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Chinese New Year

This week is over, at long last! Let’s highlight the pros: 1) My knee is not broken! X-rays confirmed it on Wednesday, which means: no surgery for me! Hooray! 2) Rebekah and Jared’s eye infections have cleared up. 3) I turned in my paper on Janicaud. 4) This winter is far, far superior to last, in both ease and beauty. Now for some details.

On Tuesday after my philosophy class, Mike and the kids met me on campus and we walked to Qdoba for dinner. There was an incident with Rebekah’s leftover smoothie from lunchtime spilling all over everything, and I also learned that she’d developed pink-eye but I failed to get the message because I was in class. Most of the evening was spent negotiating how we were going to work a sick child into our schedule, so it was not the most relaxing evening of my lie, but it worked out.

Mike and I tried to split the childcare as best as we could, and he had some sick leave that helped considerably. I worked at the library Wednesday morning while Mike took Rebekah to the doctor. We had a prescription in hand by 9:30 am which meant that we could send Rebekah to preschool for most of the next day. Unfortunately, Jared started showing symptoms Wednesday night, so we had to keep him home all Thursday. Once again, we split time. I stayed home in the morning and Mike relieved me during the afternoon so I could attend one of my classes. I’m really looking forward to healthy children who don’t interrupt my work time!

Jared and Rebekah, however, loved it. They each got lots of one-on-one time with both parents. The most tortuous part of the whole thing are the daily doses of eye drops. Especially for Jared. He’s convinced that this is the most excruciating experience of his young life. (To which I say: how can you not remember your hair tourniquet?!)

This week we also saw our first real snowfall of the year. There was lots of mass panic the night before, and some trepidation about whether or not preschool would be closed the next day, but it turned out to be a really mild storm and preschool was open for business the next day. Having never lived anyplace where more than two inches of snow was the norm, I didn’t know how much snow could coat tree branches. Everything the next morning was perfectly white. It was stunning! Pictures don’t do it justice, but here are Mike’s photos from Harvard Yard all the same.

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These preschool pictures were actually taken a couple weeks ago at our last snowfall, but they were only recently posted, and since it shows snow, I figured they’re in keeping with the general theme. They show Rebekah building a snowman and scooping snow over the fence in 1/2-cup increments.

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Last night the Chinese Group that shares our chapel held a Chinese New Year party. It was quite the event! They had a lot of people, the chapel was set up for missionary tours, and they served a massive dinner of Chinese food. Mike signed up to help serve food, so we all arrived early. I took the kids into a side room to play the piano, but it eventually dissolved into a fight over who got to turn the page of the primary songbook.

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And here’s a picture of the gym. Pretty impressive, I must say.

After the dinner, they brought in a local Chinese dance academy to perform a dragon dance. I thought it was really cool, but Jared was having none of it. I had to take him out into the foyer to munch on fortune cookies, where I exchanged looks with other long-suffering parents of freaked-out toddlers.

Rebekah stayed in the gym with Mike, but she got really frightened when one of the dragons came up right next to her and got in her face. Once it had passed back to the front of the gym, though, she looked at it for a few minutes and then said “Hey Dad! There’s people in there!” After then she was much more chill about the whole thing.

While Rebekah is busy avoiding Chinese dragons this week, you all ought to know that Mike is busy avoiding information about the superbowl. He’s playing a game he heard about on a podcast, where you actively try to avoid “The Knowledge”–that is, the knowledge of who won the superbowl–for as long as you can. Wish him luck. And while he’s busy avoiding information, I’m going to be cramming as much philosophy knowledge as possible into my brain for yet another busy week. Wish us all luck! And Happy Monkey Year!

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Semester #2

Semester #2 is officially underway! This was my first week of classes, and after a little bit of class-swapping, I think I’ve got my schedule locked. I’m taking two seminars and two lecture courses, and I’m positively delighted at the amount of philosophers I’ll be reading. To accommodate that thick intellectual work, I’m planning on reading as little as possible from my other classes. :)

As is always the case when I’m in school, Mike picks up the slack everywhere else. The amount of stuff this man takes care of so that we can function is simply astounding. He’s in charge of dropping off and picking up at preschool, packing lunches, doing all the meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. He’s also slated about 30 minutes each morning to do homeschool with the kids (this week they worked on recognizing double- and triple-digit numbers). Mike has always been and will always be the unsung hero of this family, so I’ll try to step up the amount of singing on this blog. He’s remarkable.

