Feb 2015: Top 5 In Gear

Getting back into the rhythm of capturing those magical moments or experiences on a family blog takes discipline.  But, I am assured by my spouse, Janelle, it is worth the effort.  Our Top 5 for February 2015:

1. Caleb's Soccer Team Wins State Cup. At the  culmination of Caleb's 14y+ of soccer, his team finally won the entire Washington state cup tournament for his age group - in the top premier league. It was a lengthy season and huge accomplishment for the entire team, which "peaked" at the right time in the season to bring the trophy home for Seattle United BU-18 (copa).


2. Ski Season Never Happened. By early February 2015, we finally gave up hope for a ski season in Seattle this year.  While the sunshine was welcomed in mid-winter, the lack of any measurable precipitation combined with a cold front killed our ski season, and has assured Washington of likely dangerous fire season.  (Not to mention allergies arrived early!)

3. Napping is back in Vogue.  We made a point while living in Italy to adopt the "Siesta" model and encourage napping mid-day: it was awesome.  A break early afternoon, gives the body a chance to recuperate, slows the day down, and seemingly reduces stress.  Unfortunately, we lost the habit after returning to the USA.  However, Caleb has reinstated the habit, given his early morning departures to the gym, and late nights of studying.  Coming home after school, Caleb owns the couch in our living room - no questions asked.

4. Anthony brings UW Friends for Dinner. One of the fortunate things about living close to the UW, is not only seeing Anthony more regularly (than if out-of-state), but also being a proximate retreat for his classmates in Seattle.  We had the pleasure of hosting all these delightful young men and women at our Wallingford home for dinner; Janelle made a tremendous spread of food. The laughter was infectious and food must have been good - because they've returned again. ;)

5. We get a 2d Shower. Voila! After one-year of sharing a single bathroom in a houseful of boys, we finally completed a second shower in Feb 2015 - which finally means Janelle would get some privacy.   AT the peak, we had 4 boys and 1 girl (Janelle)  sharing a single shower; it was quite an accomplishment.  Thankfully, Janelle is flexible and easy going - so we just made it work. ;)

Outside the Top 5 for February, several worthwhile runner ups: mowing the lawn 2+ times, making fires in the backyard, going for walks with Janelle (as we expand our reach and exposure in Seattle).


Top 5 for Jan 2015: It's called a Toilet!

Picking up the slack after 2014, I am publishing my first Monthly Top 5 for 2015.  After a lengthy Christmas vacation, it was hard to get “back in the saddle” of our daily lives in January. 

1. New Year in Seattle.  Unlike previous years when we celebrated the New Year’s Eve in Montana snow, this year we opted to return home early and enjoy Seattle festivities.  The boys opted to go out in the city with their friends, watch the fireworks from Gasworks and partake in New Year’s Eve revelry.  Meanwhile, Janelle and I went to bed at 10:00 p.m.  It was fantastic.  Waking up early on the morning of the New Year, we went for a long walk (while the city slept).  It was a highlight – and a great start to 2015.

2. Grandpa Vander Griend Celebrates 75.  At the end of January, Janelle’s extended family gathered to celebrate her father’s 75th birthday.  It was a pleasure to see everyone and re-collect stories from Orv’s past.  We recounted his 70th birthday in Florence (which seems all too recent), when we visited the David, the Duomo (hiking up to the top of the dome too!), and enjoyed a delightful Dinner prepared by Janelle (the three-D’s).  After an early supper, we then went to see a terrific musical (Beauty and the Beast), featuring our nephews Sam and Jack in main roles (Gaston and Lumier, respectively). 

3. Caleb gets a working Toilet.  In early Spring 2014, we had a pipe burst in our 1907 home, which effectively terminated use of our upstairs bathroom.  At the time we were a family of 5 (including Cosimo), and were reduced to a single bathroom for our common use.  It took some serious juggling to make showers work.  In the interim, I had begun the “weekend-warrior” efforts to build a new bathroom in the basement.  Work, travel, and life seemed to get in the way too often, delaying completion of the bathroom. Finally, however, in January 2015 our downstairs bathroom had a working toilet!  A small accomplishment, but something that is not taken for granted. ;)

4. Seahawks win the NFC Championship.  Despite being overshadowed by their loss in the Super Bowl, the Seahawks’ win versus the Greenbay Packers in overtime will be forever remembered as a one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.  During the game, I happened to be in London watching at an American Sports Bar with a mixed bag of supporters – which made the comeback all the more enjoyable.  Sadly, with the Seahawks’ Super Bowl loss, I now appreciate how crestfallen Packers’ supporters were after the NFC Championship.  I am still simply dumbfounded.

