It's October - so, of course, it's all about Halloween

One of our friends is a Halloween fanatic and so, of course, October is all about Halloween. This year, Nancy and Kaitlin got dressed up as 50's girls and Sarah was little red riding hood. I'm not much for Halloween but I have to admit, they all looked really cute.

What Matters In September? Of Course - It's Soccer Tourney Time

September may be the start of school, but more important than that is the year-end soccer tourney. The girls did great and played their hearts out!!


A Visit To Florida

The Quon's neighbour has a place in Florida and we were kindly offered their place...so off to Florida we went. This was a relaxed vacation, no big events planned, just some sun, fun and shopping. It was simply a nice getaway...but boy was it HOT!!! We also visited the Everglades and went to our first alligator farm - very cool!!

Special Events

In July, we celebrated two special events - Zach turned 1 and Uncle Billy turned 70 (technically, his birthday wan't till later in the year, but since he and Alice aren't in Toronto at that time, the celebration was held early). Jackie and Jeannette hosted a b-day lunch at the Mandarin and Uncle KC, Auntie Elsa, Julian, Emily and Allie even showed up. Although I hate birthdays in general, having everyone together was really something SPECIAL!!


Paris & London

So in late June, we took a family trip to Paris & London and we also managed to arrange a meet up with Emily, Julian and Allie in London. Paris is my absolute favourite place in the world - it sounds ridiculously cliche, but Paris has that "je ne sais quoi" that is just so endearing...it's one of those places that one can fall in love with again and again and again...hopefully, it will be my home in retirement. :))

Surprisingly, the girls preferred London to Paris...I guess that shopping is more important at this age.

The only disappointing thing in Paris was the food. We deliberately went to cafes and restaurants that were busy and still we never had a great meal. On the other hand, the food in London was FANTASTIC!! Every place we went, the meals were so very good...a surprising nice shock.

Another fantastic trip...can't wait for the next one!

Having arrived in Paris very early after a red-eye from Toronto, the girls were SOOO tired. This was in a cafe and they could barely finish their breakfast without falling asleep.

Having arrived in Paris very early after a red-eye from Toronto, the girls were SOOO tired. This was in a cafe and they could barely finish their breakfast without falling asleep.

A little bit of food and the quick nap did the trick...the girls got their second wind and we were off to explore the city. You wouldn't have expected to find this open air mall from the look of the building entrance as it was such a "small" building, but the inside was huge.

A little bit of food and the quick nap did the trick...the girls got their second wind and we were off to explore the city. You wouldn't have expected to find this open air mall from the look of the building entrance as it was such a "small" building, but the inside was huge.

Graduation

Today, Sarah graduated from Hollywood P.S. It's really rather scary how quickly she is growing up. I'm extremely proud of the person she is becoming - loyal, loving, respectful and a strong sense of character. Sarah also got a wonderful surprise when it was announced that she was selected to receive a Toronto community award. The smile on her face says it all!!!

A Couple of B-Day Celebrations

In April, we had a couple of birthday celebrations for Nancy and Charlotte! Although I'm no much for birthdays - it's the growing older part that I hate - it's still nice to get together to enjoy one another's company.


Spring

This weekend, while Nancy, Sarah and some friends went to the One-Of-A-Kind Art Show, Kaitlin and I went for a downtown photo-walk. We started off in the Distillery and it just sort of branched off from there. I can't say that I got any fantastic photos, but I really enjoyed our time together. Kaitlin is really growing up to become quite the young lady and so when I get to spend some father-daughter time with her, I definitely take advantage of it and make sure to take it all in. We has some good conversation while we walked and I'm pretty amazed at how mature her thinking can be.

These moments that we have together will surely become fewer and farther as she grows up. But the one thing I am pretty confident about is that she has the right values and morals and that makes letting go (albeit very, very slowly) a little easier to do.

Someone Turned 13

So Kaitlin turned 13 this year...all her decision, no big party, no big celebration...no shortage of fatherly pride!!!

One More Christmas...One More Year

Well, another Xmas and Year has come and gone...there were no cookies and milk for Santa this year, no video from Santa and only 1 letter was sent to the North Pole. It's rather sad and unfortunate that our children really do have to grow up and I hate the loss of sentiment. However, the time of year is always still special:

1.) We found out that the drug therapy my Aunt Elsa has been going through seems to be working and everything that can be crossed has been crossed for continued success.

