What an amazing year 2015 has been for the Gamsby/Bradfield household!
The highlights include a number of firsts for Cecileigh, some big trips we took together as a family, and many visits with family and friends throughout the year.
2015 started with month four of Heather’s maternity leave. Heather is an amazing mother, and she took advantage of her maternity leave to bond with Cecileigh. In January, Cecileigh began swimming lessons. In February, Heather took Cecileigh on her first flight down to Palm Desert to spend some time with Nana and Grandad. Cecileigh, by all other passenger accounts, was an angel on her first flight. Dad experienced some separation anxiety and loneliness, but frequent text message, pictures, and FaceTime calls helped.
On March 22, we were joined in Victoria by family and many friends for Cecileigh’s baptism. Cecileigh’s gown was made from Nana Marnie’s wedding gown, and it was beautiful. We are honoured to have Auntie Kim, Auntie Mary Anne, and Uncle Khalid as god-parents for our little girl.
On the Easter long weekend, we made a whirlwind trip to Calgary to visit Jenn, Kurt, and their children Riley, and twins Mason and Lauren. We had a great time shopping, walking the snow covered trail along the Bow River, and playing with the kids.
Tyler completed his work on Yukon Gold Season 3 at the end of April, and didn’t waste any time packing the family up for a huge trip to South Africa (full disclosure: Heather got us packed!). After a couple of shorter training flights, Cecileigh seemed quite the seasoned traveller. A well timed 8pm takeoff had the little girl asleep soon after takeoff, and mom and dad alternating between drifting off and afraid to fall asleep with the little girl in their lap. The first leg of our flight (9 hours) made for a nice, albeit short, visit in London with Auntie Marsha, who met us with a very nice lunch, and we had a wonderful time together.
Then it was 11 more hours on the flight to Johannesburg, and finally seeing the welcoming faces of Auntie Rose and Uncle Con. We stayed with Rose and Con at their home outside Johannesburg for five days, bombing around in the golf cart, shopping, and enjoying the time as Rose and Con bonded with Cecileigh. Our first full day in South Africa found Tyler, and family friend Arthur, fishing together at a private trout fishing reserve.
After a day's drive, we were at Warner Beach on the Eastern Coast in Amanzimtoti, where we enjoyed more time together, some sightseeing, and some fishing in the Indian Ocean. Early one morning, Uncle Con took Tyler out to a spot on the beach where Con has seen fishermen gathering for many years.
A short flight from 'Toti, and we were in Port Elizabeth, and a short drive to Port Alfred and Great Auntie Jean, who lent her name to Cecileigh. At 98, Jean looks great. And still has a sense of humour (or good acting skills) -- she laughed when Tyler apologized that Cecileigh's first middle name is Jean, because when she's bad we will shout "Cecileigh Jean!" Having Auntie Jean, Auntie Rose, Heather, and Cecileigh in the same room represented four generations of beautiful Bradfield ladies being together.
For Tyler, being in the Port Alfred area was a particularly special experience. Limestone Hill, the farm given to the Bradfield family when they arrived in the Eastern Cape in the 1820s, is now part pineapple plantation, and part game reserve called Nyala Valley. We were fortunate to be joined again by Rose and Con, and to stay in the lodge, where every morning we were greeted by zebras, giraffe, antelope, wildebeest, birds, and monkeys. Our visit to Nyala Valley was the first time Tyler had seen these animals, and with no predator animals in the game reserve, the animals were calm. On one particular evening game drive, we walked down the road to the blind overlooking the water hole, when a herd of giraffe -- seven of varying ages -- crossed the road not 30 yards from us. They didn't panic, but briefly stopped to assess our presence, and then continued on through the bush. In Afrikaans, a giraffe is called a kameelperde, or camelhorse, because a giraffe walks like a camel and runs like a horse.
From Nyala Valley, we headed north of Grahamstown, and the Pumba private game reserve. We arrived moments before our evening game drive Land Rover, or Landy, was set to drive into the sunset. We hastily handed Cecileigh and her diaper bag over to a strange but seemingly nice young lady, who was introduced as our babysitter. On our first game drive, we saw elephants, giraffe, rhinos, and white lions. The lodge was great -- and for two nights, we had it entirely to ourselves. We enjoyed sunrise and sunset game drives alone, romantic dinners in a private dining room, and very affordable childcare!
