Tag Archives: family

#37. & #38. father-daughter dates and paying it forward

I have been a daddy’s girl as long as I can remember. Ok, I’m a momma’s girl too (I lucked out with two super awesome parents), but my dad and I are practically the exact same person. He’s the guy who introduced me to Jules Verne and gave me my thirst for adventure and travel. He taught me how to make the perfect pancakes. Because of him, my first word as a baby was AC/DC thanks to continuous replays of Thunderstruck and Back in Black. He’s incredibly smart, creative, idealistic and one hell of a cook. I’m thankful to take after him so much.

As a teenager you go through this transition – from worshiping your parents as kids to not wanting to be in a 500 foot radius of them. Hanging out with your parents is no longer the cool thing to do, and so you replace Sunday morning breakfasts with your dad for Shady Maple trips with your best friends. Instead of staying in and watching a movie with him, you opt for boozy movie and manicure nights with your gals.

Then you hit your twenties, and you move a few states away and you realize how much you miss Sunday morning pancakes. And reciting lines from National Lampoon’s Vacation. Which is why it was so important for me to take my dad out for a father-daughter date this summer. Especially considering that the last one was 12 years ago.

Twelve years ago, I was in sitting in Ms. Lawlor’s history class. I was in 6th grade and it was my 11th birthday. We were doing presentations on the 50 states when my name was called for an early dismissal. I went down to the office and my dad was standing there with a big grin on his face. We went and saw Monsters Inc. at the local movie theater and grabbed some pizza afterwards. To this day, it is still one of my favorite birthdays and memories with my dad.

Always being one for sentimentality, I thought it would be adorable to take him to see the new Monsters University movie, to inject some nostalgia into our date. We bought tickets for a Sunday matinee showing, ordered a giant bucket of buttery popcorn and sat ourselves between dozens of other dads and their young daughters. So young their feet couldn’t even touch the ground. Before the movie started I looked around and watched as one dad fixed his little girl’s bow in her hair. She looked up at him and smiled so wide she looked like she could burst and she quickly gave him a kiss on the cheek. My dad had been watching too and we both looked at each other and smiled, remembering the days when my feet couldn’t touch the ground and he had to fix the bows in my hair too, years and years ago.

The movie was good. We both enjoyed it and even laughed a few times throughout. Afterwards, I treated him to lunch at the Olive Garden across the street and we spent the next hour talking about everything from work to weddings to favorite memories. To wrap up the day, we stopped at Dick’s Sporting Goods because he needed a new pair of work shoes. Because he spends all day making deliveries and driving a truck, a pair of good, durable work shoes always set him back at least $100. My dad is always looking out for others before himself, so I knew I wanted to do something extra nice for him. Before I knew it, I was swiping my card at the register and the look of surprise that came over his face made the dent in my credit card balance completely worth it.

A few hours later I packed up my stuff and was getting ready to leave for the 3 hour drive back to Maryland. Before I got in the car he gave me a big hug, told me how much he loved me and appreciated everything I had done for him that day, from the movie to lunch to his new shoes.

I kissed him on the cheek. And I made him pinky swear it wouldn’t be another 12 years until the next date.

My mom and dad at my recent bridal shower.

My mom and dad at my recent bridal shower.

I only wish I had known when I was 13 what I know now: that spending quality time with your dad is totally one of the “coolest” things you can do.

#36. have an awesome bridal shower

We are officially in double-digit territory folks. That’s right. There are now only 93 days left until the ‘big day’ and Mike and I are scrambling to get things together.

Two weeks ago my sister, the maid of honor in my wedding, and my bridesmaids hosted my bridal shower at my mom’s house.

After weeks and weeks of a constant barrage of texts from Rissa, telling me about all the wonderful things she had planned, I could barely contain my excitement. Thanks to Pinterest, coupled with my early-age obsession with all things wedding, I had created in my head the bridal shower of my dreams.

It would be pink. Definitely pink.

And there would be champagne. Lots of it.

And a beautiful cake.

And flowers, and delicious food and small beautiful details.

And my closet friends and family.

But then I reminded myself to be realistic and decided I’d be happy with just pizza, friends and booze.

The day before the shower, I picked up Bethany and her, Mike and I made the three hour trek to Pennsylvania. After filling up on half priced appetizers at Applebee’s, we went back to Rissa’s and crashed for the night. (I’m convinced Bethany is a saint for surviving six total hours with Mike and I in the car and having to spend an entire weekend with my friends and family).

