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Martha’s Vineyard 5k

Can you even believe that it’s the end of the summer? It absolutely flew by, and now we have an entire year’s worth of French and several vacations under our belts. We’d have liked more rest and less work, but we did our best to compensate over the past week.

The kids had no preschool this week, so I entertained them with their Kindles in the morning and then led them on a different excursion every afternoon. I took my camera along to every activity, swearing to get pictures for you, and failing every time. In the end, we went to all our normal spots–three different parks, the frog pond, the library, and the natural history museum–and every time we arrived, nothing seemed novel enough to warrant a picture. Plus, at each park, I was busy reading a biography of Leonard Arrington. So, you know.

Perhaps the most fun excursion was to Harvard’s natural history museum on Friday. I got Rebekah in the habit of making comparisons between different exhibits–she was quite the little observer by the end–and Jared had fun reading all the placards. I first noticed him doing it in the prehistoric mammal exhibit. I snuck up just in time to overhear him sounding out a five-syllable species name. And he got it right! He also sounded out the word “pelican,” which was exciting, because it was an animal he knew, but hadn’t been able to identify by sight. And then, because the kids have been watching cartoons all week, they were especially excited by the pteranodon skeleton, thanks to the show Dinosaur Train. I love having kids old enough to engage with museum exhibits! This parenting gig just keeps getting better and better.

And I know you’ve already seen these quotes on facebook, but they deserve recording on the blog, too. We had the following conversations during a family night lesson on the scriptures:

Mike: These numbers are verses.
Rebekah: Look! More verses!
Mike: No, those are footnotes.
Rebekah: What are footnotes?
Mike: They’re beyond our borders. Never go there, Simba.

Mike (showing a picture of Lehi): Who is that?
Jared: Nephi!
Mike: No, it’s Nephi’s dad. What’s his name?
Jared: Nephi’s Dad!
Mike: No. Try again.
Rebekah: L… Leotard?

I’m still plugging away on PhD applications and Mike is still plugging away on his PPI course. The only change in my work schedule this week was that I helped one of my visiting teachees pack up her house before their big move out West. Now I understand why every apartment I’ve ever moved into has been filthy: it’s because no one moves like I do. I pack up several days in advance and then spend the next two days deep cleaning the apartment. Normal people pack up in the 48 hours prior to their move and don’t have any time left over for cleaning. And you know what? That’s brilliant. Less cleaning! Maybe I’ll have to try that trick next time around. Of course, I suspect that living in an apartment three times the size of mine also contributes to the complexity of the project. At any rate, I was happy to help, not least because I don’t have to move this summer!

And now for the event that we did get pictures of: our day trip to Martha’s Vineyard. Remember how I was going to run a Ragnar but we ended up not being able to compose a large enough team so we settled for a 5k instead? That ended up being exactly the right decision. It was kind of expensive to rent a car for a day and drive down all for a measly 5k, but we knew that we’d probably never get out to Martha’s Vineyard without just this sort of excuse. So we woke up at 4:30 am yesterday and headed out. The morning was fairly nondescript: a long drive, awe at the efficiency of steamship authority’s parking, and a ferry ride to the island.

While I was purchasing ferry tickets, Mike was trying to get change for a $5 bill at a vending machine. We were hoping to stock up on quarters to use riding the bus, but instead the machine unloaded about $4.00 of nickels on us. We stashed them in our bag and used them for bus fare anyway, but ended up really annoying a couple bus drivers in the process.

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A breakfast of teddy grahams on the ferry. This was also the last time we saw Jared’s sunglasses on the trip.

We landed on the island just in time to narrowly miss our bus, so we took a taxi to the registration spot instead. I initially only signed up for myself, but once the kids learned that there was a kids’ run, too, we went back and bought them a spot. After getting them registered and showing them the course, Rebekah said “Um, mom, I heard the lady say if you win there is ice cream.” Ah. Yes. This is my child. Now I know why she was so eager to run! I did my best to gently explain that there were much bigger children who would win, but that I would definitely find her some ice cream in the course of the day.

