Category Archives: cousins

Scenes From the Wild Wild West

19 years ago, for our honeymoon, The Professor and I drove a couple thousand miles from Salt Lake City and put down roots at a boarding school in a teeny tiny town in New Hampshire.

“We’ll stay 2-3 years and than fly away to a new adventure.”

Turns out boarding school life in rural New Hampshire was adventure enough. It’s become my home and the best place I could dream of to raise a family next door to hay fields, show donkeys, and holsteins. moo.

It’s also true that I left part of my heart out west. This year our family reunion was in Idaho and Utah, a blessing given the circumstances with Eric, Cassie and Scout. I took almost a 1000 photos and boy howdy, what a hard task it was to choose my favorites.

If you’ve never been out west, may these images inspire you to explore this beautiful world, especially with the ones you love.IMG_6338Flying over the midwest

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IMG_6357   The Professor is somehow always in the mix of flying and leaping children. He starts it.

DSC_0056 Bear Lake, Idaho. Home of my childhood summers.

IMG_6436 Vast amounts of food was served to small, and often screaming, children. Love them 🙂

DSC_0169 Family photos taken

DSC_0387  My sister, Andrea. The darling.

DSC_0463  My fab four

DSC_0632 Cope and Savannah. Bestie cousins, born 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day apart.

IMG_6574 Bear Lake is not complete without a cemetery tour given by my father. Here we are told the stories of our ancestors. Some kiddies find it more riveting than others 🙂

IMG_6579 DSC_0667 The farm where my father grew up and where I roamed as a kid.

DSC_0668 The milking parlor that used to be our clubhouse

DSC_0689 This cow wasn’t interested in my photo shoot

IMG_6608 The Professor in his element. We ate. A lot.

IMG_8613 The three beauty queen cousins born within months of each other. All going into their senior year.

DSC_0716 My dad. The Grandpa.

DSC_0791   Brynne and The Professor went flying.

20160629_094513  The cool kids

IMG_6650 Grandma brought a treasure chest filled with magic and goodies. The teens made a treasure map for the wee ones to follow. Fun times.

IMG_6636 Sweet Scout likes peas

IMG_6672The teens left us in Bear Lake for a day while they traveled to BYU-Idaho in Rexburg for a college admission tour. See Nate, of East Idaho News, driving? He assures me they didn’t really travel like this! RIGHT?

IMG_6668  DSC_0840 The rest of us hiked in Tony Grove, Idaho. There was snow!

DSC_0842 And beautiful flowersDSC_0845 And the surly Professor who wasn’t actually surly except for the camera 🙂

DSC_0846 And my TWIN brother! Do you like his hair? I too could be a silver fox. But I’m not so brave. Oh, the issues we women have.

DSC_0862 Back to flowers

DSC_0863  And meadows and reflections of lifeDSC_0876 IMG_6692 Beautiful Bear Lake close to sunsetIMG_7009 After Bear Lake, it was back to Utah where the teens left me standing in the street as they drove off into the sunset. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?

IMG_6743 There are so many LDS churches in Utah you can walk to church with your hand in your dad’s. I like that.

IMG_6409There’s also A LOT of ice-cream! Iceberg was a huge win!

IMG_6747 My boy, Nellie Mak, has decided he wants to be a barber. His first willing victim: a cousin!

IMG_6986 I have FAR TOO MANY selfies on my phone!

IMG_7011 Another college tour: BYU in Provo, Utah. This is Cope’s first choice school and an extremely competitive one. The average GPA: 3.8. The average ACT: 28. Application process: this fall.

IMG_7014 My girl.

IMG_7027 My college apartment, in front of the window that The Professor once broke with a snowball.  It was true love from the start 🙂

IMG_7099 A trip to Salt Lake City, isn’t complete without a tour of temple square. I love The Christus.

IMG_7070  The conference center where the prophet and twelve apostles speak twice a year for General Conference. Also home to theater, musical events, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These organ pipes are the largest in the world. It is a tremendous building.

IMG_7091 The Salt Lake City temple where we were married – for free! Swoon.

IMG_7112 Atop a mountain in Draper, Utah, where my brother, Patrick, and wife, Natalie, recently moved.

DSC_0942 DSC_0947 DSC_0954 DSC_0964 DSC_0967 DSC_0978 Siblings. My sister, brother, and me.

