The OM-Goodness I Can’t Stop Eating This Salsa!

It’s the end of August, with so many tomatoes, so little time. How about some fresh salsa?

I’m not joking around with you here. This salsa is so good and so easy, we have developed a serious addiction. My 11-year-old can’t stop making it and the rest of us can’t stop eating it.

DSC_03386 ingredients and – BAM!

DSC_0298This tasty little number is reminiscent of when I met The Professor. In college he was working as a waiter at a Peruvian restaurant and they served a fresh salsa that was very similar. The Professor spoke Spanish to all the customers. Swoon.

Why have we waited so long to feel the salsa love once more?

DSC_0374Try it. You’ll like it. But I warn you…it’s so good it kindof ruins the store bought variety. So maybe you don’t want to live outside the jar. Never mind, YES YOU DO!

The OM-Goodness I Can’t Stop Eating This Salsa

  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Onion (yellow or red)
  • 1/2 Bunch Cilantro
  • 3 Romas
  • 1 Jalepeno (or more if you like spicy!)
  • Salt to taste (I like salty)

Directions:

Put all ingredients in the blender and give it a whirl for about 30 seconds. We like this particular salsa just blended. It’s not chunky, but it’s not one uniform paste. You can add or take away water depending on thickness preference. You can add more jalepeno for more spice. Too spicy? Add another roma. Don’t like cilantro? What???

Very easy, very fresh, very tasty.

Enjoy!

 

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The End of Summer and Start of School (woo-wee!)

The night before school required one more trip to the water…unnamed-2 We were a wee bit excited!

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Woo-hoo! (why are my pictures fuzzy? I must have been jumping, too.)
unnamed-1Mama, the water is cold….! I love how kids never seem to mind those minor details
unnamed-10And just like that, the sun set on summer. We turned toward a new school year, which always requires a new mindset and is always epic in its own way. The Professor and I looked at each: “I wonder what’s going to happen this year.

The next morning the alarm sounded in the children’s bedroom…beep, beep, beep. Horrifying noise.

Paige was most excited about packing her lunch because her mother had bought her a YumBox! The Professor rolled his eyes. “What is this, lunch boxes of the rich and famous?” Hey, I it was reasonably priced ($20 with a coupon,) and a justified purchase as packing a lunch no longer requires non-recyclable plastic bags (and maybe because it was just so super cute!)

unnamed-6 And now I become one of those parents who post pictures of their child’s school lunch. Hey, I get it now – it’s fun!

IMG_1778Paige thinks cutting up little pieces of food is FUN. She practically skips around the kitchen.

Sadly, after I bought one for Brynne, she chickened out: “Mom, I’m in sixth grade! I can’t bring a Yumbox.” Sigh.

IMG_1776Food groups. FUN.

I’m stopping now.

 

unnamed-9The next morning, only two of our kiddies were going to school. We have entered a new era.

unnamed-8I told the boy to stand by his sisters. “Ha ha ha…you have to go to school.” Aren’t brothers the best? Just you wait, Nellie, your time is coming and ninth grade ain’t no walk in the park!unnamed-7

Always my favorite picture…we’re holding this hand TIGHT. It’s the last hand. The sixth grader had already dashed off! But she still gives me kisses.

unnamed-3Meanwhile, the new high schooler cashed his paycheck to buy some preppy clothes. #landsend

unnamed-5And he made his own duct tape keyboard case for his iPad. Do you think he’ll get beat up? (kidding!) Love his creativity. He sure loves me taking his picture.

Happy new school year.

xo.

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To Kim, the Young Mom Who Inspired Me

It’s been a great summer. We’ve traveled to foreign lands, gathered for sweet reunions, and swum and swam the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans blue.

We’ve soaked up summer, swimming at the local lake every day, and eating too much ice-cream. It’s been glorious.

Among all the great and grand adventures, something very ordinary occurred in my home that had a tremendous impact on me. Kim, this one’s for you.

In July my dear sister-in-law, Kim, and her husband, Glenn, (my husband’s brother, and my awesome marathon buddy!) traveled all the way from Saudi Arabia with their four young children: Tate and Finn ages 6 and 4, and Kenna and Taryn, 6-month-old twin girls.

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Ah, I’m obsessed with the twins.

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Let me eat your foot.

What it’s like to live in Saudi Arabia deserves it’s own post. It’s been hard, especially for Kim who is not allowed to drive and has to dress as according to local custom, every time she leaves the Aramco compound. Fresh fruit and vegetables, flour, mascara – what’s that?

Coming back to the U.S. required all sorts of documentation, planning, and luggage (the baby formula alone could feed a small zoo). It was quite dizzying what they accomplished.

Kim, super mother to four delightful children, arrived at our front door very very sick with strep throat.

A few days later, (after rudely sleeping in whilst my guests had been up with babies throughout the night and had fixed their own breakfast,) I stumbled downstairs to say good morning. I found my kitchen entirely too clean, with warm, fluffy pancakes awaiting me (their marital teamwork is impressive!). Glenn was even sweeping the floor.

Kim was at the kitchen table with 6-year-old, Tate. He had a pencil and a workbook. He was writing his letters, carefully focusing on each swirl and twirl of the alphabet, while his mother balanced twins on her lap, patiently pointing at the paper, redirecting when Tate became distracted by a fly, and encouraging when necessary (often.)

I was so struck by this scene.

I could see myself, years earlier, at the kitchen table with my oldest child, Cope: when summer was long and hot, when we had endless hours stretched out before us, when we had a schedule that required no driving to activities. Back then I was stricter about things like bedtime and television (only Saturday mornings)!

Every morning in the summer we read, we wrote, we learned all the notes on the piano. And every day, desperate for entertainment, we took a very slow walk and had a very long bath.

After writing, Kim followed Tate, and I followed Kim, to the piano. I witnessed this mother, a younger (and idealized) version of myself, patiently teaching her child how to play. When he complained, she paused and said she would wait until he was ready. She didn’t yell or take away all his stuffed animals (ala Tiger Mother!) She just waited until he was ready.

I could practically see Tate’s brain and all his synapses connecting as he concentrated. He was so earnest. His little hands splayed out, connecting each finger to a note on the piano. He played his scales and then moved on to Old McDonald Had a Farm. When he nailed the song, his pleasure filled the whole house.

“Watch this, Auntie,” he said to me, grinning.

I felt a pang of…guilt…mixed with inspiration and resolve. I thought of my Paige, the youngest child. Was she was getting the same kind of mothering her older siblings received? Or have I gotten too busy?

It wasn’t that the early days of mothering were simpler or easier. In many ways it was harder, with younger children to look after, a house that always needed cleaning, 12 dorm boys to “mother,” and constant fatigue from not enough sleep. But the difference is we were less busy outside the home. And I admit it, I was more diligent about some things – like printing up all the American Red Cross swim guidelines so I could teach Cope and Nelson how to swim all the strokes and float with their clothes on for two minutes. Now? Ah geez, who can I hire???

