Category Archives: family reunion

transitions and here we go again!

Yes, we’re alive over here, time is just going so fast I start wondering where to start.

It’s such a strange thing to suddenly be the parent of older kids instead of having a posse of younger ones. The baby is going into 6th grade for heaven’s sake! I find myself gazing at her playing Barbies and with her American Girls, knowing in a blink they will soon be abandoned for American Eagle gift cards and iPods.

We’ve had a great summer, traveling out west for a family reunion, coming home to another family reunion (hosting all of Gregor’s brothers and family – a hoot and a holler!) The house has been FULL of people and so much food and messes and reminiscing.

Labor Day always marks the beginning of packing school lunches, quieter days, busier afternoons, and the rank smell of soccer cleats by the front door.

I find myself pondering Ernest Hemingway’s quote:

There is nothing else than now. There is neither yesterday, certainly, nor is there any tomorrow. How old must you be before you know that? -Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

I’d like dispute that, Ernest. If I may. Because what of this:

The past in a cool, dark pond; our feet are always damp.

I took that line from book critic, Lucy Feldman. Isn’t it terrific?

Or how about Matt Nathanson’s greatest and latest song:

The past is a long distance runner…

So good!

I’ve always been one to look back and also forward. I think I have a better handle on it, feel more at peace with change.

It’s been a good summer and a hard one. We lost a tremendous man and friend to suicide. His impact reverberates through our community in a painful way I’ve wanted to run from, yet it’s been a huge wake up to remember we belong to each other. It’s a reminder to check in with one another. To speak up when we are hurting, to reach out when we need help.

But the good stuff?

A LOT of swimming at our favorite hole:

Traveling to Utah for a family reunion, where the stomach bug traveled through all of us (YES!). We hiked some mountains, sold books, rope swinged into Blood Lake, ate gallons of ice-cream.

In early August I ran in the Beach to Beach 10k alongside elite-level and olympic runners (okay, fine, they were practically finished before I started) and now I’m ready to train for the Cape Cod 1/2 marathon this October. SIGN UP HERE! We (running buddies Maryn, Jill, Chloe, and Cope) have had great times on the rail trail. Running a 9-miler with a pal bonds you for life, I swear.

The other night I lay here in the dark, looking out at a bright moon lighting up the sky. The next morning I awoke early for our girl posse long run. The moon was still up when we started; by the end of the run we were running into the sunrise. WOW.

I’m waxing a bit sentimental thinking of the upcoming year and the many changes that will occur. These kids we’re raising? We haven’t missed anything. It’s happening all as it should. We’re watching miracles happen every single day.

Here’s a picture of my siblings and me from this summer: I remember so well when we were little kids and now look at us. Side note: isn’t it remarkable that I’m the oldest and have retained my natural L’Oreal Medium Brown hair color when the rest…haven’t? What can I say??? I guess it’s all in the genes! 🙂

And look at these kids. What will they remember about their childhood together? Adding Grandpa and Tenny to the mix sure was a great idea!

So here we go:

Cope is awaiting her mission call! It should arrive any day. Like, ANY DAY. She will serve an eighteen-month mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She will leave behind her phone(!) and everything else to serve and teach others of one thing: the life and mission of Jesus Christ. I’m in awe of her. She could be called to Brazil or Iowa – WE DON’T KNOW. I’ve known A LOT of missionaries, but how different it is to have my own child embark.  Strange, for sure.

Stay tuned!

Nelson embarks on his senior year and is currently going through the college admissions process. Boy, that’s no small feat. Note to self: we will survive. He’s also ALMOST done with his Eagle Scout project and fundraiser. I’m more than A LITTLE EXCITED to see him on the soccer field this fall. He loves the sport so much, and uh, so does his mama.

And Brynne Brynne? She’s a freshman! Zowie. Paige is a middle-schooler. I mean, what is going on? They will also be on the soccer field and I’ll be coaching, so you know, packing lots of Lara Bars.

I process these transitions by running (which leads to cravings of wavy potato chips and Diet coke, but hey, no one’s perfect.) Also? More sleep, please.

Talk to me. What are you transitioning to?


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The Great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour

The idea of eating our way across New Hampshire was all Glenn’s fault, who knows the way to The Professors heart: food. More specifically, after reading an article about the best doughnuts in every single state, he decided we needed to do our duty and find out.