The next morning I anxiously got ready in my new mint lace dress. I quickly blow dried my hair and scrutinized my makeup. I wanted to look like a ‘blushing bride.’ B and I grabbed some Wawa iced coffees to give ourselves the needed fuel to make it throughout the long day ahead.

Before I knew it I was receiving text after text from Rissa telling me to hurry up and come over – that it was finally time for my bridal shower to start.

We pulled up and after giving out a few hugs to those who were waiting on the front porch, Rissa walked me through the house to see everything.

And nothing – no dreamed up vision, no Pinterest board, no TLC reality TV show could have prepared me for how absolutely beautiful and amazing and perfect everything was. I was literally lost for words (which doesn’t happen often).

There was pink. Everywhere.

And champagne. Lots of it.

And the most beautiful cake I had ever seen.

And flowers. And tables full of delicious food. And so many small beautiful details I couldn’t take them all in fast enough.

And most importantly, my closest family and friends.

The beautiful spread. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

The beautiful spread. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

My favorite thing: a mimosa bar. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

My favorite thing: a mimosa bar. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

The cake in all her Parisian sparkly glory. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

The cake in all her Parisian sparkly glory. Photo courtesy of B. Roons.

...And my reaction to said amazing cake.

…And my reaction to said amazing cake.

By the time I made it to the back deck, my eyes were swelling up with tears because I was completely and utterly overwhelmed with how perfect everything was. It was all I had ever dreamed of and more. And  so I buried my face in Rissa’s shoulder as we both sobbed and whimpered to each other how much we loved one another. Because we’re big babies like that.

Soon to be Mrs. (Ianni)-Young.

Soon to be Mrs. (Ianni)-Young.

Mmm, mimosa. Courtesy: B. Roons.

Mmm, mimosa. Courtesy: B. Roons.

I got spoiled.

I got spoiled.

The rest of the day was filled with lots of mimosas, and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, and snapping dozens of pictures, and wrapping ourselves in toilet paper, and laughing until our stomachs ached. There were speeches. And tears. And more mimosas. And love. Lots and lots of love.

So much love I felt like I could burst.

So. much. love.

So. much. love.

The three musketeers.

The three musketeers.

Two of my favorite ladies. Photo courtesy of Bethany.

Two of my favorite ladies. Photo courtesy of Bethany.

My temple ladies.

My temple ladies.

I felt so lucky that day, looking around the room and each of those women, to call them my friends and my family. Especially my amazing bridal party for everything they did to put it together, my mom for not having a complete panic attack with all the commotion in her house, and of course, my best friend, sister, and maid of honor, Rissa for always finding a way to give me the world and more.

My amazing bridal party.

My amazing bridal party.

My best friend, sister, maid of honor. Basically, I'd be lost without her.

My best friend, sister, maid of honor. Basically, I’d be lost without her.

After everyone started trickling out and the final hugs were exchanged, the few of us that remained chowed down on pizzas. 6 large pizzas and 2 orders of breadsticks to be exact. What can I say, bridal showers will take a lot out of you.

Hungry much?

Hungry much?

Jess, Bethany, Rissa, me and the boys stayed up drinking margaritas and playing card games late into the night. It was the perfect way to end an already perfect day.

Margaritas & a game of bullshit.

Margaritas & a game of bullshit.

The next morning, everyone was slow and sluggish, still recovering from Saturday’s festivities. After more coffee, croissants and muffins, Mike, Bethany and I stuffed the gifts into the car and made the three hour drive home, with a Rita’s pit stop on the way.

My breakfast the following day, a disgustingly delicious truffle.

My breakfast the following day, a disgustingly delicious truffle.

Mike and I spent the next three hours cleaning the apartment and setting up all of our beautiful gifts, turning our place into even more of a home.

Rissa's (one of many) beautiful gift to me - a love bracelet to match with hers.

Rissa’s (one of many) beautiful gift to me – a love bracelet to match with hers.

I sprawled out across the floor, exhausted and sweaty, but happy, and closed my eyes, replaying the entire weekend in my mind again.

It really was that perfect.

Family forever, for always and no matter what.

Family forever, for always and no matter what.

#29. & #30. go to an expensive restaurant and enjoy a night of jazz

Mike turned 26 the second day into our trip in Texas. It’s crazy to think that we began dating when he was only 19 and now he’s more than half way to 30! I like to tease him about what an old grump he is and how lucky he is to have such a young, radiant 23-year-old as his fiancée.