DSC_0987 My boy and his Uncle Patrick

DSC_0989     Beautiful Utah skies

IMG_7151 And back to Idaho

IMG_7154 And more beautiful western skies

DSC_0173 DSC_0177 DSC_0178Be still my heart.IMG_6517It was very difficult to think we could have a “fun” reunion, with the loss of Cassie. But it was also comforting to feel that with every hike and lake swim, she was with us. I imagine she always will be. We tried to stay “up” and provide an unforgettable experience for our children, as they gathered, laughed, and sometimes cried, with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. What a blessing it was to be together, surrounded by the great beauty of the earth, and to remember the creator of it all.

Happy summer.

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labor day weekend: work hard, play hard

Labor Day! A dreamy four-day weekend and the last hurrah before school really begins. But before we play, we must labor. unnamed-19We bought the wood for new garden beds two years ago and these strapping young men finally nailed them together. Yeah, that’s how we roll around here.unnamed-22One must use these corner pieces or your garden beds to fall apart!unnamed-21Tenny was working very hard, too.unnamed-23We were away so much this summer that this beauty was one of the few, the brave, the proud…tomatoes hanging on the plant.unnamed-24These little punkins are somehow growing outside the garden beds in a random garden patch. Who knows how these things happen. It’s like a Jack and the Beanstalk story. We like it!unnamed-26And the squash is doing something. Remember: you can eat these tasty things!

unnamed-20 Do you see our dry grass? We’ve had an unusually dry summer. While boys nailed wood, I cut down all the hostas. This little gem of a girl swept them all up…unnamed-25And dumped them on the garden beds to protect them from weeds and winter.unnamed-27We peeked into the compost. Do you compost? It makes the most magical dirt.

After the work, came the play on Monday: the ocean! Whew!

unnamed-15Paige was buried as a mermaid.unnamedHailey, my adorable niece was twirled around by Ian – just arrived from Alaska!

unnamed-11We kinda like Ian

unnamed-18Beach games!

unnamed-1 unnamed-17Grandma took us down to the water’s edge where the children were given a history lesson on our ancestors and the great sink shipping at isles of shoals. It was fascinating. I’m so grateful for this woman! It reminds me: we need to know and write our stories or they will be lost.

unnamed-4 Ian and Nellie went head to headunnamed-6 unnamed-5 unnamed-8 Cousins!unnamed-10 Boogie boarding – my favorite! It was 90 degrees, making the New Hampshire water bearable.unnamed-9 Rye Beach, NHunnamed-12 Diving into the wavesunnamed-13

unnamed-16And the fab four came out of the sea together…ready to greet another school year. Ready to work hard and play hard.

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A Thanksgiving Round-up: food, mustache man, and a gaggle of girls

Last week, as Thanksgiving loomed, we gave thanks to oddly warm temperatures (60 degrees!) and the week ahead: the promise of a turkey dinner and a house full of cousins.

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Hogwarts went on vacation and we were feeling free and easy, shopping for Thanksgiving yum-yum. Our giddiness is the only way to explain this photo.photo 1

The conversation went like this: “What do I do with my lips with SWAG on my face?” “I don’t know. I have a bow-tie on my eyebrows.”

And yes, The Professor is sportin’ his very own handlebar mustache.

We’re thankful No-Shave November has passed. Or are we?

That night, on Thanksgiving eve, a monster snowstorm arrived.

It snowed and snowed and snowed. Like 100 feet. Or a couple.

It snowed until the wind blew and the power went out. And we bonded over Uno and candlelight.

The earth was covered in white.

And who’s thankful for the electric company who works all night to restore power to the whole state?

The power came back on for a few hours in the morning, just long enough to vacuum. Hallelujah!

Snow and no electricity couldn’t stop our Thanksgiving spirit, oh no. There was one option: sledding!

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“Smile! This is our Christmas photo!”

What do you think, old boy?photo 1 (2)

I forgot how much fun it is to careen down a hill backwards at 100 mph. It’s a hoot!photo 5 (2)

All Thanksgiving morning the power was out.

Oh dear, what about that traditional turkey dinner?