5. Seattle United BU-18 advance in State Cup.  After a lengthy Fall season that culminated in Caleb’s soccer team at the top of the table for Washington State, he went on to advance in several round robin games to the Washington State Cup final (in February).  Caleb continued to play an instrumental role in central mid-field as a stable leader on the pitch.  He had a stellar season and still has an upcoming State Cup tournament, high-school season, then Northwest Regionals in June.
In addition to the above activities and events in January, some additional runner-ups this past month included: weekend walks with Janelle, the weather (it was an unseasonable warm and sunny month), joining a new gym, visiting a good family friend (Chris Addis) during a London business trip, and Anthony moving to a new dorm (McMahon) on the north side of UW campus, closer to friends and classes.


Our Top 5 for 2014!

Wow! Here I am re-reading some of our Family Frolics posts, recognizing (sadly) that I have failed to capture important family moments the past 2 years.  My last post was in September 2012, almost 30 months ago.  Time has been marching on, despite our attempts to “slow down” and enjoy the good life.

Well, there is no point in crying about spilled milk (if it’s whiskey – that’s another matter).  I have resolved to rekindle my Top 5’s for 2015, starting with a recap of 2014.  Thereafter, I am going to endeavor to capture the Top 5’s each month (it’s on my goal list – seriously).  These are experiences that should be recorded.

What mattered in 2014?

1. We Adopted a son! Cosimo Segnini.

At 17 years old, Cosimo came into our life as an Italian Exchange Student from Pisa and changed our lives – forever.  Although it was Anthony’s senior year in high school, we deliberated as a family and agreed it would be worthwhile to host an Italian Exchange student to “mix things up” – in a good way.  It worked. 

Cosimo arrived in Seattle at the end of August 2013 to attend Roosevelt High School.  He was quickly indoctrinated into the Maiocco household, including regular trips to TNT Taqueria, Dick’s Drive-In, and hanging out at Gas Works Park.  But, more importantly, he joined our family, adding a new dynamic, positive energy and a “go for it” attitude that was infectious.  While some exchange students may be shy, Cosimo was gung-ho, participating in Roosevelt cross-country, winning “most inspirational” for the swim team, and giving his all in soccer.  He built life-long friendships with Anthony and Caleb, and his good friend at Roosevelt - Jacob.

All the “regular” stuff was new with Cosimo – helping our family appreciate one another and the many blessings in our life.  Fires in the backyard, watching Seahawk football games, family dinners (including grace in Italian!), attending church, boating on Lake Washington, and daily Seattle life – all of it took on new meaning with Cosimo. Our annual Christmas trip to Montana was especially memorable.  Not only did we play hockey on the lake, snow mobile, enjoy countless games, and ski at Schweitzer (Idaho); but, unbelievably, we had a cabin fire and full loss of power and water for two days in sub-zero temperatures. (I can imagine him re-telling the story to his Italian friends in Pisa!).

In the Spring, Cosimo took a memorable trip to Arizona with Jacob’s family, enjoying a reprieve from the wet Seattle winter; enjoyed a quick trip to Orcas Island; and made an overnight excursion with Anthony & Caleb to Vancouver, B.C.  Altogether, lots of fun activities, but after an entire school year, it was Cosimo’s daily presence, laughter and warmth that we cherished most.

While it was difficult to say goodbye at the end of the school year, we’ll see Cosimo again – soon (Spring Break 2015!).  A huge thanks to Cosimo’s parents for sharing him with us for an entire year – we are indebted.

2. Anthony Graduated from High School

In 2014 our eldest son, Anthony, graduated from Bishop Blanchet High School.  After all the years of parenting, schooling, coaching, loving and praying – Anthony officially sprung from the coop.  We often joked that he was ready to be an adult when he was a child.  Now, it was official – Anthony had graduated from high school and was ready for college.  ;)

Janelle and I have been fortunate to have a son like Anthony who is naturally studious, curious and eager for adventure.  Graduating high school was an easy evolution and transition for him – Anthony had been ready for quite some time.  However, nothing prepares you for the day when it finally arrives.  Graduation was memorable and well documented (with plenty of photos to prove it).  Naturally, we’re proud parents and eager to see Anthony succeed.  There’s not enough good things we could say about him; the future holds great promise for Anthony.  It is a pleasure to support Anthony at the University of Washington – where he is a quick study of university life, developing his talents and beginning to navigate life’s journey.

3. Boys Trek to Europe (and Iceland!)

As a graduation gift for Anthony, and to help ease the transition of Cosimo’s departure, we sent Anthony and Caleb to Europe for an extended summer holiday.  They had no itinerary – just two round-trip airplane tickets (inbound to Amsterdam, departing Milan), two Eurorail train passes, hostel membership cards and back packs.  They were to spend 3 weeks traversing Europe, following their curiosities and making memories together.  Janelle and I trusted God would guide them on their venture, and we watched from afar (thankful for mobile phones).