Like most families, the youngest child has a very different life then her older siblings. This week, for instance, Paige happily came to preseason soccer practice everyday while I coached. She swung on swings, wandered the playground.

The life of younger siblings life most often means being dragged to this and that. It’s life in the car and waiting. I’m not saying it’s all bad. Life is good for her, but it’s just different. Maybe this is how youngest children get spoiled; parents feel guilty about not teaching them how to clean a bathroom so they reward them with iPads. Am I totally off base here?

As far as summer goes, I’m very anti-commitment. I resent camps, clubs, lessons, and anything that requires driving. We don’t participate in much. Summer is for us, because just wait. School will start and we will go, go, go.

And sometimes I worry that the little one is not getting the best of me.

Oh, we still have charts, a “zone” chore wheel, one on one time, but mustering up the discipline to sit down and be still and teach letters has waned. My older children  have moved on, and in many ways I’ve gone with them. It’s so exciting, to be busy with freshman orientation, ocean classroom, and gasp – dating! In addition, a mother has dreams of her own…writing, running, pursuing…it’s hard to know what to forego and for how long.

I’ve already done the Arthur puzzles a thousand times. I can’t get excited about High-Ho Cheerio. There’s also the  “been there, done that.” I’ve outgrown play dates and learning circles.

And yet, the littles need it. Does it really matter that I’m bored?

How easy it is not do that hard, mundane “stuff” of teaching the younger ones, as if they’ll just magically pick up “how to fold the laundry” on their own.  I now understand how “the baby” of the family often has a vastly different parent than the older ones had. Why the baby doesn’t have his or her own scrapbook. Was mom and dad just too tired to take the pictures?

Like, l totally get why my younger brothers got everything they wanted (they’ll recall it differently, ha! :))

I remember someone telling me that we had to be careful as our children became older, that we didn’t neglect the younger ones. At the time I thought it a ridiculous statement. If anything, it was the babies that took my attention. The older ones became independent while I was nursing and changing diapers. But now I understand. It’s too easy to get lazy, to feel tired, to stop parenting.

Young, new mothers might not understand that their example is every bit important as more “veteran” mothers.  As new moms, we often think we have no idea what we’re doing. But we do know! It’s instinct. It’s maternal. It comes. We know what we need to do. How great it is, this two-way street of learning between mothers at all stages.

I called my other sister-in-law, Jill, to tell her about this revelation, of watching Kim work with Tate and how I needed to buckle down with Paige, to read and write and do more math. Jill, the mother of four girls said, “I KNOW! I THOUGHT THE SAME THING!”

Kim, we all want to be like you :)

So, as I look towards fall, I know that life isn’t going to stop. We still have to drive, deliver and pick up children from here and there. We’re not giving up soccer practice or going to school or parent-teacher conferences or the grocery store. But I’ve also concluded that there also has to be more “No” for the better “Yes.” There has to be those Nine Minutes. After that we can go back to benevolent neglect (kidding!).

And gee, wasn’t my “baby” Paige thrilled when I told her we were going to read and write everyday just like we talked about at the beginning of the summer and then didn’t do so well because we went to Europe (see, life is HARD :). We were going to make music together and she wasn’t going to love it every second, but like my mother always said, “like that has anything to do with it.” (Thanks, mom!) Also, we were going to do MATH!

Paige only THINKS she detests math. She whined and complained, but this newly inspired mother wasn’t giving in. And just this morning, after weeks of working hard together, Paige showed me her math score: 100%. She was beaming. That my friends, is called self-esteem: doing the hard things and the right things because they have to get done. It makes you feel mighty good about yourself.

This whole scenario reminded me of the expression, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That might be true. But you certainly can remind the old dog of the tricks she already knows. And I’m happy to report, it comes back pretty easily.

To all you tired, new mothers who don’t sleep much, who are a little wide-eyed from this great adventure called motherhood, who don’t think you know what you’re doing: you do know. keep inspiring us older dogs. We need you more than you know.

And dear Kimmy, thank you <3

I'm sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I'm trying to pay better attention :)

I’m sorry, Tate, for burning your hot dog. I’m trying to pay better attention :)

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The Delicious Blueberry Peach Smoothie

Hello friends! After an unexpected (and very fun) trip to San Diego (much to tell!) I’m back in blogging action with a seasonal, easy, and delicious smoothie for you. It might give you so much energy you’ll want to go climb a mountain. Or at least be able to think about what to make for dinner.DSC_0189Here she is, the Blueberry Peach Smoothie. What a natural beauty.

DSC_0118After seven years of barren bushes our blueberries are finally bursting. Remember: good things come to those who wait. I time our vacations around blueberry season. I’m only kindof kidding.

DSC_0183We’ve eaten so many blueberries, our whole family is practically one fat blueberry. So that’s how we’ll start our smoothie – put ’em in the blender – especially the droopy and less desirable ones.

DSC_0185Now let us turn our attention to the peach, also in season at the moment. Is this a dreamy life we live or what? It makes me almost forget New Hampshire winters. One year I canned them and we enjoyed peaches in the middle of February, making New Hampshire life bearable. Alas, I have not been so ambitious since.

DSC_0366Cut peaches up, using white or golden varieties. I’m particularly obsessed with the white peach at the moment. Peaches are perfect in the smoothie because I cannot eat them with the skin on – to me, taking a bite of fuzz is akin to nails sliding down a chalkboard. You with me? DSC_0040  But now, we need some protein and fat that won’t upset the peach and blueberry taste. I went for avocado. Don’t freak out, just do as I say. Avocados hardly have any taste in a smoothie except to make it creamy and delicious. How to get the avocado into the blender? Just squeeze it out – it’s so easy! You can add the pitt if you’re feeling super nutritious and your blender can handle it (but I’ve never added the avocado skins.)

DSC_0134We just need one more eensy-weensy vegetable. We have a lot of carrots at the moment.DSC_0185 How about this one???DSC_0230 We grew funky carrots, but any old ones will do. We wash, but don’t peel. Throw carrots into blender and you’ve got yourself a smoothie!

Blueberry Peach Smoothie

  • 1-2 Cups Water
  • 1-2 Cups Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 Peaches
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1-2 Carrots
  • 1 Cup Ice-Cubes (if you like it cold!)

That’s it. Drink up and enjoy!

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The Last of the Great Adventure: Normandy and Paris

This is it – the last “trip of a lifetime” post! Congratulations on making it this far with me; you’re a true pal. With just four days left, this is how we saw France:

After leaving England at 10:45 pm via the English Channel, we arrived in France at 6:30 a.m. Our spirits could only be lifted with a chocolate croissant, which the French do very well. We disembarked The Brittany and embarked on a 30-minute bus ride to Caen. (This took tons of planning and rearranging; trying to figure out how to get to Normandy. Did we do it correctly?)IMG_0947Here we are waiting for our train to Bayoux. As you can see, we look stunningly beautiful after an all-nighter across the English Channel. Yes, definitely one of my better shots.

