our little holiday

as 2014 drifts away tonight, i'm spending a few final moments on christmas.

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when i was a kid, there was always the anticipation of christmas, then the actual holiday; it all seemed to just morph and swell, and i didn't notice the crazed pace of the days preceding it. but now that i'm the adult, and the buying and planning and cleaning and prepping and decorating all fall on me, the month of december seems so short and frenetic.

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in my desire to make things lovely and magical, somehow the season also becomes chaotic and stressful; likely because i forget to factor in things like schedules and chores and business trips and swim meets and grocery shopping and laundry and addressing christmas cards, etc.

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but all the work is worth it when, at the end, you are sitting in a warm and twinkling home, sipping a cup of coffee and awaiting the arrival of family, and it seems like time can finally slow down so you can enjoy every moment of christmas.

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but then the family arrives, and the luggage is brought in, and the bags are deposited, and the food is put away, and the laughter starts, and the kids run around, and suddenly - time goes even faster than it did the day before.

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we had four solid days with my parents and my sister and her family. we made sure food was bought and things were made ahead and the plans were for "simple and easy" so that we had more time to just relax and enjoy. it was all very intentional.

and it worked. at least, it worked better than other years. but yet time still went so crazy fast.

monday morning, henry had swim practice. so while he was off doing that, harper and nora watched "my little pony"

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while marc blew wyatt's mind with the sheer amount of legos in our basement.

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we did puzzles, we hung out, we ate a quick dinner. then henry was off to a current team vs alumni swim meet, and we all got to attend and cheer him on. best part? he raced one of last year's captains in the 100 free and, even though henry didn't win (by a nose), he got a lifetime best :52.70. the crowd (well, OUR crowd) went wild.

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after the oldest and youngest went to bed, matt and becca and i pulled out our phones and played several rounds of heads up ... and laughed until we cried.

the next two days were full of games - both board and video (stratego, five crowns, settlers of cattan, tenzi, pokemon, etc.), snacks, wine and more wine, hanging out.

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and nora kept an eye on the sky, looking for snow that never came.

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we also managed a quick family photo, despite the cold wind.

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my mom and sister and i had come up with the idea to get stuff to make ugly christmas sweaters, which we did on christmas eve. it ended up being such a fun activity for everyone that we've declared it our new family tradition.

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there was much laughter, enthusiasm, and photo-bombing.

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oh, and cookie-making. there was much cookie-making.

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then: christmas eve traditions. the stockings, the letters, the reading of "the night before christmas."

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followed by the traditional "get the kids to bed because we still have an hour's worth of wrapping and stocking-filling and present-under-the-tree-putting to do!"

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three days in, one day to go. it all had been so fun and had gone so quickly. usually, we have only three days altogether, but four was so much better because christmas day goes faster than any other. and it was so good that i took hardly any photos.

i've learned over the years that i prefer to just be in the moment and soak it all in.

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we ended the day with our ugly sweater family photos

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then put the tired, happy kiddos to bed, pulled out five crowns and a bottle of gin, and capped off a great holiday in style.

as fast as it went, and as great as it was to be together, and as much fun as we had, on december 26th the house was quiet: marc was watching tv, the kids were playing new video games, and i sat alone in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and flipping through a new cookbook, while listening to annie lennox sing "georgia on my mind" and "summertime" on vinyl on my new, perfect crosley record player. and it was just as good to enjoy the stillness as it had been to enjoy the chaos.

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maybe that's what christmas is all about when you are the adult. the crazy fun is for the kids, but it's a whirlwind for you. but the 26th? that's just for you, the time alone to reflect and be grateful and exhale, and eagerly look forward to the next year.


and so it begins

i now have two swimmers.

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two kids. two different age groups. two different pools. two different practice times.

but it's cool. i'm handling it.

even easier to handle when she has bffs on the team with her. makes it so much more fun ... giggles during kicking, snacks after practice, carpools ...

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(lots of snacks after practice.)

it was especially great when harper and her bff were able to share the momentous occasion of First Swim Meet with each other.

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i'll admit it: it was fun to watch a different kid swim for a change. and she did an awesome job!