Luckily, Hogwarts let us bring the fixins’ to them. The turkey was in the oven!

unnamed Meanwhile, the cousins gathered round. cousin photos courtesy of B.Makunnamed-1 And showed their own swag. Or something like that?unnamed-2 Then they made gang signs

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The power was still not on at the house. We salivated over vegetables we might never eat.

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But there were those addictive sugared cranberries. The tart with the sugar – they POP! So good.

briebitesWhole wheat cracker, brie cheese, sugared cranberries. Life will never be the same.photo 5

And since soup can be cooked over a gas stove, we had The Professor’s famous Squash and Black Bean Soup. No, really. It’s so good it will knock you out of the kitchen. And I don’t even like squash.

By 1:00pm the power was back on. The turkey was transported.

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And carved to perfection by the brothers in hats.photo 3 (2) photo 2 (3)

Grandpa wore the turkey hat and recited a turkey poem. He said grace over our good life with good food, good friends and family, and thanked God for the ones who have come before us. Amen!

Grandma missed Thanksgiving with us as she was deployed to Nashua by The Red Cross to set up a shelter for those without homes or electricity. I mean, is she a good woman or what?

cornWe continued the tradition of two kernels of popcorn by each plate. A small cup is passed around and everyone says something they are thankful for. I reflected on an email from my father who sent a story he heard on NPR, of Syrian refugees crossing the great ocean. There were men, women and children, sailing for a new land, for any place who would take them. I was especially thankful that day for a family who takes the refugees.

Then the man with a handlebar mustache raised his finger and spoke of match making. photo 4 (3)

Making a match with this plate of food.photo 3 (3)

More points to be made…photo 5 (1)

We ate until we could eat no more. And then we ate pie.

New Thanksgiving dessert: an apple tart courtesy of bon appetit! We were too busy eating to take a final photo of the cooked tart with homemade whipped cream and Tucker Mountain Maple Syrup. Will have to make again…

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photo 1 (4) As tradition dictates. Thanksgiving night concluded with a VERY rousing game of Pounce!

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Amazingly, we all came away as friends.  (Auntie Kim, we missed you!!)

But wait! The fun didn’t stop there! Grandma came home exhausted from Red Cross service to babysit all eight children with Grandpa, while the parents of children escaped for an overnight trip to Portsmouth. In a hotel! With electricity, running water, and toilets that flushed!

Dreamy.

I even got a great run in for the Holiday Streak (you’re still in, right??? Do tell!)

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We came home to electricity, happy kids, happy grandparents, and gratitude up to our ears! Thank you, thank you dear Heather and Art!

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The Thanksgiving extravaganza ended with a warm fire and a dance party.

This year, instead of making a Thanksgiving Tree, we wrote out our thanksgiving on post-its to cover the fridge. There’s Snow, Christmas music, Hot Chocolate, Barbies, Mashed Potatoes…

photo 3 (5)

Gratitude runs deep and far. Happy Thanksgiving…and hello, December!

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The Live Free or Die Family Reunion (iPhone Style)

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Live Free or Die is the NH state motto, so it was only appropriate for the family reunion to follow suit.

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You gotta just go with it, says Brynne and Charlotte. The pirate party took this motto to heart and confiscated the electronic devices – in exchange for chocolate and rum – and writing a ransom note.

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The pirate body guards were mighty scary :

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grandpa

All of Grandpa’s little rascals

scout

Scout had some great looks. “Are you taking my picture again???”

Had to throw this next one in. As we were standing in line at the grocery store, buying food for yet another hike, we saw the cover of People magazine. And the guy is standing right next to me in line! Ah, it was a beautiful moment. For the record: only one of these guys is a bachelor!

hot swaddle

Baby Luke. Do you like being swaddled?

Every party needs an Allison to organize all of the games:IMG_4430 diaper

We find it necessary to document all events, even changing diapers on the bus. But this just shows the resiliency of the patriots.

The last day everyone was here (except for my twin who had to go back to work in New York), we went to Boston. We ate at Faneuil Hall. Gregor and I had Indian 🙂boston IMG_4286

Headquarters of the Revolution!

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Would my brothers have fought in the Revolution? Would I have been a smuggler?

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One last ocean trip to Wallace Sands…Here are our two oldest teens. I’m putting a plug in for Lime Ricki swimsuits because they are super duper stylish AND modest. They’re having a sale…

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And then, sadly, the porta potty left. Then Eric, Cassie, and Scout. The beginning of the end.

