Growing up my brother and I were always close (despite the usual sibling spats) and we did a lot of the same activities, had overlapping friend groups, and liked a lot of the same things. We're only a year and a half apart. It's been crazy over the last year to see him step into parenthood with my sister-in-law and take on a totally new role as a loving, energetic, and thoughtful dad. It's hard to describe what it feels like to see that happen from the sibling perspective but it's been one of the most fulfilling/life-affirming experiences I've ever had. He has been such an inspiring big brother and can't wait to see my niece continue to learn and grow with them as her parents. She is so lucky.
After work last week I biked to REI after work and bought a tent. My family just spent the weekend at my brother's house in Long Island and hotels/AirBnBs are expensive and/or hard to come by, so I figured I would spent less money and simultaneously have a way to explore in the future. Basically I just slept in their backyard for two nights and showered and used the bathroom as normal. But it was kinda cool to have a little space to myself! Looking forward to using it again soon.
It has been such a wonderful week at my parents' house. As you can see from all the photos below, the main attraction was my niece and goddaughter, who is the sweetest baby ever. She's always so happy and only cries when she is uncomfortable and needs to change positions, take a nap, or eat.
I arrived last Friday afternoon after a rainy, misty drive, and Juliette arrived with my brother and sister-in-law the following evening. JJ had some dinner, took some time to bang a wooden spoon on the table (provided by grandma), and then prepared for her nightly routine. This included a bath in the kitchen sink, pajamas and a fresh diaper, and bed. They have this big suit they put her in that makes her look like a marshmallow, but it prevents her from rolling in her sleep so she stays on her back.
The next day we mostly hung out with the baby and I (clearly) took as many photos as possible. I also took quite a few videos, particularly of her testing out a a goofy blubbery noise with her lips that was quite amusing. At one point we went back and forth making the sound and I was laughing so hard I could barely make the sound back.
On Christmas Eve, mom handled the cooking, and Juliette was passed around from lap to lap. My parents call this a "pass-around pack". We did a couple of small photo shoots, including one with the guinea pigs to compare to a similar pose of my brother with my parents' guinea pigs Jemima and Manfred. We took another of Juliette in my dad's old cap from when he was a baby, and another with a HESS truck (my brother was fond of those as a kid).
We opened Juliette's presents on Christmas Eve afternoon, before dinner, and at that point she was a little tuckered out and had just woken up from a nap. Then we had a traditional Ukrainian dinner of fish, pierogies, and mushroom soup while Juliette sat patiently on Andy's lap. From there, it was time for the Christmas Eve service at church; she got a kick out of the carols, and eventually fell right asleep, even as candles were passed around for the final hymns. My dad's congregation got a big kick out of her and it sounded like they had heard a lot about her and seen photos over the last six months.
On Christmas morning, the baby and family needed to head out to Buffalo where my sister-in-law's family lives, so we had a quick breakfast of French Toast Casserole (prepared to perfection by grandma), and then we packed up the car, the baby, and the dogs, and they were on their way. My parents and I stayed behind and exchanged the remaining gifts.
Since Christmas, I've been very sleepy and have been doing a lot of napping. It may not have been the most productive week of my life in terms of art, and I had been pinning a lot of high expectations to this week in terms of progress on my comic, but I think given that it was Christmas and I'm so rarely near my family, I made an exception and softened the pressure I was putting on myself. Next week it will be back to work again, but at least it will only be a three-day week.
This afternoon the Buffalo crowd swung through once more to pick up some remaining items and break up the trip back down to Long Island. Luckily, we'll be seeing everyone again in February for Juliette's baptism, so it wasn't as hard to say goodbye as it was the week she was born, or the weekend we babysat and weren't sure the next time we would see her. I'm just amazed by how quickly she is growing! Would it be selfish to extend a "free babysitter" offer every other month so I can spend some quality time with her?
Anyway, vacation is quickly coming to a close. Tomorrow we're going out to Friendly's for breakfast, then I'll make the drive to Boston. We are having a New Years Eve Eve party to celebrate our roommate Hardik who is moving to San Francisco in a couple weeks. But it will be nice to have a mellow New Years Eve and New Years Day to settle back into the groove. Happy 2019!
Check out this adorable Christmas gift from my sister-in-law and Juliette! A Christmas tree finger painted by Juliette and embellished by mom. Plus these post-crafting photos. It sounds like she enjoyed the painting, but not mom preventing her from putting her hands in her mouth, or being dirty afterward. I sense an artist in the making!
This is the first time I've been home for Thanksgiving since 2011, when I was still in college. From 2012-2015, I was working retail and the holiday shopping season made it impossible to grab three days to make the trip home, eat, and come back (especially without a car and the limitations of a multistep bus trip). In 2016 I spent Thanksgiving week in Florida and visited with my grandfather one last time before he passed away a week later. And last year I stuck around Boston and celebrated with Chris's family.
