What a year! For me this has been the most transitional year of my life. Lots of wonderful things with lots of life lessons that were sometimes a challenge. I’m actually sorry to see the year coming to an end. But all exits lead to new entrances so I’m excited to continue on my own journey. It’s only a calendar right, not a true stopping or starting point right?
I had to peruse through old photos to help dust off the memory – so I decided to include them along here too.
But before I get into the normal yee-hah, look how wonderful and perfect we are holiday cards that most of us get, I want to level with everyone. We had a wonderful year, but there were many not-so-wonderful things about it too. We had normal blended family issues one too many times over going on for 6 years now that left either Daren or me in tears, arguing and/or holding each other tight at night. We now have four teenagers and although we have four amazing wonderful children – we do deal with normal teenage “butt” kid issues that tick us off, leave us worrying or leave us scratching our heads. We often have too much going on and the house feels stressful more often than I’d like. I myself became so stressed this year that I started having uncontrolled panic attacks and needed to start some medication. I hit my knee and it got freakish water on the knee that regardless of injections would keep coming back, and worse every time until I needed knee surgery – which knocked me out of normal activities for a few weeks. I’m dealing with terrible carpal tunnel syndrome now. It began when we started painting the new house in Branford and has not relented even though I stopped painting once the pain started to wake me up at night. Our pets destroy things & cost us oodles of money in replacement of objects or pet healthcare. There are obnoxious mistakes with our bills, our internet doesn’t always work, after getting rid of cable we can’t always watch what we want on tv and spend hours trying to find a way to do so. We miscommunicate and accidentally don’t understand one another and waste a lot of time that could have been better spent if we only just communicated better upfront. There are often one too many things to do during the week and too many comings and going that leave us utterly exhausted. We laugh & cry & don’t always get along as smashingly as the tv tells us you that you are supposed to. But that is life right? We are real and we all do stupid clown things at times. All six of us yes… 😉 But onto the highlights I would much rather remember.
Daren & I kicked off New Years day by taking Koji to the beach at Hammonasset. It was a beautiful day. We wanted to let him off leash but there were horses on the beach. Yes… I said horses. He’d never seen a horse before and was completely dumbfounded. Then he proceeded to investigate their droppings (yucky, stinky nose).
In January I decided to start a 200 hour yoga teacher training. It was kind of an impromptu decision and one of the best ones I made this year. The rest of the month was fairly quiet and dare I say relaxing? When Thomas went back to college mid-month I felt the overwhelming need to capture these special days. So I started blogging on our shared family calendar/shopping list/to do list/meal-recipe site. It’s called Cozi. It also has a journal feature I started using & just kept using. I’ve been posting a few things each week that summarized what we’ve been up to. Thinking about the weekly highlights is a really nice way to start a Friday. Other than that, there was just some snow & some winter treat making – as seen here with Gabby & Koji.
I turned 40! Something I dreaded for years, but as the weeks approached it didn’t seem like much of a big deal any more and it was nothing more than any other birthday. Daren threw me a surprise party (though it wasn’t much of a surprise – lol). I felt very loved surrounded by family & friends. Thomas even came home from college to be there.
Daren & I also visited with Keegan and Sarah in Portland, OR the week before my birthday. It was too short of a trip but we wine tasted, hiked and spent some qt with Liam & Lilly and had a chance to have some yummy meals with the grown ups too.
- Snapshot of me & my February birthday homegirls with whom I celebrate together every year (Priscilla & Michele).
- A winery Karen “found” in Northford. I thought I knew all the wineries in the state, so this one took me by surprise.
- Harvard/Yale hockey game with Daren & Devin.
- Some winery & hiking pics from Portland.
- My daily walk I take at work (stairs). This was just a pretty cold, snow on the ground day. Nothing special other than I was just really happy and wanted to capture the moment.
- Out to dinner with my “Vannies” at Powder Ridge.
- Gabby fencing. It was the first match we got the ‘ok’ to come see.
Thomas turned 19 and Devin turned 13. It marked the start of a year that we have four teenagers. Some key highlights from the month:
- Sherrie & I took Gabby & Sierra Boston to visit the Lush store.
- Daren met Bernie Sanders’ chief of staff in Washington DC on a work trip
- Devin wrapped up his hockey season
- Easter Egg hunting with Mario, Maria & Pops
Oh boy what a month. It was a whirlwind of college visits for Gabby. We took her to SUNY ESF (Environmental Sciences and Forestry) in Buffalo, NY; Boston University; Roger Williams in RI; UMass Dartmouth in MA; and University of Rhode Island. Then didn’t end it there… Gabby & I followed Daren to a conference in San Diego to spend a few days in the sun with David & Angela, and checking out the Scripps Institute with “Uncle Dave” who teased that he would walk in with a southern accent and ask all kinds of embarrassing questions – haha! It was also the month I kicked up the blog I wrote one story in last year. I took a day off after this trip due to stress and ended up writing a blog I decided to publicly share about my stress. I was so touched by the many, many people who publicly and privately reached out to me to share their stories and tell how that I’m not alone, both after that day & many others. I’ve posted many articles since then. If you’ve never checked it out – it’s @ esterinaanderson.com. Take a look and either publicly or privately comment/chat on any of the stories if you feel moved to.