2.) My girls are really growing up to be good people...not much more that one can ask really!

3.) The one special moment that will come to my mind when I think of this Xmas was when we we're shopping and I asked Kaitlin what she wanted. She looked up at me, winked, and said "Santa can get me an iTunes gift card and they can be bought at Shopper's Drug Mart...hint, hint". I couldn't help but laugh...

I will always love this time of year.........

Another 10 Years

Several months ago, my youngest, Sarah, turned 10. When I look at these two pictures, I'm simply amazed...another one of my daughters is now 10 years old!?!?

Anyone that meets Sarah for the first time would automatically see her as a reserved and shy little girl. And when contrasted with her older sister, one would naturally, and rightfully, conclude that she is neither flamboyant nor gregarious. Rather, she seems to epitomize WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).

However, my little girls is definitely more than WYSIWYG! She is inconspicuously competitive, and only becomes obvious in certain circumstances, such as when she plays sports or when she is striving to better her friends academically. An yet...her competitive desire is always tempered by genuine kindness and regard for others' feelings.

When Sarah was younger, I was rather concerned that because of her timidity, she would be a follower...and as we all know, "followers" can often be led down the wrong path. But now that I see the person she has become, I realize that I don't need to worry about her as much as I thought. Beneath Sarah's apparent simplicity of character is someone of great resolve and awareness of self. Outwardly, she is very conciliatory, which immediately maker her likeable. Her depth of empathy maker her friendships and relationships genuine - she is definitely "there" when you need her. All of that, together with her strong sense of right and wrong is more than enough to engender an immutable confidence that her strength of character will endure whatever challenges she faces in the years to come.

Sarah, I feel privileged to have you as my daughter. I'm really not sure I deserve to have you and your sister in my life, but I'm sure glad I do. I love you.....Happy 10th Year of Life!!

What A Trip!!

We recently went on a Mediterranean cruise and what a trip we had! I usually get homesick after a week of vacation but this time, almost after two weeks, I wasn't even ready to go home. The highlight of the trip was definitely Istanbul and, in fact, I really wish we had been able to spend a couple of more days there. There was so much to see, my mind was really never on taking photos, I was just trying to "soak" it all in. If we could have spent a couple of more days there, it would have been great - so many incredible faces to photograph!

If someone were to ask me what was the most memorable moment of the trip, I would have to say the winding path of Santorini. It wasn't so much the architectural interest or even the place itself, even though it was beautiful, i twas how freaked out Kaitlin go when she saw the sea of donkeys on the path and the fact that we walked down a donkey dung infested path of 578 steps. Her reaction was priceless, especially when one of the donkeys whipped her face with its tail - absolutely hillarious!! Anyways, here's some pictures from the trip:


Kaitlin's Birthday

It's been months since the last update and as usual life got in the way. The worst, of course, is that it's been several months since Kaitlin's birthday. Oh well...better late than never.

Once again, Kaitlin wanted a spa party, but as is always the case, there was a twist. This year Kait wanted a sleepover. First time for everything I guess - in fact, it was the first time Kaitlin (and Sarah) have slept in the basement - ordinarily, she wouldn't even go downstairs by herself, but, of course, it's always different when all your friends are around you. I, of course, still did the proper "fatherly" thing, which was to scare them - what's the fun of having a bunch of kids sleep in your house if I don't have a little bit of innocent fun myself! :))

Kaitlin and her friends had a great time and thank God we had some help from families and friends.

Wow - she's 11 now. She's turning into quite a thoughtful and refined young lady...and I'm happy and sad. Very happy with the way she's turning out so far and very sad she's growing up way too quickly. My job as a father will always be to give them everything I can (as it was so eloquently put by Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner") and my only hope is that they will turn out better than me!

Happy Birthday Kaitlin!

New Years In Vegas

After some discussion, especially about what the heck the kids would do, we decided to take a trip to Vegas for New Years. I wanted to make it different from our previous trips there (especially since this would be the first time for the kids) and to see some new things so it was decided that we would spend a night at an Indian reserve at the Grand Canyon and two nights at Red Rock Canyon before heading onto the strip. And, of course, shopping was part of the plans as well.

