Thursday, November 5, 2009

Clips in the Mail

My sweet mum thinks of me all the time. I know it by the amount of clips in the mail. At day's end when she relaxes in her spot on the couch next to the side table, she reads and clips. And thinks of me.

I see her there in that spot over the years. As a teen after cheerleading practice I would come through the door and sometimes find her lying down and resting before dinner prep. Sunday evenings with her slippers on and her feet up she would sip tea and read the paper. Some times she'd be there sewing buttons on various articles of clothing, or watching the Red Sox, or drafting a note to a family member or writing a check to one of the charities my parents support.

There she sat. My consistent, thoughtful, loving mother.

In some ways we are cut from different cloths. She is not a worrier and her idea of panic is when she loses her keys (or my dad in a mall). Me--I obsess over things I have no control over and have a mind that races with wild horrific thoughts. That would never occur to her to do. She trusts God, turns things over to Him and moves on. What an amazing example she is.

A couple of autumns ago I brought the girls home to surprise my mom for her birthday. We drove from Massachusetts to New Hampshire one day to visit my gram. On the way home with the girls asleep in the back of the cozy car my mom and I chatted about her college years-- how she left Nursing school to marry my dad and raise my brother. She spoke about how she was Class President and how she performed in Glee Club for a young senator from Massachusetts-- Senator Edward Kennedy.

I had no idea how accomplished and well respected she was in her college years. I do know how sorry she was that she did not finish her education as she was married and had my brother and followed my father to Stanford where he got his doctorate instead.

I also did not know how hard she tried to go back to school in California but her credits did not transfer and then when she returned to Massachusetts to finish her schooling years later the credits no longer counted.

Throughout my growing years I never thought of my mother as the bright, driven college student who lost her chance of completing her education and becoming a nurse. I did always think of her as the quintessential mother as it came so naturally to her and she thrived in her role.

She was the mom packing notes in my lunchboxes, making pancakes on Sunday mornings in her apron, applying lipstick moments before my dad was due home from the office, driving me to and from ballet, cheerleading, and friend's houses for sleepovers, beaming from the bleachers at our cheer competitions, primping me in my costume before ballet recitals, stirring the fizz out of the ginger ale and filling the Tupperware bowl with oyster crackers when my belly was upset, singing "K-K-K-Katie" to me before bed each night, saying heartfelt prayers, making Baby Jesus Birthday cake on Christmas Eve and sherry cofffee cake on Christmas morning, paying for my wedding dress with Savings Bonds she'd purchased over the years with random birthday money and funds she acquired in various ways as she was a stay at home mom but so wanted to give me this precious gift.

I always dreamed of one day being exactly like her. To this day she is my benchmark on how I should be raising my girls. So many days I feel very inadequate in comparison to her.

My mom created a mother's journal for me with a collection of family memories about her childhood. She told me how her great grandfather worked in Whitman, Mass at the "Toll House Restaurant" where Ruth Wakefield created the first chocolate chip cookie! She wrote about how my maternal great grandmother and paternal grandmother were college educated, how my paternal great grandfather graduated from Tufts University and was active in politics, and how my maternal grandfather was cronies with quite a few of the Boston Brahmin when he ran his Volkswagen dealerships on Beacon Hill and in Brookline--including Former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill.

And she candidly told me that her childhood was not a very happy one. Her parents divorced when she was just a toddler. She divided her time between her parents who remarried and went on to have large families. She'd travel by train to one home that bustled with six kids and back to her mother's house where she was the eldest of ten.

The life she gave me and my brothers was idyllic. Clearly she created this world for us--not out of mirroring her own--but instead by reinventing it.

I recently received this clip in the mail.

"Where did I come from?" the baby asked its mother. She answered, half-crying, half- laughing, and clasping the baby to her breast, 'You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my darling. You were in the dolls of my childhood games.'"-poet Rabindranath Tagore

In her lovely penmanship she wrote the following--
"I loved this! I, too, used to dream as a child playing dolls what my baby girl would look like. You answered my dream. I love being your mom."

And I love being her girl. My mother and I share a great respect for one another and while our lives have not been identical in so many ways our hearts do appear to share the same beat.

