Category Archives: vacation

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?

IMG_5254

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.

pounds

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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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.

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The Grand Canyon: Giant Hole in the Earth

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of
canyons deep in an old land.
-August Fruge

We are back from a whirlwind western trip.  I feel I’ve traveled the world, though it was only 6000 miles and a 3-hour time change.  I’ve decided I will never get so comfortable that I can’t pick up and leave and see a new piece of the world.  Home is where the RV is, right?
My parents have moved to Arizona, so the Grand Canyon was at the top of the TO SEE list this year. Who knows if we will ever have the chance again?  When the opportunity presents itself, I say grab that bull by the horns and charge!  After an 11-hour road trip with my sister (did you know Siri does not talk when there is no service in the middle of Hopi/Navajo country…ah!  thank goodness for old-fashioned things called MAPS) we awoke early with eight wee ones (children) and headed to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World:  The Grand Canyon.
It’s huge.  It’s a giant hole in the ground:  277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and more than 6,000 feet deep.  One could get to the South Rim to the North Rim as quickly as the raven flies, except we’re humans.  And can’t fly from one rim to the next. Travel is a precarious situation.
The Grand Canyon is a result of the Colorado River cutting through the rock millions of years ago. Did you know the Colorado River touches seven states?  But the Grand Canyon is decidedly only in Arizona.
Do you like the history lesson?
The Grand Canyon is managed by the National Park Service, the Hualapai Tribal Nation and the Havasupai Tribe.  I like that.  
See that winding path?  That’s where we were going.
I am very afraid of heights.  I wish I wasn’t.  I wish I could look down and want to bungee, jump, and fly off the mountain, but an overwhelming cold inches over my body until I am near paralyzed.  Don’t tell Fear Factor; that’s the fear they would pick for me.  I blame this fear on a ill-fated hike up Timpanogus Mountain when I was ten, clinging to the side of a mountain, watching my mother and brother slip and slide down a giant glacier.  I remember looking down off the ledge I was scaling (we were lost), wondering what it would be like to die by falling.  That cold, overwhelming fear overtook me. Crying, I prayed that I could be teleported far, far away to a safe place, but soon realized quitting wasn’t an option; we either finished or… we didn’t. 
We got down off the mountain far after sunset, and met the rescue crew who had started to search for us.  Fears.  Deep like the Grand Canyon.
A deep digression.  This is like therapy.  Thanks.
And so we set off, our brave little crew, down the winding rock paths

Pausing to sit down, drink water, and occasionally cry

Spectacular, no?
Here are the original explorers who saw more than a vast and barren waste land.  Many explorers came, including those appointed by Theodore Roosevelt (who proclaimed it a barren waste land).  Sadly, I had to admit, that had I been in the camp, I may have not recognized Grand Canyon potential.  I mean, you can’t exactly plant a garden in rock.

Here are the new explorers.  A mostly cheerful lot.  Except for the one, “i don’t want to be in the picture!!”  I was intrigued by the sign:  When mules pass, Stand to the inside of the trail.  Follow mule guides’ instructions.  MULES?  Where, mules, where?

While looking for mules we arrived at the Ooh Aah Point

Yeah!  I turned 14 at the Grand Canyon!  Okay, mother, I’m 14, not you.  Whatever.  Let us pause a moment and digest the fact that I have a 14-year-old.  These are times that try the souls of men.  Mothers, too.

Then we had to take a picture on the cliff.  And I was scared.  And inched along the rock, trying not to hyperventilate.  Cope thought it awfully funny.

Nemo!  Get away from there!  Nemo!  Even the picture makes my heart thump.

I don’t want to walk anymore!

And then…to distract us from Nemo and crying…the mules began to come.  Do you see them making their way down the winding rock ledge?

I was perplexed.  These are mules?  They look like horse to me!  They are carrying dirt and supplies down to workers working on the path.  They passed us three times going back and forth.  I felt bad for them, but wanted to ride them, too.

Lucky guide of the tribal nation.  She had beautiful long black hair and was very nice and smiled as we waited on the side of the path like good Grand Canyon hikers should.  Apparently there is a restaurant and a camp down at the bottom…someday. 
A view from the top.  Them is hard mule workers!

Beautiful red, brown, and orange rock

 One more birthday kiss

Whew, we made it all the way out to Hopi Point. We did take a shuttle in the end, thankfully.  It was a momentous, and sometimes arduous journey that made us feel exhilarated and slightly nauseous all at once – the perfect adventure combo!

Oh, darling, please don’t let me fall off the cliff.  Here we are after almost 16 years of marriage…so lucky.
And then we were off to another adventure, through the desolate deserts of Arizona.
Now that the first of the seven natural wonders is crossed off the list, which one should be next? Perhaps Rome?
For each man sees himself in the Grand Canyon-
each one carries his own Canyon before he comes, each one
brings and carries away his own Canyon.
-Carl Sandburg

Wondering…what Canyon did I bring and what Canyon did I leave with?