At 8:45 am, the kids lined up for a short dash between some parking cones, and it turns out that my children are either really fast (… not likely) or really serious about competition. They put on their game faces and took second (Rebekah) and third (Jared), although since the winner was a six year old boy, Rebekah was technically the fastest girl. It also turns out that the twins have hilarious game faces. Have you ever seen two preschoolers try to run at a dead sprint? They furrowed their brows and took off at a quickish waddle. It was amazing. And then they were each awarded with a participation medal (which Jared also promptly lost).

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At 9:00 we saw off Tory and Rachel, who were part of the walking group. My race didn’t start until 9:30, so we stood around talking with the other runners (Blake, Austin, and Zach) until it was time to line up. And then we were off!

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My strategy was mostly to not think about it too much. Every time I wanted to walk, I told myself “no” and then tried to distract myself. It was a really hot morning for a race, and my pace was much faster than I was used to, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to sustain it, but I promised myself that I would run the whole way. I’m still quite slow, so it was somewhat discouraging to be passed up by people who did a mix of running and walking, but in the end I outpaced a few of them and since I didn’t come in dead last, I’m really proud of myself. The best part by far was, of course, crossing the finish line. I knew it would feel wonderful, but I hadn’t anticipated just how good it would feel! Wow. Super proud of myself! I took 111th overall with a time of 35:07. Nothing impressive, I know, but considering that I only started running in April, I’m going to keep riding a wave of self-created glory.

I drank some water, ate a banana, and then took the kids with me to the bathroom where I sponged down with antibacterial wipes and got dressed. Come to find out there was the option of a coin-operated shower across the hall, but oh well. No one else smelled particularly good, either.

We hung around in the park for a few more minutes while they announced awards. Blake and Austin got second and third in their age division (because they’re fast) and Rachel and Tory won first and second in their category (because there were no other female walkers age 20-29).

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We cheered raucously and then set out on the rest of our Martha’s Vineyard adventure. First stop: the “gingerbread cottages” – aggressively cute cottages that started out as the tents for Methodist revival meetings and then became settled homes and then became icons of the “American carpenter gothic” style. They were fun to see, of course, and I adored walking around the church space in the center of the village. We also got to see inside one of the homes while Rachel and Austin played “I spy” with the kids outside (since there were so many colors, you see). It was basically like a miniature version of the Beehive House, though Brigham Young would have hated the exterior aesthetic.

Then we went in search of ice cream, but along the way decided we’d better eat a real meal first. We settled on Mexican at Sharky’s Cantina, marveled as Zach charmed his way into getting us a private room in the back, and chowed down on nachos and tacos. Then we found our way to the best-rated ice cream (Mad Martha’s), negotiated a taxi ride all the way across the island for the nine of us, and wound up for the rest of the day at South Beach.

Let me just say: this beach converted me to beaches. The water was warm, so I got to swim in the ocean for the first time and bob in the waves off shore. I laughed manically every time a wave crashed into me and washed me up, I laughed manically as I dug an enormous hole in the sand, and I giggled my way through being buried by the kids. Eventually my euphoria wore off, but I think the kids and I were the only people who spent the entire five hours playing nonstop. Instead of napping or reading like all the other adults, we dug holes and built walls and moats and giant basins to catch the water. I got an arm workout to match my run earlier in the day, and came home rubbed completely raw by all the sand. Also a touch sunburned. ‘Twas exquisite.

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Then we navigated buses back to the ferry terminal (have you ever tried to get exact change for seven adults when everyone’s cash sources are depleted? We were the tourists everyone hated) and rode back to the parking lot, enjoying a gorgeous sunset on the ferry deck.

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We met up for one final 9:00 pm meal at a seafood place recommended by Austin. Zach, Mike and I talked religion and philosophy while everyone else dozed off into their clam chowder. The kids, by this point, were completely zonked out. We carried them into the restaurant and let them just sleep on our laps. Not even the promise of french fries would wake them up. And then to get us home since our phone batteries were depleted, Zach loaned us his phone (which he had charmed several people into charging for him all throughout the day), which we dropped off in his mailbox on the way to our house. How did people get anywhere before Google Maps and GPS?!