You know, some people visit every state to run marathons. Apparently, doughnut tasting is more up our ally. I’ll have you know, I’m still running! In fact, doughnut-tasting family reunions is why I HAVE to run!

While Glenn, Kim, and darling children were visiting from Saudi Arabia (yes, it’s true. they really live there) we decided to make a day of it: find the best doughnuts in New Hampshire AND taste test across state lines.

Of course we didn’t hit all the hot spots, but we did taste test at EIGHT establishments. For heavens sakes, is this what your family vacations look like?

Are you ready to visit New England yet? Here goes: the great New Hampshire, Vermont Food Tour of Summer 2016. Courtesy of us. The piggies.

  1. Muriel’s Donuts in Lebanon, NH. This was the establishment that started it all. Rated as “#1 donut of New Hampshire,” the donuts were only 40 minutes up the road. Muriel is a cute, elderly woman working out of a tiny, but tidy, hovel, serving up warm, buttery, fluffy, melt-in-your mouth donuts (how the heck do you really spell “donut”?) Recommendation: Cinnamon sugar donut. Were they good? They were pretty darn good.


    Before the cinnamon sugar…

2. King Arthur Flour Company. After the donuts we were ready for lunch! Oh man, for the love of all things baking – this store and cafe is a DREAM. Due to the large amount of flour I already had, I limited myself to one purchase: Amy’s Recommendation: a bag of Crystalized Ginger Bits ($15) for scones. Can’t wait!

The Professor's Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.

The Professor’s Lunch: Brie and Apple Sandwich on Homemade King Arthur Flour Bread for $7-8.

3. Ben and Jerry’s! This is a serious operation that includes a tour of the facility, complete with holstein cows in the pasture and an earth conscious message. It’s like a tiny amusement park that hosts hundreds and hundreds of people a day. This is because, well, the ice-cream is fantastic and the tour is fun! And the gift center is full of earthy tie-die hats and shirts. Amy’s Recommendation: Chocolate Therapy! ahhhhh, prepare to get wrecked.

4. Chocolate made us want more chocolate. It was off to Lake Champlain Chocolates in Waterbury, VT.  Featuring a “full selection of chocolates, a hot chocolate café, award-winning house made ice cream, hand-whipped fudge, Vermont souvenirs, and plenty of factory seconds.” Amy’s Recommendation: Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate, 54% Cacao, topped with Whipped Cream.

5. Next door? The Cabot Cheese Company in Waterbury, VT. Here we sampled no less than thirty cheeses. Amy’s Cheese Recommendation: Lamberton. I have no idea what that is exactly, but it was gooooood. Satisfyingly stuffed, we drove up the road to…

6. Cold Hollow Cider Mill in Waterbury-Stowe, VT. Oh my goodness, what a charming country store and mill, complete with free cider samples, gallon jugs to purchase, 50 cent apple cider donuts, and more Vermont cheese. Here is where my heart truly melted. I have to say, these were the best donuts of the day! Amy’s Recommendation: Fresh Pressed Cider and Apple Cider Donuts.


Cope: “This is like, low-key, the best cheese I’ve ever had”


Arthur-approved cider so you know it’s good!


7. Simon Pearce Glassblowing and Restaurant, in Queechee VT. Needing a reprieve from food, we stopped to see the glassblowing and drool over the handmade pieces we’ll never be able to afford 🙂 Also cool, is the water mill that provides the power for the entire Simon Pearce operation. The restaurant is upscale and pricey, but well worth a visit for special occasions.

8. Dinner? The Skinny Pancake in Hanover, NH. The Skinny Pancake specializes in a plethora of savory and sweet crepes priced between $9-$12. Atmosphere is intimate and family friendly. Amy’s Recommendation: for sweet, The Lovemaker, featuring strawberries, nutella, and whipped cream (do you like the name? :). Can’t go wrong. For savory, The Pizza Crepe. Huge kid hit. And guess what? Any crepe can be made with their gluten-free batter!

9. It was a good thing Morano’s Gelato in Hanover, NH was closed, but I’ve got to include it here because it’s hands-down the best gelato I’ve ever eaten, including my samples in Europe – it’s THAT GOOD. Amy’s Recommendation: Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk or Hazelnut. The combination is unbelievably swoon-worthy.

Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89

Dark Chocolate and Sweet Milk Gelato for $3.89

We rolled ourselves home and collapsed into bed after a full day of gluttony. If you need Boston recommendations, I could do that too 🙂 But this is a bit more off the beaten path and a way to experience authentic New England in New Hampshire and Vermont.