I just now opened the memory book she gave me back in 1998 before I had children of my own and read some more of her words, "You have enriched my life in ways no one else could woman giving to another- a gift I lived through you in some of your activities. I learned from you to take risks. I don't like change and you blossom in it. You are a trusted, true friend and you are truly genuine--what you see of you is what you are. You go for things you want and you believe in yourself. You are a great communicator. My greatest hope for you is that you will be happy and have children who love you as you love me."

One day not long from now my girls will receive clips in the mail and when they do they will know I am thinking of them just as my mom thinks of me. And I trust our hearts will be beating in time.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Freckled Faces and Fairy Tales

"A face without freckles is like a sky without stars"~ Natasha Bettingfield

Dearest Liv Love and Audrey Girl,

I could not let one more day pass without telling you both how wonderful you are. Your presence in my life is such a blessing. As a little girl I had such dreams of what my own children would be like.

I looked at you tonite across the dinner table and fell madly in love with you both all over again. I tend to do it all the time, you know. It's usually when I'm tucking you in at night, or watching you walk to class or in to gymnastics, Liv. Audrey girl when you greet me at the end of the school day and give me a thumbs-up from the swimming pool during class--I melt.

I love the handmade cards and notes that you create during the day because I am on your mind, Audrey. Olivia, when you bound in to the car and announce your latest AR score and cheerfully ask me how my day was I thank God for you.

At the school play tonite seated in the audience with you both it happened again. The rush of love I receive just being in your presence is magical. Olivia you sit with your legs crossed fully engaged and simply beautiful. Your bright teeth and shiny hair and strong limbs appear ready to take on the world! I love your spirit.

Audrey, how many kisses you must have planted on me in just over an hour's time.

Girls, the way you thank me for taking you to church, sweetly sing in the car, hold my hand when we're walking, and always compliment me about my mothering, my appearance, my meals--oh my! You can see why I am so grateful to you and why I love you so deeply.

Olivia Bliss, how dedicated you are in school. I watch you in your classroom with great pride. I know how focused you are and how well you want to do. I hear you doing homework with your father and how very hard you work at it. Way to go, my Livvie B!

I know how well respected and admired you are by your peers. You are the girl on the playground at recess that is tumbling and dancing and leading the charge. You are also helping out the "special needs" kids and playing with them--making them feel finally that they, too, are normal. You take on your role in patrol with devotion. And it shows.

I watch you at gymnastics and I love how much enjoyment you get out of your weekly training. Nine hours, girl, and you never complain. Oh, Olivia, you have grown up so much.

I do look at your sweet face--your dancing eyes, freckled nose, big smile that affects every part of your beautiful face and I fondly remember your newborn days, the baby days, the toddler days, the pre-school ones, the first elementary school years and while I pine for them I also see my grown-up girl. A thriving, smart, beautiful, caring, talented, sweet child. Of mine.

Audrey E, my wise, wise girl. The talks we share! The questions you ask! The things you know. Oh my, girl. Look out world. Today's discussion on the ellipse and dramatic pause, how you knew about "pirating videos" (an illegal act you say), quoting silly jokes from a joke book and remarking on how "cheesy" jokes from joke books tend to be!

How you handle responsibility and homework and how wonderful it is as a parent to hear from your teacher, "She is an amazing listener".

How tender your heart is. The way you speak to others is beautiful. The way you really "see" others helps me to be a better person.

I love how you wear girly girl things and have little trinkets and purses and shoes that click when you walk! I love your laughter and your singing and how much you treasure your big sis.

Just as I tell God every night at your bedsides I will say it all of my days, "Thank you God for giving me Olivia Bliss and Audrey E."

You are both exactly what I envisioned my little girls would be like. Silly. Pretty. Happy. Bright. And freckle faced. You are my dreams come true.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Heavy Heart

I have an issue. Thanksgiving is upon us and the day after Thanksgiving we have a family ritual. We had this ritual before we were a family even. It began 11 years ago.

Eric and I always joined our friends for an evening downtown --sipping martinis fireside at the Mayflower Hotel and then greeting the holiday season with a quintessential welcome-- seeing Santa for the first time in nearly a year, watching the holiday tree come to life with all its twinkling lights, singing Christmas carols in the chilly air, and finally basking in the glow of the fireworks overhead.