IMG_0592We boarded the train and headed to Bayoux, a most beautiful part of France. We had a breakfast of ham and cheese quiche; very different than our usual fare.

Stopping at Normandy was definitely a highlight of the whole trip. We debated whether or not to pay for a tour guide, but are very glad we did. Charlie was excellent.

DSC_0996This is Omaha Beach. What a gorgeous part of the world!

DSC_0990Much of this Omaha Beach memorial is just as it was in WWII, with underground and overground bunkers built by the Germans. Just this week we watched Unbroken. Seeing these pictures again reminds me think of all the young men killed, fighting against Hitler and his evil regime.DSC_1007Hitler was building a great wall down the coast. What humanity does to this world is often heartbreaking. “Unfortunately,” Charlie said, “It’s what the human race does.”DSC_1068The American memorial in Normandy is incredibly moving. It was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and was the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site is 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.

“On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.”

IMG_0565The dead were buried as they arrived. Charlie told us the story of the Bedford brothers from Virginia, both of whom died within days of each other at Omaha Beach. The story of their parents receiving the telegrams made us teary. I kept thinking of my grandpa. He and his six brothers all served in WWII. His brother Keith was on this very beach.

The last time I saw my grandpa, I mentioned how remarkable it was that all seven brothers came back alive. He looked off into the Utah sky and said, “Yep, that was really something.” Seeing this place was very emotional for us.

DSC_1045DSC_1049“Some must die so others might live.” – Winston Churchill, prime minister of the UKDSC_1017A lookout for the Germans. The whole story of the D-Day invasion is incredible as the U.S. was the underdog for this particular invasion. The Germans had a huge advantage as you can see from the above picture; the coastline is completely exposed, making a sneak-attack near impossible. How we were successful is miraculous. The sacrifice was high.

Our 9:15-1:15 tour flew by. I definitely recommend it; it’s unforgettable.

DSC_0008While in Bayeux, Cope HAD to see the Bayeux Tapestry, IMG_0943 The tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.

According to Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, “The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque … Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous … Its exceptional length, the harmony and freshness of its colors, its exquisite workmanship, and the genius of its guiding spirit combine to make it endlessly fascinating.”

By this time it was late afternoon. We were hot, tired, and exhausted. We caught a 6:30 p.m. train to Paris (a 2-hour journey which was heavenly; we love the train!) From the train station we have to get on the subway. The Paris subway system will prove to be the most difficult. It’s complicated and yes, all the announcements and people speak in French!

This is also the first time we use the airbnb, a site where people list their rentals. We arrive at our apartment at 10p.m. It’s dark and the neighborhood is sketchy. We don’t speak the language. A heat wave is just about to hit the city.

I wearily say, “This is such an adventure.”

“I’m ready for this adventure to be over,” Cope says.

IMG_0672Our apartment, rented to us by Armelle, turns out to be a great place to rest. We sleep until 9 a.m., pose by our French apartment window, make a plan for the day (PSG soccer stadium, the Louvre, and boat tour off the Pont Neuf). We are off to Paris by 11 a.m. DSC_0219_2There were three keys to get into our apartment; this one was our favorite.

IMG_0600Making a plan the night before proved to be very smart. Luckily, we had the internet.DSC_0112_2A boat tour off Pont Neuf (thank you, Dave Flemming!) was a great way to travel down the Seine River. Like the Taimes, you can get off and see the sites you want.

Here’s something I learned while traveling: Play to your strengths, but challenge your weaknesses. For me, this meant not being afraid to try new things, like getting around on the subway in a foreign country, or using euros, or asking questions when I thought it was a stupid question. Being afraid will hold you back; you really have to make an effort to learn. To get the most out of an experience like this, it’s easy to coast and do what sounds easiest, like letting others do all the navigating. We tried to ask our kids a lot of questions like, “How would you get back to the apartment from here?” and “Here are some euros. Go buy us breakfast.”

This was scary! But our richest experiences were often harder ones.

DSC_0103_2DSC_0091_2DSC_0087_2DSC_0153_2Our Paris experience was hard. Our enthusiasm waned as we were tired from days and days of travel and the 104 heat wave that decided to hit the city.DSC_0152_2IMG_0691This was cool. Cope informed us that the Seine was the same river in which Javert jumped to his death. Yes, these are the facts that keep our life interesting.DSC_0083_2The famous “love locks” were removed from the Pont de l’Archeveche because of the great weight they were adding to the bridge. The locks moved to a different bridge. You write your name on the lock and throw the key into the river, locking your love in Paris.

DSC_0077_2We walked and walked the city, admiring the century-old architecture.DSC_0030_2Notre DameDSC_0026_2Never in our life were we so grateful for water. It was SO hot.DSC_0040_2Outside Notre Dame, the flowers bloomed gorgeousDSC_0044_2DSC_0038_2We were particularly fascinated by the gargoyles atop Notre Dame, remembering the story of Quasimoto.DSC_0035_2More Notre Dame. The details!DSC_0058_2When in Paris, may I suggest a crepe?DSC_0206_2With little time remaining, we arrived at the Louvre. I had NO IDEA how gigantic it was. Unfortunately, we had to catch the last subway back to our apartment and did not get a tour of the famed museum. I hope there will someday be another trip to Paris and Mona Lisa.IMG_0649IMG_0655The sun sets above The Seine RiverDSC_0222_2The next day was a tour of the Victor Hugo museum, where Hugo began writing Les Miserables.DSC_0223_2IMG_0683DSC_0224_2IMG_0572Now let us turn our attention to the pastries.DSC_1080DSC_1081DSC_1079IMG_0605IMG_0611PSG stadium. What I most remember is eating the best olive pie pastry of my life. Priorities :)IMG_0603On the subway, an accordion player played his tunes – and asked for money, of course.

IMG_0675The Arc de Triomphe de l’ÉtoileIMG_0645During a 30-minute subway delay, we did wall sits for entertainment.IMG_0705By the end, I was holding on to Paige’s backpackIMG_0688Nellie carries his sister home.

Our Paris adventure was short, but memorable. Someday, I’d love to go back. There is so much history, so much of the world; it will take a lifetime to see just a portion of it!

IMG_0723Passports in hand, we headed to the airport.IMG_0717An 8-hour flight brought us back to the United States, where we landed in Phoenix, Arizona for a family reunion!

I’m hitting publish before editing. Please forgive the mistakes…

How great it was to have this adventure. How empowering it is to find your way in a foreign land. How bonding it is for a family to travel together, get lost, consult, and find their way back. Onward to the next life adventure…!

 

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Hello, Mates! What Happened in England.

We landed in London after a 2-hour flight from Bilbao, Spain. A plane flight was just as cheap as the train and saved us a day of travel.

Cope, our great English history buff, could hardly tolerate our newly acquired English accents, and refused to speak to us if we spoke that way in public. This of course just made speaking in an English accent that much more fun!