And then we all crashed, of course, because what else do you do after 15 hours of straight travel and running and play? We woke up to beds full of sand and heads full of memories. Thanks, summer, for all the fun.

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Of Borrowed Shorts and Code Changes

On Tuesday, Mike prompted a change in the United States engineering code. He e-mailed them about something that wasn’t specified in the book (something about checking beam-to-column plates to make sure they don’t rupture) and it turns out they should have included it. So in the next edition of the code, there will be a correction brought to you by our favorite engineer!

Now that my French class is over, I’m finally able to focus substantially on PhD applications, and I’m really pleased with the project that’s taking shape. I’ve figured out what I want my research angle to be (negativity! I shan’t bore you) so now it’s just about making the time and putting in the work. Far less existential dread. My summer schedule has been so lovely and relaxed, leaving me plenty of time for various church side projects. On Thursday, thanks to eating nothing but steak for the previous 36 hours, had enough iron to donate blood at the chapel, where I met several people from the community who always come to our blood drives because we have the best treats! Right on, Mormonism.

Thursday afternoon, while I was working my preschool shift, Rebekah’s teacher told me how good she is at social-emotional stuff–focused listening, showing empathy, etc.–and chalked it up to her being a twin. As it so happened, she was able to illustrate by pointing out the way Rebekah was listening to a classmate nearby and patiently waiting for him to finish his thought. On the walk home that evening, I told Rebekah what her teacher had said and how proud I was for her being a good listener and a good friend. And, naturally, she filled me in on the illustrative conversation I’d witnessed: “Yeah. Gael told me the poop coming out of his bum is from blueberries, and I told Gael the poop out of my bum is from tomatoes, and then Gael told me the poop out of his bum is tomatoes and blueberries.” Way to pop the bubble of my idealism, child.

Friday was their last day of preschool for the academic school year. It felt important, so I made sure to bathe them the night before, but then discovered that morning that we’d somehow misplaced a pair of Jared’s shorts and he had nothing else that was clean. So, naturally, he wore Rebekah’s shorts to school and was so pleased with the arrangement that he continued to wear them for the rest of the weekend. Clothes-swapping or not, my children have officially graduated from the younger preschool class and will be bona fide “big kids” at the start of the new school year next Monday. Between now and then stands a one-week break, which we’ve carefully planned out, like so:

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Our only other bit of news is that Mike and I managed to peel ourselves away for a long dinner with friends last night. The farm we stayed at over the fourth supplies a farm-to-table restaurant in Concord, so we rented a car and drove out there to check it out. Great food and great conversation, as usual. And then, on the way home, we witnessed the most amazing moon we’ve ever seen–hovering low and HUGE and orange right over the freeway. I seem to see a lot of cool celestial phenomena whenever I’m in the car with this guy!

So there you have it. I’ll leave you to catch up on the kids’ latest progress reports and we’ll check back in next week with lots to report about our last week of summer!

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Progress Report: Rebekah

Rebekah recently celebrated her 4th birthday along with twin brother Jared and is preparing to transition in the older preschool classroom in the Fall. She scored well in all categories on her Ages and Stages questionnaire (Communication: 60, Gross Motor: 60, Fine Motor: 55, Problem Solving: 60, Personal-Social: 60) with no areas of concern. Rebekah continues to flourish in the classroom, deepening her friendships with her peers. She is extremely willing and enthusiastic to try any new activity whether it be an art project in the classroom or gross motor activity on the playground. Rebekah is sweet-natured and will play with everyone but still enjoys spending the majority of time with her close-knit group of friends Lillian, Alexandra and Josie. Rebekah and Josie have been inseparable in the classroom lately, and like to have dramatic play “sleepovers” on their nap-mats during the freetime that follows lunchtime. Rebekah enjoys the security of checking in with her teachers every so often and does enjoy teacher-led group time but for the most part is perfectly content to play with her friends.

Fine motor: Rebekah has still been making huge strides with regards to her fine motor skills, such as with her drawing and cutting abilities. Using a static tripod grip, Rebekah can draw elaborate pictures that have continued to evolve in their complexity. Lately, her favorite way to work on that particular skill has been to create small “mini-books,” which she loves creating alongside her friend Alexandra. Rebekah loves any activity that involves using age-appropriate scissors to cut, although she sometimes needs reminders to use them carefully.

