Home Leave 2017

We just wrapped up six weeks in America visiting family and friends, vacationing, shopping, and eating everything in sight (okay maybe only I did that last part). Some of the highlights and a ton of pictures:

  • We arrived just in time for 4th of July festivities in my home town. I haven’t been home for our town’s parade and carnival for several years. It was really special to be back and to share all of the fun with Abby and William. At first Abby did not know what to think about the parade, but before long she was all over the place scooping up candy and yelling for more. Similarly, she started out a bit nervous about the carnival rides but once she started she didn’t want to stop riding!




  • Abby finally had her first haircut. You can’t really tell, but at least we can say we did it!

  • We went to roughly 37 doctor’s appointments. Both kids had their well child visits, both kids got sick (Abby with viral croup, William with a stomach virus and THEN viral croup) and two trips to a specialist to diagnose and treat William’s allergies. He’s allergic to eggs and potentially peanuts, so we’re now “treating” him by building up a tolerance to peanuts at home. Sort of like Wesley in the Princess Bride with iocane powder. So far so good.

  • I had so much fun visiting with my friends. We went to wineries, spas, out to dinner, cookouts, and more. I learned how to use Snapchat filters and how to Boomerang (still a work in progress). I listened to Body Like a Back Road, I’m the One and Despacito on repeat. JR started calling it the summer of Jenni which has a really nice ring to it.


  • We did another great American road trip. JR and I rented a minivan, loaded it down, and drove down to Anna Maria Island, Florida. My mom and brother generously offered to fly the kids down, and my sister met us there as well. We rented a house a few blocks from the beach with its own pool and settled in for a week of fun and relaxation. Anna Maria was a perfect spot. Although the beaches were a bit crowded, the soft, white sand and clear waters made up for it. We had two golf carts that we drove all over the island, and if you ever go, you absolutely must visit The Donut Experiment. It was amazing!


  • After Florida, we slowly made our way to Knoxville, Tennessee to spend time with JR’s brother and his family. We made a very important but brief stop in Atlanta to meet Thatcher, the newest member of the T family! We were so sad to say goodbye to the T’s when they left Tbilisi, so it was a real treat to see them for a short visit and meet little Thatcher.
  • In Knoxville we spent most of our time watching Abby play with her cousin Katie, eating more good food, and we fit in a trip to the Knoxville Zoo (which insists on being called Zoo Knoxville which is weird). Highly, highly recommend this zoo – the animals, exhibits and staff were great. Abby rode a camel and fed a giraffe! The layout was really easy for walking around on a hot day with a stroller, and they had a nice splash pad play area included with admission. It was one of my favorite days during our trip.



  • We ended our road trip with 4 nights in Gatlinburg with JR’s whole family. 11 adults and 10  kids! Abby and William had so much fun with all of their cousins and we loved watching them play together.


  • Lessons learned after a road trip to Florida and back: It was a lot of driving time. I think we put over 2,500 miles on our rental car in 18 days. For comparison, we’ve lived in Georgia for two full years and we’ve put about 8,000 miles on our car. For the most part our kids did really well, but anytime a child is crying in the car even for a few minutes it feels like forever.
  • We made it back to Orrville just in time to finish up our consumables shopping (so much beer) and a few last trips to Dairy Queen.
  • Six weeks at home was really wonderful. We’re grateful to our friends and family for making time to see us and working around our crazy schedule. As much as we all loved our time in America, we are happy to be back in Tbilisi and settling in for two more years.

Where I’m from

I grew up in a very small town in northeastern Ohio.  Very small.  When I was younger, I think we had about 8 stoplights total, and it was a huge deal when a Taco Bell opened (although we have always had a Dairy Queen, and thank goodness because it is one of my favorite places ever).  Growing up with 130 some kids in my graduating class, you knew everybody’s business and you could learn a lot just depending on who you ran into at Buehler’s or Bert’s.  To further complicate things, it often felt like I was related to half the town.

My friends and I complained – a LOT – about not having anything fun to do, how boring and small our town was, and how driving 40 minutes to get to a mall was a serious tragedy.   Once we all had our licenses (again, except for poor Allison) a Friday night football game and cruising around town became the highlight of our bustling social lives.  Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how this was fun or exciting, but in our minds, it was the only thing to do.  It wasn’t until I started college that I realized just how “small town” it is to cruise around for entertainment.

dazed and confused

I didn’t start to truly appreciate my hometown until I left it.  I suppose that’s not unusual.  But now, thousands of miles away, I’m very proud to talk about where I come from, and the fact that I’m still incredibly close with my group of friends from home.  These aren’t just high school friends –  out of our group of 5 girls, 4 of us have been friends since the first and second grade, and then we let Allison tag along when we met her in junior high. (Kidding, APN.  Love you!)

We all went off to different colleges, and then we started moving to different cities and states, and even different countries.  We got married and had babies.  It’s harder and harder to make time to stay in touch, and especially to get everyone together in the same place.  But we always make the effort.  We send each other e-mails about what’s happening in our lives, the big stuff and the small stuff, the happy and the sad.

But my favorite times are when we’re all able to be together.  It’s more and more infrequent, in fact our most recent gathering was a full 2 years after the last time we’d all been together, but from the laughs and the jokes, you’d have thought we did this weekly.  These are some of the kindest, funniest, and loyal women you could ever hope to know, and I’m so proud and thankful to call them my friends.

A photo trip down memory lane.  I had to pull out my photo albums for these first few, in the pre-digital/Facebook era.


High school graduation – 2001

I can’t find any pictures of just the 5 of us all together from 2002-2006.  I’m sure they exisit, but I couldn’t find any!

bjorn 2







Bjorn’s wedding – summer 2007

spa day

 Spa/winery visit –  spring 2009


Allison’s wedding – summer 2010

desktop kristen

Kristen’s wedding – summer 2011

our wedding

 My wedding – summer 2012

jerrys 2012

 Jerry’s – December 2012


Jerry’s – December 2014

Despite the distance and crazy busy lives, I love that I can always count on them for anything, and our reunion in December was one of the highlights of my trip back home.  See you girls in Europe in 2017, right?

Orrville Tourism

JR has been home with me for just over two weeks now, and we’re enjoying ourselves in our lovely little basement apartment.  Our roommates continue to be very friendly and accommodating – thanks Grandma and Grandpa!  I’m teaching JR all the quirks of living in my small town.   He’s been to Buehler’s several days in a row now, and he’s quite used to running into relatives there.   He knows my order at the Dairy Queen, and his reaction to seeing Amish buggies has calmed down a bit.

We’re both getting a little bit stir crazy waiting for the baby to arrive.   We had really nice weather this weekend and JR asked me to look into local attractions in the Orrville area.  Ha!  Maybe he’s not adjusting as well as I thought.  Yesterday we went to the fairgrounds (mmm, Lerch’s donuts and fresh squeezed lemonade) for the Wayne County Home and Garden Show.  Today we drove down into Amish country and visited Rolling Ridge Ranch – it’s a big animal farm that lets you feed the animals directly from the wagon.   Those animals are crazy!  They come right up to the wagon and bury their noses in the bucket of feed you are desperately trying to hold on to, while avoiding the hot breath and slobber from the animal.  There were water buffalo, camels, deer, elk, pigs, zebras, ostriches, kangaroos, and zedonks – a cross between a zebra and a donkey, who knew?

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And ducklings!

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Who knows what other wild and crazy activities we’ll try out in Orrville before this baby arrives.