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New Hampshire Vacation

Vacation means several things: relaxation, junk food, card games, road trips, and (because we are Berkeys, after all) fishing. But most importantly: pictures!

And since I’m already overloading you with far too many pictures of my family, let’s make a few of those anachronistic, to boot. A few weeks ago the twins went to Harvard’s Natural History Museum with their preschool class, and just this morning I got the pictures taken all morning long by some long-suffering volunteer chaperon. Having other people take photos of my family that I can use as blog material might just be my favorite thing in life.

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After the museum, the class came back to the Div school for snack. I’ve only run into them on campus once so far, but it is another of my favorite things.

Pretend all of those pictures were just one big parenthesis, however, because the real focus of this blog is our New Hampshire vacation over the weekend! Cliff and Naomi arrived at the airport early on Thursday and then recruited Mike to come help them pick up an extra rental car. Eventually they found a single car that would seat all six of us, but had to get a shuttle all the way out to Revere to pick it up… I’m not clear on the details, but by 10:30 am they returned with a vehicle for us, and by 11:00 we were loading up with luggage and hitting the road.

We made a pit stop at Costco to get some groceries and some lunch. Neither Mike or I have been inside a Costco for a couple years which makes me feel somehow less fully Mormon than my peers. But I want you to know that, although we could only enter Costco relying on the borrowed light of Cliff and Naomi’s membership, my testimony of bulk groceries is as strong as ever.

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All it took to convert the twins was a large frozen yogurt from grandpa.

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We rolled into our resort around 3:00 pm, unloaded, and then I took the kids to the playground while everyone else napped. Cliff and Naomi hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before (because that’s how red-eye flights work), and Mike had been at the office until 1:00 am finishing up everything he had to do before leaving for vacation. As the only well-rested adult in the group, I thought it prudent to rescue the others from the well-rested preschoolers. Luckily for us, unfamiliar playgrounds still produce several hours of entertainment.

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The kids discovered these caterpillars and used the opportunity to unload all of their preschool-acquired knowledge about insects.

The rest of the evening was pretty low-key. We cooked some dinner and made sure to jump on the beds a little bit. Our A/C never quite worked as well as we could have hoped, so after the kids went to sleep Mike and I cooled off in the pool for about 10 minutes so we could go to sleep, as well.

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The rest of the weekend stayed low-key. The kids wanted to spend more time on the playground the next morning, and then they played their Kindles until naptime. In a desperate attempt to get ourselves out of the house and away from electronics, we geared up for a short hike in the woods before dinner.

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“Geared up,” as you can see, mostly means “putting on sunglasses.” It does not, alas, mean “putting on bug spray,” and as soon as we were into the woods it was clear that Jared and I just would not survive. The place was full of mosquitoes, one of which flew straight into Jared’s ear, causing a total melt-down. Cliff and Naomi wanted to forge ahead, so Mike and I took the kids with us to Walmart to purchase bug spray and fishing licenses for the next morning. Because we had some extra time we also took the kids into a PetCo next door so they could look at cats and hamsters. Walmart’s licensing system ended up being down which led us on a mildly stressful goose chase all over Laconia, NH until a fishing store I called told me that you could get licenses online. With that, we headed back to the resort just in time to hand off the kids to their grandparents and head out on a dinner date by ourselves. Cliff and Naomi took the twins swimming while Mike and I used Yelp to find a highly-rated Tapas place just a few miles away. We brought back some leftover fried haddock to share, but by the time we’d gotten back to the resort I was hungry again and managed to eat half of the leftovers myself. Ah, vacation.

The reason we needed fishing licenses was that Cliff convinced us to join him at 4:00 am on a fishing charter Saturday morning. My favorite part of fishing is watching the sunrise out on the lake, so it didn’t much matter to me that the fish weren’t biting. Mike caught the first fish, but it was too small and had to be thrown back. About two hours later, Cliff caught a salmon that we could actually take home with us. I’m just amused that Cliff can’t even go to an entirely land-locked lake and the salmon still flock to him!

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Want to know the best part? This is our charter guide. His name is Bob. Bob sails on Lake Winnipesaukee. (We watched the movie “What About Bob” on Thursday night, so I was able to appreciate the jokes for the next three days.)