It was a bit of a headache trying to figure out how to get around London. We eventually bought “Oyster Cards,” which you load money on and swipe every time you get on a bus or subway. We finally figured out where we were going (a travel lodge 30 minutes from the city). Of course it would have been more convenient to stay right in the center of London, but alas, that’s what budgets are for. And again, the GPS was essential!

If you’re ever in London, here are some highlights:

IMG_0324Ah, “The Prospect of Whitby” (said with an English accent!), the oldest riverside inn in London. Back in the 1500s it was a real pirates den. Very exciting.

IMG_0328Dominick and Danielle are great travel buffs and friends of my husband. It had been over 20 years since they had seen each other, when Dominick was a camp counselor with Gregor. At 19, Dominick dove off a New Hampshire pier and was paralyzed from the chest down. D&D are amazingly optimistic and even with Dominick in a wheelchair they travel everywhere! Dominick says Paris is terribly behind for disabled access and America is exceptional. IMG_0327Fish and Chips and “mushy peas.” Just as tasty as it sounds :)
DSC_0843Outside The Prospect of Whitby, is the Thames River (pronounced “Tems.”) The kids went outside with Danielle and another mate to hunt for treasure – because you never know when the crown jewels are going to wash ashore…DSC_0851 We brought home some beautiful sea glass from the banks of The Thames.DSC_0853 Paige and Brynne said this part of the trip “was the best part ever!”, which just goes to show, you don’t have to be fancy nancy to have fun!DSC_0836 The gallows still hangs outside the famous pub. IMG_0337 Look at that…the pub was built during the reign of King Henry VIII. Awesome sauce.IMG_0323 IMG_0429 In London, you best convert your dollars and euros into pounds. We also had to remember that paying by pounds meant almost double in American currency.

IMG_0315I wouldn’t want to give the impression that traveling is all fun and games. Oh no, this is just one of many moments of waiting for the bus. We also had a bit of a laundry issue as the travel lodge did not have machines and we were in desperate need of a real wash. We eventually found a laundromat owned by a muslim who did not speak English, but we communicated by nodding and pointing. While we waited, Nelson had a haircut next door in the fashion of Ronaldo.IMG_0322 IMG_0445Just a different take on “pole dancing.”
IMG_0310Ugh. Figuring the subway out…

We decided to see the city of London by river cruise, which lets you on and off to see the sites (travel tip: ask your friends for advice. There are so many ways to save money and see the world if you ask the right people.)

DSC_0704We started at the famed London Tower. We really wanted to go in, but had already been through a castle in Spain and getting all six of us into everything was expensive. Instead, we listened to Cope tell tales of torture, of the three queens who were beheaded at the tower (including Anne Bolyn), and how the two sons of Elizabeth and Edward were kept here and mysteriously disappeared – it remains a great mystery today. You may want to consider bringing Cope along as your English tour guide.

DSC_0701Zowie. London knows how to do a bridge. Sailing down the Thames.

DSC_0927 The Parliament building, where the architecture is exquisitely stunning.DSC_0745

DSC_0969 A WWII war shipDSC_0964 DSC_0960 DSC_0955Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where live theatre is performed outdoors just as it was in Shakespeare’s day. Next time: see a play.DSC_0936 The great London “eye,” where you can see all of London.IMG_0488 The Thames at duskIMG_0466 A closer look at the Parliament buildingDSC_0899 IMG_0231 A panoramic view of London

IMG_0288Taxi!DSC_0777How Cheesy, can you get, right? I wish we’d tried a little harder for a Christmas card moment…IMG_0249Isn’t The Professor a good sport? I make him do these things and he loves me :) DSC_0790 London’s upkeep and cleanliness of WWII memorials and monuments is so impressive, especially given the 8 million residents and millions of visitors every year.

IMG_0222 DSC_0903The inside of Westminster is closed the first day we visit. Cope vows to get in – “it’s the one thing I have to see! Do you know how many queens and kings are buried there? ”
IMG_0471The outdoor gardens are spectacular.IMG_0352 DSC_0904 DSC_0765 IMG_0255A visit to “Number 10” (10 Downing Street) to visit the prime minister. The place is heavily guarded. And no, we don’t see the prime minister. We’ll have to reschedule.

DSC_0805Next, onward to Buckingham palace to get a look at the queen. We hope to run into Kate and William, too.DSC_0801 We don’t see them either, but we surely admire the taxi cabs in London – so cute!DSC_0802IMG_0938

A tribute to Princess Diana
IMG_0232London loves its Churchill

IMG_0462And we love our Jack Minister! Jack played basketball for The Professor once upon a time, went on to play college ball, and now plays professionally in England. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He has this great English accent and came down two hours from “Manchestuh” to see us. What a treat to see Jack again!

This is how we talk to Jack:

“It’s jolly good to see you, mate – have a great holiday!”

“Ah, rubbish!”

“I wouldn’t recommend it; it’s real dodgy.”

“Fancy that!”

Cope was merely tolerating us.

DSC_0887We went with Jack to Churchill’s War Rooms, a war time bunker that tells the story of Churchill and his legacy. This is the bunker from which Churchill ran the war.DSC_0884Churchill said of the British airmen: Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day, but we must never forget that all the time, night after night, month after month, our bomber squadrons travel far into Germany, find their targets in the darkness by the highest navigational skill, aim their attacks, often under the heaviest fire, often with serious loss, with deliberate, careful discrimination, and inflict shattering blows upon the whole of the technical and war-making structure of the Nazi power…”
IMG_0403An English garden  IMG_0385One afternoon we found ourselves in the middle of a giant parade and some street dance.IMG_0358When in London, you have to go to Hamley’s Toy Store, right? The kids overheard a frustrated father say: “Put it down, you silly sod!” and thought it was so hilarious they haven’t stopped saying it. Also, in London, people watch “the telly” and everything is “lovely” – unless it’s “rubbish” or “bloody awful.” I’ve really taken to the word, “bloody” and Paige tells me to stop swearing :)

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On Sunday morning we attended an 11 a.m. Eucharist service at St. Paul’s cathedral. It was Anglican, very much like a Catholic mass. The boy’s choir was exceptional. The whole serve was absolutely beautiful. I definitely recommend it.

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And it’s definitely in poor taste to take a photo…(we paparazzi have no shame.)

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The Book of Mormon musical is huge in London. My brother described it as “crass, hysterical, irreverent, and surprisingly touching.” Someday I’ll have to see the show. Our last day we had only a few hours. Cope HAD to see the inside of Westminster, but the others HAD to see Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4. What to do?

We split up.

Cope hopped on the subway all by herself (with no working phone!) and found her buried queens in Westminster. In the mean time, we found Harry’s platform (and it was actually free.)

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The gift shop was not free…but never mind, it was very fun! Paige desperately wanted a Hermione wand and was willing to spend her entire fortune ($33) on it. We made her wait until we arrived in the U.S. and could order from Amazon; this was not nearly as exciting as bringing home a Hermione wand from London.