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99 Blocks: New York in Pictures

Jerry McGuire, is that you?
Close to our hotel.  Above our bed hung a very interesting piece of art that lit up.  And that’s all I have to say about that.

The purpose of our trip:  Inspiring Young Minds, a non-profit started in 2005, to “educate parents about the remarkable opportunities available for their children.” G is in his element.

The Inspiring Young Minds event was held in the Times Square Church.  This is one of the plaques that hangs on the wall.  

We had time to walk around that night.  Broadway!  We didn’t see any shows, just walked.  And ate way too much.

What was I thinking?

Should’ve brought one home…

Though everyone has camera in New York, I was trying to be stealthy.

Even in busy New York, there are pockets of quiet.

Out hotel room was up 17 flights.  There was no screen on the window.  Scared me all the way down to my toes.

The professor followed by the metro man.

Found Sunday morning.  The other shoe was close by with the heel broken off.  Where is that girl?  What happened to her?  Does she know where her shoes are?  These are the things that ignite the imagination for great stories.

What everyone seems to be holding in NY?  A phone.
Dora, is that really you?

Lots of people make for lots of trash, but I found NY surprisingly clean this time around.

The only picture I have of the two of us.

Possessions.

A basketball showcase where Inspiring Young Minds kids show what they got.  No, we don’t recruit exactly, but we do try to make a good match for them and for us.

I loved these girls.  I want them both.  “Should we act all natural?” they asked, laughing.  I asked why they wanted to go to a prep school.  “Cuz of all the fighting and stuff,” one said.  Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had a great school to go to?

I played with the camera while the professor talked it up inside.  Focal point is the rail instead of the bridge.  Ooohhh…can’t keep my hands off the camera.  

The Hudson.  I asked Gregor how many bodies are in the Hudson.  “A lot,” he said.  We’ve obviously seen too many Law and Order episodes.

The George Washington Bridge

Riverside Park where families with children, strollers, and balloons gathered on a Sunday.

On the way out of the city we grabbed a pizza from Pepe’s.  Oh. Man. Mmmm, mmmm, good.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig.  We got in, we got out.

Back through Vermont, home to the kiddies and the neighborhood donkeys.  Country roads, take me home.  But New York, it was a pleasure.

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Competition

Miles run:  4.  
Huffing and puffing.  Walking up hills.  I hide my head in shame.  I completely blame it on the Olympics.  These late nights are killing me.  On the other hand, I wouldn’t take back seeing Michael Phelps win his 22nd Gold Medal or Gabby win the all-around or McKayla’s “devastating” silver vault.  Oh no.  Fatigue is worth watching the great.  I love the competition.
My morning run almost didn’t happen at all since we lost power due to a terrifically-needed rainstorm.  I woke up to the sound of a text and the clock flashing.  The text was from my running buddy who was pulling out of my driveway at 5:15.  I ran after her to no avail (in my pajamas and wild-haired glory).  Feeling very guilty, I tried to go back to bed, but guilt is not a resting state. So I got back up and went by myself.  And later dropped off my guilty conscience in the form of homegrown green beans on her porch.  Feeling like a loser.
My whole family is, shall we say, a tad bit competitive.  I mean this in a wonderful way since I’m a tad bit  itsy bit a lot bit competitive.  I like to beat people.  Just gettin’ it out there.
I don’t often feel competitive when it comes to mothering (because my mother is in my head saying, because that would be stupid.  She really has a way of telling you how she feels.)  I usually don’t feel competitive when it comes to appearances like purses, cars, clothes or tans (Cue mother:  because that would be stupid) although I have my moments (read: hair).
No, the competition is always the physical type.  And it started early:  I was fighting in the womb.  Born 10 minutes earlier than my twin brother, I came out bruised and battered.  At this early age, I recognized the physical fight as my one true talent.  Math?  Forget it.  Running and monkey bars?  Oh yes.  I only stopped wrestling the boys to the ground after I was tattled on and had my shirt torn off.  Not that that bothered me.  That boy was pinned!  

I’ve never wanted to be on a reality show until last night when I saw “Stars and Stripes,” a new realty show where “stars” have to compete like navy seals.  Green with jealousy.  Am I not star quality?  And I was not asked.  How rude.
I chose no docile lamb for a mate.  I married an uber-competitive boy.  It sometimes strikes me as a terrible tragedy that we still, after almost 15 years of marriage cannot go for a run together.  Can you see the scene?  His foot gets an inch of front of mine.  My stride goes a little further than his.  And pretty soon we are at an all-out sprint.  Playing soccer is, shall I amicably say, a push and shove event (this picture does not capture what he did to me.)