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When we got back, we relieved Naomi from babysitting, ate some breakfast, and then Mike and I took the kids to the swimming pool. All of Saturday, basically, was spent taking them in and out of various swimming pools, and they could not have been happier. Jared had to spend ten not-very-fun minutes in time out for pushing Rebekah down a water slide, but then we played tag in the wading pool and he was all smiles again. Saturday was also note-worthy because Cliff grilled us some steak for dinner, and then we stayed up late playing Rook, which I always, without fail, have to relearn how to play. Needless to say, Mike and I ended up losing badly. We also made the mistake of leaving the door open to cool the place off, letting in a bunch of mosquitoes who were interested solely in my blood. One of them got nice and drunk on my arm and then landed on the wall nearby. I asked Mike to kill it for me, but wasn’t expecting the explosion of my blood that ended up on the wall in the process! I didn’t realize mosquitoes could get that engorged! Kind of gross.

And then Sunday morning was spent watching TV (did you know that “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” is morbidly absorbing?) and packing and cleaning while Cliff and Naomi headed back on the lake for a second round of fishing. They came home with another salmon to their name, we drove back to Boston, cooked up our fish fillets, and then sent them on to their hotel to prepare for their flight back to Washington early this morning.

We feel pretty lucky that Cliff and Naomi make such a concerted effort to come see us regularly. The twins adore them, and we appreciate being forced to take time off and relax. Happy Memorial Day!

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A Free Woman

That’s what I am–a free woman! Life without classes has been truly lovely. I’m still figuring out my work schedule over the summer, but the pace is already so much more relaxed which helps me pick up the slack so Mike can work all the overtime he needs. So far so good!

As always, I’ve spent the past week cramming my schedule with all the things I didn’t have time for during the semester, including a dentist appointment for the twins, feeding the missionaries, spearheading the community service project for our Relief Society, and finally visiting the chiropractor my doctor recommended. (By the way, I love this chiropractor! He’s single-handedly convinced me that they’re not all cranks, and thanks to him, I’ve significantly reduced my back pain since Thursday.) So life is as busy as ever, but it’s a different sort of busy and I feel pretty refreshed.

Want some media? Of course you do.

Last Saturday we went to Target to outfit Jared and Rebekah with a summer wardrobe, thus equipping Rebekah with a brand new dress for church. She’s never been happier in her entire life.

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Unfortunately, this is probably the happiest she’s been all week, since she’s spent the past four days with a gnarly fever and upgraded to vomiting last night. (Jared got it all out of his system in one 24-hour bout mid-week, which I’m starting to think was preferable.) She’s been a real trooper, coming along to all my appointments and meetings even while feeling so lousy. I’m really starting to miss my happy, energetic, upbeat girl.

In the name of remembering happier times, here’s evidence that I misuse children’s gullibility: A few weeks ago Jared was jumping on the couch and I told him to stop (a regular dialogue at our house), to which Rebekah asked “Why?” And for some inexplicable reason, I said: “Because it damages the couch, and if the couch is damaged we won’t have a couch and then we’ll get kicked out our house and we’ll have to live on the streets.” And that seemed to satisfy her, but it wasn’t until a few days later that I realized the explanation had stuck! She seriously believes that if the couch gets damaged, we’ll lose our house. Jared isn’t alarmed by this in the slightest, since he thinks that “living on the streets” is the same thing as “turning into a car.” Preschool logic. The take-away here is: yes, I’m a bad mother. But my kids are pretty funny.

The preschool recently introduced alphabet bingo, and it is Jared’s favorite thing of all time, so we instituted our own version as a family night activity. This video is a little bland, unless you’re really into twins playing board games.

On Friday we met Mike after work in Harvard Square for dinner. We tried out a cheesy-looking buffet, much to the oppression of Mike’s culinary soul. It was a neon-decorated, overpriced prison that took way too long to grill a sandwich. We got out of there as fast as we could and picked up some other food which we took into Harvard Yard so we could enjoy the weather. The yard was full of folding chairs for commencement and entirely domesticated squirrels and birds who thought our food looked pretty tasty. (They were right.) The twins enjoyed playing on the boulders outside of the science center and hanging out on the steps of Widener library. Or, at least, Jared enjoyed the library. Rebekah still wasn’t feeling great.