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she won her heat in her very first event, the 50 free, and it was a huge boost for her. she looked amazing!

(lane six ... third from the top)

 

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the win was also huge because on her last practice start, her foot slipped and she got a scrape, resulting in her being afraid of the starting block and refusing to get back on it for the meet. after her win in the 50, she waved us down for a conference, but being unable to go on the pool deck because we're parents, henry went in our place. he thought he was going to have to talk her down from a ledge, but in fact, she was so jazzed about winning her heat that she just wanted someone to talk to.

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after some high-fives and a little expert advice, henry returned, and she finished up her last two races (second in her backstroke heat, fourth - i think - in the breaststroke). she was so happy and so proud of herself, and was even happier that she and cece got to experience it together.

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and now we're officially a two swimmer family. harp has two more meets in the pipeline, and henry has one more before high school season starts up in december.

which ... december?! how?? i was just excited about the start of october and then ... october went. it's gone. that's crazy.

i didn't quite get to the fall decorating, as declared, but that's life. we DID make it to the orchard for apples ...

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and to the pumpkin patch for apple cider donuts pumpkins ...

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and made the kids' halloween costumes:

a phoenix

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and a bob ross who couldn't find a brown wig.

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bob actually went to the high school halloween dance, not trick-or-treating. that was a new experience for us all. but he had a blast ... and actually danced!! maybe there's hope i'll get to someday dance at a wedding, after all. because heaven forbid i got to dance at my own wedding but no i'm not bitter.

and now: november.

which, apparently, will be full of swimming.


longest. summer. ever.

my kids are - finally - back in school.

henry headed out on monday morning to begin his high school career. yes i said high school.

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remember when he looked like this?

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(that would be his first day of first grade. *sob*)

one week in, and all is well. he's finding his way around without trouble. he's figuring out the lunch situation. he hasn't yet been to his locker. and he adores his science teacher.

then, on wednesday, harp began fourth grade.

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not gonna lie ... i'm a bit freaked out by how fast my kiddos are growing up. this girl? seems like she was just this girl:

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(well ... maybe she hasn't changed all that much.)

but after three days, she declares fourth grade is "awesome." so far, she loves her teacher, her two bffs are in her class, and at some point she'll get to bring home the class guinea pigs for a weekend.

it's all good.

august was a long, long, loooooong month. so i'm pretty sure they are just as happy to be back in school as i am happy to send them there.

we did round out summer vacation with a quick trip to indiana over labor day to celebrate marc's mom's birthday with the fam.

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and that was fun. even though i got food poisoning or something the first night there. that was less fun.

and after that we headed to my parents' for a day and a half, and that was fun, too. except for the two hours i spent at the ER with my mom and my grandma, after grandma decided to rearrange her desk with her face. seven stitches later, we were back home.

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but the very best part of the whole trip? i finally got to spend time with my lovely friend, jen. a visit that's been in the works for, oh, like three years.

we arrived friday afternoon for dinner and hanging out, then decided hey! why not send the menfolk out to shoot at things on saturday morning, while the womenfolk wander the village and soak up even more time together?

so we did. and it was awesome.

and i felt very anne shirley & diana berry with jen. truth be told, i think our daughters felt a bit like that, too.

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jen & i are trying to orchestrate an arranged marriage between her daughter and my son. which wasn't awkward for them at all.

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and yes, we got pix of jen and me together. and we agreed that none were shareable. so that's that.

it was just the loveliest way to end the longest month of the longest summer ever. and now? fall. it's cool outside, my kids are back in school ... all is right with the world.


yup. still here.

summer is, quite literally, flying by. we were crazy busy in june, and by the end of july - since the kids got out of school two weeks earlier than usual - we were all thinking, "how much more of this IS there?!" but now the middle of august is in sight, and it feels like we still haven't managed to do the things we planned to do over summer break.

since the last transmission from crazytown (and if we're facebook friends, sorry: there is nothing new here for you) ...

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henry swam in the long course regional finals. in regional finals, you advance to state if a) you make a state-cut time, and/or b) you win your event. well, henry earned a second-place finish in the 50m free ... lost by .02 seconds, which was heartbreaking. even worse, he missed the state-cut time by .19. gah. he also placed in the top eight in his other events. so he did an awesome job.