The boys sauntered from the Netherlands to Germany (where they enjoyed the World Cup final with throngs of other revelers in Berlin), then to Czech, Austria and finally Italy (where they stayed with Cosimo’s family).  During their stay in Italy, the boys revisited some familiar sites and places, including our old abode in Florence, their former school, Sacre Cuore, and head mistress, Signora Lupoi.  On their return the boys had a brief stay in Iceland, exploring Reykjavik, before landing in Seattle.  As for their experience and memories - the storytelling is ongoing.  Anthony and Caleb both came home grounded, more mature and with a fresh perspective on their lives in the United States.  For Caleb, who returned to our home for his solitary senior year (absent Anthony and Cosimo), the Europe trip was especially meaningful and timely – a good boost for his last hurrah at Bishop Blanchet.

4. College Visits (Spring and Fall)

Over the course of the past four years, we’ve had the pleasure to travel to some fun destinations and visited colleges along the way.  This past year, I took a trip with each son, to deliberately look at a few colleges of interest to them.

While Caleb was in New Orleans, building homes as a volunteer over Spring Break 2014, Anthony and I went to the midwest to visit three colleges where he had been accepted (Washington St. Louis, Northwestern, and Michigan). We took a round-trip flight to Indianapolis, then proceeded on a memorable week-long road trip (across a lot of farm country) to visit each school.  We stayed in AirBnB’s for the entire trip, which added color to our trip and kept us in budget. 

Indianapolis left much to be desired as a city (other than DuckPin bowling).  At Washington St. Louis we enjoyed touring the beautiful campus, and visits to the Gateway Arch and City Museum (recycled art playground – awesome!).  Northwestern was similarly impressive, with the campus beautifully situated on the water in Evanston (including a new ME building sponsored by Ford).  And, lastly, was Michigan; while the main campus is gorgeous and inviting, the north campus for engineering was austere, uninviting and downright depressing (including underground labs with no light).  Throughout the trip, Anthony and I had great conversations and good food, too, which helped make the trip all the more meaningful.  In the end, Anthony chose to go to UW – he made an informed decision on his own (and we were thrilled to have him close in Seattle!).

After Anthony had departed for college, I extended a southern California business trip and had Caleb fly down to meet me in San Diego.  He was interested in visiting several schools throughout Southern California (where I grew up as a young child).  We started with a visit to University San Diego, a pristine Jesuit college on the hilltop overlooking the ocean.  In the evening we had a wonderful visit with Uncle Rich Snapper, where we heard tall-tales of Rich’s hunting adventures (although he has busts to prove it!). 

The following day we sauntered up to UCLA for a full college tour of the Brentwood campus (and enjoyed sushi at Nobu and a night at the Mondrian hotel in West Hollywood).  The last day, we started early at Pepperdine in Malibu, where Caleb found a “heaven-sent” soccer field on the ocean, and we got a happen-chance personal tour of campus.  In the afternoon we drove south to visit the sprawling UC Irvine campus, then dinner at Laguna beach (before departing). Altogether, it was an informative trip for Caleb who applied to all of the schools, except UC Irvine.  We’ll see where Caleb elects to attend this coming Spring.

5. Farmstr

Lastly, and perhaps most painfully, 2014 will be forever remembered for Farmstr – Janelle’s startup that she founded to help small farmers connect with consumers.  This past week, it was announced that Farmstr is ceasing operations – despite double-digit growth quarter-over-quarter all of 2014.

For the past two years, we watched, supported, and encouraged Janelle as she brought Farmstr to life – attracting $1.3M+ in venture capital financing, won multiple awards, and became a darling in the Seattle startup ecosystem.  She attracted amazing talent and demonstrated the audacity and capability to grow a business from an idea to a real solution.  We couldn’t be more proud of her.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the market traction, Janelle was unable to galvanize enough momentum to secure large, deep-pocket investments to continue growing a full-service farmer-to-consumer delivery model (her competitors attracted $20M+ in financing, and/or are backed by multi-billion dollar entities). While it is heart-wrenching  to see Farmstr close, I know Janelle has ambitions to continue her work to support small farmers.  Expect to hear more from Janelle on this front.

Outside the Top 5 for 2014 are several “runner up” experiences and events.  Caleb’s soccer team this past Fall earned 1st place in the Washington State Premier league, a timely accomplishment in his senior season.  We bought into a boat syndicate in Spring 2014, giving us access to a fantastic set of ski boats just blocks from our house – it turns out Anthony is a natural at wake boarding (and I love simply being on the water).  Following the boys’ European

excursion, we enjoyed a family trip to Orcas Island, including some memorable rounds of golf. The boys and their good friends, Chet and Galan, helped us remove the siding and paint our old 1907 Craftsman in Wallingford. After 4+ years, I left Microsoft in November to join an aspiring software company based out of New Zealand, called Xero.  In my new role, I am based out of San Francisco with international team members east (New York, London), and west (New Zealand, Australia). In December, we enjoyed the final performance of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s rendition of the Nutcracker; it was a time-honored Seattle tradition (we will miss the dance of the sugar plums and peacock). Finally, in 2014 I had the pleasure of attending my eldest brother’s formal promotion to a U.S. Army General – a huge honor and reflection of his commitment and service to our nation.


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