Overall, the trip was really good...the only negative was that it was actually colder in Vegas than it was in Toronto. Who would have ever thought it would get to -1C in a desert!

The Grand Canyon was quite the experience, especially the accomodations - defintely not 5, 4 or even 3 star accomodations. Our "hotel" was actually a shack and in any other circumstance, would not have been acceptable at all. But this was nature...unfortunately, I froze my butt off in nature. My cot was right next to the window and since these shacks were poorly insulated and only had a room heater, I woke up in the middle of the night in fetal position. Nevertheless, it was all worth the experience.

For me though, the best part of the trip was Red Rock Canyon - they have a 13mi scenic drive with stop-off points throughout where one can go hiking. If not for the cold, I would have loved to gone hiking for a lot longer than we did. Red Rock is definitely something that I have to do again - especially at the right time of day and year because I really did not have the right light for pictures. It would seem to me that landscape photographers have to have more patience than any other type of photog, with the exception of child photogs.

The kids had a great time too - they saw their first Cirque du Soleil show and while Sarah is not much of an outdoors type, Kaitlin seemed to really enjoy the hiking and, of course, the shopping.

It's a good idea to do something different......

Christmas 2010

It's been quite a while since I posted and, in fact, I need to do some catch-up. First up....Xmas 2010

I can't explain it, but this year's Xmas was different. I think it was so busy leading up to the holidays that we never got the chance to do things we normally do, in fact, we didn't even take pictures with Santa Claus this year. It just felt like we never had the time to enjoy the kids' innocent wonder around this special time of year....I hope this doesn't happen again next year.

Fact is, everything was different this year. Grandma's alzheimer's is getting worse and she forgot that she was supposed to be part of the holiday performance at the home; we celebrated Xmas at my cousin's new house instead of having it at our house and we didn't even go out for family dinner - we ate at my cousin's house instead. I guess change is inevitable and good, but some traditions should never change. I'm just getting too sentimental as I get older.....

What was good though was seeing my cousin's son - he's a relatively new addition to the family and although he's still too young to really appreciate the spirit of the season, it was extremely cute to see him in his little Santa outfit and to imagine the excitement he'll feel and enjoy in the years to come.

We must never forget what it feels like to be a kid...it's what protects us from the cynicism and daily grind of everyday life. I hope you all had a wonderful Xmas and don't stop being amazed by what the world has to offer.


Lunar Eclipse and Winter Solstice

Supposedly, a lunar eclipse that coincides with winter solstice hasn't happened in 372 years, but in the early morning hours of December 21, 2010, it happened. Of course, I had to stay up and watch it and right now, I'm paying for it....I'm exhausted. I don't think I got to bed till 3:00am and although I took a number of shots, I was so cold and tired, I really only got one good shot. Oh well...at least I can say I saw it.


My Grandmother's Memory Book

The people at my Grandmother's old age home are preparing a photo memory book for her. My aunt asked me to give her some pictures of the family and of Grandma engaged in some activities conducted at the home.

As part of the book, all my aunts and uncles, as well as us grandkids were asked to write something about her - our feelings, experiences and thoughts - I don't know what to write.

Some of my cousins have spent more time with her, on a day-to-day basis, then others. And although I lived with my Grandma when I was much younger, I don't remember a lot of those times.

......I really don't know what to write.....

If I think back, the only thing that vividly comes to mind is the time when we went to New York (I believe it was New York) to visit my uncle. it was night time and Grandma and I were just getting settled in to sleep. I think we were sleeping in the living room or den and although the lights were out, I could still see her because light was streaming through the window from the street.

Grandma sat down on the bed and lit up a Kent. I asked her why she smoked and she said it helps her to relax and sleep. I asked her if she smokes during the day and she said "no", just one before going to bed.

I never thought about it at the time but as I think back now, I realize I never understood why she need to "relax", for as long as I can remember, it has always seemed like Grandma has been taken care of - by her children. We never had those typical dinners at Grandma's house nor do I really even remember her cooking for that matter. I knew that my Grandfather left Grandma and my aunts and uncles a long time ago but I had always "heard" that my mom and oldest uncle were old enough by then to take care of the rest of my aunts and uncles - Grandma has 7 kids all-together.

So.....relax? Why? It never seem like she had anything to do, other than playing Mahjong. As it turns out, I don't know as much as I thought.