It was always a hopeful occassion spiced with grand adventures--treks to Irish pubs, sleepovers that grew over the years from 4 adults to a group of 10 with babies, toddlers, and dogs in tow, chats over bowls of winter stew and yummy wine, loads of laughter and timeless memories.

Over the years we've added babies, other families, and cocoa and cookies to the mix.

And then it happened. Two years ago now on that very eve we had a falling out. I will not rehash the details but apologies were made and the forgiveness never came.

Still over the years I have sent several emails, notes, cards and thoughts professing my sorrow, apologies, and genuine sadness. Finally I was told that they would be willing to see me and the girls but not Eric. That would be all well and good if Eric felt the same but since Eric at that time did still want to see them (and apologized several times himself) then clearly you know where my loyalty lies. Reject him, reject me.

Last year on the day after Thanksgiving Eric and Olivia went back to the same hotel. So did they. I was at Children's with Audrey due to a terrible cold and the breathing issues she gets along with it.

They exchanged hellos and apparently it was a pleasant hour or so. There were plenty of others to distract them as well. The kids played beautifully together. The same kids that saw eachother for the first time moments after entering the world. The same kids that celebrated all their first outings together, holidays, sleepovers, even first little kisses! Our Godchildren.

I sent an email after that night and a picture a friend had snapped of all of them. I commented on how happy I was to see them "reunited" for the evening and how sorry I was to miss it. No response.

I am now just more than a month away from facing the day. Frankly, I don't care to do so.

Recently my tech guy switched my company on to a new server and literally every email I have sent since 2005 is in my sent folder. There were a lot of sent items to that family over the years. From friendly reminders of birthday parties, confirmation of our annual Santa Train trip, well wishes for their parent's 50th anniversary, blessings for their father's health, and the apologies and the "I miss you" notes.

"Let's just pick a new spot," I told Eric yesterday. "I still want to do the tree lighting and the fireworks and if we run in to them so be it."

"It's our family tradition to go there and the girls love it. YOU love it, Kate." he pleaded.

I don't want to go. My heart is still broken.

Going Gray

“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm” ~unknown

I am a true black and white person. All or Nothing. In or Out. Game as a badger or Not Showing Up.

Passionately LOVE something or great disinterest.
Content or freaking out.
Crank up the music or total silence.
Completely get something or pretty clueless.

Dishes done before bed.
Beds made before I leave the house.
Pressing phone call to return? I'll make it THEN (despite the cranky kids in the backseat or busy highway I am cruising down).

I guess I am more Black than White. Regardless, you get the picture.

Right now is a prime example. Dear Olivia is crooning to Wii Karaoke. She has a sweet voice and is on key for sure but I am trying to blog and I wish she would PIPE DOWN. The voices in my head are going nuts. This is a total silence time, sister! I could hide away in the office, climb in bed with my laptop, or even go sit in the car to escape the concert taking place in the family room a few rooms away. Or I could deal. It is taking A LOT of effort trust me. But I am doing it.

I have wanted to blog F-O-R-E-V-E-R (oh, the guilt!) but life keeps cropping up and my to do list is growing moment by moment. Last night I was gung ho (sp? I am not going to google it either! baby steps...) to make it happen. I have a handful of blog topics in the hopper. But then Audrey's darling toothless grin was in my face and Eric was playing all sorts of great music on iTunes and priority called--it was time for the Kitchen Dance Party. I turned off the computer and shimmied, bobbed, and pranced about the house. Sure, it was a Turn Up The Music moment but because I had not completed my "blog task" it was a lot of effort to join in. But I did it.

By the way-- I am FAILING miserably right now. Audrey has just returned from walking her babies in the rain and she and Olivia are now arguing over Wii Karaoke. I just yelled from the dining room, "I CAN NOT TAKE THIS RIGHT NOW GIRLS!" And I mean yelled. Damn...

Here are some other ways I am trying to enter the gray zone...I just made breakfast, got Audrey suited up for the walk in the rain, helped her load her babes in the carriage, bid her farewell and even snapped a pic. Meantime, the breakfast dishes are piled up, the to do list is overwhelming me but I sat down to blog even with other needs. That is gray for me. Did I mention I still have heat rollers in my hair --from an hour and a half ago?

OK, so in an effort to maintain some semblance of order I am going to dash. Stay tuned on my progress as this is nearly four decades of personality I am trying to "change". Plus Audrey has called for me from atop the stairs wondering if I can swaddle her baby, put on her necklace, and help her find her favorite markers.