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The only other occasion of note is that Jared is saying the scripture in primary today, so we’ve been working on it throughout the week. Here’s one of those practice sessions, in which Jared is deliciously pathetic, and then the final product, in which he is beyond adorable. Enjoy!

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Mother’s Day and School Photos

Mother’s Day was lovely. I’ll say right from the start that my favorite part was the super-fancy Taza chocolate truffles Mike got me. I definitely sent him a link and basically said “This is what I want for Mother’s Day,” but the guy deserves credit for following through. Delicious.

The next-best feature of the day was spending the morning with Austin and Rachel at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. All year we’ve been trying to figure out what we can do to make the Sabbath not feel like torture with two preschoolers. We got them special Sunday toys but when that didn’t end the whining and misery, we eventually figured this was what it’s like to have kids and we’d just have to grit our teeth and bear it. And then my genius husband figured out the problem: we’d been trying to tolerate an entire day with the kids inside a teeny tiny 500-sq-ft apartment. We’re now instituting Sunday morning pre-church outings, and if the cemetery was any indication, they make the day much, much better.

The morning started out sunny and then took a turn for the overcast, which is of course perfect weather for a cemetery. We enjoyed a lovely walk through some of the most expensive housing in Cambridge, and then wandered around in scenery like this:

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I know you can’t really tell it from a terrible phone picture like this, but that bright pink bush was stunning. Took our breath away.

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For all the other C.S. Lewis lovers out there.

Church was not at all sappy, so that was another Mother’s Day success. As a Relief Society presidency we wanted to help our sisters feel celebrated while also avoiding the pitfalls of Mother’s Day rhetoric, so we had a short spiritual thought, shared some funny stories of our mothers, and then ate cake. I’m deeply proud of the cake. This is what happens when you stick me in a Relief Society presidency.

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Unfortunately, Jared didn’t get the memo that Mother’s Day is supposed to be my day off. He contracted a stomach bug and when we were about 10 minutes from home we looked into the stroller and found him fast asleep in a pile of his own vomit. The next five hours were a barrage of him constantly throwing up before he finally got it out of his system and went to bed at 10:30 pm. He was a trooper. And nothing makes me more grateful for Mike than having sick kids, because, get this: he doesn’t mind cleaning up vomit! In exchange, I’ve vowed to do all of our paperwork and give birth to our children.

Jared stayed home with me on Monday and then was back to preschool on Tuesday, leaving me most of the week to finish up my last two final papers. Most of my papers were fine, but my French Philosophy paper had me majorly, inordinately stressed, which wreaked a particular kind of havoc on my emotions. Exhibit A: the twins’ school photos.

Last week the preschool brought in a professional photographer to take school photos of all the kids, then sent each family home with a digital link to excessively adorable pictures of their children. I took one look at the price tag, snorted, and thought “No way.” And because I still feel moderately outraged about it, let me share that price tag with you: A hundred dollars for nine pictures. This is the digital version, of course (because how else would they be bloggable?), but still. That’s more than ten dollars per picture! Insane.

But then I made the mistake of actually looking at the pictures online, and guys, they were adorable! And so I was going back and forth as to whether or not I could actually bring myself to shell out that much money, all the time growing more attached to the pictures, when Mike decided that considering inflation would be a helpful datum for thinking through the decision. So he goes: “Are they worth $200 to you ten years from now?”  But as soon as he said “$200” I burst into tears and sobbed for a little bit, because the monetary stakes of this decision had suddenly doubled and now these pictures were doubly out of my financial reach and crying just seemed the most logical response. After about ten seconds of crying, I realized that my response was excessive, that crying was actually not logical about this in the slightest, and that the stress of finals was out of control. And so, naturally, I started laughing, which led to a really strange mixture of laugh-sobbing that entirely freaked Mike out. Then he offered to tell me what inflation would be in a million years, and I told him to shut up because I’m buying the stupid photos. At this point, I figured we’d also be buying a crazy story about my emotions, and that significantly upped the value of the purchase. So here you go.

