With a few giant hugs and the requisite “see you in Septembers,” Jeff and I said bye to our families and bid adieu to Va. for the last time as DINKs. It took all that I had on Sunday night to choke back the tears, hug my parents and aunt and thank them for such an amazing weekend. I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly lucky we are…but here’s a start.

As a kid, I loved the anticipation of returning back to school every September. One of my favorite aspects of that first day back was when we’d write our essays about what we did that summer. Every year, I’d have a new adventure to write about. Whether it was spending 2 weeks in Montreal visiting my aunt, going camping with the whole family, visiting NYC for the first time, seeing Niagara Falls and of course, visiting Disney– no two summer vacation essay was ever the same. It was always the best way to recollect about the highlight of our summer and share the time well spent (or misspent) with my family.

As I reluctantly play catch up at work and attempt to unpack the bags, boxes of stuff from Va. that have littered my living room floor, the first thing on my list is this– writing my summer vacation essay. I mean, after such a memorable week, how could I ever do our trip any justice?

vacation mosaic

continue to read the rest. Since I have 100 or so pictures, but wanted to keep them private out of respect of friends and fam, you’ll have to log in to view all the photos in their entirety 🙂

So, we skipped the trends and didn’t book a lavish Babymoon or hightail it out to the some unknown beach town this summer. Instead, we chose to go the most frugal and logistical route at 7mos. pregnant. We went home to Va. Beach.
Our week begun with a day out at the waterpark with our 4 nieces and nephews. Trying to coordinate those kids’ busy schedules with our agenda, at first, created a few obstacles. But once we were all set, beach bags in hand, it was literally a day at the park. Despite the crowds at the park and the expected heat, we had a great time with all the kids, Jeff’s sis and brother in law. I was like a hippo in water, so relieved to be able to relax and stay refreshed in the Hubba Hubba Highway while everyone else hit the slides and rides. Per usual, I loved watching the kids interact with their uncle, asking if they could ride Aquazoid or Big Daddy Falls with Uncle Jeff.
We’re very fortunate to be able to spend time with the kids, despite the distance, and witness them coming of age right before our eyes. There were so many great one liners that day, but I’ll never forget our nephew’s very sweet comment to his uncle. Jeff’s brother’s son, Michael, who’s 10, coincidentally has an uncanny resemblance with his uncle. Most importantly, to Michael, his dad does no wrong. Jeff has always admired the relationship his brother has with Michael and has always voiced his aspirations to have the same special relationship with his own son one day. Jeff and Michael, too, are good buddies. As with all the kids, Jeff and Michael laughed alongside of each other all day. But at one point, little Michael looked up to his uncle and said wholeheartedly, “You know Uncle Jeff, you remind me so much of my dad.” Jeff grinned from ear to ear the rest of the day. So, needless to say, the day at the waterpark was filled with an endless amount of laughs and even, a lot of relaxation!

In order to minimize chaos, we vowed not to make any concrete plans for the rest or the week. So, as we hoped, Jeff and I relaxed, slept and took some time to do good ol’ Jen and Jeff things. We went for a few drives around town, went for ice cream sundaes and enjoyed a lot of nothingness. It was certainly a nice change of pace. Living amongst the hustle and bustle of the City, day in and day out, it’s amazing how much a slower pace in a familiar place really means.

And then, the chaos began late Thursday night. As if we were preparing for royalty to arrive, my aunts started the preparation for Saturday’s festivities. In addition to it being my birthday, my family threw me a baby shower. Aside from Jeff, a handful of my longtime friends can attest to the fact that my family’s events can often grow to extraordinary proportions. From the grand scale of food to amount of preparation, there has been so much emphasis and excitement for this baby’s arrival. For those that are familiar with my family, there’s no need for introduction to our culture and traditions. But those that aren’t totally familiarized with the Filipino culture, we are very family-centric. My friends joke and say that all Filipinos are related someway, somehow, but for us, truly, out of respect, everyone is an auntie or an uncle.
Just like family, food is a big, big deal in our culture, where preparation for big parties can start well up to a week in advance. Let’s just say, my aunts had to convince my mom not to order Lechon for the baby shower. For celebrations that warrant a lot of food, Lechon is a staple. Uh, it also feeds hundreds of people. It’s almost impossible to leave my mom’s house without having 3 or 4 servings. That’s because it’s tradition for our family to welcome you with food. My mom and aunts could often be heard saying, “Kellll-llllyyyyyyy, EAT, EAT, eat more!”

When it comes to big parties like that, I’m quickly reminded about the cultural differences. Sometimes it’s a struggle to balance culture without offending anyone in the process. As kids, I know my brothers and I were often hesitant to invite friends over, not because we were ashamed of being “different,” but because we were afraid friends wouldn’t get our culture. With baby in mind, Jeff and I hope to convey the importance of his multiculturalism.
It’s safe to say, that most cultures are bonded by food, but you really have no idea until you experience a Filipino party, or more explicitly, one of my family’s gatherings. A simple description would be, over the top. With that said, my aunt, who was the mastermind of the menu, and my mom who was the designated shopper, did an incredible job with all of the food. Their spread rivaled that of many catered parties I’ve attended. (And because of work, I’ve attended a lot of lavish soirées intended to wine and dine the press.) I was told, my aunt studied her recipe books weeks in advance. She made each dish with such careful attention and love; I seriously couldn’t have asked for a better party. Not to detract from everyone else’s generosity, but all the time, effort and care my family put into the party meant so much more than the traditions normally synonymous with baby showers.
My cousin Melissa was the ringleader for the baby shower games. She organized a bunch of quite hysterical games and even included the guys in attendance. My brothers, dad, Jeff and a few other guys were blindfolded and had to guess the flavor of baby food! bleck. What a hoot that was!
And of course, there were throngs of gifts. We are so lucky to have such wonderful and generous friends and family. For those that were keeping track at home, our registries were no indication of everyone’s generosity! In NY/NJ and elsewhere, it’s completely normal for registries to be totally decimated a few days after invitations go out. But back home and within my family, registries are suggestions, and by no means obligatory lists.
The numerous travel-friendly giftcards, clothes, upon clothes, baby essentials and our glorious upholstered reclining glider are just a few of the many gifts our friends and family spoiled us with. We received so many generous gifts that Baby B. has his own fully stocked and furnished nursery at my mom’s house. For real. Perhaps my mom summed it up best: “This baby is so lucky. If he only knew how much he’s loved already!”

Having my baby shower was a perfect way to celebrate my 31st birthday. My best friends and some family remembered and wished me well, but for the most part, the day was focused on baby, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! As I mentioned to many others, I had quite the unforgettable 30th bday celebration in Key West, and not much else could top that.

When all was said and done, our vacation, my birthday and baby shower are times and milestones that will forever be etched in my memory. Even though we didn’t get to see everyone longer, do everything we had hoped, being surrounded by most of my loved ones in celebration of our baby’s arrival was the most perfect way to spend time at home, one last time, just the two of us.

And with thanks to the graciousness of my family, Jeff’s family and our friends, this year, we had another unforgettable summer vacation.