Dear Friends and Family,
As December comes to a close, it is again time to look at the year in review. Here is a snapshot of our lives at a glance. This truly was “the year of family.” If you would like to read about our lives in more detail check out my blog at: vanderkatz.blogspot.com .
We rang in the New Year with a very early morning sunrise at Mt. Haleakala in Maui. Hawaii was beautiful, relaxing, and everyone was so easy going. The Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu was absolutely amazing. I thought it was better than Disneyland and would love to go again. We were rained out of the road to Hana, so I guess our only option is to go to again!
In February, Colby asked Alex to marry him. She said, “yes!” In August they got married and I couldn’t be happier to call her my sister. I had the honor of officiating the wedding and Justin was asked to be a groomsman. Annie and I marveled during the wedding at how we had never seen Colby so happy. It was truly a special day and a beautiful wedding. They even had a camel at their venue. We are so very happy for both of them. Welcome to our family Alex!
Also in February, I got a call that broke my heart in two. Grandma Gretchen was put on hospice. She had Alzheimer's for years, but the woman I loved was still in there showing herself at times. I went down to San Diego and spent time with her and Grandpa. She gave me a few really good hugs and looked at me and said, “you are a good girl.” She held my hand a lot. Grandpa said that she hadn’t been that animated and responsive in a long time. I was afraid that she was waiting for me to say goodbye. Two days after I left she went severely down hill and stopped eating. On March 7th she passed away peacefully in her sleep. I miss her so much. Freddy says that the more tears you shed the more love you shared. She was my best friend, my mentor, my biggest advocate, my role model, and my mom. She will forever be a part of me. I went down to San Diego and said goodbye to her and spent time grieving with my family. Life will never be the same. In March I went back down for Grandma’s Celebration of Life and Justin accompanied me. It was a beautiful remembrance with lots of family and friends. I’m sure she was there looking down. We saw several humming birds that day. Grandma said that she would never leave, that she would always be watching and send signs so that we know she is there. I have seen lots of butterflies since. I planted a pomegranate tree in my backyard in her honor.
In April, when we celebrated “Trudy Day” (which is a day to share memories, foods, favorites, and remembrance for my mom to keep her memory alive in our minds and hearts). The boys decided that we should add Grandma Gretchen and my dad to the celebration. If you saw the new Disney movie, “Coco”, it’s a bit like that with our own twist.
Continuing with the theme of being the year of family, we took a trip up to Portland, Oregon to spend time with Colby and Alex. We also went to spend time with Andrea (my best friend - whom I met in a gym in Italy!!!), Josh, Jules, and Georgiana Johnson. We stayed the week at their house. We got to play some games and spend quality time with both families.
Oliven celebrated his 7th birthday with an Earth Day theme (He was born on Earth Day) and started his party by having all of his friends pick up trash to be kind to the Earth! Vander celebrated his birthday with his first sleepover. He invited his best friend and Ollie’s best friend.
In May, Oliven and I took a special Mommy and Me trip down to Anaheim to celebrate Hattie’s 1st birthday. She made a gigantic mess with the frosting - it was awesome! Evan also turned one this year, and we all got to go to his party.
Vander is still playing baseball and really enjoys it. He especially enjoys pitching. Justin has been coaching or managing on each of Vander’s teams. Vander is learning the recorder in band. Oliven has been doing gymnastics. He has always loved having his feet above his head, so it’s the perfect sport for him. He has gotten really good on the piano. He has told me many times, “piano is my passion.” I am also taking piano lessons, but I am not a natural like Oliven. We have participated in 3 piano recitals and Oliven played the piano in 2 talent shows this year.
We had a summer full of swimming and camping (With Deb and Heather, and then with Colby and Alex). Annie and I went to Alex’s bachelorette party and met all of her friends. It really was a great group of women. I got lasik eye surgery, which like Colby said, “is pretty much the closest thing to magic.” Aunt Karen came up to visit for the week, it was really great for her and the boys to get to know each other better. I had spent some time with her and Uncle Ken earlier in the year while staying at their house in San Diego. While Karen was in San Jose, I got a chance to take her to my friend Hannah’s house, which was Karen’s house growing up! The nostalgia was both happy, sad, and overwhelming in the best way. She even got to see her old neighbor, Trilby, who had lived there when she had as a kid! Trilby even remembered her family and that Karen’s mom locked herself out of her house in her pjs when they first moved in!
Since we moved in to the JAVO Cottage, I have felt like our house is too dark, so this summer we exchanged all of our light bulbs for brighter lights and had our house painted. We had a colorist help us pick out the colors, - light blue with brown trim - and had the house painted while on our summer vacation. It looks great! Our house is much brighter and cheerier now. We also bought some amazing art by Peter Lik of ocean pics in Hawaii to add beauty and serenity to our house.
We took an epic 16 day family trip to cap off the summer. We started in Las Vegas (the shrimp at “Lotus of Siam” is in Justin’s top 3 foods ever). Next we went to Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, and Mesa Verde in Colorado. The national parks were absolutely incredible,awe inspiring, and breathtaking. Wow, just wow! We then got to spend time in Creede, Colorado with Justin’s side of the family: All 4 Busch Families, the Pint Family, and ourselves. Fishing, playing games, roasting marshmallows, chatting, and spending quality time with family in a beautiful place were the highlights. We then stopped in Phoenix for a baseball game and the “Museum of Musical Instruments” (best museum EVER!) We finished our trip in Anaheim and Los Angeles for Colby and Alex’s magical wedding, as mentioned above. To read more go to http://vanderkatz.blogspot.com/2017/09/epic-family-trip-las-vegas-nevada-utah.html (The picture I am sending is on a hike in Zion).
In October Colby (my baby brother) turned 30! Freddy, Colby, and I celebrated in style. We took a trip to New Orleans, with a stop off in Biloxi, Mississippi and Mobile, Alabama. It was an amazing trip. I fell madly, deeply in love while down there...with jazz music! We got to see lots of nature, experience the culture, the music, and some National Historic sites. The music and the coffee were soooo good. We also enjoyed the local cuisine. The best part was being with my brothers. Thanks in no small part to Annie and Justin for watching the kids for six days!
We went down to Anaheim to spend time with family for Thanksgiving. We had a great 6 day trip at the Grand family’s home. The cousins had a blast with each other. Freddy, Emmie, and Molly joined us for a day at Disneyland, which was of course delightful and crowded, but very fun. Freddy fixed Emmie’s broken sandal with a string cheese wrapper! Thanksgiving was really enjoyable (Kyle, Kelly, Colby, and Alex were missing - we wished they were there), but it was also hard without Grandma there. Santa showed up and Vander had an “a ha” moment. He then asked, “Do the other adults know?” So cute!
As I mentioned previously this was “the year of family” and it truly was. It was a very challenging year mentally, physically, and emotionally. Thankfully it was accented with lots of joy.
Here’s wishing you and your family a Happy Holidays and a very happy and healthy 2018. Love, JAVO
This was ironically taken on a hike at Zion National park in 107 degree weather. Justin and Vander hated this hike. Oliven and I enjoyed it. It was very pretty, but a bit miserable with Vander whining and complaining and Justin yelling at him to stop whining and crying. A vicious cycle really.