Gross Motor: Rebekah’s gross motor skills and confidence seem to be growing hand in hand! In the gross-motor gym, she enjoys “tumbling” (performing somersaults) on the mats and any group activities (yoga, songs that enact physical motions) that challenge her to utilize her balancing abilities. Rebekah is an avid climber and has recently been challenging herself to try new feats on the geodesic dome climber in the playground, climbing to the top and dangling upside down fearlessly!

Cognitive: Although she loves dramatic play, Rebekah understands the difference between real and make-believe, and understands that pictures and symbols are representative of real objects. With regards to her problem-solving abilities, Rebekah can still get reflexively pouty and upset when she is really pushed to her limit and when she feels she’s already exhausted all the problem solving resources that we try to encourage in the classroom. At other times, she gets frustrated when she wants help from a teacher to do something that we’re encouraging her to at least try first independently. In these times we like to reiterate our confidence in her and remind her that we’re here to help if her attempts are unsuccessful. However, all things considered, Rebekah has been doing an excellent job of articulating what’s bothering her and asking for help or asking “for space,” so her teachers are able to step in and provide any additional support.

Language: Like her brother Jared, Rebekah really relishes reading stories and enjoys sharing her input, questions, and insight about the storylines during group-time. Rebekah can recall parts of story when questioned about them and will bring up stories that we’ve previously read, spontaneously. She speaks clearly and in complete sentences and uses her language skills to create elaborate storylines in dramatic play games with her friends.

Social/Emotional: Rebekah is extremely sweet and often demonstrates spontaneous acts of kindness and compassion towards her friends, “checking in” on them if she sees that they are upset, and offering her own solutions to help remedy the situation (without being asked by her teachers). She demonstrates a desire to want to please her friends which can sometimes lead to situations where she feels frustrated (perhaps because she feels she’s taken on the “lion’s share” of many of the compromises). In those moments, her teachers will help to step in, in order to make sure that any games are cooperative and she feels she’s being treated fairly.

Future Goals: Although Rebekah is extremely capable, sometimes she can get discouraged and defeatist when asked to try a new activity (perhaps if she’s intimidated or has reason to think she might not succeed during the first try). Her teachers will work to try to encourage her to try things independently and provide an extra boost of encouragement while reassuring her that they are available to help if her initial efforts fall short of her expectations.

We’ve loved having Rebekah in the classroom this year, and are excited to see her continue to blossom!

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Progress Report: Jared

Today was the twins’ last day of preschool before the new school year, and as they sent us out the door with face paint and complimentary sidewalk chalk, they made sure to include progress reports, too. Here’s the latest about our sweet boy!

Jared is a sweet 4-year old boy who recently celebrated his birthday alongside twin-sister Rebekah. He scored well in all areas of his Ages and Stages Questionnaire (Communication: 60, Gross Motor: 45, Fine Motor: 40, Problem Solving: 60, Personal Social: 55), with no areas for concern. As the year is wrapping up, Jared has particularly seemed to enjoy our “Community Helpers” curricular theme, mainly focusing on firefighters and police officers (or perhaps most importantly for Jared, their vehicles!). Jared’s fondness for trucks, trains, and cars has broadened to include dramatic play elements, where he enjoys recreating “emergency” scenarios on the playground bikes, pretending to be a dutiful first-responder alongside friends Charlie and Yizhen. In the classroom, he still prefers to play independently, although he will engage in parallel play with friends that are engaged in the same activity.

Fine motor: Recently, Jared has been channeling his love of vehicles by assembling elaborate cars and trucks, honing his fine motor skills by using various interlocking manipulatives in the classroom. This adds a fun new element to his play, allowing him to customize his creations in new and increasingly elaborate ways. Jared has also made great strides in his writing/drawing abilities, utilizing a five-finger pencil grasp to write out letters and practice drawing figures.

