Monday, September 29, 2008

Trip to Chicago: Part III, The Big Wedding Day

The day of the wedding arrived and the weather was beautiful, with glorious sunshine without being too oppressive.  We went to Hube and Bonnie's house early to transport us, Hube, Dad and all our luggage to the new hotel.  Mum stayed at the house to get her hair and makeup done with Bonnie and the bridesmaids.  We had an incredible amount of luggage, which only just fit in the car with us.  Thank goodness American cars are bigger than their British counterparts!

The new hotel was next door to the reception venue and where most of us were staying.  It was lovely and after checking in we were immediately able to go to our rooms.  As a surprise, we had booked a honeymoon suite for Hube and Bonnie as they hadn't arranged anything prior to that.  Hube went to the room to find it had a big Jacuzzi!

One quick nap later, we rushed to get Lauren and Jocey ready for the wedding.  It took me five attempts to get Lauren's hair in place (no hairspray, lots of wiggling and pulling out of clips) but at the end I was happy with it.  She looked natural and beautiful.

We carted the girls off to church in their pyjamas to change them in the car park.  We arrived in good time but a bit flustered, just before 2:30 in the afternoon for the 3 o'clock wedding.

The church was beautiful.  Here is St Paul of the Cross from the outside on the day of the wedding.

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Inside, it was spacious and cool with marble and stained glass windows.

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Jase was immediately pulled off to organise the handing out of buttonholes and corsages, to organise the giving out of programs and general sorting out of the wedding party, as Bonnie's wedding organiser fell ill on the afternoon before the wedding.  The rest of us sat patiently in the church to await the arrival of the bride.

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A little after 3pm, the bridal party arrived and the ceremony began.  The mothers of bride and groom led the way and came down the aisle together.  They each lit a candle at the alter before the rest of the attendants appeared.  Unfortunately, Lauren refused to walk at the last minute; I think it was a combination of tiredness and the fact that the flower basket was too heavy for her and therefore she didn't want to carry it.  Daddy made a lovely replacement flower girl and walked down the aisle carrying her with Ruaraidh the ring bearer at his side.

Shortly after, Bonnie and her dad came down the aisle and we had our first glimpse of the wedding dress.  It was in an ivory satin with intricate champagne coloured embroidery on the bodice and champagne coloured satin overskirt and trim.  She looked radiant and beautiful.  Here is her dad Joe giving her away.

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There were a number of readings, of which I did one.  I was pretty nervous, but remembered to take my time and speak up to be heard.  I had to laugh when I found out I was doing the famous "sounding brass" reading - you'll know what I mean if you've ever watched the film "Four Weddings and a Funeral".

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Here are the bride and groom, surrounded by their attendants, exchanging vows.

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Here are the happy newly weds at the end of the ceremony!

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Here's our entire family at the photo call.Wedding 022

Back outside, we waited patiently for the bride and groom to emerge.  Here's the extended Sun family in front of the church.

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Here we had a photo with mum and dad.  I thought mum looked lovely in her blue silk outfit.

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This is a photo my cousin Amy took of Lauren; I think she looks so beautiful in this picture with her hair coiled up.  I was amazed that it had stayed in place this long!

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And here are my darling girls with my mum and dad.  They looked absolutely gorgeous in their little dresses (made by Jase's mum Suzanne).

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After their photos were done, Hube and Bonnie emerged from the church.  Wedding 184

We were there waiting to greet them with a soft shower of bubbles!

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Here's the happy couple with Bonnie's lovely parents looking on.

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Out in front of the church, Hubert posed with me and his cousins.

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Soon after this, Hube and Bonnie were whisked away in their vintage car and we made our way to the reception.  The reception hall was about 30 minutes away by car; really lovely inside with a foyer containing fountains and sweeping double staircases. 

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In the photo above, I am trying to fold and shorten Bonnie's train into a bustle (eventually with some success)!  Hube and Bonnie were one of three wedding receptions being held at the venue on the day; we were next door to a massive Bollywood style wedding, complete with gorgeous ladies in colourful saris.