We’ve been swimming and running ever since – I swear! But I’m considering a change of profession to food critic.

Enjoy! Questions? I’ll attempt to answer. Hope your summer is as tasty as ours!



Scenes From the Wild Wild West

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

DSC_0169 Family photos taken

DSC_0387  My sister, Andrea. The darling.

DSC_0463  My fab four

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

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

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

DSC_0668 The milking parlor that used to be our clubhouse

DSC_0689 This cow wasn’t interested in my photo shoot

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

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

DSC_0716 My dad. The Grandpa.

DSC_0791   Brynne and The Professor went flying.

20160629_094513  The cool kids

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

IMG_6636 Sweet Scout likes peas

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

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

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

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

DSC_0862 Back to flowers

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

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

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

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

IMG_6986 I have FAR TOO MANY selfies on my phone!

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

IMG_7014 My girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_0987 My boy and his Uncle Patrick

DSC_0989     Beautiful Utah skies

IMG_7151 And back to Idaho

IMG_7154 And more beautiful western skies

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

Happy summer.


The Live Free or Die Family Reunion (iPhone Style)


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


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


The pirate body guards were mighty scary :



All of Grandpa’s little rascals


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

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

hot swaddle

Baby Luke. Do you like being swaddled?

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

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

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

Headquarters of the Revolution!


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

IMG_4300 IMG_4304

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

IMG_4239 IMG_4259 IMG_4267 IMG_4275

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

IMG_4444 IMG_4316

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

IMG_4458 IMG_4463 IMG_4494 IMG_4481

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

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

Paige was so sad…


But more cousins came and got on the bus!IMG_4626

And paid homage to the sunset…


We had one last hurrah back at the ocean


And a Red Sox game.


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

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

Until next time – Carry on, Patriots!


From Porta Potties to Donkeys: How to Host an Epic Family Reunion

Dear Darlings, it has been way too long!

The last three weeks have been jam-packed with back-to-back family reunions hosted by yours truly. After downloading 1000 + photos (seriously, I have a problem), I find it difficult to narrow it all down…

Most of the time, my family travels out west, but this year it was our family’s turn.

Since we live in a very different environment than anyone else in my family, my biggest concern was, would everyone have fun? Would there be enough beds and space for 30 people in our little house? Would we drive each other crazy? Would it be 100 degrees outside with 100% humidity?

My husband’s biggest concern was worrying that our septic tank would explode. So we rented a porta-potty. Which seems like a good place to start this story.

portapottyDelivered in the middle of a rainstorm, the potty came to live in our backyard for a week. The children were mortified and said we officially looked “trashy.” And see those busses? This is how we traveled with 30 people for two weeks.

Epic. Yes.

So what do we do out here in New Hampshire for fun?

MN6TWcpM6vRWlpnq76Q4GsFPrLhYI8uuA7Cw_1JA-lY,rj0RIxuy3uSeKoe4trzc3UQCgi2XF22ZLg0Yl97bvgQ We introduced everyone to our neighbors

fZulrVWn433qVPZukqXk_N-NZOuipOwgLWYf9bcBpF4,vFnpN5uJxeBDCSJTE6Xxv5UVFm7ztDLsaFOqEguFlacAnd had lessons on how to survive in the wilderness

65KvBJTnSIPFR277kCiNyHFyBHMyl1yD1OhJnCpHKks,ZGDi6oWvJ_QBql23JNig_sho9iT-sc6XmuJ3NzluPKw,U2duGjDEhYbHLhnM45tDGHDcNo7rvZEJTLipMBkcLtUWe took walks. This picture makes me so happy because 1. My husband has his Wolverine beard and 2. The men are pushing the strollers. My brothers are such good dads.

JzwnpKiFypxDfC47QJfMLWLRMcjy3lr6xv34724MUXI,TQPMyPZvvXlYmp2wJL-10Qz8oliIQXCQV34fnkDBvUQ-3Thankfully the weather was magnificent most of the time (after Hurricane Arthur came through, that is.) Thanks, Cass, for the beautiful shot!

DSC_0182We ate A LOT of good food, rotating the cooking among every family and keeping track with a big chart on the wall. That is a organizational post all by itself!

DSC_0523And each evening we ate outside while the sun went down, followed by a devotional which everyone took turns giving. Fantastic thoughts.