Having read what two of my aunts wrote about Grandma....I think I now know why she needed to "relax."

At 32, Grandma had no husband, no education and 7 kids to take care of. And if I do the math, the two oldest kids, my mom and uncle, were probably around 15 and 16. I'm sure they were of some help, but not really THAT much(at least not emotionally). I understand that my Grandfather gave some financial support after he left, but when that stopped, if not for relatives helping out - well, I might not be here today. Given the situation, it seems pretty obvious that the stress levels were pretty high for Grandma.

I see Grandma differently now - I know that some of my aunts and uncles feel like she wasn't really there for them - because when my Grandfather was around, Grandma went out to play Mahjong with her friends a lot. But while her life was pretty good when my Grandfather was around, that changed pretty drastically when he left.

I can't even begin to fathom how scared and alone she must have felt - add to that the sense of "debt" she shouldered for the financial support she received from relatives - saying that she had some stress would be a huge understatement.

I see Grandma differently now - looking at her, I see a woman of incredible strength and resolve - I mean honestly, 7 kids to raise with no education and little opportunity for employment - are you kidding me????

For as long as I can remember, I have never know Grandma to raise her voice or demand anything. The world could be crumbling around her but as long as the family was around her, she would have no concerns whatsoever. I always thought that sort of "aloofness" was because she was so pampered...well, that's a load of crap. That "aloofness" is what has allowed her to cope, to keep good attitude despite the hard times and I think it's something I need to learn.

The simple things make her content...I need to learn that too.

I have always and will always love my Grandma. I have always and will always respect her, but now it's not just because she's my elder, my Grandma. She deserves my deepest respect because of her strength...hell, if not for that strength, who knows where I would be today!

A Busy July...But That's OK, It's Meant More Memories

To say that July was busy would be a complete understatement. Both Nancy and I had crazy schedules at work, we went to Chicago, my cousin got married and I had two cousins in town. Add to that, the girls' soccer schedule and summer camp translated to four nights a week of running around like chickens with their heads cut off.

Regardless though, it was a very memorable July, full of fund, memories and love!


So What's Been Happening?

About a month ago, around July 4th, we went with another family to Chicago - Wooohooo, ROAD TRIP!!

When we first decided to go to Chicago, I was actually rather excited. I had always heard about the great architecture there and was anticipating some great scens and pictures. Well, as it turns out, the architecture was just OK, as were the pictures, but I got something out of it that was much more important.

When the girls found out we we're going to visit Chicago, the first thing that got planned was a visit to American Girl. We discovered American Girl a couple of years ago on a trip to New York City. My co-worker suggested that we take the girls there and to this day, I still curse her for the suggestion. :))

For those who don't know American Girl, it's a huge store that sell dolls - really expensive dolls. The extravagance at American Girl knows no end. They offer high tea, lunch and dinner - with little high chairs for the dolls. And they even have a salon for the dolls - yes, that's right - a SALON for the dolls.

On this visit to American Girl, we booked a lunch and I was expecting another fortune to be spent there. Funny thing though is that while we spent a lot of time there, we spent on a moderate amount of money. My oldest daughter, despite being told she had a certain amount to spend as part of her graduation gift, bought nothing. Instead, she chose to save her money for some jewelry, specifically, jewelry that is actually for adults. Watching her search through American Girl, seeing her internal conflict between the jewelry and American Girl clothes really brought to light what I already knew - they don't stay young forever. I get scared thinking about them growing up and I see my younger cousins getting married and having kids of their own, I really dread the day when my girls "don't need me anymore."

That dreaded day will come soon enough - but this trip taught me the most important lesson. Getting good pictures is nice, but making memories and capturing them is what's really important.

I'm looking forward to creating the next set of memories!!!


It's Been Too Long

It's been quite some time since I posted, but life has simply gotten in the way! Last couple of weeks, I've had the time to attend my kids' soccer games and I was amazed at how competitive it's getting. My oldest has been in house league for the last three years and I still remember when the kids just bunched together like it was a party rather than a soccer game. With the World Cup going on right now, I decided to take my camera with me to one of the games and see if I could capture a moment. These kids are getting good and the competitive juices are really flowing - these little ladies are starting to reflect the world we live in - even if it's just for fun.

Go Silver!!!!!!