Once safely inside our hall, we found our table and settled the girls.  We were all starving; the girls hadn't eaten since breakfast because of their lunchtime nap and it was now about 6pm.  Jase and I had had a very small lunch because we were in a hurry to get the girls ready.  Needless to say, we all made short work of the canapés, which were all delicious.  Lauren wolfed down about three or four chicken satays, whilst Jocey ate her baby food.  I think in this photo Mum was feeding me a little piece of quiche!

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Hube and Bonnie arrived with the wedding party to take their seats, looking happy and relaxed.  Here, they greet the top table before sitting down.

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I was quite surprised that they decided to cut the cake and have the speeches first - obviously quite different from weddings in the UK.  Also different was the fact that the chief bridesmaid stood up to speak and not the father of the bride.

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Their cake was really modern and pretty, and (of course as it is Bonnie's favourite) chocolate.  We were served the cake for dessert and it was really good.  In fact the whole dinner was surprisingly good especially when you consider the problems of mass catering and the standard of food normally served at a wedding.  The only pity was that the desserts were tucked away in a corner and very few people had any of the lovely treats on offer (I think because many didn't know the desserts were there).

All throughout the wedding, the girls behaved impeccably.  I was so proud of them.  They laughed and smiled the whole day and were both so beautiful!

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I think they enjoyed the day as much as we all did.  Lauren in particular had a great time playing with Ruaraidh, the Best Man's son and the ring bearer.

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When it was time for the dancing, everyone got up to do a turn around the dance floor.  Of course, the bride and groom went first.

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They were followed onto the dance floor by the attendants.

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The parents quickly followed.

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Then Lauren thought it would be fun and dragged Ruariadh onto the dance floor.  Good for her!

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Unfortunately, we had to leave the party in full swing as the girls were getting very tired and needed to go to bed.  We said our goodbyes to everyone and went to our room in the hotel to put the girls to bed.

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Mum and Dad stayed on and had a fantastic time.  When the girls were in bed, we managed to spend some time chatting with my uncle, aunties and cousins before they left for the night.  We returned to our own room at about midnight - the end of a wonderful wedding and a wonderful day.

The photos from the day can be seen here in my Flickr album.

Trip to Chicago: Part II, The Rehearsal and Rehearsal Dinner

High time I actually talked about the wedding.

We were all getting a bit worried as the weekend of the wedding got closer as Hube and Bonnie still had quite a lot of organising to do before the big day. There was a lot of last minute rushing about behind the scenes! However, we were all determined that things should try to go as smoothly as possible, so we headed out to the rehearsal on Saturday full of expectation.

The priest's assistants were very helpful and talked and walked us through quite a complicated rehearsal. As someone who had never been to a Catholic wedding before, I was interested to see all the ceremony and intricacies that make up a Catholic service. I was hoping by the end of it that we would all remember what we had to do. My particular worry was that Lauren wouldn't manage to walk down the aisle in her role as the flower girl if she was too nervous or too tired; young children are so unpredictable!

After the rehearsal, we all headed out to an Italian restaurant called Maggiano's near my Great Uncle's house for the rehearsal dinner. The family had hired out a private room downstairs in the restaurant for the dinner, complete with its own bar. Here are my parents with our extended family.

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Here we are at our table with my parents, Hubert and Bonnie, Aunt Kitty and cousin Monica.

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The meal was fantastic; it was American Italian food and was full of flavour. We all had a great time and we managed to spend some time talking to our extended family. I hadn't seen my Uncle or my cousin Deanna since 1997, so it was really fabulous to see them there.

Lauren and Jocey loved it; they got cuddles with so many different people and were generally fussed over. Lauren got a Dora backpack from Hube and Bonnie as a thank you present. She immediately wanted to put it on and go exploring, just like Dora!

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Here's Jocey with mum and looking at Great Uncle Larry.