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We went to a farm for comfort. They served cashew-based ice-cream. A fascinating concept!

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When the goat wouldn’t go back in the pen I decided I would take pictures of my brother corralling it back in. “You’re not helping!” Patrick said.

Alas, the five McDonalds left next. Doggy Tenny wanted them to stay too.IMG_4576

Paige was so sad…

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But more cousins came and got on the bus!IMG_4626

And paid homage to the sunset…

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We had one last hurrah back at the ocean

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And a Red Sox game.

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The Sox pulled it out that night after being down by three. Which just goes to show you can never count the good guys out.

The Live Free or Die Reunion was left on the streets of Boston.

Until next time – Carry on, Patriots!

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Manure Made My Lunch, Dishwashers, and the Secret Life of Children

Here’s what a dishwasher taught me: living without is a great child-rearing technique. Even if it makes mom want to pull her hair out.

I’ve tested this theory out before. The Chinese Stir-fry taught me to Beware of Being too Nice. Because for every nice thing you do for your children, they will punish you for it. How jaded! I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s really best not to try and be Super Woman all the time. It’s really not good for the children.

Next time you lie in bed eating chips ahoy cookies, tell yourself it’s all for the sake of the kids.

Since we live in the land of PLENTY, raising grateful darlings sometimes takes broken appliances. Let’s cue “The Dishwasher Lesson.” Back to that in a second.

My brother-in-law, Brendaen turned 40 awhile back. And since he loves New Hampshire like no other, his amazing wife, Jill, pulled off an epic kidnapping straight from the big city of Boston.

They pulled into the driveway, dropped off four children with our four children (7 girls, 1 boy, 1 dog, 8 chickens, 2 fish!) and we skedaddled faster than you can say, “Happy Birthday, Brendaen!”

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But first we read happy birthday notes and memories compiled in a book. Best present EVER.

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And then we were out of here!

cousins

We left the angel children together as they smiled sweetly, hugged, and played the game of Life.

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We adults headed North, toward Vermont. We visited Dartmouth, Gregor’s alma mater. We found his thesis in the archives. We oohed and ahhhed.

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We went to King Arthur Flour in White River Junction, Vermont. I had to resist buying out every imaginable type of flour and donut-making cookbook. Oh, it was hard.

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And even though it was his birthday, Brendaen insisted on stopping to look at dishwashers. Because really, is there anything more fun than installing your brother’s dishwasher? You see, we’d been living without for almost six months!

I know. It was painful and eye-opening and made me realize how spoiled we are. The longer we went without, the more my children pined over the good ol’ days when they loaded dishes into an appliance that magically washed their dishes for them! They forgot they had once whined and fought over who’s turn it was, and how much work it was to put a fork in a plastic tub.

They relived the days of ease, when they didn’t have to hand wash dishes like orphan Annies supervised by Miss. Hannigan (That would be me.) Cope began asking for a dishwasher for her birthday.  And please, please, please, could you just make it an early delivery?

Oh believe me, it was a pain for me too. It took time. Every morning I washed, rinsed and dried by myself. Sometimes I caught myself enjoying the slow process to think, look out the window and observe a turkey flock. It was so quiet, me and my Joy bubbles. And when the kids did dishes with me, I began to enjoy the process of handing soapy dishes to a child’s hand and watching them rinse and stack. The slowness made us talk!

Was living without actually…a good thing?

A dishwasher began to look luxurious.

And I needed me one of those things.

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We mulled dishwasher choices (there are SO MANY!), and then headed up to Lake Champlain. What a gorgeous lake. If you’re ever up in these pahts, you can put your vehicle on a ferry to cross over into New York and make your way through the adirondacks. This is definitely going on the to-live list!

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Good morning, Vermont! We stayed in a hotel where I didn’t have to do any dishes, cook any meals, do any laundry, or nag someone to take out the trash. Glorious. And it occurred to me that life was good b/c of the rarity of this situation. Living without these luxuries made me ever so grateful for them.

And I still loved the kiddies.

Through phone conversations, the kids appeared to be getting along splendidly, with visits and supervision from Grandma and Grandpa. We thought about leaving them on their own for a few weeks, but alas, all good things must come to an end. But not before gorging on the best meal of the year at Hen of the Wood, a farm to table restaurant. It was out of this world amazing!