From Pumba, we made a detour back to Port Alfred for one last visit with Auntie Jean, then made our way down the Garden Route to Cape Town. Along the way, we visited Storms River Mouth, a place we will stay a few nights on our next visit to SA, and stayed a night in Wilderness, and a night in Stellenbosch, where we visited a most special winery, Rust en Vrede (Rest and Peace). Rust en Vrede is a place where, two years earlier, Heather bought a special bottle of wine to share with me when I finally asked her to marry me. We enjoyed a walk on the grounds, a nice lunch, and started our collection of SA wines to bring home.
In Cape Town we stayed with Jen and Andrew and their beautiful daughter Susara. We visited Robben Island, the waterfront, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park, a couple more wineries, and a couple wonderful restaurants. Big fans of the hop-on-hop-off tours, we were able to see a lot of Cape Town, and the surrounding area.
We went back to Johannesburg for a few more nights for with Rose and Con, and a little more sight-seeing. We visited the Apartheid Museum, toured Soweto, were honoured to be joined by friends of the Bradfield family for lunch, and visited Mandalay, the Bradfield family home. Tyler challenged Con to two rounds of golf, and lost both times, but enjoyed seeing Springbok on the greens, and collecting guinea fowl feathers for his fly tying.
After being home for three weeks, we felt stir crazy, so we travelled to Ontario to introduce Cecileigh to more family and friends. We spent a couple days with Lincoln, Frances, Gareth and Naomi in Emo, before heading to Atikokan. Every summer, Tyler’s family enjoys the Cunningham Family Camping Weekend, a long weekend filled with fun, games, and of course, a little fishing! After that we had a couple nights with Great-Grandma, Great-Grandpa, and uncle Clifford before we headed down to Kitchener, ON for Mat & Amy’s wedding. It was a beautiful wedding, and it was great to meet Amy’s family, and see a lot of our family again after just seeing them at the camping weekend. After the wedding, we made a detour to Niagara Falls for a walk along the river and falls, and supper at a Brazilian Steakhouse. Then it was off to Toronto to see some friends, before heading back home.
After another short stay in our own bed, we were off to Parksville, BC where we stayed for almost two weeks. Beach Acres is a quiet resort just outside of Parksville. We enjoyed going to the farmer’s market, seeing the sand sculptures, and being just the three of us. Cecileigh dipped her toes into the Pacific Ocean for the first time, on a beach where Heather has many fond childhood memories. Tyler managed to sneak in a few days of fishing, too!
On August 31, Cecileigh started daycare. It is safe to say it was harder on mom and dad than it was on Cecileigh. Her first day was a half day, and mom and dad went to the Red Wagon Diner for brunch. While we were there, we remembered some of the special times we had together that summer, and we choked up a little bit. To our surprise, when we asked for our bill, the waitress said that a couple at another table had paid our bill because they noticed we were having a tough time, and wanted to do something to cheer us up. It worked! We picked Cecileigh up after our brunch, and the next day she started full-time daycare. Heather went back to work after the Labour Day long weekend.
October 3 marked Cecileigh’s first birthday. We had a wonderful party (mostly for mom and dad) with friends and family. Cecileigh sure likes being the centre of attention. And she sure likes chocolate cake! Despite being 5 pounds at birth, by her birthday Cecileigh was in the 95th-percentile for length and 50th-percentile for weight. Her growth had caught (and passed) the curve. On her first birthday, Cecileigh had grown from 18-inches long to 29-inches tall.
On our way home from Thanksgiving in Victoria, Cecileigh spoke her first word — and she used it in context. While in the cafeteria onboard the ferry, Cecileigh pointed to and said “Banana.” Well, she said “Anana,” but close enough! She knew what she wanted.
Another major milestone that Cecileigh reached this year was taking her first steps. When daddy asked her, “Where is teddy bear,” she turned around and took three unsteady steps to her teddy bear, and smiled. Her next four steps were into the arms of her mother. And she isn’t slowing down! She’s quick to the gate to try to get out of her play area, and, now that the tree is up, quick to re-arrange the ornaments.
Thanks for reading this far. As you can tell, we are very proud parents, and have had a truly remarkable year, made more remarkable because we shared the year with you, our friends and family.
This Christmas we will be with Grandma and Grandpa Gamsby and Nana Bradfield, in Burnaby. We will be missing Grandad, Auntie Rose and Uncle Con, and Marsha, who are together in Johannesburg. We will be missing the Cunningham and Gamsby families, celebrating Christmas in Ontario. A special Merry Christmas to Mat and Amy -- it is their first Christmas as a married couple, and their first Christmas in their first home! And we will be missing Great Auntie Jean, who passed away in mid-December.
From Tyler, Heather, and Cecileigh: Merry Christmas everyone. Our best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year.