Our First Granddaughter is Born

Grandpa and Avalon

Last Thursday Lauren and CJ gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (our first grandchild) named Avalon Kristine. I’ve been meaning to write this for a week, but ironically and beautifully, when I’ve had time, my arms have been full of baby so the write-up was put off. I mentioned that to Lauren’s mom, and she brilliantly responded:

Holding is better than writing for now… Can write when you can’t hold… Besides enjoy her in these moments because she is changing rapidly

~Lauren’s mom

I got to hold the wee one most of yesterday. Today is her turn, so I finally get to write.

Avalon entered the world like a pro — inconveniencing nobody greatly. Remember, just two weeks ago her intrepid mama was climbing the rocks in Moab at Zeb and Bri’s wedding? We are thankful Avalon didn’t decide to arrive during that occasion.

Instead, on a morning when I set my alarm for 8:50 am, I received a phone call at 8:45 telling me this was the day. CJ and Lauren headed to the hospital slightly pre-dawn, not totally sure it was the real deal, but by the time they called us, they knew it was. Look how beautiful the day was:

Back when I was in labor eons ago, I really appreciated people playing games with me to keep my mind off the pain. Lauren wanted that, too, so I headed to the hospital for some serious UNO rounds. On the way, Bri got in touch with us and said she was leaving work to help us out and be there with Lauren.

But let me back up a bit — cuz it’s kind of cool. In my job as a Happiness Engineer at Automattic, we get a lot of flexibility, but sometimes not spontaneity. That’s a change that occurred after I got hired, and I understand why since the company is growing, but it takes a bit of getting used to, and I was not sure how it would play out in the baby scene.

I had already knocked my work-week to four 10-hr days so I could have three days a week to be with the young ones. But during my regular days, I was assigned concierge sessions, tickets, and live chat hours. My ticket hours are flexible, but the concierge sessions and live chat hours are not flexible. After talking to HR, everyone was on the same page. Whenever the baby showed, I would request a last-minute-AFK (away from keyboard), and my team lead and others would find people to take sessions I was signed up for.

But we didn’t need to. The day before Avalon arrived, I was asked to help the mobile support team since some of their people were on vacation. I ADORE mobile support, and had done that for a few years in the past. Best of all, working on that team is like working in tickets — totally flexible. I was asked to cover the queues from (unbeknownst to anyone at the time) the day before labor to a week later when I was already taking time off. This allowed me a seriously flexible schedule so I could keep working when Lauren and CJ were resting and around baby feedings and nap times for the first week. Isn’t God amazing with timing? Even the little details…

Anyway, back to the story. We played UNO for quite a while.

Zeb and Bri showed up and took over the game playing so I could work a bit and Lauren was still distracted until the pains got a bit worse. Time was ticking, and Lauren was progressing really well. She’s a private soul so when she hit real labor, we all left until after baby. Zeb was at work by then, and Bri, Chris and I hung out.

Avalon arrived right before Zeb’s work shift ended so we were all able to visit together, along with Lauren’s sisters who are living in Utah this summer. On the way, we grabbed some food Lauren requested. I snapped a pic on the way back to the hospital. This is the sky our beautiful Avalon was born under. Not bad, eh?

Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncle… so much joy.

CJ insists he is not an overly protective father, but just look at him with the hand sanitizer!!! And this was after he made us all wash thoroughly at the sink πŸ™‚

I particularly loved seeing Grandpa Chris step in to hold his granddaughter.

Avalon even got to meet the newly engaged aunt/uncle Mollie and Hudi over Facetime (they had to go back to NY for work after the wedding), but stayed up until after midnight to meet their neice.

The next day I got to hold Avalon so her parents could rest a bit. Yeah, I grabbed a selfie. :blush:

This hospital was amazing. I’ve never seen care quite so good. Every nurse and doctor acted like they genuinely cared, and they took time to explain every little detail of what was going on to the new parents. They trickled information out when it was necessary to know so it wasn’t all too overwhelming. And best yet, every single person looked like their job was the best on the planet. What an amazing vibe.