Beware:  you may pass the kitchen out back and find some hanging pigs. It’s real food, man!

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A leisurely drive back home brought us to Shelburne Farm School. Beautiful.

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I’m going to hang this sign in my house: “Manure Made My Lunch Today!” It’s real food, man!

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Another stop for food at the Red Hen Baking Company. At this point, we should have just started running home. Who needs a minivan when you’ve ingested that many carbs?

And then…we bought the dishwasher, marked down, with Brendaen’s superior negotiation and deal-finding skills.

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The best part of the trip may have been the children’s expressions – A DISHWASHER!!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU! You’re the best parents in the WORLD!!! It’s all I WANTED FOR MY BIRTHDAY! ALL MY DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE! Let’s give Cope a minute to cry, here.

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It was B’s birthday and he still insisted on staying to install it. I mean, he’s a keeper, you know?

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Brothers. As young as ever! 40 is 40 and it’s lookin’ pretty darn good.

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Good-bye dear city cousins! Please come back and play again! We’ll play Life and tell stories and play in the woods and collect chicken eggs and go to church and be perfectly kind, obedient, cheerful, and reverent the next time our parents decide to leave us in the woods.

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Driving into the sunset. Sniff. Back to real life. And dishwasher loading.

nellie

 

This picture surfaced days later…what really went on when the parents were away we’re not sure. There are tight lips, shifty eyes, secret giggles. Something about “the roof.” They aren’t saying much. But it somehow involved running in snow without clothes…

We’ll just leave it at that.

Because we have a dishwasher (giddy!)

 

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Took a minivan to Chinatown

The man of the house sang The Lumineers all the way to Boston the other day.

(Ho) Took a minivan to Chinatown (Hey)IMG_2069

Where Dunkin Donuts morphed into Chinese Characters (Hey)

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The food! The cakes! I was inspired. (Ho)

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The pork buns! (Hey)

Met Uncle Seth in Chinatown. He had just flown to Boston after visiting Vietnam, his birth country, the country he escaped as a child on a small fishing boat. IMG_2075Yea! We found him right by the pork buns.

IMG_2080“Outside you take pictures!” the woman with the pork buns scolded.

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Outside in the cold, the older gents play cards

Boston:SethYou should be standin’ next to me…

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I belong to you, you belong to me, you’re my sweetheart…

IMG_2081 Took a minivan to Mike’s Pastries (Oh!)

IMG_2087You belong to me, I belong to you, you’re my sweetheart. (Uh-huh)

IMG_2090 We came home to our snowy roads and wheelbarrows. (Hey)

chickens

And our chicken chores (Bawk)

ianUncle Ian took a plane to New Hampshuh’.

He works at a radio station and does voiceovers because he has this insanely deeeep and manly voice. He just finished a Body Verde Shaving Cream commercial HERE! (Woo-Wee!)

bowtieboyDaddy took a minivan to church. Wearing his bow-tie. You definitely belong to me 🙂

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Took a trip with Grandpa. He loves my boy.

You belong to me

I belong to you

You’re my sweet

(Ho) Last One (Hey)

Grateful.

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Cousins,Turkey and a Little Gobble Wobble

Happy post-Thanksgiving, pre-Holiday madness peace and good cheer, friends!

I hope you had a lovely holiday. Here’s a little recap of our Thanksgiving adventure: This year was different for us as we bid adieu to the show donkeys and pet chickens and traveled to Needham Massachusetts, just outside the big city of Boston.

I enjoyed people-watching all the way down; families stuck in traffic on 128, traveling to turkey destinations. The study included many electronics, nice clothing, and anticipation-laden faces…FOOD. GIVE ME STUFFING!
We arrived to squeals of cousins jumping up down – there just isn’t a better greeting than than! Then two brothers got down to business. Here, Uncle Brendaen wears his duct tape apron made by Nelson. Nelson received a product-review and will be accepting orders for Christmas.

I’ve had my eye on the brussel sprout for a few weeks now. I don’t recall ever eating one in my life, but as we must all be a little more daring in life, I popped one in my mouth. And then another. And then another. These were so scrumptious! I shall be adding them to my cooking repertoire.