Gross motor: Jared is incredibly active on the playground, showcasing his increasing confidence with his gross motor abilities. His favorite activity is riding on the tricycle, which he does with ease, confidently maneuvering around obstacles. Jared has recently been showing an interest in various ball-games (baseball in particular) and is working on his coordination to make contact with the bat, catching, and throwing the ball. Jared loves dancing/jumping with alternating feet but still has some difficulty standing on one foot for any length of time (over two seconds).

Cognitive: Jared has been making a lot of progress with regards to his problem solving skills. Previously, when something frustrated him and he felt his initial attempts to problem-solve weren’t working (if someone is trying to take away a toy he’s currently using, for example), he would give up and become inconsolable. Recently, with the help of his teachers to support his efforts and encourage him to use his words, he’s able to solve the problem and self-advocate (sometimes, independently). Jared is able to recall parts of stories and expound on them using his own personal experience (relating them to personal information/stories), and always has relevant commentary to add to group conversation during story-time.

Language: Jared is able to speak in clear, complete sentences. In the classroom, Jared loves reading books and can sit for long spans of time digesting one after another with his teachers and work-parents. Excitingly, he’s also sounding out words and reading them independently, a skill which he’s practicing at home with his parents!

Social/emotional: Jared is sweet and is usually the first person to greet any newcomers and visitors to the classroom. Jared is pretty easy going and although he seems most comfortable when he’s familiar with the expectations/daily classroom schedule, he’s always willing to go with the flow (especially if it involves something new and exciting!). He shows affection for his friends and will often imitate behaviors/language that he’s picked up from his parents (such as certain colloquialisms).

Future Goals: In the upcoming year, Jared will continue to work on certain self-help skills, such as washing his own face (with a wipe, following meals) and dressing/undressing. Cognitively, Jared will continue to work on his ability to problem solve with his peers. With regards to gross motor skills, Jared will work on his climbing skills (his teachers can help him achieve these goals by encouraging him to use the climber in the playground). Jared will continue to hone his fine motor skills, working towards a static tripod grasp while using his writing utensils.

We’ve loved having Jared this year, and look forward to seeing how he progresses next year!

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I think I’ve discovered the one drawback to sleeping on the floor: if you’re sitting up in the dark, it puts your nose directly in line with your husband’s knee as he’s coming to bed. No broken or bloody noses over here, thankfully, but I am a little sore.

This week has continued on as normal–incredibly hot and humid weather, Mike working like a fiend, me working on PhD applications, and the kids happily attending their wonderful preschool.

Although, speaking of preschool, we did have a bit of a scare this week. I was sitting next to Jared and Rebekah at my lunchtime shift on Thursday when Jared turned to me looking like he was about to cry. He pressed his arm to his mouth, so I thought he had bitten his tongue or something, but as I waited for him to actually start crying, I realized that no sound was coming out. It took me a second to realize he was choking, and another second to wonder if I should perform the heimlich maneuver, and then another second to realize that although I was trained in it, there were other adults in the room who were trained in it, like, annually. I called Kayla over, but luckily there was no need for the heimlich. By the time Kayla got over there, the offending grape (it’s always a grape, isn’t it?) had shifted such that Jared could swallow it. Poor guy was really shaken up and declined the rest of lunch and went to lay down on his nap mat instead. After about fifteen minutes, he was up and playing like normal, but it was alarming enough to him that he spent the next couple days talking about choking and how food needs to go “in our teeth” first.

In less exciting but still child-related news, we spent a few minutes early this week preparing thank-you cards for the twins’ birthdays. To grandma they had the following to say:

Jared: “Thank you for getting my stuff from the presents. And eating chocolate cake. I like to play them and eat some chocolate cake. I love everything in the world for thank you cards.”

Rebekah: “Thank you for giving me my dress up. I pretend to be a mommy and I taked care of the ocelot. I like the purple shoes and the pink skirts.”

And to Mimi, we sent the following:

Jared: “Thank you for getting a red panda from the zoo and getting em pizza. I love to play ’em and put it away.”

Rebekah: “Thank you for getting me pizza and thank you for giving me the baby ocelot. And I really like that you give me that baby ocelot and I like to play with it and sleep with it and I like that you just gave me about the pizza and I liked that you gave me that and I like it so much!”