While on vacation, I began to ponder my love of competition.  And that of my family’s:
Nelson is going for the knock out punch against his dad.

Cousins look on as Uncle Eric beats up my little boy, who is still in his church clothes.  (This description is competitive in that it will force Eric to actually comment on my blog and defend himself.)
That’s my boy!
Now.  Let us move on to sisters-in-laws.  You wouldn’t look at Allison and say, “Oh yeah.  That girl will kill your kid to win a kickball game.”  But you don’t know Allison.  She dragged us out of bed at 5:30am to play kickball.  The next morning when she wanted to go hiking, Eric said, “I get up once at 5:30 for you.  Not twice.”  Ally…you know I love you and your love of the kickball game!!!
My mother pressures us into having more kids by appealing to my husband’s competitive streak.  He’s not budging.  Not even while holding Sydnie.  And that’s not easy to do.  sniff sniff.  

Nelson is starting to compete with Uncle Eric’s “Funniest Man” title.  Here he does the hula for many laughs.

But then Eric wears the purple scarf for the family picture.  After an animated and lengthy discussion that began with the pros of heated shaving cream, we had a secret paper vote on who was the most “metro” in the family.  I think this picture says it all.  There was an overwhelming majority vote.  Eric turned to me in outrage, declaring me a traitorous sister.
The brothers compete physically, with wit and with argument.  And then there’s the cool factor.  Patrick likes to sigh and say, “Yep, still got it!”

While swimming in the pool with my siblings and acquired siblings, we began to have races – who can swim the fastest?  (Depends on who’s cheating)  Who can hold their breath the longest?  (Andrea)  Who can do the best hand stand?  (Cassie)  Who looks hottest in their bikini?  (Patrick of course!)  While the adults compete in the pool, the kids sword fight in the pool.  Until someone is bawling.  (Eric)
You know the expression…if someone dared you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?  Duh!  Of course!
This past family reunion was the first time a sister-in-law challenged me to a push-up contest.  Who won?  I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone on this blog so we’ll just say, hahaha, I won, I won!!!  Oh.  Except that’s what she’s saying to me.  But only by 5.  I better get back to boot camp.
She also wanted a chicken fight.  I was stricken with indecision.  I only fight with my brothers.  I hate girl fights.  But geez, I was challenged.  What’s a girl to do?  I was actually down in the water when Gregor suddenly whipped me back into the air like a slingshot.  Oh no, he wasn’t going to get beat by a girl.

When I told the family I wanted to have a 5k back in the winter my brother actually started training.  “I don’t care if I win, but Amy is not going to beat me.”  Have you ever tried to run 3 miles in the middle of the morning, in the summer, in Arizona?  I seriously thought I was going to have a heart attack.  He beat me.  Whatever.  I like to help people feel good about themselves.

The kids compete in the game of Life.  
A highlight of my life was watching my dad go one-on-one against Cope in the big bouncy house this spring.  He suffered a bloody nose and broken glasses but was a jolly good sport.

My mother pressures Cope to touch and hold snakes.  Again, the use of the word “chicken,”and “weeny” and – If I can do it, you can do it!  
Every year we have a family talent show.  Paige’s talent was blowing up a balloon.  The highlight though is to see what Eric will do. (I do have two other brothers.  Eric is just emerging as the most competitive.)  This year he did a Gregor roast.  It was quite hilarious and I filmed it, but sideways.  Maybe I’ll post it anyway.  Honey will surely appreciate it.
But at the end of the day, we are still good friends.  They can even shake on it.
Is your family competitive?  Do you like it, love it or hate it? 
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Rhode Island and Going Home

Miles run this morning:  3
Temperature at 6:30:  95.
At the moment, we are only 371 miles away from the Pacific Ocean, a much warmer ocean than the Atlantic.  Being in this desert has turned my mind to our cold, summer trips to the water.
A few moons ago, there was a trip to Rhode Island.  

Into the waves

The water was so frigid it turned blood cold in mere seconds

Born a month apart, these two big kids were best friends and babies just yesterday.  Tomorrow, my girl becomes a teenager.  The boy follows in August.  The thought produces the same gasp as that frigid water.

Through the fog, the surfers in their wet suits pressed on.  Magnificent scenery.

Grace

The fog was like Wuthering Heights

And then suddenly it cleared.  Lucky, I say, to see so many beautiful pieces of America.  Tomorrow, on Cope’s 13th birthday, we fly home from this beautiful, dry desert to the lush east coast.  We may celebrate with a Cinnabon in the Newark Airport at 3 a.m. 
We will fly through the night over the midwest and into New Hampshire.  I have a million pictures to download.  Though I don’t look forward to humidity, we arrive just in time for blueberry season – who can’t help being excited about that?  I hope the garden didn’t expire without my devotion.  The kids have missed their dog.  We are ready.  See you there!
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