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From there we had to hustle (as in sprint with those backpacks on our back) to meet Cope at 11:45, hop on a subway, and get across town to our 12:30 bus. We couldn’t find Cope. After a closed subway train reroute, crowds galore, great stress and mayhem, we were finally reunited and made it to the bus stop at exactly 12:31. Whew. We sunk down in our seats with relief.

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Good-bye, London! A 2-hour bus trip from London put us in a beautiful seacoast town called Portsmouth. We bought some groceries, ate pizza, ate a most delicious English scone, and visited the home of Charles Dickens:

IMG_0939 IMG_0689 At 10:45pm we loaded The Brittany, a giant boat, for an overnight excursion across the English Channel. How charming and exciting it seemed! Crossing the English Channel by boat also saved a hotel cost.

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It was very Titanic-ish. We observed the life boats and made bets as to who would live longest if the boat capsized. The darlings said I would die first because of my great intolerance of cold water. I disagreed with that assessment :)

The idea of crossing at night only seems more romantic than the reality. At 11 pm the lights went out. Our beds were big movie-theatre-style chairs. So if you can sleep upright, listening to other people sleep and snore, no problem. Gregor plugged himself into iTunes, listening to “bi-neural brain waves.” I however, had to change my miserable and tired mindset to, “This is a great adventure!” It kindof worked.

At 5:30 am the lights came on and just like that we were in Cain, France. Cheerio!

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What to See and Eat in Spain

Espana, we love you! Of the three countries we visited, Spain was our favorite. I think this had everything to do with being fresh into our adventure and excited to embark. Also, we were able to communicate (Gregor is fluent and I can get by) and we had a very comfortable place to lay our heads.

We spent 5 days in Spain and I’m in no way an expert. Our short journey is just one way to go about Spain. There are hundreds of routes, cities and towns, people, and places to see of course. This was our short walk through pieces of beautiful Espana that I hope inspires you to get packin’ for a foreign land!

unnamed-52 We did not venture into Pamplona to run with the bulls, but the tradition is alive and well!

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After an 8-hour layover in New York, followed by an overnight flight to Spain, we were left a wee bit fatigued. We had a civil family discussion about being kind to one another, and how important it would be to get along on our “once in a lifetime trip.”

Nelson was suffering from poison ivy and a subsequent staph infection. We gave him many besos (kisses) and he rallied.

We also talked about euros and how that translated to American dollars and the kids’ precious spending money.unnamed-1

The first stop: Madrid! Europe has the most stunning architecture. We ditched our bags at our hotel and hit the city, meeting up with Gregor’s high school friend, Tony. He took us to Nelson’s dream destination: Estadio Bernabeu, home of Real Madrid, where Nelson’s soccer idol, Ronaldo plays! Barcelona, home of Lionel Messi, had to be nixed due to travel.

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We watched some amateur soccer and Nelson decided he would continue to pursue his dream of playing professionally :)

unnamed-2 We walked around the capital, taking pictures like good American tourists.unnamed-3

We loved Madrid. It was so clean and not very crowded.

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When in Madrid, visit Mercado de San Miguel, a delicious market. We loved hearing The Professor negotiate en español. The kids and I tried buying food speaking Spanish. It was…funny. There was a lot of pointing.

unnamed-5 When en España: eat the olives. Muy, muy buenas!unnamed-6 And the fresh oysters. They tasted just like the ocean, fresher than fresh!unnamed-51 Oh, eat the cheese (queso), too. Oh, the cheese. unnamed-40 Like all cities, there were the homeless. This is always hard to witness, as so many of us are blessed with so much.unnamed-8 The Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Again, the architecture was incredible. Hundreds of years old.

Tony and wife, Myriam hosted us to a 9:00pm balcony dinner, spanish style, at sunset. The majority of Spanish residents live in apartments. I felt grateful to have my home in America, a HUGE residence in comparison to how much of the world lives, but it was also appealing to think of living more simply in a small apartment in Europe where everything feels like a miniature version of what we have, especially kitchens and bathrooms.

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Myriam served us homemade Spanish tortilla (my favorite) and small slices of prosciutto, and chicken wings (apparently The Professor and Tony ate a lot of them in high school.) We can’t wait for them to visit us this August in New Hampshire! We were in bed at midnight, dead tired from jet lag, and slept until 10 a.m. the next day.

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The next day was more Madrid. We admired this Tree Man. Very artsy, no?
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unnamed-26Paige didn’t have money, so she gave her new friend some cookies. He didn’t have teeth, but accepted anyway.

When in Madrid, I highly recommend Museo Nacional del Prado (The Prado Museum). Pictures are a big no-no, but I snapped this one of an artist recreating the famous Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress, an oil on canvas portrait of Margaret Theresa of Spain by the Spanish painter Diego Velázquez. The Professor was thankful I didn’t get us kicked out.

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“The three routes around the galleries feature major masterpieces of European art such as The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Christ washing the Disciples’ Feet by Tintoretto, The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch, and The Three Graces by Rubens. They also include key works of Spanish art such as Las Meninas by Velázquez, Jacob’s Dream by Ribera and The Third of May: the Executions on Príncipe Pío by Goya.”

SO COOL.

unnamed-54This was an incredible reunion. After more than 20 years apart, Gregor got in touch (thank you, Facebook), with a mission companion, Roberto, who lives in Spain. They made plans to meet outside The Prado. I saw Roberto walking toward us. As soon as he saw Gregor, he began to run, sprinting up the stairs and grabbing hold of the The Professor for a bear-hug embrace. It seemed very Spanish-like; no hand shakes – we kiss and hug in Spain! There was laughter and there were tears. It may well have been the most meaningful moment of the whole trip.

I could not understand much of what they were saying, but I did get that Gregor referred to me as “the paparazzi.” Roberto laughed, and later wrote to Gregor, thanking him for “the paparazzi photos.” Now that he has them, he said, they will always remind him of this special moment.

So there. Take pictures!

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Until we meet again, Brother

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After 2 days and 1 night in Madrid, we traveled 30 minutes to Segovia by high-speed train. Eyes wide, we wearily walked to our apartment, courtesy of Hogwarts and its overseas program.

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On the way we passed the famous Aqueduct. This is how Rome brought water to Segovia. unnamed-49

unnamed-15Our apartment overlooked the Plaza Mayor in Segovia. We loved Segovia. We all agreed we wanted to move there. The kids fell asleep watching Zorro in Spanish.

unnamed-25Churros y chocolate for breakfast at 10 a.m. It was delicious but truthfully, I felt a little ill. I was starting to miss my green smoothies :)

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unnamed-17Have I mentioned the pastries?

unnamed-18As for other fare, we often ate bread, cheese, and chorizo for breakfast and lunch, supplementing with fruit from local markets. Delicioso.

unnamed-36unnamed-19Panorama view of The Aqueduct, which brings water to Segovia from a mountain 11 miles away. If you ever go to Spain, I highly suggest Segovia! It has a very small-town, authentic feel and isn’t as crowded as bigger cities. We were so lucky we had perfect the weather the entire trip.
unnamed-20“Isn’t that amazing, that Rome brought water to Segovia? How good of them.” I opined. Gregor laughed and referred to the menacing pig/boar/she-wolf(?) statue above which has small monkeys drinking from her. Translation: we conquered you. we own you.

