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As we’ve now done every other since 2008, the Cleaver clan (now expanded!) took our bi-annual trip down to Southern California for Thanksgiving. It’s a long trip cobbled together on buses to/from Boston and long plane flights, but the travel is worth it to see my now-distant family.

A few nights before we left Mr. Cleaver and I tried to figure out how many times we had done this Thanksgiving trip (this was the 4th): there was the year I have memorialized in a photo on my desk, when my mom  and her mom came and my cousin Preston was there and my grandmother Leota was still alive and there was only one wee member of the next generation.

Then there was the year my grandfather, now a widower, had my brother and I cook an entire Thanksgiving dinner two days before Thanksgiving and when we visited my Great Aunt Betty at her house and she gave me a little brass bird to take with me to look at and think of her. She’s since moved to a senior living community and I haven’t seen her since.

Then most recently, the year we met my little red-headed first cousin once removed, while I was pregnant with my own little red-headed girl, and we stayed with my Aunt and Uncle and went to Disneyland.

This year there was one less member of the eldest generation and two more members of the youngest.  All reminders of why its so important to make the trip, if only every other year. My uncle said it best this year  – “traditions like this don’t just happen, you have to put in the work and everyone has to pitch in.”

I’ll admit that this year, with LMC as part of the group, made for a very different experience for me – not to say she was trouble – she was spectacular on the all the travel and in adjusting to the new people and surroundings, but it really struck me how much more your attention is divided when you’re the parent of a small child. When a half an hour conversation turns into 10 minutes because she needs you in another room, or the shift in times from up late and sleeping in to early to bed, early to rise. But I loved seeing LMC read a book with her Great Aunt, or sit in her Great-Uncle’s lap to watch the Polar Express or for her to play kitchen with her cousin and try to be like the big girl. Not to mention her first experiences seeing a baby hippo, chowing down on In-N-Out fries, or taking her first pass at big-ball bowling.

To some extent, visits to my family during the Holidays have always felt a little bit nostalgic – going back to the places I loved as kid and remembering all the things we did in those backyards and houses, but this year I was reminded how great families (and I have some great family), allow you to change and grow and love you all the more for it.

And for that, I’m thankful.

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According to my big brother, I haven’t posted anything since November 8th, and I’d be the first to admit that ever since this pregnancy began, I’m lost my blogging rhythm, which I suppose can only be expected. But worry not – things have been carrying on here at the Cleaver household, in perhaps a more chaotic fashion than usual.

Work has been keeping me very busy, we’re having new insulation put in the house, I’m trying to finish up a number of deadline projects, and I’ve been building up a cache of knit and sewn baby things I hope to share with you soon. In the midst of all of this, we took off Thanksgiving week to visit my extended family in Southern California.

With three other shutterbugs snapping photos of all the family gatherings, I neglected to pull out the camera for any of the family events, but I did take my camera with us on our Tuesday trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, thanks to the generosity of my aunt and uncle. Because everyone else was still working that day, it was just Mr. Cleaver and I, but I was pleased to accompany the Mr. on his first trip to Disney.

We gamely avoided any of the non-pregnancy-friendly rides, but still found more than plenty to fill our day. Mr. Cleaver declared Pirates of the Caribbean to be the best ride, while my favorite of the day was the new-to-me Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Between all the standing in queues and walking, I think it took my legs 3 days to recover!

But it was a fabulous fun day and a great transition into the holiday season!

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Table #2

John and I got back home late Sunday evening after a wonderful week with the family in Southern California. It was nice to have so much time to spend with everyone. We could relax and enjoy the beautiful to us (cold to them) weather.

I am especially grateful for the stories I learned about various family members, like how my great aunt and uncle met at a roller skating rink he was running, and how when my grandfather was born they had to light the stove in the farmhouse with walnuts, because all the wood had already been taken to the new farm his family was moving to.

Makin' Whoopies

Mr. Cleaver and I stayed with my Grandfather, who requested a turkey dinner for Tuesday night, so my brother and I spent the majority of the day cooking Thanksgiving dinner #1, which included turkey, stuffing, pumpkin cake and whoopie pies. Mr. Cleaver took on dish duty. We were joined by my sister-in-law after work, and Grandpa invited his friend Patricia from church to join us for supper. Patricia has encouraged my Grandpa to take up yoga at the age of nearly 83!

Dish Duty

Chopping spices

On Wednesday we explored San Dimas and joined my Aunt, Uncle and cousins for some ten pin bowling followed by In-N-Out. Mr. Cleaver was excited to bowl over 100 for the first time ever.
Big bowling!