The nurse, Heather, who taught the young adults how to bathe the baby was particularly wonderful. Just look at her smile… And isn’t Avalon funny as she tries to eat CJ’s knuckle?

The next day Avalon went home with everyone. And now I have a work buddy:

She even attended my team meeting with me which, according to all the oohs and aaahs, was appreciated by my teammates.

Now we are settling into life as we now know it. Lauren’s mom flew to Utah to be with them, and sometimes CJ and Lauren come to our place for a bit of grandparent time and a nap.

The dog in our rental seems to appreciate the family vibe as well. It’s so adorable. But she runs away when Avalon cries. I think that giant is scared of our pipsqueak πŸ™‚

It’s not all about the baby, though. One evening we left Lauren and the baby at home, and CJ took us all to Deer Valley, where he and Lauren (and her sisters) work. They showed Lauren’s mom around, and she took her first-ever chairlift ride πŸ™‚

Chris and I saw our first deer at Deer Valley from the lift. That was fun.

At the top, we saw some great views, and Mehgan showed us how to hunt for crystals like she does with the kids in her care in summer camp.

Lauren's mom's first chairlift ride.
Getting off the lift.

Avalon is trying to get used to the world. Her nights and days are switched, which is a bit hard on everyone, especially her parents (CJ had to go back to work). But with sisters, grandparents, uncles, etc. — lots of teamwork — I’m sure all will be great soon, and a rhythm will be established.

She seems to change moment to moment. I thought she looked particularly adorable after her bath. What an ostrich head!

Lauren thinks her hair is starting to change color and look like CJ’s. She might be right.

She seems to have her Grandpa Campbell’s ears (he will be visiting next week), my toes, and Chris’ head shape. Genetics are so wild. I kind of hope she ends up with her momma’s/grandma’s hair color at the end of it all, but no matter how she looks, we adore her.

And seriously, this girl is so incredibly loved. Who could ask for more? #soblessed

Zeb and Bri get Married

Arriving in Utah to see snowy slopes in July

Chris and I have a new daughter πŸ™‚ In a recent post I wrote about how our son and now-daughter-in-law were eloping, and what a celebration it was! Sunday, July 14, 2019, found Chris having one last Ponderosa luncheon with Mom while I finished work then we hit the road for Utah, planning to make it from northern NY to Utah by Wednesday. But that was not to be.

Since I missed the meal at the steakhouse, Chris BBQ-d some steak for me the day before traveling, and I think that is what gave us the energy to drive all night and half the next day. We stopped at a hotel for one solid night of sleep and arrived at our new Utah residence mid-day on Tuesday. Thank goodness! There was a bunch of fun work to do!

We greeted our kiddos and gran-nagerie then started packing, prepping and picking up family members from airports. Thursday the 17th found us packed into the car on our way to Moab for the festivities. Unknown to Zeb and Bri, we had a certain Hudi in the car.

Heading to Moab.

The wedding was so sudden our chef son Hudi was told he couldn’t get off because it was a super busy weekend at the country club where he works. It would have been the first time all eight of us (Chris and me, our sons and the women in their lives) had gotten together since CJ and Lauren’s wedding almost three years ago.

That was the last Zeb had heard, and it was sad, but he understood. But unbeknownst to Zeb, Hudi’s boss and colleagues awesomely made it possible for him to travel. When we got to the campsite, we left Hudi off at the washroom before we greeted Zeb and Bri, who were already there. Then Hudi appeared as if he were a stranger asking for directions πŸ™‚

One thing we did know. The weather was going to be hot!!

We set up tents and hung out and relaxed a bunch. Then we headed up the rocks to catch the sunset. Breathtaking!!! If you click on an image in this mosaic, it will let you scroll through the images individually if you prefer that.

A view of our campsite from the rocks

We were all a bit tired so we talked a while after sunset then went to our tents.

Friday morning we woke up early, but one can’t complain when you wake up to a view like this:

On Friday, others started to arrive. Bri, Mollie, and I headed out for the three-hour drive to to nearest airport to pick up Bri’s mom and sister. We stopped for a nice brunch before heading back to the campsite.