Mike’s the kind of guy who never makes a big deal out of his own birthday, even though deep down, I know he secretly wishes people would. He’s always been very simple – dinner and a card. I on the other hand, consider myself a birthday fanatic. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays and I love celebrating my own. I think birthdays are awesome (which is why I recently celebrated turning 23 ½) because it’s your own personal holiday. It belongs all to you. Plus there’s always cake, and who doesn’t love cake?

That’s why I knew I wanted to give Mike his best birthday present ever – by letting him celebrate it with his family in Texas, whom he rarely sees.

I couldn't resist snagging a picture on this awesome bench.

I couldn’t resist snagging a picture on this awesome bench.

Mike, his dad and I spent the sweltering afternoon at Kemah Boardwalk, enjoying tropical beverages, novelty candy and laughing at Mike’s unexpected birthday present from a bird. Kemah is full of little shops, carnival rides, an aquarium and a nice view of the water.

Kemah Boardwalk - before the clouds cleared up.

Kemah Boardwalk – before the clouds cleared up.

texas daquiri

Is that not the biggest strawberry you’ve ever seen?

It was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon – relaxing and laughing while sipping on daiquiris and margaritas at noon.  We then spent an hour or so at a nearby Texas version of Dave & Buster’s, playing pool, shooting hoops and playing skee ball.

Boys will be boys.

Boys will be boys.

We went home to get freshened up for dinner, as Mike’s dad and stepmom were taking us to Perry’s Steakhouse, one of the nicest (and expensive) restaurants in the Houston area. I’m talking Mike and I would only be able to afford to SPLIT an appetizer here. And to top it off, it was jazz night at the restaurant. It was perfect.

We were seated in the bar area where the band was playing covers of popular hits, and almost immediately Mike and his dad started an unspoken competition of who could name the song first as they’d sing along with the music. We ordered a round of drinks and some appetizers.

Mike's scallops, which he devoured.

Mike’s scallops, which he devoured.

Beef Carpaccio with arugula salad.

Beef Carpaccio with arugula salad.

True to picky form – the appetizers consisted mostly of seafood (bleh), so I ordered some extra cheesy au gratin potatoes while the others ordered beef carpaccio and bacon wrapped scallops. We also devoured some of the most deliciously warm bread I’ve ever tasted while we sipped on our various libations.

Giant bowls of potatoes are cheese are all I need in life.

Giant bowls of potatoes and cheese are all I need in life.

After getting tired of ordering the same old lemon drop martini, the bartender suggested I try one of their most popular drinks – the blueberry cucumber martini. I hate blueberries and I hate cucumbers even more, so I was skeptical, but figured I’d give it a shot. I’m glad I did because it was easily one of the best tasting drinks I’ve ever ordered. It was crisp, light, refreshing and strong. Everything you’d want in a drink.

My new beverage of choice.

My new beverage of choice.

We all proceeded to order our entrees – from crab topped filet, to scallops and sea bass to lamb. While we waited on our food, we talked about the kids, our upcoming wedding and life as the band continued to play in the background with its gently thumping bass and melodic keyboard. Mike and his dad continued to serenade the table as they correctly identified one song after another. Like father like son.

Horrible lighting - but amazing steak.

Horrible lighting – but amazing steak.

When our food finally arrived, Mike and I clearly savored every single bite as we both knew this was a meal we would have never been able to afford otherwise. Everything was absolutely delicious and unsurprisingly, Mike practically licked his plate clean.

Dinner is never complete without a fire hazard.

Dinner is never complete without a fire hazard.

Four martinis, cheesy potatoes and a steak into the meal, I felt I was ready to burst but we couldn’t leave without Mike enjoying a birthday dessert. A fan for the overly dramatic, Mike ordered a flaming desert, a Mont Beur Blanc (vanilla cake, topped with ice cream, white chocolate sauce and strawberries). The chef came out and prepared it table side as we all watched in awe when the chef lit the dessert on fire with flames that stretched five feet tall.

Mike's birthday dessert.

Mike’s birthday dessert.

After an amazing experience and four hour meal, we managed to pick ourselves up and head home for the evening.

On the way back, Mike whispered to me, “Thank you for the best birthday I’ve ever had. Thank you for giving me my family.”

All I could do was smile.

#27. & #28. visit Texas and meet a new member of Mike’s family

Howdy ya’ll. Sorry for the disappearance – as I mentioned last week, Mike and I went to Texas to visit his family. I bought him the tickets for Christmas and planned the trip to fall during his 26th birthday. Not to toot my own horn, but I thought it was the best gift I’ve given… for now.