The beautiful root vegetable, as delicious as it looked

Dearest Grandma

Dearest Cheese Spread. And those olives. Oh yummy. This was our big assignment. I think it was doable. Thank you, Market Basket.

Dearest Grandpa

My favorite part of Thanksgiving is the squealing and happiness of cousins. They fling themselves into each others’ arms like they’ve spent a torturous lifetime apart. Wherever they are, wherever they go, there is bound to be uncontained giggling, shrieking, NOISE, happiness, the occasional pout, crying, hugs, and did I mention the volume? Here we have the kid’s table. Shockingly, we were even able to light a few candles. It was a full ten minutes before anyone starting burning the rolls and playing with hot wax. On the plus side: No one was sent to their room early.

And then the adults got down to business. Jill and Brendaen put out a tremendous spread of yum! I regret not getting a picture of our beautiful hosts together. 

As much as I enjoy cooking and having a house full of people, I didn’t mind driving to a beautiful house, with a small assignment, and sitting down to eat. Quite nice.

The obligatory tryptophan-induced nap 

And Daddy tickle

Next we moved on to the musical performances where each child performed. This year we had piano, singing, the flute, cello, and violin!

And a play that involved four little girls, a horse, a pumpkin, and indian corn. And much laughing.

What an awesome instrument. In my next life, look for me with a cello. I hear God in those strings.

This little spitfire played a little diddy entitled Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but she made sure we knew it was entitled How Great Thou Art. Loved it.

After the music we ate the PIE, but sorry, there is no picture. We ate it all too quickly.

Cousins in our family cannot get together and not play their favorite card game ever: Pounce! Hours of fun on the floor.

As night fell, the children went right to sleep (hahahaha) and the adults went for a winter walk, stopping at 7-11 for some hot herbal tea, and looking at houses and architecture in the neighborhood. Afterwards we adults ate Thanksgiving leftovers, stayed up way too late (way past my 10 o’clock bedtime!), and discussed Cambodia, refugees, Hmong culture, food, and good books. You know, the usual.

The next day we all took a gobble wobble around the streets of downtown Boston, enjoyed all the shoppers with their black friday shopping bags and old men playing chess outdoors. We ate the best chinatown pork buns, and walked miles, vowing to walk the freedom trail this summer. Yes, life is grand. We then headed home, fat and full.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. Gregor said he was thankful for mobility, the ability to travel to family and be together. Though we didn’t get to see everyone this year, the ability to travel rather easily is a great blessing. We’ll catch ya’all next time.

And now I must go. The children are pulling out the Christmas decorations – today is tree day!

How was your Thanksgiving? Did you travel or stay put? Did you eat too much, too? However it went down, I hope you felt thankful…

Until next time,
xoxox.

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The Teenager

There seems to have been a small shift in the wind, like when Mary Poppins either comes or goes.  Things have suddenly changed in our world.

This summer in Arizona there were babies and toddlers, but we were also suddenly surrounded by teenagers and tweens. 
It’s only been a year, but so much has changed.  These girls and the one boy (poor Nellie, always surrounded by GIRLS) are as tall as their mothers and just as opinionated…dare I say mouthy? 🙂

They’re confident one moment, insecure the next.  They’re loud one moment, then quiet and sullen.  They scowl then shriek with delight.

They’re funny, smart, and can hardly wait for the next big thing.  Whatever that is.  They carry cell phones (a recent addition in our home), text like crazy, and speak in text talk.

“Your hair is so gorg” (gorgeous)
“Sup awk!”  (super awkward)
“lol”
“Whatevs”
“That’s so adorb” (adorable)
They spend HOURS in front of the mirror (not joking), take a million “selfies”, sleep in late, and can’t seem to fall asleep until every adult in the house is asleep.

This year, when the adults were putting babes to bed, the teens were outside, swimming in the dark with the lights on the pool.  Taking photos, laughing, and coming in when they wanted, being in charge of locking up the pool for the night. And the weird thing was…we trusted them to do it.

I could hear them (as I lay in bed) in the kitchen laughing quietly, eating snacks, and feeling like queens in a castle.  This year I didn’t always know where they were or what they were doing.  This year they had a new freedom that wasn’t dictated by their parents like it was the year before.  It’s and odd thing.  In one sense it’s wonderful, but it also signals this whole new world that I’m not a part of, nor do they need me to be a part of.