Where did we all sleep? Each family had a bedroom and we had three tents outside for kids. And when that still wasn’t enough, my in-laws hosted my brother and his wife and kids.hike We hiked Mount KearsargeDSC_0143 Where it was so windy we almost got blown off the mountaintop!

DSC_0154 DSC_0158Cousins. Cope and Savannah already plan on rooming together in college. Which is a mere three years away. Stop it.DSC_0265We live so far away from family that once a year is all the face-to-face time we get. No matter what, we make the once-a-year family reunion happen. Even though it costs money. Even though it takes time, travel, scheduling headaches, and family picture outfit coordinating. We make it happen. And we have the best time. And cousins are best of friends.DSC_0283And my son finally has some men around! 4tC8eldRFSIL2OGoRAOmDryegiMXBh7r42-5s0yEzPY,0q3b93zYA5SU8n1UvzCyQoJBaB7b9a-r9HeutjC0cGI We took the family to all the hot spots – like this icy cold rock slide on the Kancamagus. We were so proud of our little Ernie who is obviously enjoying the water.DSC_0553 The key to hosting a family reunion with so many people in a little house is to not actually be in the house. Here is the top of Mount Major, overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee, my husband’s favorite lake in the world. DSC_0537The hike wasn’t exactly the Death March we hiked three years ago, but it wasn’t a piece of cake either. Here we climbed up trails with giant spider legs. 5-year-old Tate said, “You never know what scary things lurk in the forest!”DSC_0576 Here is Glenn, Kim, Tate, and Finn from Denver. Kim is pregnant with TWINS (happy dance!) and was nauseous the whole time she was here, but she made it all the way up (miles!), dragging a child behind her and speaking in a much sweeter voice than I ever could. That, is my definition of toughness.DSC_0568 All the Makechnie cousins who can do hard things.DSC_0586Here we are wondering why in the world we didn’t bring water bottles? We put on a smile anyway and subsisted on small blueberries all the way down the mountain.

DSC_0412We went to the ocean. Here’s my dad from Arizona, brother Patrick, and sweet baby Luke all the way from Sunnyvale California.DSC_0434We all loved the ocean, even the freezing New Hampshire waterDSC_0431 Trey came from South Jordan, Utah. He liked the boogie boardDSC_0365 Darling Baby Charlotte from New YorkDSC_0366 _xUq4bnQ2KrsnJEF7nfGuC_QVQPzTLFMFw9xn0so76c,hpPPE-0dX_0YiVXWbTG9ruFOp8IFDklWcCeUFGl38jI

One day we left Grandma and Grandpa with the babies and went to the big city of Boston. We pondered great questions like “Which pastry shop is better? Modern Pastry or Mike’s?” My loyalty lies with Mike’s.

DSC_0525Grandma hosted her annual pirate party. Here the grandchildren watch The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan. They also drink “rum.”DSC_0504 We lit fires in the backyardDSC_0530And as soon as they came, they had to go. And this was very sad.

But not to worry, I have 1000 pictures to choose from. We can just keep this theme going a little longer…more to come 🙂




When You Really Start Appreciating Your Mother

In a week the party starts. Our little cape will be housing one big happy family which is six smaller families which is 28 people, 13 of these lovelies being children. Got that?

We are renting a porta-potty, borrowing tents, and discussing karaoke.

Every year we travel west, but this year, the gang is coming east.

This year we are the hosts. And I have running thoughts all day long…will everyone have fun? will we have enough fridge space? what if it rains the whole time? I wish I liked my couch cushions more, will anyone want to come back?

In anticipation of such an event, mother dear (me) declared we would be cleaning for a week. You can imagine the rejoicing!

I didn’t sign the kids up for anything – no swimming lessons, no music, no sports, no nothin’. We’re having Cleaning Camp! It’s been awesome.DSC_0332Instead of simply tidying up, I decided the whole house would be purged and scoured. All while listening to Mozart.

It’s official: I’ve turned into my mother.DSC_0374Cleaning Camp is so fun! We wake up and sing with joy at the prospect of scrubbing base boards, sweeping up nasty dust balls under benches, and finding shrunken grapes under the couch. Unfortunately, these are true stories. DSC_0375The darling oldest child plays Disney music and says, “Let’s pretend we’re Cinderella and we have to work for a wicked stepmother.” Of course I can’t fathom what she means.DSC_0382 We dust the drapes, scrub the floors, and…DSC_0385 often get distracted by the Disney music.