- Daren and Gabby on the water of one of the finger lakes (can’t remember which one without looking it up)
- At SUNY ESF
- “Uncle David” at Scripps
- And lastly, my beautiful daughter Gabrielle had her junior prom.
Koji turned 2! I took my crazy chances at the peak of my anxiety to ask if I could work part-time (crazy story that I blogged about & ended up with me working a totally different part time job as of last week [11/28]) How to squash a motivated employee. Wrapped up the end of the school year with spring concerts and end of year events and fanfare. Thomas finished his first year of college, came back home for the summer, and resumed work at Best Friends in Prospect (dog daycare/boarding). We hiked & did a bit of CT wine tasting. I got my knee surgery. And we spent a lovely long weekend on Long Island seeing my beautiful niece’s dance recital and hanging out with my father-in-law doing some LI hiking too. Well, I did some LI wobbling with my pained knee. But I went a few miles with it!
- Koji’s birthday!
- Pets always where they aren’t supposed to be.
- Pictured above this one is a shoe out of a closet when Kieran & I got home. Luckily this one wasn’t destroyed. Guilty looking paws are caught next to it.
- Gilmore caught here on the counter hairing up the juice I was about to make.
- Memorial Day weekend hiking on Long Island with Dick & Devin
School ended for the other three kids. Gabby turned 17. Daren & I “discovered” the CT breweries & fell in love with IPAs. Daren and Devin built a beautiful stairwell down to the garden from under our deck that we enjoyed this summer. It’s a pretty little sanctuary with a mandala, some adirondack chairs, a swinging bench, a fire pit and some cool lights. Kieran took a little trip to Ireland with his class for Chorus. And we started our European family vacation at the end of June.
- Chilling one Saturday afternoon with cards & snacks at Stony Creek Brewery
- View from under the deck
- Gabby’s birthday cake
- International Yoga Day (6/21) with my homegirls at Two Roads.
- Game of Thrones snacks Thomas made for the season finale
- The group (minus Daren who was taking the picture) in Berlin. As you can see my eldest just has to be a clown and cross his eyes for most serious pictures. Ugh… these kids I tell ya!
This month started out in Europe. We crossed from Berlin to Copenhagen on a train/ferry (pictured below). We took a train over to Sweden and back to Denmark. We came back to CT and the kids started back at work. Kieran worked at the country club golf course in Westhampton Beach by his grandparents (my in-laws). Gabby landed a job at Panera bread and Tom kept his old high school job at Best Friends. Best Friends luckily allows him to bring Koji to work most days, so that stinky black beast gets to play with lots of his doggie friends. Unfortunately there was a bout of kennel cough and Koji got a little sick. He does have his kennel cough shot so it wasn’t too bad. All was good!
Right after we got back from Europe, Daren and I took a trip out to Vancouver, Canada for a work conference he was a part of. It was awesome. I spent the days walking through the city and hiking/doing yoga in a nearby park. What a great city. Cool restaurants and museums. No need for a car.
- Ferry portion of the trip to Denmark. As you can see, not everyone is happy to take a pic, nor can everyone gets off their phones for a moment. “But there is wifi ma…”
- Kieran & Devin in Copenhagen
- Gabby, Daren, Kieran & Devin in Malmo, Sweden
- Pokemon Go – All the rage of the summer of ’16
- Daren & I outside a work dinner at a beautiful restaurant in a park during sunset. All you can eat oysters when we first got in (oh and we did… oh boy we did!).
August… well…. We decided on the fly to buy a second home 🙂 Well, not too much on the fly. For anyone who knows us well in real life, you would know that Daren and I had always planned to move in 4 1/2 years somewhere else, perhaps to another country, likely a 3rd world one, to help out with healthcare in someway. We of course would want an address in the U.S. and always talked of having a decent home on the shoreline of CT where people would want to rent by the week so we could make some income on a permanent home that we’d have to keep a mortgage on, and have a place to come home to for holidays & events. Well, while driving back from LI one weekend visiting my step boys who spend four weeks each summer with my in-laws; we started to ask ourselves why we were waiting on the house on the water part. So we came home, found some places we wanted to look at… contacted our good friend Melanie who also happens to be a realtor. And the rest is history!
Aside from buying a home, running back and forth to LI, and immense stress at work – August 2016 was THE most relaxing month I have had in my adult life. With no school and mostly no kids and their events/practices/sports/comings & goings, every night was like a mini vacation out on our beautiful back deck. Thomas went back to school at the end of the month. Gabby and Devin started 12th and 8th grade respectively.
- New trail in Cheshire that I fell in love with. It even got it’s own blog story 🙂 On New Pathways
- Typical happy hour in the evening this summer. We really fell in love with rose wine (french word, can’t seem to put the accent mark in there) – you know… pink wine. I had a white craze two years ago and always stayed away from the pinks. We found some delightful ones this year. A new love!