I’m going to break our trip down into multiple blog posts, as I was busy crossing things off the list while we were out there. What can I say – I believe in multitasking.

I think we caught a 3 hour nap before taking off.

I think we caught a 3 hour nap before taking off.

Our boarding time was 6:30 am last Wednesday, which meant a wake up call of 3 am. Needless to say, it was a rough morning. However, with the help of an extra cheesy and greasy bagel, our tummies were full and our eyelids were heavy as we napped on the plane ride over to Dallas. After a two hour layover, we were on our way to Houston where we were greeted with the worst humidity I’ve ever experienced.

Necessary Instagrammed airplane picture.

Necessary Instagrammed airplane picture.

I’m talking, feels like you’re pushing your way through the air, drenched in sweat after 30 seconds humidity. I later learned that in Texas, 95 degree weather with 88% humidity is only considered “warm.” I also learned that their news consists of fat men with backwards baseball caps talking about American Idol, their radio stations are almost entirely in Spanish and that all the rumors about things being bigger in Texas are true. Cue my giant martini (it had to be around 16 oz.)

The picture doesn't do the size of this martini justice. This was drink #1 of many - raspberry lemon drop.

The picture doesn’t do the size of this martini justice. This was drink #1 of many – raspberry lemon drop.

Mike, his dad and I quick grabbed some lunch before heading home where we were greeted by the five kids and the newest addition to the family, Tiana. To say she was precious is an understatement. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a kid person, but Tiana’s smile, the way she danced and laughed and most of all, the way she ran to Mike, clinging to him with her tiny arms, made me remember why I bought these tickets in the first place.

Michael & Tiana ... so precious.

Michael & Tiana … so precious.

The older kids remembered me but the younger ones didn’t, who were just babies the last time I had seen them. So I spent the first hour going through old pictures of Mike and I’s trip to Vegas where I had met them and as I scrolled through they excitedly yelled “That’s me! That’s me!” Before I knew it, I had Bianca curled up in my lap, her beautiful curls brushing against my face as she played with my bracelets and twirled my hair.

Me and my diva-in-training, Bianca.

Me and my diva-in-training, Bianca.

We spent the rest of the first day curled up on the couch with the kids and even went to see them at their Tae Kwon Do practice which was a lot of fun. The best part for me however was seeing how happy Mike was to be surrounded by his family. By the little brothers and sisters who I know he misses on a daily basis. His dad who he admires more than anyone in the world.

It was a heartwarming experience – to be able to give him something so special after he’s given so much to me.

the girl goes west

Hi readers!

I’m going to be quiet on here for the next week or so. Because tomorrow morning, at 7 am (I don’t know why I always punish myself with such early flights), Mike and I will be taking off to Houston, Texas. This will be the first time Mike has seen his family in a few years and it will be my first official vacation since joining the working world a year ago.

texas

Expect a Texas-sized update when I get back, hopefully with lots of instagrammed pictures of barbeque and cowboy boots.

Yee-haw!

[Has anyone been to Texas and have any recommendations of things to check out in the Houston area? I leave tomorrow and haven’t planned a single thing yet. I don’t even know who I am anymore!]

#24. & #25. go paintballing & plan a brother-sister weekend

If your parents are anything like mine, or any other parent on the face of the planet, you’ve probably heard the following at least a hundred times:

“Be nice to your brother and sister. You may hate them now but they’re going to be all you have one day.”

The worst part about it? Realizing like pretty much everything else they’ve ever said to you, from saving money for college to not getting that face tattoo you want, they are always right.

brother sister

Being the oldest of three, I was excited to have a little sister and brother to look after and take care of. Until I realized it meant sharing the precious camcorder spotlight or not getting as many toys or new clothes, or no longer being the cute, little one in the family. No – I was the older sister. I needed to make “sacrifices” and have “responsibilities.”

So I decided to do what any normal older sibling desperate for attention would do. I tried to mail my sister to China. And frame her for stealing books by putting barcode stickers on her. And blame her and my brother for breaking chairs or my dad’s favorite painting or spilling spaghettios. Basically, I was a devil child (in disguise).

But over the years, as the three of us grew up, something weird happened. We started to actually like each other.

And so we began sharing secrets. And making inside jokes our parents wouldn’t understand. And calling one another when we needed help. Things that my parents warned us would eventually happen, even though we swore they were crazy.