It’s been a pretty fantastic week, all things considered, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t without event. Let’s fill you in.

Last week the fire alarm went off at the twins’ preschool, and since it wasn’t a regularly scheduled drill, they had to bundle up all the kids in the middle of playtime, dress-up clothes and all. Here they are pictured sitting in Rock Hall on the div school campus. I’m told the fire alarm was quite alarming to many of the kids, and that they all got to watch the fire trucks come down the street. It was the talk of the preschool for several days afterward.

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On Tuesday night, after one of my seminars let out a bit early, I decided to walk to the campus bookstore and purchase a couple books that I needed immediately. As I was walking across a particularly slick portion of floor in my particularly traction-less boots, my right leg slid out from under me and I took a hard fall onto my left knee. It broke skin and left me with a nasty bruise all around my kneecap. I was able to walk home, but it’s been pretty uncomfortable since. I think I might schedule a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to make sure I didn’t do any permanent damage.

Oh! I also got a new church calling last week. I’ll now be serving as the second counselor in the Relief Society presidency. I think it will be announced this afternoon, and I’m hoping it doesn’t make too many waves in the ward. I’m excited to get some experience in a calling other than teaching.

Last night as Mike was reading bedtime stories, I overheard this exclamation related to the following page: “Wait… what is that? Sigma, F times one over A–axial load, hey! And ‘mgh’… what is that? Mass… gravity… And hey, that’s potential energy! Heeeeeyyyy! Guys, I like these equations!” So I guess this book is a keeper.

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This week is also brought to you by pigtails, Rebekah’s latest favorite hairstyle. There’s as much a learning curve on pigtails as there was on ponytails, however, and Mike still needs a little bit more practice before Rebekah is presentable at preschool, but since I’m long gone by the time her hair is being styled, she shows up in pigtails, presentable or not. (And let’s face it–it’s not like I’m actually any better at doing hair. I’m being trained in philosophy, remember, not esthetics!)

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And as of this morning, we officially instituted Mike’s favorite thing: big Sunday breakfasts! It’s probably the only benefit that comes with afternoon church. Today’s menu included waffles (two ways: buttermilk for Mike and the kids, and a Paleo variant for me), bacon, and buttercup squash. We’ve been eating buttercup squash for the past few months under the misapprehension that it was actually kabocha squash. We’re still learning how to distinguish the two, but I consistently prefer kabocha, so hopefully we figure it out soon.

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Omelettes and Getting Married

This blog comes to you from our fully-powered, well-heated (sort of…), not-buried-in-snow region of Boston. I’ve got to say, it’s really nice to see other people get hit with blizzards for a change. Sorry, D.C. Pardon my Schadenfreude.

The first half of this week was characterized by an entirely absent Mike, who pulled long nights at the office and then left in the morning before everyone woke up. He turned in the project by the due date, however, so it was time well spent. He did celebrate Martin Luther King day with us for an hour, though, when we all went out for breakfast at a highly-rated cafe in Central Square. It was quite good (I had an excellent fig and goat cheese omelette), and they covered their tables in drawing paper so I took the opportunity to teach Rebekah how to write her name for the first time.

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The kids split a nutella and strawberry waffle, which was a major hit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them eat a restaurant meal with such relish!

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After Mike left us to head into the office, however, I was left navigating the bus system with two kids, and it was a ridiculously cold morning. We had quite a few numb toes (and some tears about it, of course) by the time we got back. Eventually Jared and Rebekah forgot about their frozen feet in favor of a brand new game: “getting married.” Rebekah insisted on wearing her Sunday tights and brought in a bunch of imaginary props that phonetically suggest marriage–getting married naturally involves riding a merry-go-round and going to Mary’s house. Their bedroom was the temple, and there was also a rather involved airplane ride (on the couch) to Utah, but unfortunately the plane’s main hatch closed before Jared got there. He wasn’t too concerned. When I asked for an explanation of their game, Jared matter-of-factly informed me that “we got married and we goed on airplanes,” to which Rebekah added “Mary goes on airplaines because it’s too far away to walk to the temple.”