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Here I am with mum and the girls, at the end of the meal.

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After the meal, the girls were tired out because they had missed out their lunchtime nap; we headed off back to the hotel so that the girls could sleep. I wasn't sure how they would manage on the wedding day but was hopeful that if I got them down for a nap at lunchtime that they would last until the evening.

After such a big lunch, everyone had a quiet evening and we had dinner on our own at the next door Longhorn Steakhouse that night.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trip to Chicago: Part I, pre-wedding fun

I'm pleased to say that Jocey is finally getting better after coming down with her nasty cold.  She ran a fever last night but slept well and went to nursery without incident today.  Although she was quite upset when I dropped her off, she was fine after I left the room and played happily during the day.

Both girls are fast asleep at the moment so for the first time in ages I have the chance to write about the trip to Chicago.

We flew out on Saturday morning and landed Saturday afternoon (evening really) in Chicago.  Both girls were very well behaved and did sleep a little on the plane.  When they were awake they did not really fuss at all.  I was really surprised considering it was the longest flight either of them had been on (and the first flight Jocey has ever been on).  We were all tired when we arrived and just wanted to get to the hotel; unfortunately, it took about an hour to get through immigration.  When we did eventually get to the desk, a grim looking man with no sense of humour looked at our passport, took our photos and got our fingerprints.

It does make you feel like a bit of a sneaky criminal!  However, I was mindful of all the people who have been arrested and thrown into jail for "joking" with US immigration (for example, the man with the violin case who when asked what was in it thought it would be funny to say that it was a machine gun.  He didn't laugh when they then arrested him and threw him into jail.  Like I said, no sense of humour.)

After this, it took a considerable amount of time (about another hour) before we got our hire car because of paperwork and other nonsense.  They actually gave us the wrong car at first; I realised it couldn't be the correct one as it was a 5 seater and not a 7 seater.  This meant that by the time we finally did reach the hotel, we were pretty exhausted.

However, luckily for us the hotel we'd booked had a mall nearby with a big supermarket called Target (which strangely enough turned out to be a Tesco as it had all the Cherokee clothing) and lots of little restaurants.  Adjacent to the hotel itself was a little steak place called Longhorn Steakhouse.

Now I know the Longhorn is a chain but I must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the steak was actually really good.  The food was not fancy but what it did it did well.  It was child friendly as well so a clear winner for the first night.  To be honest, we hadn't had any high expectations for food on the holiday as we had been disappointed on previous trips to the US (more on the food later).

It was fabulous to see Hubert and Bonnie.  It's been little over a year since we saw them last (in Barcelona).  They were obviously tired and a bit stressed in the run up to the wedding as there was still quite a lot to sort out.  However, we all had a good time catching up and spending time with them.

They had fun showing us around their neighbourhood.  Their house had required a lot of work but is now lovely - really cosy and homely.

There are pictures of their house here.

The house is situated in a lovely suburb full of wide, leafy streets and nice houses.  On one of the first few days, they took us to the local park at the end of their street.  Here's Hube and Mum chatting.

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Lauren and Jocey loved the park and spent a long time playing on the swings and climbing frames.  Here Lauren was playing on a climbing frame which was in the shape of a boat and she is at the helm.

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Jocey loved the swings.  She laughed and laughed whilst on them.  She especially liked the swing below because I think she felt secure in the deep seats.

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Here is Jocey on another swing with Hube.

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And here is one of Hube, Dad, Mum and the girls enjoying the park.

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The park was in immaculate condition; really clean, lots of good, fun equipment in it and no signs of any vandalism at all.  So different from London.  We went to our local park this weekend to find that one of the climbing frames had been roped off as it has a broken section.  I have no idea when it will be fixed.  I was quite surprised to hear from Bonnie that their local council change all the playground equipment every few years and replace it with all new stuff.  Now why can't we get that here?  It really put our playgrounds to shame.