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Me and my Spanish lover.

unnamed-22Outside a Spanish castle. Paige said, “look, it’s a Nephite!” Of course he asked for money after this picture was taken. “How you say?” he said. “I’m a freelancer.” I had to smile (and tip!)
unnamed-24 unnamed-23Segovian Castle

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unnamed-55The tower where I would put my naughty children as I overlooked my kingdom.

unnamed-30I was constantly surprised and awed at the abundance of religious and Christian themes represented in painting, glass, statues, and sculptures. Incredible beauty.unnamed-46 Future kings and queens in their castle…

unnamed-28After the castle it was time to get on a bus. Paige surrounded by Spanish speakers.

unnamed-32After three glorious days in Segovia we boarded the high speed train (love them, very clean and quiet) and took a nap. A couple hours later we were in San Sebastian, Spain.

unnamed-31This was an amazing moment for Gregor as he told the kids about stepping on this same platform twenty years ago as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “I stood here over twenty years ago and thought about what my life would be like. In many ways this is where my life started. The experiences I had here were preparing me for fatherhood.” It was in Spain, on his mission, that The Professor decided he wanted to be a teacher.

unnamed-58Beautiful, beautiful San Sebastian.unnamed-56May I suggest a honeymoon here? ( We WILL be coming back!) So, I’d heard of topless beaches, but I’d never actually experienced it. After our mouths dropped open and Nelson’s face turned a more normal shade of pink, we adjusted. I was surprised by my conclusion. Topless was not a sexual thing here; it was just normal. Many, many children were completely naked, just swimming free and easy! (jealous!)

All shapes and sizes of bodies were comfortable just hanging out. I was pretty fascinated by the mothers, especially one who sat completely exposed with her three naked children, one of them coming over to have a drink now and then. I took quite a few (tasteful!) pictures, but decided that this PG blog might not be able to handle it :)

unnamed-57Brynne and Paige loved San Sebastian and absolutely did not want to leave. Best water ever. Not like ice-cold New England ocean water. They would have been happy here the rest of the trip.

unnamed-39It was fascinating to learn about politics and the Basque people.

unnamed-42The “Combs of the Winds”unnamed-41 The Spanish Dons (totally my interpretation :)

unnamed-29The Professor spent almost a full day trying to find Menchu, a woman he grew very close to many years ago. There is a documentary on her.
unnamed-35 unnamed-44 unnamed-43 The darlings waited sunburned on a bench as dad went for dinner.

unnamed-38Success! This is a donner kebab, not Spanish, but tasty.unnamed-50 Dancing in the streetunnamed-48 Cool doorknobsunnamed-45 The San Sebastian Cathedralunnamed-37 John Green is popular in Spain too.

After San Sebastian, we boarded a bus for Bilbao, passing through picturesque Idaho-like countryside. Lots of sheep. We ate a dinner of roasted chicken and Spanish tortilla. The next morning we awoke for an early flight, slipping into slightly damp clothes from the previous night’s washing. We were a bit grumpy and sunburned. We split up to take two taxis to the airport (pricey!) and ate a breakfast of bread and chorizo (Spanish sausage) in the airport at which point Cope said, “You know, I don’t ever need to eat this again.” Yeah, we had gotten to the overdose point.

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The kids played Ninja in the airport, Cope in her pants purchased at a Spanish market. I read Kate Atkinson’s, When Will There Be Good News? Terrific writing, a bit depressing in an English-author way. It readied me for our next destination.

After a two hour flight we were here…all speaking in our perfect English accents.unnamed-33

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How to Travel to Europe With Kids

Hello from Madrid!

Hello from Madrid!

Hello darlings! We are back from a great adventure that took all six of us to Spain, England, and France. It was incredible, hard, wonderful, and now a bit surreal. After my 1300+ picture download, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’ve ever wanted to travel abroad with the family, here are some things that made our trip fun, less stressful, economical, and very tasty.

Planning Tips:

Democratic voting: Ten months ago we started discussing our summer adventure. One idea was to go to Canada and watch all the women’s world cups games. In the end we decided that if we had one “trip of a lifetime” it would be to Europe. Since Paige has Grace, the American Girl, the only place she cared about seeing was Paris. Check. :)

Saving: Traveling across the ocean to foreign countries is expensive. We would not have even considered european travel had we not been given “summer enrichment” money from our Hogwarts. In the past, a faculty member was given a whole year sabbatical. We used to dream about spending a whole year in Spain, but summer travel was the second best option. Even with “summer enrichment funds,” we still had to plan carefully, research flight deals and the best and least expensive housing options. Is european travel possible with kids? YES. But it does require a lot of saving.

How to Start: Once you know where in the world you’re going, order a Rick Steves book. Steves lives four months a year in Europe and makes a living by giving tours, writing books, and maintaining a blog for ordinary people to have a European experience – he KNOWS everything. I wish I had ordered his books sooner and studied more. He is AWESOME.

What to Pack:

One Backpack: Yes, this means you carry your life on your back. Absolutely the best decision we made. One backpack per person. The professor and I had big backpacks that we specially ordered for this trip. Mine is purple. I love it. I’ll use it forever! The kids used school backpacks This is us…do we look like American tourists?

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IMG_5260My backpack has this long strap. Paige held on the entire time and never got lost from mama.

Minimal Clothing: We traveled for two weeks and this is what I would suggest: three outfits (I preferred short, comfortable maxi skirts), three pairs socks and underwear, one pair of shoes, one light sweater, and a swimming suit. I opted for sandals over running shoes because of my skirts. My eldest darling brought three pairs of shoes, but she had to carry them. We often washed our clothes at night and hung them to dry. Only one apartment had a washing machine. We did as the Europeans: washing in the sink and hanging to dry!
unnamed                                  Folded clothes, hand washed the night before, ready to go.

Toiletries: The Professor was of the opinion that we buy when we arrived, but I was very glad to have my own little bottles of familiar shampoo and conditioner. I carried these for the family and we were all allotted nightly pea shapes of shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t bring razors, thinking I wouldn’t get through customs. I should have. True, I was in Europe, but I don’t enjoy feeling like a hairy beast (in a skirt.)

Other Essentials: fingernail clippers, band-aids, earphones (great for that 8-hour flight!), sunglasses, baby wipes, allergy pills, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, hair elastics, gum, chapstick. I was the keeper of these items and kept them in a small sturdy baggie.

Food: I couldn’t bring a lot, but my sandwich baggie of nuts and dried cranberries SAVED me. Until they were gone :(

Camera: Ah, the big debate. To bring the big Nikon or just take pictures with my phone? The Nikon is much higher quality but also requires its own bag. It’s also much heavier. I brought the big camera, wore it around my neck with my credit cards and cash. Worth it? Yes.