Speaking of the temple, I finally made it to the temple myself on Wednesday. I’ve been meaning to go all month since I finally had some time between the semesters, but it took coordinating with a friend at church to finally make it happen. She owns a car but has terrible driving anxiety. Since I don’t have a car but also don’t have any crippling anxiety to speak of, the partnership was obvious. Together we enjoyed a lovely session. (P.S. – The Boston temple has a gorgeous celestial room. Come see it.)

On Thursday I finally got to see Mike. He had gotten home at 2:00 am the previous night and was up (thanks to the kids) at 7:00 am. He helped us through bathing, breakfast, and the preschool drop-off, and then he and I had a two hour bunch date. We went to breakfast downtown (another omelette!) and then, because we figure Hobbits are on to something, we went out for a second breakfast at one of our favorite bakeries which just happened to have a location next to our breakfast spot. It turns out that Charles Street is one of the most delightful roads in all of Boston. It’s all picturesque brick with wonderful restaurants, and no one relishes a good breakfast more than Mike, so we had a good time.

After our serious eating, we walked up to the capitol building to check out the Shaw Memorial and see if Silman’s contracted laser-scanning guys were there. They weren’t, but it was fun to see the monument again.

And as if this week weren’t eventful enough, Rebekah had an appointment with the orthopod on Friday. I’ve been putting it off for about 6 months simply because navigating buses down to the Children’s Hospital is such a time-consuming ordeal, but my procrastination turned out to be entirely warranted–her feet are looking perfect. And one-on-one time with Rebekah also gave me a rare glimpse into the workings of her tiny brain. While waiting for one of the buses she looked at me thoughtfully for a minute and said “Mom, when I am big I will stay home and eat gum.” These, apparently, are the two liberties she most envies about adulthood! Ha!

Mike rounded out our wonderful culinary week by trying his own hand at a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for beef burgundy. It was his first experience buying wine, and we were woefully underprepared. Mike needed advice about which red wines are good for braising, and then we had to figure out how to open the bottle without a corkscrew. We tried a variety of sharp implements, but what eventually worked best was a screw + hammer combo. Fortunately for us the stew turned out awesome.

And that concludes our not-quite-as-restful-as-I-was-hoping week. School starts tomorrow and it’s straight back into the crazy schedule that carried us through the Fall. Semester #2, here we come!

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Mormon Service

This has been a week full of Christian service–or, at least, Mormon service, which is sort of similar. On Tuesday night I went to a small community service group hosted by a woman in our ward. Only two other women came, but it turns out that all four of us are deeply committed to the same problem (poverty) so the small numbers afforded us some focus. We’ve each been given some research assignments and we’ll meet next week to discuss how to orient more church service projects around helping the poor. That topic was entirely apropos because I’m giving a sacrament meeting talk this afternoon on caring for the poor, and it’s a topic Mike and I cared deeply about even before this week. As you can imagine, a good portion of this week was thus also dedicated to writing that talk!

As much as we talk and think about poverty, though, luckily we live comfortably outside of it, especially since Mike got a small raise this year and he’s been putting in lots of overtime working on Cornell’s new business school. His deadline is the 20th, right in time to ship me off to my second semester.

On Wednesday and Thursday nights I went visiting teaching, on Friday we had the missionaries over for dinner (it never ceases to amaze me how entertaining takes literally all day to prepare), and Thursday and Friday also saw yet another instance of Jared’s abominable immune system: he stayed home from preschool with a gnarly cold. And since Rebekah refused to go to preschool without her brother, she stayed home with him.

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Fortunately Jared is pretty easy to take care of when he’s sick. He just lays on the couch like this for hours.

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I had to spend 15 more minutes working on a project in my bedroom, so I asked Rebekah to take care of Jared and try to help him feel better. When I came back out, this was where I found them. “Mom, I sing songs to Jared and bring him water and we play the spelling puzzle.”