I’m really going to miss dictation thank you cards from preschoolers.

Though there may be another thank-you card in our future sooner than I’d anticipated, because on Wednesday I came home to a package from my mom containing a new Hello Kitty outfit and hair clips. Rebekah was thrilled. As soon as we got home from preschool, she tried them on and willingly posed for photos, which was lucky, since she couldn’t stop smiling. Her first words after opening the box were: “Oh! I’ve never seen that one before! But I like it.”

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And of course we had to wear it to preschool the next day.

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And I guess my only other story of the week also comes from Rebekah, who came to me on Friday morning with an unsharpened pencil and a request that outstripped her available vocabulary: “Can you make it a color by, like, twizzling it?”

Here’s the rest of our media for the week. First up, Rebekah in a tree. She “climbed” it (it’s branches are all basically at ground level) and then asked me to take a picture for grandma. She’s catching on to the routine around here.

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And here’s Mike with some of the young men and young men’s leaders helping out the Boston Area Gleaners. The photographer wanted a goofy picture but no one was complying, so instead he told them to act like they “just won a gold medal.” That’s as close as we’ve gotten to having any awareness of this year’s olympics, I’m afraid.


And although Derek’s nuptials are old news, this week is when we got the reception photos. You’ve already seen them all over facebook, but I think this kind of cuteness demands multiple platforms.


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Brethren, Adieu

It’s now been eights weeks since I started learning French, and I’m a veritable pro. Or, at least, that’s what an A on my final exam means, right? It also means that the summer is almost over, and I have yet to write a single word on my PhD application statement.

Regardless of my non-progress on other projects, it feels really good to wrap up my summer class. We had a party on Wednesday in which we reviewed vocabulary for an hour and then went outside and ate cheese, crepes, and macarons. Late summer in Cambridge is really lovely (remind me to have as many picnics as possible between now and September). Then on Thursday I took my final a couple hours early so I could pick up the kids from preschool. I aced the final and got an A in the course, so I think that means I’m a full-fledged reader-of-French. You’d think that mastering another written language would be exhilarating, but it’s mostly given me one more branch of knowledge to maintain. I ordered a French copy of the Book of Mormon to help. At least I can now translate Jacob 7:27. You’re welcome.

I think my French grade is proof that one shouldn’t study the week of a final, because I certainly didn’t. I spent Tuesday, at least, running between church responsibilities, including driving a young woman to Girl’s Camp, meeting with the missionaries for a new convert lesson, and then heading back to the chapel one hour later for a stake temple recommend interview. Today I’m having Tuesday flashbacks since I’m teaching in Relief Society and subbing last-minute as a youth Sunday School teacher. And on Saturday I took the kids to help clean the chapel.

The chapel cleaning, at least, turned out really nice. It was a preschooler’s dream come true. We rode two buses, played some Pokemon Go along the way, watched the trains on the green line, and then picked up trash around the church. The highlight of the morning, however, was when we discovered a cache of Ghiradelli dark chocolate in the piano bench of the Sunday School classroom. We may or may not have filled my purse with a bunch of squares to munch on at home. I used the chocolate to perk Rebekah up on the walk back to the bus station when she complained about the distance, hoping to teach her about calories and the energy we get from food, but Rebekah mostly came away convinced that, just like carrots are good for your eyes, chocolate is good for your legs.

Mike had an even busier than usual week, since he absconded on Thursday night to attend a live show of the Slate Culture Gabfest at Edith Wharton’s home in Lennox. He’s been listening to this podcast for about a year and says it was nice to put bodies/faces with such familiar voices, but also reports that all the show segments fell flat and he came away liking his favorite commentator a little less, so this trip may actually mark the end of his subscription to that particular podcast. I noticed a McDonald’s soda cup in the trash the next morning, though, so the road trip can’t have been a total waste.

On Friday I went into the city and met Mike for a late lunch, where I heard all about the Gabfest adventure and discovered some of the most delicious fries I’ve ever had. I also got to tour the first ever ADA-compliant tiny house and then followed Mike back to the office where I broke into my Taza chocolate stash and read some articles while he finished up. And then we took the train home together, with a brief detour to look at the graves of James Otis, John Hancock, Ben Franklin, and Sam Adams. Because Boston.