Choosing a ball

In-N-Out

Thanksgiving day was spent at my Aunt and Uncle’s, playing games (like Clankers( like horseshoes, but with washers), Corn Hole, and Skittles), chatting round the fire, eating delicious food, and gathering in the rec room for slideshows.

Winding the top

Clankers

Maddox

Aunt Betty and Grandpa

Starting the fire

Friday we visited the Rancho Santa Ana Botantical Garden, goofed around in Claremont, and had dinner with my Great Aunt.

Snow and desert

Don't touch!

Prickly and pretty

Loops #2

View from Aunt Betty's

Saturday we spent with my Aunt and Uncle, looking through photo albums, walking in Bonelli Park,  and catching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Rattlesnake warning

Around the Resevior

A big thanks to all my Southern California relatives, who made our visit so wonderful!!

Between my last post and this one my world stopped.

After church on August 16th, while washing her hands to make lunch, my Grandmother collapsed and never got up again.

Though she was 81, she was in excellent health and her death shocked us all.

I felt the same way I did when my father passed away five years ago – that the world has lost one of it’s greatest members and most people didn’t even know what they missed, and what I am missing so very very much.

This blog was the home page on my Grandmother’s computer. We always talked about it when we spoke on the phone or when she wrote. I only feel it appropriate to put down some of my memories of her in this space.

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Leota was a wife of 58 years, mother of two, grandmother to five, great grandmother to one, with another on the way.

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She was a home economics teacher, a part-time bookkeeper, a bridge player, a quilter, a needleworker, a cook, a collector of sterling silver napkins rings, and the consummate hostess.

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She was always stylish and had her hair done every Thursday. I though I got my red hair from her, until my mother told me she got it from a bottle.

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She was born in Missouri, but called it Missoura in a town named Isadora she called Isadori –

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that she took each grandchild to visit when they were twelve.

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She started life on a farm, but traveled the country
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and the world
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She had a succession of somewhat sad-looking Southern California Christmas trees
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and made fantastic feasts.

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She quilted each of us a blanket and stitched each of us a specifically chosen Christmas stocking.

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Mr. Cleaver’s was the last stocking she completed and our wedding quilt was the last quilt she finished. Her round robin quilting group was working on a biography quilt, when she passed away – the squares she made for her own quilt depicted the farm she lived on after she first got married and of the balloon ride she took over the African safari.  That’s my grandmother in a nutshell.

Oftentimes when someone dies, everyone scrambles to find a photos or an object to remind them of the one we lost, none of us had to scramble pieces of her handiwork were already there.

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I can’t believe she’s no longer with us, but at the same time, every time I pick up needles, or press a seam, she’ll be there.

I love you and I miss you very much – and if there’s internet in heaven, I know you’re still reading this blog.

(Thanks to Jen for the scans)

As I mentioned in my last post, I took a couple of field trips while visiting my relatives over Thanksgiving. My brother and his wife took us to the Huntington Gardens, where they’re member and gave us the highlights tour. The weather was perfect and the Gardens (and art collection!) are lovely. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

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That evening we when to the Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn in Riverside, where I met my quota for palm trees and fireworks:

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I made it back to Portland just in time for the first snow of the year.

Just the thing to put you in the Christmas spirit!

So after a week and a half of work at the new job (by the way, I’m working at a Community Development Entity -we’re helping people through building business and bringing development to low-income areas – it’s very cool), I was allowed to take a day off of work to take a 5:30am flight to Southern California for Thanksgiving.

Yes, the weather was nice (65°F!). Yes, I enjoyed my In-N-Out Burger on the way back from the airport. Yes, the food was excellent. And yes, Mr. Cleaver ran into a cactus. But the best part of the whole trip was this:

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photo courtesy of my big brother Luke

I got to meet my little cousin. I got to learn a three-needle cast off with Jeanine. I got to go through my grandmother’s quilt collection. I got felting tips from Zoe Ann. I got to hear about Alexis’s wedding plans. I got to talk about living in the Midwest with Ray and got to know my sister-in-law better. I talked photography with my brother and Mr. Cleaver spoke French with my Uncle’s mother. I tested the law of probably with my grandpa on the Roulette wheel in the “man room” and walked the Huntington Gardens with mother. I learnt that most of my family reads this blog (Hi Family!) and got to see the lighting of the Mission Inn with all of the population of Riverside.

In a word, my trip was wonderful. 

And I couldn’t be more grateful.