They’re always trying to one up each other.  Then they get mad and make up in one quick minute.

They can’t stand you one moment, then come crying to you the next because you’re the only one who understands.  Everything you do is wrong, you really don’t know anything about anything, but “let’s go ask mom” is a huge part of the vernacular.

The eldest cousins, all born within just a few months of each other. I have a very clear image of them sitting on a couch, bald, crying for mama.  They see each other once a year and they pick off just where they left off.

But now they can cook, clean, and are capable of just about anything you ask (though sometimes they pretend to be clueless.) They hold, rock, and burp babies. They are little mothers-in-training.

Everyone is their “best friend.”  For instance, in one conversation, you can hear about five different “best friends.”

And they are so pretty, so talented, so ready for the world.  It almost breaks my heart that I only have four years left with my girl.  Four years is a wink.  Such a quick wink. 

My brother laughs at my sentimentality.  What sentimental feelings?  Who, me?

This year they somehow finagled their way into girl’s day out with the old ladies – lunch and pedicures.

They kneel like one of the kids, but are as big as their mamas.
Cope recently acquired a cell phone.  She’ll tell you that she was the last person on the whole earth to have one, but she sure is excited about this new addition in her life.  She giggles over texts and the secret life she shares with her friends.  She loves to text me all the time (I love this one).  Here she is at work, not feeling good.

She has unlimited texting while I only have 250 a month. I have a feeling I’ll be paying a little extra every month.  I think it’s worth the conversations we have.

The teenager hates you one moment, and loves you the next.  They hurt your feelings, then endear you for life.  This girl makes me laugh daily.  She and her brother follow me around the house quoting books, movies, and Youtube stunts. Then they won’t say one word in the car.  

This is a picture of Cope SUPER excited about the underwear I got her for her birthday right before going to the Grand Canyon (which she did ask for since her money is not worthy of such a purchase.)

She corrects me daily, loves to argue and prove a point, and I’ll admit it…is one of my very best friends.  We have mere weeks until she starts high school.  A whole new ball game.

Ah, around here it’s love in the time of teenagers.  The phrase that keeps coming to mind is “Love More.” 

Here’s something I read from Saren, who took notes from Margaret Archibald, mother of eight amazing children:
  • Make sure your eyes light up when your children walk into the room (from the great author, Toni Morrison)
  • Raise your kids so that each one feels like they’re your favorite child.
  • Think about what you want your children to be able to say about you one day – then work every day to be that person more and more.
  • Technology distractions are huge, hard issues for mothers today – we need to figure out how to keep our phones, Facebook, blogs and Pinterest from taking center stage so much in our lives so we can really be present for the joy motherhood offers and avoid the “compare snare.”
I wonder what my teens say about me in their secret blog posts?
Were you close to your parents during the teen years?  

Do you have some good advice?

Love,
A grateful mother

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How to Keep Daddy Young: Go Sledding

Miles Run:  3
How that feels on a treadmill: 6
Temp: -10 with windchill
Whine Factor:  Do you have to ask?

This arctic blast is killing me.  That is such hyperbole, but I’m suffering.  Suffering, I tell you.  I do not want to leave my house for any reason.  Not even for a free dinner at the dining hall.  We made fried fish for dinner.  It was gross.  I refused to bring Cope to a school event b/c it was too cold.  She is still mad at me.  I’m dreaming of cancun.  Or even 20 degrees.  How can we bear such trials?

Let’s think on happier times.  Like when Daddy turned into a 10-year-old.

It was Christmas break.  The cousins had arrived!  And it snowed!

Sledding was the only answer.
Someone wasn’t so sure this was going to be fun

But the boy was ready!

Cope carefully manuevered down the hill

And then Daddy hopped on his sled and went flyin’ like he was in the Grand Prix!

My mouth sometimes drops open at the pure glee…you know those times when husband says, “I’m 10 again!”  It sparks happiness inside me.
“I’m 11 for the first time and this is awesome!”
Now all it takes for Dad to get a little more wild is to add another dad or two

There were lots of collisions and crashing

And it’s all good!

Brynne brings out the daredevil in us all.
But I’m telling you now, the days of me flying down a hill face-first?  Over.

Those days aren’t over for Daddy!