- Keegan and Liam came to Long Island for a few days this summer. Liam got to see the Mets at Citifield for the first time.
- View from the yard at the Branford house before we got it. I believe this was from the realtor site. It took so many pics since then. They are all ridiculously gorgeous.
- Koji enjoyed his pool this summer.
- We had a very prolific garden. My co-workers and yoga mates were some of the many recipients of the abundance.
- Missy Jean’s first day of senior year (missy jean would be Gabby – in case that was too much to figure out).
Daren, Gabby, Kieran & I ran the New Haven annual Labor Day 5K. Daren and I beat Kieran and Gabby – it’s nice to know we can run faster than our teenage kids – lol.
Kieran went back to school right after Labor day & wrapped up the summer golf course gig. Everything was back in full swing as the days quickly got shorter and cooler. Hockey, cross country, open house nights – papers to print & sign (printer never works is always out of ink), checks to write, ugh…
Daren & I got in full swing with a new mini career as furniture renovators for our new house- haha! We bought a ton of furniture between $5 and $50 and repainted and refinished it all. We had such a blast. We did a little end of summer hiking. I made a few last summer pies. Gabby had her senior day at Cross Country. And we closed on the new house!
- One of the very many before & after pics of the furniture we refinished.
- I took a picture of so many pies I made this summer. It was pie summer, I was obsessed. I think the was my last summer pie – but I can’t be 100% certain.
- The last hike we took this summer. Not because of the weather, but because we started working on the house like crazy lunatic fiends.
- Gabby’s senior day for XC with her closest XC girlfriends. I cannot believe these girls are seniors. They’ve grown into beautiful young women.
- House closing day!
In October we spent a lot of time painting, cleaning and repairing the new house. It was also our five year anniversary & we took a trip to Italy to celebrate. We went to Milan, Venice, Tuscany and Como. And it was Halloween – one of my favorite holidays.
- Little miss Maria, my awesome brother Mario & me painting one early Sunday morning.
- The VACT 2015-2016 Strategic Planning Team. Was something akin to a last supper – lol.
- One of many awesome “game nights” (although we hardly play games these days) with some of my favorite girlfriends.
- One of many beautiful views at Summer Island Point.
- Everyone has seen enough of our Italy pictures – so I’ll spare you all. This is something I took a picture of in Italy that I still laugh about. It just makes me smile- seriously 🙂
- Gabby’s boyfriend Dennis’ first pumpkin carving! His family is from Ukraine. Although he was born here, they’ve never observed the tradition and he wanted to try. Check out Devin in between them photo bombing the pic… Haha – totally cracks me up.
Grateful time of year. We finished up the new house. It came out beautifully. Anyone who wants to see some pics who hasn’t seen the blog or been victims of us showing you pictures on our iPhones – they are available at New Vacation Home Renovations
We spent one weekend visiting Thomas in Portland, ME. We rented a cool apartment in the heart of town and brought Koji with us. The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time. It was the Clinton/Trump election. Gabby had her senior year Cross Country banquet which was very beautiful but sad because these young girls have been together forever! It was the busiest month ever with Daren traveling to Seattle, Boston, and Colorado, and the usual kid scheduling craziness. In the middle of it all I had a peaceful evening with some of my closest work girlfriends over at the Branford house for some wine, pizza and mandala coloring. Also, Daren turned 49! We celebrated at the new house with just the boys and a beautiful sunset and homemade surf & turf dinner. We also celebrated Thanksgiving in the new house with my father, my brother Frankie, his girlfriend Mary, my nephew Frankie, and Tommy & Gabby.
And lastly – I finally started officially working part time. It’s not even been 2 weeks yet, but I feel the stress just melting off my body, mind & spirit. Time to fill in that empty space with my heart’s passions before the “little rocks” of life fill it up for me. I won’t let that happen though!
- Visiting with Thomas in Portland. Kofi was SO stinking happy to see him.
- Election Day.
- Out to dinner with our hubbies but had to get a girl pic. Love you girls!
- Senior Cross Country Banquet.
- Picture I captured while taking an early Thanksgiving morning walk in Branford at the new house. It was cloudy & quiet, but an absolutely breathtaking morning.
This month’s story is still being written. Kieran will turn 17 this month! We had some of our closest friends over to the new house last weekend for an intimate house warming party. Next month we hope to do a large open house and have everyone over. We adopted another domestic violence family this year. I love doing this and feel so blessed we have the ability to keep Santa alive for another family – giving their children hope and possibly a chance in life with confidence and the attitude of giving back. Most excitingly for me, it’s yoga teacher graduation next weekend. The class and experience shaped me into a different person this year. That is truly a story that is personal, and one that I may share one day – but in another more appropriate venue.
Thank you to all who are a part of my life and our lives. I cherish each and every single one of you and the time we spend together. Not everyone I see all the time or often share a supper or girls night with was pictured or mentioned here, but I cherish & love you all immensely.
Love, Peace & Namaste.
Happy Holidays for our family to you & yours.