Adjacent to the children's playground is a little wilderness with a small wildlife centre in it.  Unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity to visit whilst we were there but saw a lot of the wildlife in the local area (squirrels, rabbits, birds, chipmunks and woodpeckers!).  Jocey was enchanted by it all and spent a lot of time excitedly pointing and grunting at all the animals she saw.  Lauren loved watching the squirrels chasing each other and got very excited when she saw all the rabbits.

Midweek, my family started to arrive from all over.  We met up with my mum's two sisters and my cousin Margaret, whom I've not seen in 11 years.  It was lovely to see her and do some catching up (sadly, we didn't have enough time as I would have liked, especially as I had to look after the girls a lot of the time).  Here we are all agonising over the menu at a fish restaurant on the first evening together.

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Both my aunts are over 70 but are still very young and in good health.  Aunt Pei, the eldest of my mum's sisters is 74 and still plays tennis several times a week.  She is absolutely incredible.

Here is a picture of three generations of Sun family women.  I think my grandparents would be very proud had they still been alive to see it.

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On the Thursday we went to see my Great Uncle Larry, which was really a fantastic experience.  I'd only met him once before, very briefly when he was travelling around the world and had visited us in Edinburgh, about 10 years ago.  He was my maternal grandmother's sister's husband; my Great Aunt died a few years ago.

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As well as being a professor of architecture who has written books on the subject, he personally experienced the horrors of China's Cultural Revolution.  He has written a book on his experiences and I was lucky enough to get a copy from him.  It is a part of my family's history that I don't know much about but am keen to find out about.

He's absolutely amazing for a man in his 90s.  Here he is with my mum, his niece.

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It was the first time I had met any of my mum's cousins.  It was also the first time she had met some of them too, as our family have been so scattered.  Strange to think that there was such a large part of the family that we'd never met before.  I was so glad to have had the opportunity to do so however.  We went out to lunch with Great Uncle Larry and Aunty Si, one of his daughters.Chicago 048

Here is Great Uncle Larry with his daughter and his nieces.

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He is the only surviving member of my mum's family from that generation.  How wonderful to have met him and had the chance to spend some time talking with him.  I'm hoping to have the opportunity to sit and read his book sometime soon, so that I can share in that part of my family's history.  I think he was also happy to have had so many members of his family around him; he absolutely adored Lauren and Jocey and they clearly were in awe of him.

The pictures of our trip taken pre-wedding can be found here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Germ warfare

I've had to take the day off work today because Lauren and Jocey have been ill with colds this week.  The schools have gone back and I am sure that this is a factor.  Both girls came home on Monday with the sniffles which quickly developed into nasty coughs, sore throats and fevers.  It seems to be going round at work too and although I have been fine, I think Jase is about to get it too.

They called me from nursery on Wednesday mid morning to say that Lauren had a fever of 39 and was vomiting.  Unfortunately, I was the only boss in at work on the day so had to bring Lauren back to my work.  She took some Calpol and some milk and went to sleep in my office without any fuss.  At least when she woke up she was much perkier.  She even liked meeting some of my work colleagues and watching the ambulances pull up.

Yesterday, Jase took the day off work to look after the girls so today it is my turn to stay home.  Lauren has recovered but now Jocey has become unwell with the same thing.

However, despite the fever and the cold, she is in pretty good spirits.  She has been playing and eating as she should, so I am less concerned.  Here she is playing at home with me.

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Here is Jocey giving her Eebee a big hug.

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Eebee came back from Chicago with us as a birthday present from her Gung Gung and Po Po.  She absolutely adores him! 

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He reminds me of the Fraggles - do you remember them?

The Fraggles of Fraggle Rock

I think he's actually quite cute, even if Jase is not sure.  Jocey chose him; she was absolutely besotted with him from the moment she clapped eyes on him in the shop.

At the moment, she is having a nap and I am sure that the sleep will do her good.

More on the trip to Chicago and all the rest of the news when I get a moment to draw breath.  I feel as if I am being carried along in a hurricane, tossed about from one spot to another.  Always so little time!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008