When we got to the campsite again, we saw Chris had gotten creative with his artistic tendencies as he found a heart rock and created a rock lizard.

Bri was smart and brought along some aloe in case anyone got scratched up. How thoughtful is that?

We relaxed, talked and played games in the heat of the day.

As the sun started dipping, we separated males and females for bridal shower time. The women did facials and gave each other manicures while the guys yakked. For the record, the men were invited to do facials and/or have their nails done, too, but none took us up on the offer.

During this shower time, Bri’s mom set up the gift cake she had created. Isn’t it amazing? She is so talented with creativity!

The sun set, and those who were staying at the closest hotels (over an hour away) hit the road. Poor Lauren and CJ missed the time as they dealt with work deadlines, flat tires and other details. They pulled in right after the hotel people left. Ah well. Some climbed the rocks to see the next sunset while more guests arrived. Lauren was right up there, climbing the rocks. That girl is seriously hard core, doing that while eight months pregnant after a five-hour drive at the end of a workday! Amazing and inspirational.

The solar lights kicked on and looked like stars leading a path to the fire and hangout area.

I don’t have pictures, but we had a s’mores bar by the fire.

While we were eating the chocolate and marshmallow treats, we saw shooting stars. Some noticed Hudi and Mollie disappear up the rocks toward the celestial display, but most did not know at the time that they were off to spend time together, and when they came back to us, they emerged as a newly engaged couple πŸ™‚ Talk about celebration!!!

Fun fact – Bri and Zeb got engaged at CJ and Lauren’s wedding. This tradition was actually a bit of an accident. Hudi was proposing since it was a dating anniversary. He didn’t realize he was extending the tradition initially, but it was kinda awesome.

Finally it was time for the big day. I don’t think Bri slept at all. I know she was up and about with makeup on when I got up around 5 am on Saturday July 20, 2019. Mollie, Lauren and I helped Bri get dressed so they could go up on the rocks for sunrise pictures.

Here are the bride and groom pre-sunrise.

Coming back from taking sunrise images

While they were taking pictures, we were finalizing details and relaxing.

There were so many little details that made it feel super special. The cloth napkins, the little jars of rock with name tags for seating, the rock candy (since we were camping among the rocks) and the monkey bread made by the bride herself and brought on the trip so people would have a treat.

Then it was time for the less-than-four-minute ceremony. The invitation was really funny. We were all told to dress in desert formal or basically whatever we wanted to wear to not die of heat stroke. Haha. It was awesome.

Although they wrote vows for each other, they shared those privately and chose different ones for the actual ceremony. The officiate was Zeb’s roommate from college, and the music was played off a phone so we wouldn’t disturb surrounding campers. It was short, sweet, and full of love. Beautiful. Their dog was the ring bearer πŸ™‚

After the vows, the photographer took group pictures. Back at CJ and Lauren’s wedding, I allowed myself to relax and let the photographer do the job, catching the good images. It was a friend of theirs who gave them a good deal as a wedding gift. I regret my decision there. The person hired never gave them the images (just a couple of photos). (Side note – if you have pics of CJ and Lauren’s wedding that you have not shared with us yet and are willing to share, can you please let me know?)

So this time I took a few of my own even though this photographer seems a lot more professional. Here are a couple of the images.

We all sat down to eat at the pretty tables. The meal consisted of a Bagel Bar, a Bloody Mary Bar (Bri’s dad makes a beautiful and tasty drink), a Trail Mix Bar, yogurt and monkey bread. The cake was decorated with fondant succulents that Bri and I made. It was all so perfect. Although Ophelia (the dog) did party a bit too hard (just kidding. She was smart enough to sleep all day in the 100+F degree heat then perked up at night).

I also grabbed a picture of Bri’s shoes. Mollie got them for her, and I think they are so pretty.

After the brunch, some travelers left to go home while everyone else aside from Chris and myself took off to go Paddle Boarding. We also shared a slideshow highlighting Zeb and Bri’s growing-up years and life together.