Passports: You’ll obviously need them! I suggest having one person carry them in one safe place at all times. The Professor was given this task. He had a special zip pocket in his backpack. Every time they were taken out, they went right back.

Money: Each country has it’s own currency. We dealt with euros and pounds. Familiarize yourself. Bring a credit card, preferably one with an electronic chip. Bring a debit card. Tell your bank you are going so you don’t get cut off. Also, ask your credit card company for a 4-digit pin number. I did due diligence and then left the pin number on my desk at home. Errr.

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Converter: European outlets are not the same as American. You won’t be able to charge your phone, any electronic, blow dryer, curling iron, etc. without a converter. You can buy anywhere, even wal-mart.

Journal: The goal was to have everyone write every night. It didn’t always happen, but we are so glad to have our individual record and perspectives.

journalsJournal writing in a Paris apartment

What I didn’t need

A neck pillow. I brought one but it was so big and bulky, that a child “conveniently” forgot it somewhere in Spain.

A curling iron or blow dryer. Yep, that meant that in every picture I’m wearing a bun and headband. Glamorous? Whatever. I was all about easy.

My computer or iPad. This was hard to leave behind. I wanted to upload pictures at the end of every day. I wanted to journal electronically. Alas, the computer was too heavy. It ended up being the perfect break from technology, and a huge focus on a family experience.

Where to Sleep: Do you want to know exactly where you’ll rest your head every night or wing it? Both have their plusses and minuses. I wanted to plan ahead because we had the whole family and I thought it would keep us moving. Next time? Maybe I’d be more spontaneous! What was really nice was staying in one place for several days; then you don’t have to carry the backpack. We spent one night in a hostal, family style. I’m not sure I’d be too keen to share a room with strangers…IMG_5250

How to Eat: Well, you’re definitely not going to go to American fast food chains, right? Try the local fare! This was probably our most favorite part – the food! With a family, food is pricey at restaurants. We visited local markets and grocery stores almost every day for produce, quality bread, cheese, prosciutto, and olives. We ate A LOT pastries. I’m practically made of butter now. I have sooooo many pictures of food. foodOh, the pastries…our goal was to eat a minimum of one a day :)

How to Get Around the Country: You’ve got a lot of options here. We tried several: plane, ferry, taxi, walk and walk and walk, metro, train, bus. I think the biggest thing is knowing where you’re going and the cheapest and fastest way to get there – unless, traveling slower gives you a better view and experience of the country. bikesI love this picture of mama, baby and groceries – there are a lot of bikes in Europe. So healthy and fun.

subwayOn a subway in Paris, serenaded by an accordion player. After I took this picture he handed me a cup so I could tip him. Everyone wanted a tip!

Maps: The professor was the only one who had cellular coverage and we used Google Maps the entire trip. It was a life saver. Plug in where you want to go and it will tell you what metro or bus to use. There are some great apps out there that we learned about only after our trip. Here The Professor works on our itinerary before we head out for the day. I was soooo glad we had him. His navigation skills are, shall we say, a little more developed than mine :)planning

Keeping Track of Expenses: For my own personal peace of mind, I used Evernote to record every single thing we spent money on. I recorded in euros and pounds, which translated to higher American prices. Recording helps keep you on budget (or just depresses you :). We tried to spend $100 a day, not including lodging, splurging here and there (mostly on food and admission prices), knowing this was our “trip of a lifetime.” Evernote:evernotes

This trip was all about experiencing a foreign world for the first time with our family. We were looking for adventure, bonding, learning, fun, and traveling efficiently and economically. We planned ahead, listing things we wanted to see in every city, but were also flexible. By the end, we were so tired, that Paris didn’t get our full attention.

tired A tired girl after miles of walking with a backpack. Even light backpacks start to feel heavy!

Traveling to Europe for the first time is trial and error. For instance, you can save money using Oyster cards in London or getting Eurorail passes to England or using the ferry on the Thames to see a lot in a little time. There was also a lot of success. No one got sick, broke a leg, or was maimed by a Spanish bull. No one got lost on the subway (my huge fear) or fell in the Seine.

Were we happy we went? Oh yes! Was it relaxing? Not a bit! We guess we averaged 10 miles a day of walking. Our youngest mentioned Hawaii several times (as in, “I want to go lie on the beach and have someone serve me pina coladas”).

We were in very close proximity of one another for two very intense weeks. It’s tiring traveling in a foreign country where everything is, well, foreign. The language, food, customs are all new. This combination can produce frustration and snapping. This trip required A LOT of patience, consideration, and gratitude. Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but I will also say that I was very glad I didn’t have anyone under 8 with me. Paige was an endurance trooper, but we were on the move constantly. Wee ones would have altered our plan drastically.

Upcoming posts on what to see and eat in Spain, England, and France. Adios for now! And it’s so good to be back, writing again. xoxo.

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Can Changing Your Vocabulary Make You Happier?

My friend Eric has ALS.  Just about everything about it is awful. But sometimes we talk about the upsides. For instance, he knows what his family means to him. Life is about experiences together, rather than things. It’s heartbreaking to watch Eric’s physical body slowly stop working, and yet he’s still able to be positive. How does he do it? It has everything to do with his mind.

I’m also a podcast geek.

You may see me out running, pulling weeds, or driving in the car talking to an invisible person, nodding vehemently, or shouting “YES!” I’m likely listening to a podcast; there are just so many people to learn from out there in the world.

A recent favorite was Michael Hyatt’s, Watch Your Mouth. Ka-zaam! It was right in line with everything I’m interested in: being proactive, making better habits, becoming happier. This episode was about changing our vocabulary…which of course comes right from the brain.

As a man thinketh, so is he.

Our words have power. We know they affect others, but do we also realize they affect us? Do we realize our words affect our behavior? Even if we don’t say them out loud?

The mind is a powerful thing. We see the things we want to see and the more we use certain words, the more they become engrained in our brain and actions.

Think Eeyore versus Tigger.

Imagine if we made the mindset shift from “I have to” to “I get to.” I’m convinced our marriages would soar. Our children would smile more. Our families would flourish. Change the family? Change the world.

Using Eric and Hyatt’s list as a guide, here are my personal pitfalls; can you relate?

1. Driving: Eric can’t drive anymore. And he really liked driving his truck. I, on the other hand, view driving back and forth to school, church activities, parties, soccer, etc. as a huge waste of time. However, a mother recently told me she didn’t mind driving her child to school 35-minutes one-way every single day. “I have her undivided attention and she has mine. We don’t have to even look at each other. We just talk – it’s the most quality time we have.” Hmmm. Mindset shift. Instead of, “I have to drive the kids to school,” we could say, “I get to be the last person who says I love you just before he plunges into the middle school wing.” We go from burden to opportunity. (Besides, no driving = no Target! and what kind of life would that be?)