Despite being home for part of the week, we did get our money’s worth of preschool attendance on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, where it seems Rebekah has laid claim to a favorite dress-up item.

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And as of last Sunday, the twins are officially Sunbeams. The transition to primary could not have gone more smoothly. Bless the hearts of their primary teachers, though–our twins are one of three (yes, three) sets of twins in their class alone. We have a fourth set of twins a year behind them. So if you’re looking for a bit more excitement in your life, move into our ward and get pregnant. Odds are you’ll find yourself saddled with an extra baby.

And thus winds down my winter break between semesters. Next week is my last week before classes, and I’m going to spend most of it reading textbooks and trying to get into a PhD seminar on French philosophy, even though I’m only a lowly Master’s student. Wish me luck!

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A Week of Scripture

We’ve officially returned to normal life (eating well, attending preschool, working normal hours, etc.) and so far it’s going quite well. We’ve made one major addition to our normal schedule for 2016: we’re hosting a scripture study group every other week, and we had our first installment on Thursday. We studied 3 Nephi 28, of all things, and had a blast! There are smart people here in Cambridge, and we’re excited that my Sunday School lessons are garnering enough interest to pull some of those great minds into our living room twice a month. We’d also like to thank the kids’ Kindles for making all this possible.

And then on Friday we had another study group of sorts. A few weeks ago in church a woman stopped us in the halls and said “Kim! My birthday is coming up the first weekend in January, and for my birthday I want to study scripture with you guys. We’ll bring you dinner.” So that’s what we did! The kids once again preferred their Kindles to socializing and studying among adults, but they made a big dent in our supply of rolls and jam before absconding. At any rate, our plan to establish ourselves as the biggest scripture geeks this ward has ever seen is going swimmingly.

Friday was further made busy by both Mike and I pulling shifts at the homeless shelter in Harvard Square. I went early for breakfast, and Mike went overnight and folded laundry at 3:00 am. The shelter is staffed entirely by students, but during the holidays they’re always strapped for volunteers, so we like to fill in.

And that’s about all we have to report, at the moment. Winter is here, but no snow, yet (knock on wood!). It turns out that Rebekah gets gnarly dried skin, made worse by sucking her thumb, so we’ve sent her to bed most nights this week with her hands slathered in lotion and then covered with a sock. It’s a weird experience to finally employ age-old wisdom with your own children.

Jared’s news this week was his regular insistence that he wants to take smoothies to preschool for lunch, just like another girl in his class. We passed the message on to Mike on Saturday morning in time for a trip to the grocery store, and our freezer is now stocked with smoothie ingredients, so Jared should be quite pleased on Monday. I like this preschool age where peer pressure encourages my kids toward drinking spinach instead of smoking marijuana. May it ever be so.

And I’ve got you some more video footage for the week. The first video is an example of the sorts of high-brow conversation we have over breakfast (this one is about Daniel Tiger’s mechanism for coping with disappointment), and the second is a snapshot of a much more extended Halloween game that went on for several minutes.

 

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And a Happy New Year

The kids were still on vacation from preschool this week, so I got to test my stay-at-home-mom skills. The good news is that I haven’t lost my game. The bad news is that my game wasn’t that great to begin with. On Monday and Tuesday I made it until Mike got home before I was truly fed up with the kids, and each day thereafter I lost a little more patience. I guess the other good news of this week is that I got to observe the twins playing with each other, which is pretty fun. I even got you some covert footage!

And some not-so-covert footage, as it turns out:

"Mom, look! I made a building FOR YOU! For you and Dad and Jared. You can take a picture, if you want. It's a crocodile lake building for us to go over. But not Jared. Jared is not a crocodile lake. I am a crocodile."

“Mom, look! I made a building FOR YOU! For you and Dad and Jared. You can take a picture, if you want. It’s a crocodile lake building for us to go over. But not Jared. Jared is not a crocodile lake. I am a crocodile.”