Although the wedding was deep in the heart of Moab, an hour’s drive off the main road and deep into no-cell-service-land, we still managed to have a few wedding crashers. One was a lovely woman from New Jersey who asked if she could camp by us since she wasn’t comfortable camping in a more isolated area. She only stayed one night, though.

Another was a bold squirrel who later brought out a companion. Needless to say, we didn’t really partake of the trail mix bar after seeing that πŸ™‚

Look carefully at these images (you might want to click them to see them larger), and you will see a squirrel going: on the wooden tie, on the bench, peeking over the table, on the table, nearing the bowl, in the bowl, eating from the bowl, tipping the bowl, playing in the bowl then acting totally busted.

While the others were gone, and Chris and I were cleaning up camp, we also had a snake come to visit. It didn’t look poisonous or anything, but it was definitely a long one.

We also had a spider almost the size of my fist in our tent. Chris released it into the sand, and it camouflaged so well that the image I took of it didn’t really work. I couldn’t find it in the image when I went to add it to this post. All I saw was sand.

Finally, we were literally swarmed with bees. If you click the video, you can hear them buzzing. They were friendly bees, not really out to sting, but were a bit annoying. Fortunately they were only out for an hour or so at the beginning and end of the days.

Chris and I were amazed as we sat and watched the sunset. Suddenly the bees started to leave in groups of three or four, heading off to the northwest. So fascinating. It was as if they received a call. I wonder if they sensed the bats were coming out and decided to vacate? I don’t know.

Everyone was pretty exhausted that evening, and we went to bed early. We left at 6:30 the next morning to take Hudi back to the airport while Zeb, Bri and her family stayed on for another day of camping and exploring before going home to get their wedding ring tattoos and settling back into reality.

It was an amazing elopement and beautiful in so many ways. We are very thankful to now have a wonderful new daughter as well. Love you, Bri, and blessings on your marriage, Zeb and Bri. May your life be as radiant as the wedding memories.

If you want to hear “their song” check out:

Our Son Zeb is Eloping

Chris and I are invited to an elopement! (YAY!!!) And yes, you read that correctly. Our son Zebulon is tying the knot with the beautiful Bri in a couple of weeks. They are eloping. And we couldn’t be happier.

Zeb and Bri laughing under a tree.
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

I am throwing random images from the engagement photo sessions in this post because I love them.

In fact, I had narrowed it down to a mere 18 of my favorites, but sliced it to six for the post. That was brutal on my end. Please appreciate that πŸ™‚

Zeb kissing a happy Bri.
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

Apparently an elopement today is not what it used to be. Chris and I were discussing it with friends, and of course I had to Google it. According to Merriam-Webster we now have a “Changing Meaning of ‘Elopement.’ “

Our kids are so current.

More kisses from Zeb to Bri.
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

That entire article is an engaging read, but I particularly liked the quote:

The earliest sense of elope was β€œescape” or β€œflee,” and one might argue that this is somehow connected to the way people are now sometimes using it in the context of weddings. Except that this definition does not mean “escape” as in “let’s escape from it all,” but rather “let’s grab the keys from the orderly and make a break for it!”


I’m super proud of these delightful young people. Bri went to college in the town we lived so we’ve known her for a bunch of years now. She and Zeb have had many grand adventures together. It’s been a real gift to see them both grow so much through it all.

Zeb and Bri get engaged.
Zeb and Bri are engaged πŸ™‚

Many of you know that they got engaged right after CJ and Lauren’s wedding.

They were supposed to get married last summer, then after the invitations were out, they realized they weren’t ready and canceled the wedding.

I have serious respect for that.

Zeb and Bri goofing around.
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

Marriage is an amazing thing that should be taken seriously. The breakup wasn’t pretty. Because life is like that sometimes. However, after a few months apart they decided that they don’t ever want to be apart again. How beautiful is that? They also realized that going forward, they should attack life together in their own style. Hence the small wedding in one of their favorite places.

We will be camping out with close family and friends the night before the wedding, and they will have the ceremony in the morning before it gets too hot. The afternoon will be spent hiking and paddle-boarding.