The three of us no longer live under the same roof anymore. My sister lives down the street from my parents with her boyfriend. My brother goes to school at Temple in Philly. I live in Maryland. Naptime and playtime and dinnertime have been replaced by full-time jobs, heavy course loads and other adult responsibilities. Which is why when the three of us actually are able to spend time together, I like to take full advantage of it and appreciate every single second.

As you may have already gathered from Monday’s post, my sister, her boyfriend and my brother had made plans to come down this past weekend so the two boys could jump out of a plane with me. I wanted all three of us to participate in something together though, which is why I was excited when Mike made reservations for all of us to go paintballing on Sunday. I couldn’t imagine a better group to go with.

After a very long and exhausting day at the skydiving center, followed by a late (albeit delicious) dinner at Matchbox, we came home, played a few card games and called it a night around 1 as we had a wakeup time of 7.

paintball

After groaning at our alarm clocks and throwing on layer after layer of t-shirts and sweats, we made the hour and a half drive to middle-of-nowhere Virginia to get geared up and down and dirty.

We were assigned our teams, given instructions on how to shoot the guns and rules for the game: capture the flag. After a brief strategy meeting, we found our posts and got ready to defend our bunker.

paintball boys

Something you should know about me if you haven’t picked up on it already: I’m a bit of a girly girl. Not necessarily the kind that loves Katherine Heigl movies, wears pink sparkly nail polish (ok guilty) and squeaks every time she talks. I’m talking more along the lines of hating dirt and messes – especially when I am the one getting dirty and messy.

As a kid I was a total tomboy. I climbed trees, made (and sometimes ate) mud pies, organized neighborhood street hockey games – you name it. Somewhere between my pair of denim overalls and my first pair of glitter heels I forgot about the rough and tumble girl from years ago. The one who collected caterpillars and danced in the rain every chance she got.

On the way to the battlefield I tried jumping from place to place in a hopeless attempt to avoid the giant mud piles strewn everywhere. My post itself was behind a fallen over tree in a giant puddle of mud.

Bugs everywhere.

Mud everywhere.

paintball dirty

At first I resisted. I whimpered at the mud that was starting to cover my shoes and I squirmed at the bugs that were crawling in front of me. But before I knew it a paintball when whizzing by my head, nearly hitting me in the face right before I ducked and fell to my knees in the mud puddle in front of me.

I lifted my hands and let the mud squish through my fingers. I looked up and saw my brother and sister ahead of me, both crouched down in the mud, behind trees. I felt a ball form in the back of my throat – the kind of ball that forms when you try to choke back tears. Because I realized that those afternoons making mud pies with my brother and sister and playing hide-and-go-seek in the woods were some of the best days of my life but I didn’t figure that out until now.

paintball girls

For the next two hours or so we crawled through mud, ran from tree to tree, hiding behind barrels and logs as we played a game of full-on war. It was by far one of the best afternoons I’ve ever had. And I’m so lucky I got to experience it with my brother and sister. For a few hours that day we were kids again. Not plagued with prepping for finals or stressing about work. Rather we played for hours, got dirty and loved every minute of it.

We made the long drive home after we were worn out, bruised, and out of paintballs. One by one we washed off our warpaint and filled our rumbling stomachs with a healthy dose of Nando’s Peri-Peri and froyo.

They packed their bags and we said goodbye to each other.

paintball group

It’s funny how parents are always right in the end. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred miles, a few adult responsibilities mixed in with some mud and paint to make you realize that two of your greatest friends have been standing right beside you all along.

you are my sunshine

Late Thursday night I received a call from my mom that my Uncle John had passed. Tomorrow, he is being laid to rest. He was only 50 years old. But those 50 years were filled with more laughter, more happiness and more music than most people I know.

They were also filled with pain, struggle and what sometimes seemed like insurmountable challenges. My uncle John was mentally challenged, and in the last few years of his life, he was diagnosed with severe Alzheimer’s disease. It was debilitating. He spent most of his time confined in a wheelchair and lived at a nursing home as he was unable to take care of himself.

My mom and Uncle John

My mom and Uncle John

However, despite everything life threw at him, the joy in his heart and the smile on his face would light up a room. He’d talk about all the cute girls he liked or would sing his favorite songs with my mom always there to sing right beside him. One of his favorites was “You are my Sunshine.” Little did he know, he was our sunshine. And always will be.

Rest in peace, Uncle John. May angels lead you in.