Summer is here!

It’s been a while since we’ve had a photographer capture our family… In fact, the last time we had any kind of professional photos taken was when Aidan was two.  Fast forward eight years, and a former student, photographer and good friend of mine offered to capture our “essence” at the USF Botanical Gardens.  I like the botanical garden idea because of the connection with our wedding and bricks in the Buttery Garden that still represent some happy times at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota.

The photos turned out great, and I sincerely think Sha Sha Photo for providing us with memories that will last a lifetime!

Based on how hot it was during this “photo shoot,” I can say summer has arrived.  The kids are out of school once again and savoring all that sleeping in and unrestricted video game time has to offer.  Of course, they are in camps as well.  Sadly, this will be our last few months at Bright Horizons as Skye finishes up her time there before kindergarten starts in August.  For one precious year, both kids will be attending the same school that just happens to be awesome and right around the corner.  I’m expecting good things…  Of course, I will sincerely miss the people at Bright Horizons Hunter’s Green, as they have been a positive part of my daily routine for almost eight years now.

Aidan’s returning to MOSI this summer for some STEM related camps and a canoe camp at Lettuce Lake Park too!  He’s into robotics, gaming design, etc. and of course there’s plenty of Minecraft in there too.  He’s not so happy about it, but I did ask him to set some goals for Code Academy for the summer so I can keep him learning.  Skye is taking swim classes and loves to work on craft projects, writing and coloring.  She’s our little “pop star,” as she so duly noted during her recent VPK graduation ceremony.

The highlight of the summer will have to be the New York trip I finally sold Luke on.  Some of my fondest memories include us flying up there in summer to catch a Broadway show for my birthday.  This year, we’ll celebrate mine and Aidan’s birthdays with a few days in the Big Apple catching The Lion King and visiting The Met.  It will be the kids’ first ride on an airplane, and it makes us feel much less guilty planning a ski trip without them in early 2015.

All in all, life is good… Really good.


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Spring Break Awesomeness

Although we didn’t go into Spring Break this year with too much planned, I’m going to go ahead and say it was one of the best yet.

We kicked things off with a little road trip to Kennedy Space Center… The kids enjoyed it more than I thought, and I’ll go ahead and sell Luke out by saying I busted him getting all teary eyed during more than one attraction.  I’ll admit that I did too, but seeing all of that human achievement and the possibilities of what may be are just overwhelming. It’s an amazing place to visit!

Aidan spent the week at a MOSI camp and had a blast!  They played Manhunt and Capture the Flag in the woods and even had time for Minecraft. He was genuinely having a great time.  Skye was at Bright Horizons, but took a break from the regular VPK schedule and had some fun coloring Frozen pages with her friends all week and dancing to the soundtrack. :)

There was a pizza party, a day trip to Ybor for lunch at Columbia and some ticket craziness at Game Stop… There was even a movie or two in there as well. The week was pretty action packed!

The pièce de résistance was certainly the spontaneous idea that Luke came up with. He suggested we load up the Forester with as much stuff as we could fit and head to Ft. Desoto for a night of camping on the beach.  Off we went… From my tent, I slept with Skye cuddled up next to me as I listened to the rustling ocean breeze off the mangroves and enjoyed a front row seat to the full moon.  It was kind of magical.  Raccoons stole our food and stuff too… So, there was no lack of adventure either.

Oh, and I did get a full day off with Luke that included lunch at my new favorite spot for fare, Edison.  How unfortunate that we forgot the gift certificate we meant to use.  Now we’ll have to go back.

Spring Break 2014… Memories were made!

photo (2)

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Shame on us… Season’s Greetings & Happy New Year!

I just realized that my last post was in November… No holiday greeting or Happy New Year salutation… How shameful?!

Honestly, life is just busy.  But, it doesn’t mean we don’t love our friends and family that check out the site to see what we’re up to.  In fact, it’s true that you make time for what’s important.  So, regardless how crazy schedules are, we do still keep in touch.

Although it’s a little late, Season’s Greetings & Happy New Year!  If you think about Chinese New Year, it’s even less belated.

What are we up to? Same stuff… Aidan is pretty much a smaller version of Luke, and he’s getting just so tall these days! He’s doing great in school and lives for stuff like Minecraft and Scratch.  I still “encourage” him to do chess and run club, but his passion is definitely somewhere in a computer or in building stuff.  We’re in the second round of the FLL LEGO League after suffering a loss at the first event. But, even I learned a little something about good sportsmanship I like to think… LEGO Masterz FTW in 2014!

Skye is quite the doppelganger of myself, which poses its own challenges but also never fails to make me smile.  She’s in love with VPK and starts kindergarten in a few months.  She lives for time with her friends and really does make you feel all warm and fuzzy when she cuddles with you, if you’re so lucky.  Her favorite movie is Frozen, which we sing the songs to daily and watch often.  It reminds me of Cars with Aidan, although Skye has much, much more flair.