Not for this guy either

Daddy?  I’m still not so sure about this

Wild woman

Let’s both be 10!

Are you talking to me?

Then pregnant mama gets into the action.  No, this is not me.

There was some questionable behavior

Hold on, small child!  It will soon be over.

And for the grand finale?  Daddy takes Paige down for the ride of her life.

Faster and faster they fly. Isn’t this fun, baby?  Yes, you can hold on to my leg for dear life.

We’ll go faster and faster and faster!  Maybe go over a some bumps.

Bail out, bail out!  Wasn’t that a blast, Paige?

Yep, you were right Daddy, that was the best!
You can make it up to me by burning the Christmas tree
And we all danced around the fire in our…coats and boots.  It may have been a little Lord of the Flyish.  But no one wore a loin cloth or put a pig on a stick.  That already happened this summer.  And come to think of it, that also involved Daddy.

Let it snow!  And go sled.  Be young.  And make sure to laugh.  Doesn’t that fire look warm?
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Thanksgiving

The month leading up to the holiday of thanks, there were many reminders that life can change very quickly; the snap of the fingers, the blink of an eye.  It came in the form of a childhood friend’s death, a mother’s crippling depression, a father’s diagnosis, a plane crash.  Capped off with a hurricane hitting the east coast terribly hard.  These all circled around me in the periphery, yet hitting so close to home I was often in tears. 

My go-to strategy are my running shoes.  Thank goodness the pies weren’t made yet!  Instead of pie I ran on open country roads.  Endorphins, my friends. It’s a good, good thing.

Questioning, wondering, hurting, and eventually thankful for what is left.  God is so good to us and pain is humbling, isn’t it?

Life changes quickly.
We do not know the time or the hour when life will be so different than today.
And so, on Thanksgiving day my heart was very full.  We were surrounded by happy cousins, shrieking girls, funny uncles, adoring aunties.  The family was so happy.  So wonderful.  
I felt still.
If I only had today, then at least I had today.  And that was good enough.
I am thankful for a sweet girl who makes me do crafts like Gobble Gobble napkin holders, bursting with excitement as we prepared for loads of friends, cousins, aunts, and uncles.  She reminds me that crafts can be fun.  These are just my level.

Thankful for my boy and Baby Sydnie (thankful for her parents came too 🙂 arrived from New York as our indomitable 62-year-old Grandma Heather was deployed from New Hampshire to New York by the American Red Cross to clean up after the hurricane.  She will be gone for a minimum of 21 days unless the clean-up goes quicker than expected. Indomitable woman, I say!
Thankful for brothers.  And that the brothers and the grandpa cook the feast.  And then the stove died. Sigh…never fear, we found some ovens!

Thankful for beauty
And soup.  Black bean and squash soup made by Gregor.  I don’t even like squash, but I love this.  I will have to sneak into kitchen next time and take photos and steal recipe for you.  I often say, “we don’t need all those extras to make it look pretty.” He just looks at me.  After you taste it, a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro is obviously a necessity.

Thanksgiving morning came early-bird early with a cousin bonfire.  Nothing like a little marshmallow breakfast.

Or…some burnt sugar on a stick
But we’re not picky (um..sorry, sister. We were going to keep this an auntie secret 🙂

This is my twin brother, Peter!  Oh my goodness, he sure loves his baby girl. 

A table was set
For some sweet potato pie

A feast consumed

Thanksgiving comas ensued…triptophan?  “All I know is that turkey makes me tired,” Gregor says.
Dear, dear Grandpa. We spoke of Grandma, wondering where she was on a cold New York night, who she was having Thanksgiving with in a hurricane ravaged area.

Special guests wonder why that girl can’t put the camera down.

Did I mention pie?
Or whipped creme?

Parting is such sweet sorrow.  But maybe they’ll get more sleep.

In the indomitable Grandma’s latest email she asked that we appreciate and love each other on the special day of Thanksgiving because not everyone has a family that feels such love for one another.  I often ask, how did I get so lucky?  

I don’t know, but I feel more committed to be a better mother, wife, sister, friend today.  Because tomorrow?  Who knows.  Life changes quickly.  So today, it should count.  I am thankful just for today.

Happy Thanksgiving…and tomorrow dear mothers, I’ll give away that book!  Today I sure am thankful for you too.  xo.  

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