The karaoke game ceased after my little explosion and the only sound I can hear quite loudly now is Fribble snoring. Which to be honest is a bit annoying as I ideally want TOTAL silence.

Did I mention I want a third dog? Seriously.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Olivia Bliss, Happy Birthday ~ August 25

Here is a video I made for Bliss on her 9th birthday. It's 22 minutes long so I more than understand if time does not allow for viewing...

If you need a password: Katie

Audrey Elizabeth, Happy Birthday ~ July 13

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I have a new client. I am not sure I have ever been more energized or honored to represent such a client. You see, this one appears like a gift. A precious one that I believe has come to teach me lessons. Big ones. The biggest ones. About loss. And trust. And love. And faith. Deep faith. Genuine faith. Faith that can move mountains. Faith when you need it most.

Let me be honest, my "worry brain" makes me wonder why I am part of this chapter in the story. Is there something lurking around the corner that willl rattle me and mine so God wants me to learn from their story? Maybe. Probably. One day at least. And then I remind myself once again (as I do daily) "it's not all about me" and I will not lean on my own understanding. While I do believe their is a purpose for my life and many, many lessons to learn at each turn I also think sitting about searching for them causes me to miss the scenery along the way. So I am jumping onboard and enjoying this ride no matter where it takes me.

For now I am hoping it lands my client in a seat next to Oprah. Seriously. This is powerful stuff.

How I came to be a part of this wonderful mix of people is pretty cool in it's own right.

Seattle Times sports journalist, Jerry Brewer*, won a coin toss to cover a story of a Seattle area basketball coach on a winning streak. What he wound up covering was a story about a child’s deadly disease, a family’s faith, a community changed, a journalist's salvation, and a miracle. Gloria’s Miracle.

11 year old Gloria Strauss was the coach's daughter. When Jerry met Doug Strauss, Gloria had just been given a few weeks to live. She was battling neuroblastoma, a deadly form of childhood cancer. She'd been fighting it since she was seven.

For the next five months, Jerry covered the story of Gloria and the family of seven children in his series of newspaper columns, “A Prayer for Gloria". Like many Seattleites I was familiar with her story.

Meantime, Gloria's family's van was broken in to and the video tapes documenting Gloria and her family's lives were stolen (the mother had loaded the videos in the car to bring them to a friend who was compiling a DVD for them). KING 5 TV got a hold of the story and my Eric interviewed the family. Including Gloria. Gloria~who looked like a child actor. Blond, bright eyed (big, blue ones full of life), with soft hair and an easy bright smile. She sparkled. Her voice sounded so sweet. She spoke well beyond her years as she pleaded for whomever stole the family's tapes to return them. Eric told the girls and me about Gloria that night at dinner. He came to speak of her often. He said she had something "other worldly" about her. Angelic even. (Trust me, Eric does not normally speak in such a manner and with all the news and tragedies he covers day in and day out he does not speak often of one particular person or story.) It was different with Gloria.

A month or so later Gloria died. The community was shaken. The world lost some of it's light. But the family believes the miracle of her life and legacy will continue to inspire all who hear of her.

Back in May, more than a year and a half after she passed Eric covered a story with her parents. They'd created Gloria's Angels (, a non-profit organization designed to lift burdens and build communities so people can focus on caring for a family member with a life-threatening condition. Doug gave Eric a mass card of Gloria that day. It remains on his desk and he told me just last week he looks at it often. He says it calms and comforts him to do so.

After covering the Gloria's Angels story Eric said to me that night across the kitchen island, "You'd love to help represent the cause, Kate. You'd be such a good fit. It's everything you believe in."

The busyness of life resumed.

Surfing Facebook one day recently, Jerry's new wife, Karen, (whom I know and respect professionally as she was one of my key press contacts at The Seattle Times and I have thankfully gotten to know her personally due to Facebook, email exchanges and her generous client referrals) posted a video of Gloria. The video showed that Jerry was releasing a book about her.

Through tears I commented on her status update and wished them well. Then I got an email. Karen explained one of the missing links for the book project was they had not settled on a publicist.

After a two hour lively meeting at Starbucks with Jerry, the publisher, Mike, and Doug Strauss--k PR was on the team.