Luke and I… Same jobs and such… Living the dream, but I say that and mean it with every core of my being.  Life is good!

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Thanksgiving 2013

The Stepniowski family has enjoyed a relaxing and fun-filled Thanksgiving holiday this year as both Luke and Aidan were off for the week.  We traveled far and wide over to Pinellas county where we walked along the beach, had a picnic and explored Fort Desoto.  We had some culinary adventure as we journeyed over to the other side of Tampa for California Tacos… Totally worth it! The kids even got to sleepover with the grandparents twice, which is fun for all!

For Thanksgiving, we hosted a delicious meal that everyone enjoyed.  From the stuffing and pierogies I love so much, to the juicy turkey Luke hooked up, it was a great day!

This weekend, we’re committed to getting a Christmas tree setup and then it’s back to the daily grind for a few weeks until the next holiday! <3


From left: Grandma Barbara, Papa, Grandma Greta, Garry, Me and in the front is Luke, Aidan & Skye

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Spooky Time

This Halloween, Aidan decided to be a ninja and participated in the Pride Prowl at school.  Skye chose to be a Barbie skeleton (complete with matching Barbie).  At Bright Horizons, Skye’s VPK class performed Spooky Time…

Presenting Skye as “the ghost”:


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Road Trip 2013 – Smoky Mountains

The last week of summer is among us, and we’ve just returned from our semi-annual trek to the Smoky Mountains.  

Instead of making a pit-stop in Atlanta again, we decided to bust it straight through to Wears Valley, TN where we rented a cabin. We like Wears Valley because it avoids all of the touristy stuff indicative of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.  Also, it has incredibly convenient access to the National Park.  We usually spend most of our time there.  Just driving through, hearing the sounds and smelling the fresh mountain air is enough for a mental reboot.

The kids were immediately excited when we arrived and they saw the cabin.  Aidan was especially excited because of the game room and theater in the basement, although the area didn’t get as much use as I thought.

Throughout the week, we had an opportunity to picnic, grill-out, hike and swim.  We even ventured over to Forbidden Caverns for a cheesy, but very cool (both literally and aesthetically) tour underground.

Luke also discovered a roller coaster on the side of the mountain and decided it was a must-do activity.  It turns out the Alpine Coaster had only been open three days… Needless to say, Aidan was persuaded by a monetary contribution and Skye did it a few days later for a t-shirt and grape soda.  They all highly recommend it and did it four times overall.

We were especially surprised by Skye’s ability to withstand hiking.  She made it 2.6 miles to see Laurel Falls, hiked some of the Appalachian Trail in the rain and even climbed to the highest peak at Clingman’s Dome.  I barely made that one!

One of our favorite things to do in the park is the auto tour through Cades Cove.  This eleven mile loop is our opportunity for wildlife spotting, usually allocating one point per mammal spotted to the first person to call it.  No one ever keeps track of the points and Skye is always trying to subjectively revise the values, but it’s still a hoot. This time, we spotted several deer and a bear asleep in the tree.  We actually saw a momma bear and three cubs on the hike to Laurel Falls too.  I won’t even include the gigantic spider that almost ate me alive in the river.

The kids both enjoyed swimming, so much so that we did that twice.  The water was too cold for Luke and me, but it didn’t stop Aidan and Skye.

We posted the photos here.  Good times… Always.

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Stepniowski Family Values

I heard a HBR podcast not long ago that included an interview with the author of The Secrets of Happy Families.  I haven’t read this book, but the interview revealed some suggestions for managing families in today’s chaotic environment.  He suggests managing families using many of the tools we see used in successful organizations.

More specifically, Bruce Feiler suggested families develop a value proposition (or mission statement) that includes input from everyone.  Reiterating the values through actions is key.

As we traveled from Florida to Tennessee this year for our annual summer vacation, we discussed this idea and came up with four guiding values we all agree encompass what we’re about.

1) Respect yourself and others.

2) Practice self-control.

3) Love and be loved.

4) Be inquisitive.

We’ll see how it goes, but the kids already know the four values, similar to a Starbucks barista that must be able to recite the mission statement on a whim.  It’s a start…

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Aidan levels up on LEGOs

Aidan hasn’t had too much screen time this summer, so he’s spent most of his time reading and creating things with LEGOs. He did also enjoy a week at HCC for computer camp and a robotics themed week at MOSI.  And, he still enjoys hanging out with his friends at Bright Horizons as well.  Busy summer… Good stuff…

A few weeks ago, we bought him the The LEGO Ideas Book for his 9th birthday.  He’s really impressed us with his ability to focus on the various design options and then modify them for his own creations.  He’s spent hours dedicated to matching color schemes and creating symmetry.  And, he’s having a blast!

My favorite thing that he created recently is the “summer house”…


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