This year, I decided to make the trip because it's my ten-year high school reunion. There was some confusion with planning so it ended up falling through almost entirely, but I still got to see some of my classmates who I haven't spoken with since graduation. So many people are married, expecting, parents, and/or live out of state; some of our classmates have even passed away. It's weird how things move forward so quickly.
I left at first light Thanksgiving morning, and because there was zero traffic, I made the five-hour trip in only 4 hours and 15 minutes, including a stop for gas. It was also a beautiful sunny day (albeit 10 degrees out) and I split my listening between Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on audiobook and assorted music from my iPod when I got antsy.
It has been such a relief to have a few days at home with my parents. My mom is an excellent cook, and nothing says home like her potato and cheese casserole (lovingly referred to as "cheesy taters"). She also prepared apple and pumpkin pie and in my biased opinion, pies made by my mom and my aunt Mary are the absolute best out there.
It's back to work tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to having an almost two-week break to return home in December. I've been working holidays so I can save up vacation days and can't wait to cash those in. Work has really been running me ragged and I can't wait to just be at home where all I need to think about is what book to read and which baked good to eat. My brain desperately needs a rest.
As some bonus material, I've also included a photo of my varsity letter. Apparently we got a pin for everything.
My dad officially retires next week after 34 years at our local public library. There was a gathering of staff and borrowers to celebrate, and I took some shots of the library to document the end of an era.
Earlier this week I helped inflate some balloons for a proposal on the MIT campus, the proposee (?) is a former coworker who worked in HR before I started working in Talent Acquisition. The proposal went well and she said yes!
Also been trying to bike into work more, now that it's warm. We have a new bike garage at work which is pretty cool. I store my bike on my deck and have to lug it down the stairs and up the stairs whenever I want to ride though. It really hurts my wrists because of the awkward angles.
Fun fact: my friend Thomas lives in Detroit and sold me this bike a couple years ago. It has a sticker from a bike shop in Geneseo, NY, where my parents met, went to school for their bachelors in history/political science and masters of Library Science, and got married - almost 40 years ago. As a kid, they took us there every year to walk around the campus and get subs at Aunt Cookie's Sub Shop. As a teenager, I started putting a notch with my fingernail in the sub shop's wooden-framed order window to track my visits over time. When I stopped by last month after my sister-in-law's baby shower, I found they had replaced the order window with a new one. But I added a new notch to that one.
Anyway, this bike is kismet.
It's going to be a very busy summer. I'll be back home visiting family for various reasons (mom's birthday, Father's Day, my dad's retirement), my brother and sister-in-law are having their first baby next month so I'm hoping to go down and help them out around the time the baby is due, and we have four weddings between the end of June and Labor Day, plus some functions related to those. One of the weddings is for my cousin Katie and her fiancé Lukas, who is from Austria. They will be getting married on the outskirts of Vienna so I'm pretty stoked for that and to then have a full week in Europe!
This week I went home for a dinner in honor of my dad, who is retiring from his post as Library Director in my home town. He had me take a photo of him to use for press stuff. The next day, we went to Nanticoke Gardens, a local flower nursery, and picked up some pansies and hanging geraniums for the deck. Mom also sent me home with this cool fiberoptic grass plant that seems pretty pleased with itself.
I spent the holidays in my childhood home. While my mom was baking and my dad was weighing down paper bags with kitty litter to use as luminaries in the evening, the snow started up. Seeing the storm outside our front door reminded me of all the times we spent out in the front yard after a blizzard, building snow forts and snow thrones and snowmen. It's always nice to be home this time of year.
When I was five, my brother had his appendix out. I don't recall much from this time, because I was only in kindergarten. I remember he had a close bond with the nurse, who brought him cheeseburgers from the food court, and recall spending extra nights at daycare because my parents had to balance time at the hospital. But there was one night when my dad came to pick me up and he had good news; the local pharmacy had held an art contest a few weeks before, and whoever did the best job coloring an identical coloring page got the prize of a 100 pack of crayons. It even had a built-in sharpener. I had submitted my coloring page the week prior, and had just been announced the winner. I remember sitting by the window in Andy's hospital room, coloring in a coloring book about postage stamps with all my new crayons.
Months and months of training and I finally finished my second marathon, this time in my hometown! I was hoping to improve my time, but ended up taking an additional half hour or so. It's tough to remember that every race is different, and the conditions have tremendous consequences. For this race, they were calling for mild temperatures and rain all day and it ended up being warm and sunny. On top of that, the water stations were not laid out as I had memorized, so I ended up being dehydrated by the halfway point. There were some tears when I crossed the finish line, but it was still great to cross it, see my family, and commiserate with my brother, who finished an hour ahead of me. Afterward, we got donuts at the Cider Mill and watched the Patriots game without moving. I had my first massage ever the week after and felt 100% better the moment I got off the table. Definitely hooked!
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.