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I turned in my last paper on Thursday, and then spent Friday morning having a mini “stay-cation” in Cambridge. Or, at least, that was the plan. I was going to spend the morning playing piano at the church, check out Harvard’s Semitic museum, eat at a Chinese buffet for lunch, and then head over to whatever other museums struck my fancy. But then I couldn’t get the church key to work, the Semitic museum ended up only having about 30 minutes’ worth of exhibits, and by the time I walked home after my buffet lunch, my feet were killing me and I traded other museums for Netflix binge-watching. Ah well. Still relaxing, which is what I needed.

Saturday kept up the low-key tone. As soon as my semester ended, Mike switched into high gear at work, so he spent the day at the office. The kids and I drowned our loneliness in stove-top popcorn and then had Mike meet us at Target that evening where we bought summer wardrobes and then discovered a new favorite Mexican restaurant in Union square.

Today we’ve got slated another morning outing (this time at the arboretum) and more Relief Society presidency responsibilities (we’re meeting with some general auxiliary presidencies from Salt Lake). Wish us no more sick children and no more final papers (at least until December).

Here, in closing, is a picture of Rebekah from earlier this month, when we went to the park only to discover that our daughter had spent twenty minutes picking all the chewed gum off the bleachers and re-chewing it. We gave her a lecture, which she proceeded to ignore, so I put her in time-out and then dragged her, crying, back home. As far as I’m concerned, I managed to improve her immune system, discipline her, and get cute photos all in one incident, which is clearly the height of mothering achievement.

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Bryce!

Nothing so deliciously interrupts and rescues your finals than getting a phone call from your brother, who says “I’m in New York. How do I get to Boston?” And then Mike insisting for the next hour that the train is the only viable option, although he also checks the prices of flights and rental cars just to be sure. And then you get another call from your brother where he says “I love you, but not $200 worth of love,” so your husband conveniently remembers that there’s a cheap option, and you end up putting your brother on a bus for $36 which will land him in your city the very next day.

The twins were super excited to see Uncle Bryce. Particularly Rebekah. On Wednesday morning she rushed out of bed and, all blurry-eyed, asked “Mom? Is today when after preschool then Uncle Bryce?”

I took transit down to South Station to pick him up, and then we hung out and chatted at home for a couple hours until Mike and the twins got home. Then we dragged our already-damp children through the rain to KT&T for dinner.

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Thanks to Bryce, I have now been introduced to Lindt’s white chocolate/coconut bars (side note: Dear Bryce, I found them at CVS after all. They were in the CVS across the street!) and Snapchat. In fact, this was our main entertainment Wednesday night after the kids went to bed: face-swapping on Snapchat. It turns out that Mike has a great face for swapping–something about his skin tone and head shape, as far as I can tell. Either way, we got some pretty impressive screen-shots.

We gave Mike the face of Breaking Bad characters, famous actors, political figures, and of course some of our friends. Mike likes his Donald Trump persona best.

The next morning we saw the kids off to preschool where they constructed giant butterfly wings as part of their “insect” unit. They took a vote as to what kind of butterfly to make and the majority (including Rebekah) voted for a monarch butterfly. Jared (along with a good chunk of the other boys in the class) really liked the Blue Morpho. Always a statistical outlier, that kid.

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And then Bryce and I took the Harvard tour in chilly, drizzly weather. We were super cold by the end of it, so the lunch option that sounded best was deep-dish pizza at a sit-down place with all-you-can-drink Diet Pepsi. We had a great conversation and had to be politely thanked for our patronage a couple times before we got the hint and let them have their table back.

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We came home (with some more Lindt chocolate in tow) and spent the next three hours chilling on the couch, surfing the internet and watching Netflix and Youtube videos. (Thanks to Bryce, I have now binged the entire first season of New Girl.) I also got to see a number of pictures of Bryce’s new house, and we chatted about his landscaping plans. The man has a pinterest board full of DIY fire pits. I think he’s officially arrived at adulthood.

I’ve officially staked my preference for vacations of precisely this sort–food and hanging out on the couch.

This time next week, my last paper will be written and I will be done with school until mid-June, when I learn French at an insane pace and descend into the existential dread of PhD applications. If anyone wants to spontaneously bus down from New York, let me know.