Amid all the hustle and bustle of our crazy lives, I’m constantly grateful that the twins have each other. They’d probably feel our neglect a lot more keenly if they didn’t have a best bud to keep them company along the way.


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Birthday the Fourth

Four! Four. Four is so big. I know that nine and sixteen and thirty will also be so big, but I’m operating under the assumption that, with a little more parenting experience under my belt, I’ll get used to having my kids’ growth outstrip my internal expectations. For right now, not only am I stunned that I’ve been at this mothering gig for four whole years, but I’m also shocked at what sweet, well-behaved, totally wonderful kids I managed to raise in spite of myself. I love four. Four is vastly superior to three. You rock, kids. Sorry for all the neuroses. I tried to make up for those neuroses by throwing an entire day of fun. It helped that this was the first year in which Jared and Rebekah really understood what a birthday was and all the excitement they had in store.

Because they attend preschool full time, I had my first experience making cupcakes for a classroom cohort. Jared requested chocolate, and with Betty Crocker’s help, I delivered. I showed up at 4:00 pm on Friday for afternoon snack, just in time to see the finished fire truck they’ve been constructing all week after their field trip to the fire station on Monday. All the kids took turns driving the truck while we sang “the fire truck song” (a real masterpiece. The lyrics were: “Fire truck! Fire truck! Jared is driving the fire truck!”). Then they used a cardboard “hose” decorated in blue paper to put out a tissue-paper “fire.” Man, this preschool is good.

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Jared requested that he be allowed to help pass out the cupcakes and that his come without a candle on it. Rebekah insisted on having some fire on hers, though. Both preferences were accommodated (because what else is a birthday for), the cupcakes were inhaled by all, and then I went home and watched Gilmore Girls for 30 minutes to decompress.

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That night, I decorated the living room with a banner and scads of balloons. This might be the surest sign of my adulthood: that I can now tie balloons.

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Mike had some errands to run Saturday morning, so I set the kids up with their Kindles, as usual, and put the finishing touches on their (completely Paleo!) birthday cake. Not pictured, unfortunately, because other pictures took priority. But let me tell you: it looked awesome, and tasted just as good. I think I’ve got a favorite go-to cake recipe now.

As soon as Mike got home, we drove out to Franklin Park for a day at the zoo. We’d initially planned on taking the twins to the movies since we’d already done the zoo last year, but based on their reaction to Finding Nemo last week, Finding Dory was bound to be too suspenseful for our newly-minted four-year-olds. Mike brought up the idea of doing the zoo again, and I got us a 60% off  coupon from the library, so the zoo it was! Jared and Rebekah were about a year too young to properly enjoy the zoo last summer, and since we’d already been, we felt no pressure to see all the animals and instead took them around to just a handful. Jared was completely obsessed with seeing the giraffes, only to discover that they were gone for the morning. Fortunately, he was sufficiently distracted by the playground on the premises. Rebekah is always fond of climbing toys, but seemed especially keen on reaching the top of things since I had a camera in hand. “Mom, show grandma!”

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After an hour looking at animals and another hour at the playground, we scrounged up some lunch…

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… then it was back to the playground for 30 minutes, and then to the gift shop to pick out some stuffed animals. They each chose a miniature version of what the other had selected last year (so Jared got a miniature red panda and Rebekah a miniature ocelot), came home and showed off their “baby” animals to the “mommy” animals back at home, and then crashed for a quick nap before tearing into presents.


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And then, while they broke into their toys and waited for pizza to arrive, Mike and the twins Skyped with Mimi and showed off their new acquisitions. Then it was time for dinner and cake. Rebekah once again requested candles and had the honor of blowing out four for both of them, while Jared, at her suggestion, hid under the table in mock fear of fire.  Watching them smear chocolate all over their face reminded me of a similar chocolate mess three years earlier!

Based on all the fun we had and how whiny the kids were by the end, it was a thoroughly successful birthday, but my favorite indication was Jared’s question just before I turned out the lights: “Mom, will I still be four tomorrow?”


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