DSC_0386But we quickly recover and go back to scrubbing grubby fingerprints off the wall.

If I didn’t know it before, I know it now: Children just don’t care as much as you do. And that’s okay.

I have been thinking of my mother a lot this week. Of how much of her life has been getting ready for her children to come home, to make sure they want to come home.

Of course, guests aren’t coming for the perfect house, they are coming to see you.


Still, I decided I needed to paint the closet.

For seven years I’ve wanted to paint this closet and I’ll tell ya, it feels sooooo nice. Even our Tenny boy loves it.

DSC_0380The staff decided he would paint the trim, something he’s been wanting to do for three years.

There’s nothing like company to spur us into action! DSC_0355 When we need food I go down to the garden, where everything started messy and is now growing so beautifully. Yes, my friends, the work is worth the effort. For plants and for family.

Down in the garden I munch away like Peter Rabbit. Who needs grocery stores when you’ve got kale and swiss chard?

After a few hours of quality Cleaning Camp with four Cinderellas we have a reward. Like lunch. And World Cup!DSC_0338Speaking of messy, my boy is obsessed with Messi from Argentina. Dempsey of the USA is a close second. And what’s up with the biter?

It’s quite perfect to sit down and in front of the TV and feel all patriotic instead of neglectful.

I think we must all be feeling the Cleaning Camp love as this evening when we said family prayer, Cope said, “Thank you that we could clean this morning and have fun as a family.” When I grinned at her she said, “Notice they were separate events.”

So tell me, are you having as much fun as we are? And please tell me you have fond memories of cleaning with your mother.



The Power of Siblings

Remember when you took a bath with your brother or sister?
When swimming around the bathtub actually felt spacious?  Remember how the bubbles became your beard?  The water became the vast ocean and you got in trouble for splashing all over the floor?  And then you laughed because you were the wild things, because whatever mom, it was worth it!  My boat ride was rad!

Remember all the messes you made together?  Were you ever called a holy terror or hell on wheels? Were you the Master of Destruction?  Or were you more of a tidy child?  I don’t know what a tidy child looks like.

Remember all those hours spent watching those great 80’s shows?  The Facts of Life, Silver Spoons, Night Rider, (you watched those, too, right?)  Did you argue over who got the remote?  Did you ever get kicked out of the house for being so obnoxious?  Told not to come in until it was dark?

Remember the epic fights?  The yelling, pinching, biting, wrestling, punching, screaming, I hate you moments??  Remember how UNFAIR it was!!???

Remember how cool you were?  Did you ever sneak out of the house with an outfit your mother said made you look like a tramp? (ouch.) The too-much mascara, the stuffed training bra, and take-on-the-world attitude?  Or maybe you carried a skateboard, flipped kids “the bird” and threw crab apples at cars just because you could.

Were you a licking family?  Or is this just a strange genetic trait my family has? 

When did you last run in the rain and didn’t care if your hair got wet or your nightgown was see-through?

Or rolled down a hill and didn’t care if you looked like a an idiot or screamed at the top of your lungs because you were so darn happy to be alive?

This is what my little family looked like, many years ago.  I am on the left with that great haircut.  This was before baby Patrick was born, when everyone thought Andrea and I were the twins, instead of Peter and I.  This is when Peter refused to wear shoes for pictures.

I am older than my mother was in this picture.  But I’m sure I wear the same dazed and confused expression.  Gregor is older than my dad was in this picture.  Is life really aging us?  Can that be true?  I feel like I’m still that girl in the picture.  I’m still that young.  Maybe a smidge older.  Sometimes.

Did you ever really think that you’d grow up and not be within arm’s length of licking?  How can there ever be that much distance between siblings?  No, never.

And yet, here we are.  We’ve grown up.  I am the oldest. The shrimp.

My siblings and I get to see each other so rarely now. We are spread out all over the United States and a once-a-year-sighting is lucky. 

But here is the important thing:  We make it happen.

Every year we make new memories and revive the old ones.  The dusty memories are forgotten unless you tell them over and over and over.  Every single year.  Like when we convinced little brother that the dog poop in the neighbor’s yard was a brownie.  These things were so hilarious.

We parents shouldn’t be too offended if we are the target of sibling jokes and mimicry; this is how siblings bond:  Making fun of ma and pa.

And isn’t it amazing, that when we finally reunite, it’s like we were never apart? We revert to our childhood ways.  I mean, when’s the last time you did a cartwheel?