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Talent Show

It’s still the end of the semester, which means I’m still in the thick of paper-writing. So much in the thick of it, really, that we just don’t get much else done around here.

I do have a few more pictures for you, though.

At preschool, the twins continue to play in dirt and read picture books, as usual.

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Last night we got of the house to attend the ward talent show. We have a supremely talented and entertaining ward, as it turns out, and there was lots of good food on top of it. Jared really enjoyed the show portion and clapped enthusiastically after every act.

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Besides feeding us cookies and popcorn, church is really good at indoctrinating our kids through music.

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We’re Back!

HI. WE’RE ALIVE, I PROMISE!

Between General Conference, MSH, and then having my computer crash (during finals–how timely), it has been an entire month since I last blogged! I’m not even going to try to recap all the goings-on, but I will dump a bunch of pictures here, even though you’ve already seen most of them via Facebook.

First, Mike was a gem and flew solo so I could attend MSH. He made sure to take the kids to lots of fun things and got pictures along the way, just for you. He even let them make their own PB&J sandwiches, something this mess-averse mom wasn’t planning on letting them do until they were twelve.

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Rebekah paid him back by helping out with some of the chores.

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I, meanwhile, enjoyed soda socials and Mexican food with the MSH crowd.

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I also spent a significant amount of time helping Jenny run the conference. This photo comes from Walmart at midnight on a Friday. It’s been a long, long time since I was in that Orem Walmart that late, but it’s as busy as ever.

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And this picture is witness to one of my favorite memories to date: walking through a rain/hale downpour to get back to Jenny’s car, before crashing in the Spencers’ living room for several hours.

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Since coming home, I’ve been busy finding a location for MSH in Boston next year (yay!) and doing a lot of legwork for a new community service group we started in Relief Society. We’re adopting the wish list of a homeless shelter every couple months and trying to meet as many items on it as possible. If anyone has ideas of corporations which wouldn’t mind donating a dishwasher to a shelter in East Boston, be sure to let me know.:)

And as of Thursday, spring is officially here! We celebrated with a picnic dinner in Boston Common with some friends.

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Maybe by next week I’ll have my legs under me enough to put together a real blog.

But don’t count on it. Finals are upon us, which means enormous crazy stress and dozens of pages of philosophy papers to write.

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Christos Anesti

Happy Easter! We’ve been making it as liturgical a week as we can manage amid our busy schedules. I re-read Chronicles of Narnia, as usual, and we managed to squeeze in a quick Holy Week lesson every night of the week. With some visual aids, our kids can now narrate (very broadly, mind you) the key points of Jesus’ last week.

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(Right as I cut off Jared’s video, Rebekah said “But mooom! Jared forgot Tuesday!” He didn’t, but I thought her outburst was cute. Sorry I failed to capture it for you.)

We dyed eggs on Thursday, much to the delight of the twins and the annoyance of Mike (like everything toddlers enjoy, it’s too crafty).

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But most of our photogenic Easter festivities began this morning with a final lesson about Easter Sunday, and then Resurrection rolls for breakfast. The kids were legitimately shocked to bite into their rolls and have them be empty. Rebekah expressed her surprise by saying “Come back, marshmallow Jesus!”

While the rolls were in the oven (the “tomb”), Mike pulled out another baking sheet and said, “Well, should I make bacon, now, since we’re released from the Law?” We did, indeed, and I think it might be part of the traditional breakfast going forward.

After breakfast, we brought out Easter baskets, and we’ve been sugaring it up ever since.

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Jared got a Thomas engine to add to his wooden train set, and Rebekah got a toy purse. As soon as she put it on she said “Mom, I wish I had a phone” (to carry inside it). Three going on thirteen, that one. I also made sure to give her a pack of gum, too. It’s half gone already.

It took Jared a while to figure out what jellybeans were called. He kept referring to them as “lilly-pops,” and I was so disappointed when Rebekah corrected him.

We’ve still got a fun dinner with friends planned for after church, though “dinner” might be a bit generous. We’ll only laying out a cheese spread (complete with smoked fish and honeycomb, of course).

Can you tell that we like this holiday? Celebrate accordingly!

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