Armed with a draft of the book and a beaming heart, I was off. I read the book in a matter of hours. I sobbed. I admired. I was inspired.

One of Gloria's nicknames was Glow. It suited her beautifully. The book details a visit from a South American celebrity and very Godly woman who met Gloria's parents and within moments told them she saw glitter around them. She explained this was a sign of holiness.

Glitter has become synonymous with those that know Gloria. Children spot glitter and sparkles on their school books, parents find it in their living rooms, teachers see it on office walls--all believing these are greetings and signs from Gloria.

Finishing the book in the crowded tub last night with Olivia and Audrey around me, Liv said to Audrey, "You can meet Gloria, ya' know?"

"How? Papa said she is in Heaven." Audrey replied.

"Not right now--when you get to Heaven. She'd like us, I know." said Liv and then she promptly dunked her head under water continuing her attempt to break her under water breath holding record.

I completed the book, we brushed teeth and I sat down to fold laundry in the play room as the kids chose their books for bedtime.

I plopped down in a pile of pink and white heart sparkles. Seriously. Yes, we have sparkly powder, sparkly perfume, sparkly nail polish, and when Charlotte and Tabitha (the girl’s tooth fairies) visit they sprinkle sparkles over them as they slumber so all those sparkles could be attributed to those many things for sure.

Audrey approached with her book selection--"I'd Be Your Princess"~ a royal tale of Godly character. It's a story of a little girl imagining life as a princess and she is telling her father how their lives would play out together.

Audrey read from this page~
"We would wear matching crowns with shiny jewels and long red capes that touch the ground."

"Yes," said her father, "and you would smile and wave to all the people in our kingdom. And the people would smile and wave back because you are so very beautiful."

And then there is a bible verse at the end of the page~ Audrey read it aloud.
Let your beauty be that of your inner self. I Peter 3:4

"This is just like Gloria, don't you think?" Audrey asked.

Yes, I do. And as for those sparkles scattered around me? I think that was Glow, too.

Jerry's book will be available at shortly as well as at local booksellers starting September 8th. It is available for pre-order now on

*Jerry is donating more than half of his royalties from this book to Gloria's family to use for the foundation or for their growing family.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sweet Summertime

Oh, what a day! Eric was given a Sunday off as they asked him to work on Friday. We loved every single minute of sharing a "true" weekend as a family. He has worked Sunday through Thursday since we moved to Seattle (more than 11 years ago!) and therefore, he has never had a schedule that allowed for Saturdays and Sundays off--it is a total downer.

I will not digress or wallow.
We spent the morning at church-- 10 a.m. class teaching the 3 year olds. The girls absolutely loved having Eric there and he was a help to me, the little ones, and a welcome presence for Liv and Audrey.

After the church service (which was all about marriage and honoring one another and rekindling passion--a great sermon to have him at ;) we went to Lavender Hill Farm out in the "country" thanks to learning about it from Carrie and Darren. (Carrie happened to be there with her kids as well--fab!)

The pictures capture it best...

sweet and silly

beautiful Bliss

belly laughing beauty

The girls lavendar sachets are nestled under their pillows, fresh cut lavendar is drying in their rooms and the sweet memories of the day are lingering in our hearts...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sally's Spa & Satellites

Audrey aka "Sally"opened a day spa this week. Foot soaks, facials, and sweet talk. I am officially water logged and blissed out--in a really grateful way.

Sally opened her salon featuring al fresco treatments.

Sally is the quintessential shop owner--she asks all about your children, work, pets and comments on how she is thoroughly impressed that one can juggle it all. She then lets you know how pleased she is that you were willing to give oneself some "me time" and have a spa treatment. She offers a warm vanilla or lavendar soak. She speaks about how she was not sure if she should pursue a career as a waitress or as someone who does nails. She comments on how her parents think Stanford would have been the best option for her. Honest to God.

Sally caters to all ages.

She even provides a relaxing waiting area complete with reading material.

I visited again on day two. She had moved operations indoors until the sun rose higher in the sky and the weather warmed. Inside she was able to turn up the service a notch with pictures of customers loved ones, seashells, some flowers, and anything else one may desire (a coaster for my coffee cup and a bud vase given to me by my grandmother, for example).