There are some things that will never change.  This is one of them:  Stealing giant spoonfuls of cookie dough.

We’ve had babies, lost babies, accepted jobs, lost employment, found peace, lost peace.  We love our spouses, we struggle in marriage.  We don’t know what to do with the stubborn 2-year-old, so we tell stories of how life gets better.  This is how we get through things:  Our siblings lift us, remind us that we used to wet the bed, but eventually stayed dry at night.  I mean, if you have been accidentally, but repeatedly peed on by a sibling, that should count for a lot, don’t you think?

Somehow, the power of the pee sibling is an anchor.  It’s so old, so solid, it transcends a fleeting today.  It goes so far back that most all memories will include a sibling, emerging from the mind at the oddest of times.

We can rid ourselves of many relationships.  But the brother?  The sister?  They’re for keeps.  For better or for worse, we came together.
Sometimes from other countries, from different mothers and fathers.
But the word “brother” or “sister” bonds us for life.

And if you’re really lucky, those brothers and sisters will become like parents to your children.  They will remind your kids how sweet and nice you really are, when your kids can’t possibly believe it’s true.

My husband and his brothers have decided that roasting a pig in the ground is bonding.  While at first I turned up my nose, I realized, that it’s not really about the pig.

It’s about bringing up the body together.  Because this is FUN.
It really doesn’t have to be a pig. 

The pig was really about TIME.  It’s spending hours on the phone, sending emails, snorting, planning, the strategy of the perfect bake.  It’s gathering wood, researching fire techniques, digging a giant hole in the ground, debating, testing theories, and finding enough granite stone to make an outdoor oven.  It’s dressing the pig in the kitchen together.

It’s laughing, making fun of each other, calling each other names, and finding compromise among strong-willed competitive boys.

It’s taking rotating shifts through the night and day to make sure piggy is cooking. Usually, in our family, it has something to do with eating.  But it’s not really about the pig.

It could be a duck.
Or a goose.
A camel.
Or none of these things at all.

Sometimes it’s just I don’t want to run in the middle of winter but fine!  I’ll do it for you – only for you!  Ah…don’t the awful, hard things make for the best of memories?

The satisfaction and bonding come with the time spent together.

It’s watching Glenn cook a Truduckin:  Duck stuffed in chicken stuffed in turkey.  (I hope I got that right.)  

It’s triumph at setting out to do something together and having success!  But even if you fail, that turns into a memory.  Like the Hike From You Know Where. Which also involved Glenn.  🙂

Remember.  It’s not about the pig.
It’s the time 
If you don’t make it happen, who will?

Every year my family has a family reunion.  My mother, tired of all the organizing, delegated the planning to her children.  The siblings now rotate location and organization.  We have about a week together.  It requires a year of discussion.  It requires hours of coordinating outfits for the family photo.  It requires saving hundreds of dollars.  It requires flight plans, changing flight plans, driving fatiguing distances, and watching your children light up at the chance to see their best beloved cousins.

And there’s never a question of whether it’s worth it or not.  

We’ve started a new tradition.  We have fun all day and night and then right before bed we have a devotional and spiritual thought for the day.  

Our prayers make us realize it’s not just about us, but ALL of us.  We pray for help, call down the power of heaven, for we know that God honors those who honor him.  We’ve seen the miracles.  We express thanks, for all the good things we have.  This tradition has brought a spirit into the room that binds us even closer together.  My brothers have become men.  

My sisters have become women.  There are no wimps allowed.  It is the tender, nurturing, baby whispering warrior in my sisters that buoy up the warrior in me.
Through the years, we somehow look older.   

If we take care of our relationships, we become great friends, not just brothers or sisters

Older siblings set powerful examples for the younger ones.  It is within their power to teach us about love.  And vice versa.

Yes, we are growing older, but we have our faces turned to the light. There is great hope ahead.

As we look to our own children.

This summer I spent much time thinking about siblings.  I think of the children I am raising, of the relationships they have with each other.  Have they learned what they need to?  Will they be close or fall away from each other?  There are only four summers left before the oldest leaves for college.

Instead of separating my children, keeping them apart, I only want to keep them together. I have to remind myself of the powerful lessons to be learned when they’re driving me crazy, squished together in a small car.  When they must be banished outside until it’s dark.  Together. 