Zeb  and Bri and their dog Ophelia (Opie).
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

Unlike CJ’s and Lauren’s wedding, we won’t be live-streaming the occasion. There will be no Internet. How freeing that is in a way!!! Both options have benefits.

But I’m sure I will collect images to share after.

We head out in a little under two weeks for the occasion. I am seriously looking forward to it.

Zeb, Bri and Opie on the sand.
Photo by: Photography by Tasha Rose (www.photographybytasharose.com)

PS. I get another daughter πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ and she is totally awesome!

A June Wedding

Ashley and Spencer's wedding ceremony on June 8.

No matter how stressful life currently is, a wedding flashes me back to my own vows, and suddenly I feel the magic of starting a life journey with another soul again. This is what I witnessed yesterday when Chris and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of our eldest niece, Ashley. I love weddings, especially those of people close to my heart. They come with the happiness, the smiles, and the reminders of how blessed I am.

The month of June derives its name from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage. It was thought that couples who married in June would be blessed with prosperity and happiness. Did you know that? I didn’t until I found it on a library website.

I am more reminded of the quote from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:

Oh, they say when you marry in June you’re a bride all your life,

and the bridegroom who marries in June gets a sweet-heart for a wife.

We’ll have to wait a few years on that bride all your life bit, but I know that Spencer already has a sweetheart for a wife πŸ™‚

Last week, after meeting with my team in Atlanta (I’ll write about that another time), I flew into Syracuse where Chris picked me up on his way back from Massachusetts. We spent a day with Mom in NY before hitting the road to Ohio. The weather was great, the traffic relatively light, and it was doughnut day so we each got an unexpectedly free doughnut with our coffee for our travels. That’s how perfectly the trip started.

The wedding was on a farm, and everything was beautiful. It was cloudy and warm (but not hot), and it did not rain. It felt unusual wearing flat sandals with my fancy dress, but I was happy for the warning that it would be an outdoor ceremony on grass. No balancing on my toes to keep heels from digging in πŸ™‚

We wondered what familiar faces we might see and had the normal doubts of where it was proper to sit. Even that worked perfectly. Tim (the bride’s father) and his mom were there greeting people and told us to go sit with family anywhere in the first two or three rows. No bride or groom designated sides. Love that. Let all family and friends interweave.

Surrounded by trees, guests mingled and chatted. There was a beautiful flower-strewn arch in front, and the bride was supported by her three sisters and some friends. Those girls are as close as any sisters I know, and their love for each other just radiated.

Couple agreeing to go through with the ceremony and vows.
You sure you are ready to go through with this?

The officiating pastor was the groom’s dad. I wish I recorded the part where they agreed they wanted to continue with the ceremony even knowing they were pledging to stick together even if they get sick or get old. “Still in?” — “Yes!!!”

Marriage isn’t easy, and that was not hidden in the main message. But it is a beautiful thing. One of the greatest gifts ever. After the ceremony we went in to eat some delicious food and enjoy a lot of dancing. We got to talk with the girls and family, and the evening went by super fast.

The thing about marriage and love is something I also find about having children. You love until your heart is completely full, and feel like you couldn’t possibly love more. But somehow you do. Each day, it just grows.

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.

β€”Mignon McLaughlin

I truly hope someday Ashley and Spencer are at the point I am now. Attending weddings 27+ years after their own “I do’s” and knowing that it was one of the best decisions ever.

Escalator Fun

Chris riding escalator next to cart.

I give all you city people permission to laugh at me. But I was completely gobsmacked during a recent shopping excursion to WalMart (of all places). We were in the Albany area and had to grab some stuff. Walking in, we commented to each other that we hadn’t ever been in a two-story WalMart before. Then we casually went on filling up our cart with food.

After we were nice and stocked, we stared at each other in an awkward “Hey, well, we obviously weren’t thinking” moment. The rest of the items we needed were upstairs. What was the best option?

  • A) Both check out together, walk to the car, unload the food and come back for the rest? It was a warmish day so we weren’t sure if we wanted the dairy products to sit in a hot car so long.
  • B) Split up and have one take care of the food while the other grabbed the up-stair items? Not ideal since we wanted to discuss purchasing choices.

