Thomas (American Girl doll of the year) and accessories for her.

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We packed up the car and headed home and unloaded the car. Everyone changed into their Christmas pajamas and once the kids were asleep I recovered all of the presents from their hiding places and arranged them under the tree. Then I moved the boys out of their beds and changed the sheets and blanket and returned them to their beds so that they would wake up to another Star Wars surprise.

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Christmas morning is a leisurely affair in our home now. We don’t rush downstairs before dawn. In fact this year it was 9:00 before we started to open presents. Since I don’t put any presents out until the kids are asleep on Christmas Eve, their first glimpse of the packages is when they come down the stairs in the morning. They opened their stockings together and then we started to open the presents.

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In 2014, the kids were all obsessed with Beanie Boos and Wyatt asked for the big penguin for Christmas. Giant Waddles is never far from Wyatt and is usually Wyatt’s pillow at night. When he opened Giant Waddles last Christmas, the other two immediately asked why they didn’t get one. So this year, I made sure they each had a giant beanie boo under the tree and they were all thrilled! Juliana loved her turtle, Ruslan ran upstairs and got a baby monkey, and Wyatt introduced Giant Waddles and Giant Owl.

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Juliana has taken an interest in sewing this year so we decided to buy a sewing machine for her. It was her favorite present this year and she is very excited to learn how to use it!

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When the last present was open, Juliana opened Shopkins to play with, Wyatt started to build a Lego set and Ruslan snuggled up with his new blanket and stuffed animals.

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That afternoon my parent’s and Scott’s parents came over for dinner – ham, mashed potatoes, mac n cheese and lots of other food and treats.

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It was a great Christmas complete with matching pajamas for the whole family.

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Santa and Our Annual Christmas Card

We went to see Santa at our local mall this past weekend. When I told Juliana that we were going to see Santa, she told me that she was too old to have her picture taken with Santa. However, when it was time to leave for the mall, she had changed into a pretty dress, added accessories and fixed her hair. They were all cooperative, smiled, and chatted with Santa. A quick and easy visit this year.

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Merry Christmas from the Connelly Family!

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The Fantastic Four or Three-Quarters

One week before Halloween Wyatt went from normal, wild Wyatt to going to bed early, on his own. And then the fever started. Over the next five days Wyatt spent a lot of time sleeping with a fever from 101 to 103.5. Just as Wyatt was showing signs of recovering, Ruslan came home from school with a 103 temperature. On Halloween he was still very tired and running a low fever. He didn’t want to trick-or-treat at all, but I talked him in to going to a few houses and then I walked him home.

Last year Scott and the children were The Guardians of the Galaxy and this year they returned as a different set of Super Heroes – The Fantastic Four. Scott – Thing, Juliana – Invisible Woman, Ruslan – Mister Fantastic, Wyatt – Human Torch.

Ruslan enjoyed showing off his long arms.

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Wyatt hated the mask but we managed a quick group shot with the mask.

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The five of us set off and as expected after a few houses, Ruslan insisted he was ready to go home. I walked back to the house with him and then caught up with the others.

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When it got dark, the lights on Juliana and Wyatt’s costumes were really cool. We didn’t need flashlights and it was easy to keep track of them as we walked through the neighborhood.

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This was the first time in years that we have trick or treated without rain and it was relatively warm – no coats and no umbrellas – we finally lucked out with a nice evening. Fortunately Ruslan wasn’t too sad to miss it, we made sure that he ended up with lots of candy.

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TEN

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A decade 2 whole hands The Big 1-0 Double Digits Anyway you say it, Juliana is ten years old today and she couldn’t be more excited.

The is very little middle ground with Juliana – it is either the best of times or the worst of times – everything is awesome or . . . → Read More: TEN

Grandma Lois

My strongest memories of Grandma Lois are from our annual visits to Erie in the summer and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving will always remind me of her. I wrote about my Thanksgiving memories last year. Our visits in the summer were filled with lots of swimming in their huge pool, eating our favorite foods and snacks, . . . → Read More: Grandma Lois

All Smiles

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Wyatt refused to smile for pictures for years – he would stare straight ahead without a glimpse of smile or deliver a straight lipped expression with his eyes pointed anywhere other than the camera. Something changed over the last year and now he smiles and makes eye contact and willingly holds still when I . . . → Read More: All Smiles

The Same Yet Always Changing

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After eight trips to Disney World, I feel at home when we visit. The familiar sights and sounds of Main Street welcome me and I am excited to visit my favorite places. The sameness of the Magic Kingdom over the years is comforting.

Cinderella’s Castle may be flooded with orange lights at Halloween and . . . → Read More: The Same Yet Always Changing

The Best Part of Our Trip

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We knew that we wanted to go on a short road trip or two this summer and when Scott found out that Chelsea (English Premier League Soccer) was playing in Washington, DC, we added it to the list. On our last full day in DC we headed to into the city in the morning . . . → Read More: The Best Part of Our Trip