I wonder.  Are they learning to leap?  Are they doing hard things together?  Are they each other’s biggest champions?  Are they making enough memories?  Will their childhood be a wonderful memory?

When time fades like a photograph
Will they remember hot summer nights laughing?  And the time Cope had such a bad sunburn she couldn’t wear a proper shirt?

I hope so.

As a sibling, I know the power

Of a really heavy brother.  But we carry them anyway.  And tomorrow they’ll carry our tug-a-lugs.

Here is something I believe:  As long as we’re alive, it’s never too late to reach out. Text, email, call. Or lick.  It’s all good.

It’s a long post, (sorry!) but my looooove is long…

Is your sibling your BFF?  I’d love to hear.


The Teenager

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have some good advice?

A grateful mother


Sedona and Slide Park: Cliff Jumping at My Age? Heck Yeah!

When in Arizona, you’ve got to do Sedona.
You will likely drive by a million cacti plants.
Which I find fascinating for many reasons; the terrain is SO different from New Hampshire.  Going to Arizona in July might sound rather horrid, and I admit it’s not the best month to visit.  However, according to CNN, the heat that descended on the Northeast in July was like being “smothered by a musty, damp, wool blanket.”  I’ll take dry ANY day.  Even if it’s over 100.

And there’s something about the west.  Oh, it’s a gorgeous, barren beauty

These pictures were all taken while traveling in the car.  Click click click, roll down window, click click click.  I just can’t get enough.

My darling’s reaction when I turn the camera on him…but he sure does appreciate the memories later, don’t you honey pie?  He’s nodding his head right now.
Sedona is about halfway between the Grand Canyon and Phoenix

As you get closer, the red rock becomes more visible and stunning

For $20/car you can enter into Slide Park, located in Sedona.  While there are a lot of people, there are no lifeguards or restrictions, no commercialism at all except for a small store selling ice-cream, sunscreen, and water shoes.  I highly recommend all three.  There are hikes, natural water slides, cold pools of mountain water to swim in, and cliffs for jumping.  I consider becoming a travel guide, y tu?

We decided to walk and find solitude.  There are my girls, Gregor, and my 63-year-old father who hasn’t slowed down a bit!

Many hills and treacherous valleys to cross and leap over!  There’s Andrew, coming to catch up.  He came from New York with my sister-in-law Allison and her two wee ones.  We called him “the manny,” which he thought was awesome.

It was like a Lewis and Clark expedition, trying to find my brothers, Eric and Patrick, and had wandered into a strange and foreign land.  And there’s Brynne’s worn out swimsuit; a tell-tale sign she’s lived a good summer!

Gorgeous country.  I had my camera with me the whole time, couldn’t take it off.
Is it wrong to take a picture of someone praying?  I couldn’t help it.  This is Ava from California, praying after she got two “owies” on her finger.  So sweet.  Her prayer helped 🙂

My shoe recommendation:  The Keen Sandal, perfect for wet and dry climbing.  And that would be the one picture we got of this lass.  Aren’t you glad I shaved my legs?

My mother going down a natural water slide.  It was frigid cold, a wonderful thing in summer Sedona. She just turned 59 and still has it!  I hope I cliff jump and go down water slides until I’m 100.

The cliffs weren’t monstrous, but still a blast.  There’s boy #1 and boy #2! Wheeeee!

Not to be outdone, six-year-old Paige decided she wanted to jump too!  I didn’t think she’d do it.  She just barely learned to swim and the couldn’t tough the bottom.  At the encouragement of her brother, my baby girl made the big leap.  I can’t tell you how much she’s changed this year.  She’s like a flower blooming…and we’re so proud of that big brother.

More pics, including brother Eric throwing my baby boy in the water; an annual tradition.

This is yours truly.  It was taken last year by Cassie, my sister-in-law, who understands the importance of capturing such moments.  It’s one of my favorites because how many pictures do I have like this?  Um, one.  I’ll have you know I put down the camera this year so I could make another mighty leap with my sister.  Exhilarating!  My fear of heights dissipates when I’m over water.  I can leap.

My little Brynne.  Always fearless!

Eric, my brother, torturing my boy again

But then my dad and brother Patrick, got him back

After many hours of fun, it was time to head back, out of the beauty and wild of Sedona

Away from the red rock

Into Phoenix and then further to Scottsdale, in the shadow of the McDowell Mountains.  More desert beauty, more family reunion memories to be made…
While in Arizona, should one visit Sedona?  Check.