2. Work and School: I recently heard on Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous podcast Happier that people see a huge dip in their happiness on Sunday morning around noon. That’s when we begin to think about the work week ahead. Oh man, I get it. But what if we said, “I get to go to work on Monday and impact kids?” or “I am so lucky I get to go to school. I’m so lucky to get an education.” Ask anyone who’s job hunting or unemployed. They’ll tell you: “You are so lucky to have a job!!!” As a mom working at home, I can say, “I get to get up early and start breakfast, pack lunches, and spend time with grumpy-pants.” I get to! And some moms don’t.

3. Exercise/Running: You might be surprised (or glad!) to hear that I too constantly struggle with motivation to run and/or workout. Even though it’s a habit, I still catch myself saying, “I have to go run.” My goodness, how lucky are we, that we have legs! Sometimes I practice being grateful while running. “I’m so lucky for these strong legs that can run miles and miles.” Because I run early, I’ve witnessed the sun rise. I’ve interacted with moose, snakes, chipmunks, snow falling, raindrops, a mother goose and her goslings, too many barking dogs :) Change your vocabulary from “I have to” to “I get to run today!” and you’ve got a game-changer.

4. The To-Do List: How many times a day do we say, “I have so many things to do.” Well listen, that’s just never going to change. And To-Do’s are a matter of choice. We get to choose what we want to do and when we do it. We are in charge of our calendar. “I get to vacuum the floor at 8 a.m. today.” “I am choosing to bring dinner to my friend because I love her.” “I am choosing to drive to Lowe’s and buy lightbulbs.” Changing our vocabulary might not make us LOVE buying lightbulbs, but the vocabulary tweak is important. Life doesn’t just happen to us. We choose our what, where, and when. Any hey, no lightbulbs? No light.

5. Making Dinner: “I have to make dinner. AGAIN” could be changed to, “I get to go to the grocery store where there are literally tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, and Goldfish crackers to choose from. I get to peruse cookbooks and blogs or cook my mother’s tuna fish casserole! Tweak “I have to” to “I get to have dinner tonight. I’m so lucky to that every time I open my cupboard there is FOOD, glorious food!”

6. Travel: Recently I found myself dreading, “I have to plan this trip” while picking up a European guide book. Yes, it’s embarrassing. But I realized I was dreading the planning because I don’t know how to plan a trip to Europe. I’ve never been there. No one is picking us up at the airport, holding my hand, walking me through customs. I believe fear and indecision is the crux of much of our “I have to” vocabulary. But once we make a decision, we can make the mind shift. Not everyone gets to go on vacation. We get to.

7. Medical/Dental Appointments: “I have to pay how much for braces??? Did you say $6000 per kid?” And then everytime the bill comes or everytime I hand over the HSA card I’m thinking, “I have to pay $1000 for that?” Guess what? No one makes us go to the doctor. No one makes us get braces for the kids. Change the vocabulary to “I’m so lucky to have access to healthcare while people around the world have no doctors, no access, no dentists, no nothing.” “I’m so lucky we have enough money to make monthly installments for my daughter’s very expensive mouth. Her smile is going to be so beautiful. I’m so glad I can help her.” (cut the sarcasm!)

8. Parenting in General: We’re tired. I know we are, but it’s too easy to get snarky, snappy, and annoyed. It’s too easy to eye-roll, to make habits that last the lifetime of a relationship. We do it with infants: “I have to change another diaper.” We do it with our toddlers: “I have to take him outside and walk really slowly and look down every single drain.” We do it with our teens: “I have to have another conversation about texting.” Imagine the change in our relationships if we said, “I’m so lucky I get to spend time with my baby today. (even if she’s a little stinky :)” “I’m so lucky I get to be here when he learns to walk and says ‘Dada’ for the first time.” “I’m so lucky that God entrusted me with such a powerful personality!” “I’m so lucky to be a mother!” Woah. Mind shift.

I’ve found that this small tweak in my vocabulary, from “I have to…” to “I get to…” leads to this magical word called Gratitude. It’s no wonder that happiness is directly tied to being grateful.

I remember the day my friend Eric could no longer lift my son’s bike out of his truck. I remember the day he could no longer take cereal down from the fridge to give to his daughters. He can no longer lift his arms to scratch his nose, swat a mosquito, or wipe away tears. I get to do all of those things.

We went for a walk the other day because he can still make very small movements with his hands to move the joystick of his wheelchair. We were going down the road, me walking, him rolling. I didn’t say it, but I sure thought it: “I’m get to walk. I’m so lucky.”

On the way back, Eric slowed to a stop. I looked down to see a snake slithering across the road and eeked out a small shriek. But Eric appreciated. His eyes zeroed in on the snake. Instead of screaming and running down the road I managed to stay still and watch, as the snake used it’s body to slither across the road, making a seamless “S.” Eric said, “It’s so cool how it can do that. So effortlessly.”

Every day, we get to see little miracles like this. But only if we recognize them.

Lucky me. Lucky you.

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Real Quotes From Real Kids (II)

As the darlings grow older, it’s harder to write about them. For some odd reason, they do not like me playing paparazzi to their every move and then posting their stories online for the whole world to read (how weird.) If I post a picture, I now have to ask permission. Oh, the funny stories that have fallen to the wayside…

Family privacy thing has plunged me into frequent blog crisis. After many months of deliberation, I came up with three categories I most like to write about: Happiness, Habits, and Health. (not to worry, the cherubs will still make frequent appearance.)

Real Quotes from Real Kids goes provides a compromise. They say things. I write them down and post anonymously. Sometimes even they can’t remember who said what (I have it filed away for future reference.)

I believe this post belongs in the Happiness category. Although, sometimes these quotes are not always funny or sweet or happy at all. But that’s real life, right?

Can you guess who said what? (I’m sorry, but I’m sworn to secrecy!)

The Top Ten:

1. “I’ve been nice for 5 days! I can’t be nice anymore – I’m OUT OF NICE!”

2. “I just want some processed American cheese. Is that so wrong?”

3. “Shoot high, hit low…that’s how I get exactly what I want!” (child negotiating bedtime. should I be concerned at the manipulation or impressed at the brilliance?)

4. “How would you like it if someone just wrecked your house because it was too close to his house? That is NOT OKAY!” (oh dear, the beaver indignance.)

5. “Why do you like running so much? Don’t you like, need to chase something? Like a ball???”

6. “Mama, this is nice toilet paper! I can’t wait to poop!”

7. “Well…your preference is wrong!” (we’re working on tolerating others’ opinions.)

8. “Mama, you’re my bestie.” (best quote on this page)

9. “There’s chocolate on my jeans! I didn’t even eat chocolate…double unfairness!”

10. “When I get married I want to come home and find my husband reading books to the our kids…and the best part is I can totally see all of my Uncles doing that.” (nice)

One of these quotes was actually said by dear husband. Can you guess which one?

Part I was back Here. I think this might become “a regular thing.” ’cause they just keep talking!

I hope you’re recording all the funny things you hear. At the very least, it serves as good blackmail and as a future record that you didn’t make this stuff up!

Have a marvelous weekend!

 

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