As you may have discovered by now via your own mailboxes, we wrote thank-you cards for Christmas gifts as our Family Night activity. We of course took the opportunity to quote Rebekah and Jared, as you’ll see, but the real gem of the evening was this exchange for Cliff and Naomi re: their new Kindles.

Jared: Thank you. We watch Dora and George aaaaaaaaaaaaand the Thomas Train one.
Rebekah: And Daniel Tiger.
Jared: And Dora and Boots get on the little blue train.
Rebekah: Yeah. And we watch Daniel Tiger.
Jared: Yes.
Rebekah: Thank you. I want to tell them thank you.

We tried to occupy the twins by letting them decorate the leftover white space but since they can’t write, there was still a period of time when they weren’t properly entertained and were busy screaming in the background, so if our thanks seem somewhat scattered or distracted, that’s why. It’s hard to sound genuine when there are banshees in your living room, but trust me: we are genuinely grateful.

And my heartfelt thanks stems from this wonderful fact: when my kids are entertained with new toys, I get to rest, too! I’ve spent most of the week working on an application to be one of Harvard’s freshman proctors in the Fall, but outside of those grueling hours, I’ve continued to rest up admirably. This involves lots of TV, lots of food, and as of last night, Plants vs. Zombies on my cell phone (it’s as thoroughly addicting as promised). But at least one major form of relaxation has something to show for it–Mike got me an adult coloring book (I need to think of something else to call it; that sounds too X-rated! It’s not. I promise.) that, I kid you not, has eaten up 20 hours of my time between these two pictures:

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I know. Amazing, right? I have a promising career ahead of me.

And now it’s 2016. The most immediate change the new year brings us is afternoon church, so we’ll see how our kids fare without an afternoon nap. We don’t switch to primary until next week, though, so I don’t anticipate any meltdowns, either. On the whole, we’re optimistic about this new year thing. Here are two pictures which about sum up our feelings nicely:

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Christmas

Do you know what it’s like to feel well rested? I don’t either, but I have an inkling, because my whole week has been dedicated to pure relaxation. I’ve spent the past several days on an endless cycle of Netflix and reading a fun book, interspersed with the perfect reading treats: Good-n’-Plenty.

That resting began on Tuesday, however, because I spent Monday preparing gingerbread houses. We decorated for family night and had some friends over to participate in the fun!

Here's proof that I roll my gingerbread just a little too thick: the batch that should make 6 large houses makes, for me, 5 1/4.

Here’s proof that I roll my gingerbread just a little too thick: the batch that should make 6 large houses makes, for me, 5 1/4.

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Rebekah, of course, took her decorating very seriously. Jared was far, far more invested in just eating the candy and saw sticking candy on his house as an unnecessary middle step.

I had planned on decorating the little house

It’s a good thing Jared didn’t care too much about his house, because Mike dropped it as he was carrying it between the table and the counter. Fortunately we had a back-up house Jared could use. He didn’t so much “use” it, however, as assent to letting Mike decorate it for him.

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Mike’s “Twilight Zone” house for Jared is on the left, situated next to my far superior model. I thought you might like to know what hereditary gingerbread genius looks like.

Large houses make for rather unwieldy comestibles.

Large houses make for rather unwieldy comestibles.

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And that's the story of how we added yet one *more* piece of Christmas paraphernalia to our counter.

And that’s the story of how we added yet one *more* piece of Christmas paraphernalia to our counter.

There was going to be a preschool field trip to the Cambridge recycling drop-off, in honor of their recycling unit this month, but that got rained out, so I was off the hook for chaperoning duty and instead worked my TV/book cycle for a solid 8 hours on Tuesday.

Mike was up against a really big deadline this week, so we didn’t see much of him. He was out the door at 6:00 am and came home at 11:00 pm Monday through Wednesday, so we were really glad when he didn’t leave for work until 9:00 am on Thursday. He had time to come with us to Market Basket to pick out our Christmas morning breakfast cereal!