We edged the cart forward, leaning toward Choice A and deciding to just shop fast then we noticed people were actually taking carts up the escalator!!! There was a mechanism you pushed the cart onto, and it rode up right next to you (actually, it kind of beat us to the top).

Human and cart entries to escalator.

Now that I am experienced in the cart escalator endeavors, I think in the future I will opt to hold my seltzer since it had a bit of a bumpy ride, but otherwise the process was extremely smooth — even on the way down with a card table and chairs overflowing the cart.

Chairs in cart going down escalator

The experience reminded me of when we country folk used to travel to visit my parents on Long Island (where I grew up). I would take my sons to the mall where we would budget at least ten minutes per visit for the kids to ride the escalators. We had to remind them to not whoop and holler on the way up and down. Now I can relate to how hard it was for them to keep quiet when it’s all so much fun πŸ™‚

A Relatively Perfect Day

David, Uncle John, Me, Aunt Anne and Chris

For many, it was a normal Friday. A day to get through before the weekend kicked off. For us, it was kind of like a holiday. You see, may aunt, uncle and cousin’s son were coming to spend a few hours with us in our Massachusetts haven (amazing how close that word is to heaven). Why would they go many hours out of their way to visit us? Because they love us. Which made the day even more incredible.

Expecting them around noon, Chris hit the slopes, trying to catch some runs before it began raining too hard. A tough time of year for us slope-fiends. We embrace the warmth and beauty of spring, but know the fun time on our sloping playground is limited. Then I got a message that they were close, even earlier than expected. Bonus!!!

David, Aunt Anne and Uncle John

It was a bit drizzly when they arrived, but amazing sports that they are, they popped up their hoods and walked outside for a tour of our little ski center. A soaking wet Chris passed us as we headed out, and we said we’d join him soon.

We walked past a small waterfall, which was pointed out to Aunt Anne, since she loves waterfalls so much. Then I showed the lift she vicariously rode on with me and the run we went down together. Strolling past the coffee shop and firepit area and shop, we headed back to the room for our now signature luncheon of egg sandwiches (a fun machine Hudi and Mollie gave us makes those).

Aunt Anne eating our traditional lunch - Egg Muffins
Aunt Anne eating our traditional lunch – Egg Muffins
A few fun finger foods with family
A few fun finger foods with family

Of course I had to take a picture of the handsome chef as well πŸ™‚

Chris making egg muffins

We have to make the sandwiches one at a time, which might bother some, but we were all of a like mind that this gave us plenty of time to talk and catch up on each other’s lives. I shared my new favorite drink of seltzer mixed with berry tea, and Uncle John shared his train magazine. I swear the man knows everything there is to know about railroads. I particularly love how be brought us an article about the new train bridge in Letchworth, a park near where we used to live.

Train Article in Magazine

Aunt Anne is a big fan of Chris’ art so they spent some time looking at the pieces in our place, and Chris showed her some of the processes he goes through in creating — sharing drawings and such. A very pleasant time!

After lunch, we hit the pool and hot tub. And I got a nice pic of this wonderful couple and some other treasures.

Aunt Anne and Uncle John

I particularly enjoyed having the bonus of seeing David. While he and his brother used to spend time with us every other year, his life got busy with college and all (and our kids grew up and moved out). It’s been a bunch of years since we have seen him. Back in the day, we charted him on our growing wall, and he was so small, you couldn’t even see Chris’ name on the wall above him in a standard picture.

Just look at him now! All grown up.

David is as tall as Chris now
David is as tall as Chris now

Although not so grown up, he won’t take time to play in a pool when given a chance (see images of that on Aunt Anne’s Blog post). She got the action, I got the residual hair style, haha πŸ™‚

David's fun hair after a swim
David’s fun hair after a swim

They had to continue the journeys so we wrapped up the day with some coffee final smiles for the gift of our time together. I love this image of Aunt Anne particularly because it shows the twinkle in her eye that is familiar to me. And Uncle John is grinning as if he’s already working on coming up with a new pun. I feel the beauty of their souls really shine through.

Visits with relatives really are the best.