Sally's Spa has been such a hit that satellite offices have popped up all over the place.

Here is Schyler's Spa

And "Sparkle & Spa" (which was founded some time ago by Olivia & Jewel but specialized in hair and nail polish originally. They've now expanded to offer "soaks" and massage!)

Finally there is "Shine" which is run by Olivia

She defines her spa as a more "natural" haven

Her differentiator is the botanical bath

So far none of the fabulous entrepreneurs have asked for money but their mamas plan to plithe them with plenty of popsicles and praise as we need them to stay in business for a long time to come. At least for Summer 2009.

And the Award Goes to Olivia Bliss Wilkinson...

Third grade teacher Miss Moe passed out student awards on the last day of school.
Liv took the award for Excellent Effort. There was a time (not long ago) that Eric and I did not think this first born girl of ours would have received such an award to be truthful. Olivia is certainly bright but we have not always seen her as someone who stretches herself as much as we think she should (or maybe better put--as we would like).

It appears we've been sorely mistaken.

The joys of being the first born! Poor child of ours. Seriously.

Liv also received nearly all 4's (equivalent of A's) in "Effort" on her report card and again, we were so incredibly impressed with her. Good grades matter for sure but GREAT grades in effort, teamwork, and social skills now that is what matters most here at Wilkinson Manor. And our Liv blossomed across the board.

Next week Olivia moves on to "team" level at her gymnastics academy. It was hard earned. Not that it took much to receive the green light to move forward from her pre-team coach who trained her for the past year but she certainly did have to make an impression on her tough to crack parents.

She needed to joyfully go to class, work hard at all the skills, and show us that she could be committed to training 9 hours a week. Without any complaints.

She did it. Beautifully.

Look out Fellow Future Olympians, Ivy League Pals, and Hollywood--Olivia Bliss Wilkinson's star is rising! And her parents couldn't be more proud.

Pop Star on Patrol

Olivia and her closest buds were selected to be on Brookside Elementary's "Patrol" squad next year. Incoming fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are chosen to help maintain order at school pick up and drop off. It is quite an honor and those who made the cut will proudly tell you, "Not everyone gets on Patrol."

After a video training session and seminar Olivia was ready to hit the pavement and get some hands on training.

I picked her up after patrol on day one and she bound into the car.

"It was awesome and I am sooo proud of myself. The best part? When I put on the vest I can write any one up for misconduct. I've already given Emmanuel a warning."

Be afraid, Brooksiders.

Here is Olivia and her dear friend and fellow patroler, Jewel, sharing celebratory popsicles.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Graduate

Audrey E. reached a major milestone recently. She bid farewell to kindergarten and Lake Forest Park Montessori where she has spent her weekdays for four years.

She will miss her dear friends greatly.

And so will her mama!

If I can only pick the groom!

I surprised her with "tea for two" at Queen Mary's.
She declared it the "fanciest day of her life."

She only referred to me as "mother" throughout the luncheon.

"Even the sugar is fancy, Mother!"

I am not sure if I would have enjoyed tea with the Queen of England herself as much as I enjoyed tea with my Audrey.

Oh, what she does to my heart!

Clearly, being a first grader is tired work...She even had a TV shoot (a follow-up on Seattle's KING TV (NBC) after her first day of kindergarten story in September!)

To The Class of 2021!

A Family Affair

The Brown side of the family embarked on our bi-annual "kick off summer" and family reunion trip to Hilton Head, SC at the end of May.

An overnight at the airport due to a very early morning flight proved a good call once we got the girls down to bed.

Bedtime @ Seattle airport hotel, 10 p.m.

and up again a few short hours later.
4 a.m. airport bound

An uneventful yet long (12 hour journey) netted some siestas

and finally a dip in the Atlantic

and playtime with the natives.

Highlights for Olivia and Audrey were hanging with their 5 female cousins (age range 5-19).

Bike rides, beach days

pool swims

mini golf outing (Team Wilkies garnered two hole-in-ones!)

family dinners (host your own supper one night)
daily banana splits and root beer floats!

the nightly dance parties

and concerts will be remembered forever

Papa Frank crooning "Country Roads" leads the highlight reel

Thankfully there was also a lot of chill time

and bonding time

and of course, the family photo sheet on the beach!

Can't wait for Reunion 2011!