After Mike got home from work (why is he working on Christmas Eve, you ask? Because he exhausted all his vacation days this year working with the young men and babysitting the kids while I went to conferences), we ordered pizza from Dominos (because it was Mike’s year to pick the location) and then set out for church. We went to Harvard’s Memorial Church this year, and loved the service. Mike discovered the profundity of hymn texts set to Holst’s “Jupiter” theme, and we both learned that although our kids are great at a Mormon sacrament meeting, they struggle with more traditional liturgies; lots of standing up and sitting down interrupts coloring books pretty dramatically. We could feel the displeasure of the Chinese mother behind us when we caved and let the twins play games on our phones.

Harvard has a great Poinsettia budget, it seems.

Harvard has a great Poinsettia budget, it seems.

Then it was home for pizza and cider, after which we had our final advent devotional of the year. We’ve been slowly building up to the full Christmas story, and last night we filmed each of the kids telling it to us, with some generous help from Mike.

After putting the kids to bed, Mike and I watched “It’s a Wonderful Life,” wherein I relearned that this movie is excellent and that Jimmy Stewart is actually a really great actor, despite the dramatic flair of early film. Frank Capra for the win.

And then it was Christmas morning!

I know this picture is entirely too dark and blurry, but seeing Jared bundled up with Mike reminded me of all the Christmas mornings when I would join my Dad in admiring the lights on the tree. Except this time *I'm* the one with a camera in my hand.

I know this picture is entirely too dark and blurry, but seeing Jared bundled up with Mike reminded me of all the Christmas mornings when I would join my Dad in admiring the lights on the tree. Except this time *I’m* the one with a camera in my hand!

Rebekah, still half-asleep, meets the teddy bear she found in her stocking.

Rebekah, still half-asleep, meets the teddy bear she found in her stocking.

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We got new winter hats from Mimi…

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… and Kindle Fires from Cliff and Naomi…

These have been a big hit ever since. Each Kindle comes with a free subscription to a bunch of media. The kids discovered a whole season of new Dora episodes, including one with a train that they’ve been watching on repeat ever since. I think between them they’ve seen it about 30 times now. We’re planning on reining in their screen time come Monday, but I figure that Christmas weekend at least deserves some unrestrained electronic use. Heaven knows I’ve been watching my own share of too much TV lately…

Here are some more pictures from Christmas morning. I trust they’re self-explanatory.

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Interrupting normal activity to put Rebekah’s hair in a ponytail. As usual.

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While the kids continued to enjoy all their new toys, Mike got to spend several fun hours talking with family over Skype, where we learned that Mike’s gift to Derek this year got a little bit jumbled along the way. He’d sent Derek a series of books by Orson Scott Card, but they arrived piecemeal. Derek, who was on the lookout for gifts for Diane, saw the books, assumed that they were for her, and put them under the tree. Later, when Mike called to check on the status of the presents, Diane thought they might have already arrived, and picked up a book from Derek’s room that she thought was from Mike, and wrapped it. Come Christmas morning, Diane opened the books intended for Derek and realized her mistake. It all got sorted out in the end, but along the way it involved Diane being given books intended for Derek, while Derek was given his own copy of a book he already owned!

After humorous Skyping with relatives, we went to what we’ve officially designated the “Christmas park,” since we only ever seem to go there on Christmas day. We spent most of our time on the seesaw and even managed to take some video for you, although I wouldn’t recommend watching it–it’s pretty dizzying. (Please note Mike’s short sleeves–it’s been in the mid-60s for the days right around Christmas, which we’ve loved.)

Saturday was a bit more low-key, which meant the kids took naps more easily. And then we went down to the mall to exchange Mike’s new coat since it’s virtually impossible to order the proper fit off the internet, but check out his sweet new duds now! It’s a big step up from his old ski jacket.

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We celebrated with dinner at a new Mediterranean place dedicated to hummus and cumin, and then Mike and I watched the pilot to Twin Peaks, which is now on Netflix in anticipation of its reboot in 2017 and has such a cult following that I’m surprised neither of us have watched it yet. It’s a little spooky, so I made Mike promise to watch it with me and not make any sudden movements for about an hour afterward.

All in all, we’re feeling pretty pleased with ourselves about this Christmas and about 2015 as a whole. Thanks, family, for thinking of us and sending us such a mountain of gifts! We love you guys.

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