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2. we were surprised with a lovely afternoon visit from the kids' cousins from michigan, along with marc's sister and her husband:

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3. i managed to get away twice. first, with my friend tina to her family's cabin in wisconsin. we did nothing but read, antique, talk, antique, read, and talk for two days.

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then i flew to indiana to meet up with two of my oldest and best friends, at the lake cabin where we grew up skiing and dancing on weekends throughout high school. it was just like old times, laughing and tubing all the hours away. what wasn't the same was how sore we were the next day. but it was still heavenly.

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4. our garden is doing amazeballs.

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5. this happened:

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the five flawed windows were replaced ... painting happened ... it's all good now, but it was a mess for a few days. the kitchen window changes have yet to take place, though. we're replacing the sill with soapstone and tiling up the back wall so that there is no more wood trim behind the faucet. that turned out to be a very bad thing. problem: there is zero soapstone in the area like ours right now. so we're on perpetual hold to finish that.

6. harper has been playdating her brains out.

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6.5: oh, and not to be outdone by her brother, harper completed the highest swim lesson level and is (according to her. right at this very moment in time. subject to change.) on to swim team in the fall. she's feeling pretty confident. why? their final test in lessons was to swim 500 yards. little miss lapped - and double lapped - the kids in her class, and she was the youngest.

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she was exhausted but super duper proud of herself. as she should be.

7. remember back at #1, when i said henry didn't make state finals? well, i lied. he was invited to swim on the 200m free relay and the 400m free relay. result? 13-14 boys state champs in both.

champs, i say.

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they did an amazing job. and i'm going to show you, because that's what proud mamas do.

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200 free relay ... lane four. the lead-off swimmer is a nationally-ranked kiddo, andrew, the awesome duo of alex & axel in the middle, and henry is the anchor swimmer. it was a nail-biter:

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henry's time was a zone cut (which is a good thing), but didn't count because it was a relay. he missed out on getting the time again when he time trialed, but he was okay with that ... now he knows he can do it. even better? he cut nearly two seconds off his 50 time.

but wait! then there was the 400 relay. again, lane four. again, henry anchored (i recorded only his leg on this one):

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this time, the victory was more decisive. and henry dropped three seconds off his 100 time.

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he was most curious how his long course times would convert to short course. going by the conversion times, he now has a high school letter time in both events, and is in pretty awesome position moving into his freshman year. if his coach swims him in the 50 and 100, he could earn his own spot at state by time.

that would be amazing.

and that's where we stand right now. hopefully the remainder of august will be filled with more fun things, and the kids will head back to school having no summer plans left undone.


we went somewhere

spring break happened last week. and today, marc's back on an airplane and the kids are back at school, and tonight we have piano and swimming.

life's back to normal.

BUT. last week was superfun.

we headed to the dc. you've all seen the pictures of stuff there, so i'll just share our stories instead.

we flew out friday afternoon, and got there just in time for a walk and dinner. since our hotel was four blocks from the white house, we decided that should be our first stop, and then find dinner somewhere after.

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full disclosure? the white house? that was only four blocks from our hotel? this is the only photo i took of it. and it was with my phone. we were so busy with other things the rest of the week that we just never made it back over to 1600 pennsylvania ave with the real camera. oh well ... we all know what the white house looks like.

so then we kept walking around to the south lawn, saw the back of the white house (farther away than the front side, so the phone photo isn't as impressive), the washington monument in the distance, then got some food.

at a really old, really fancy schmancy place: occidental grill. on night one. so much for pacing ourselves.

(this is what the place looks like in the daytime ...

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the boys had steak, harper had tilapia, i had a seared lentil patty thing. all was excellent.)

day one, saturday, was the nicest day of the week, weather-wise ... near 70, sunny and spring-like ... so it seemed like the right day to go to the zoo. our only expectation for the zoo? see the pandas. that was it. pretty risky.

we took the metro to the zoo (the kids thought that was pretty fun), and walked ... and walked ... and walked the rest of the afternoon. the national zoo is a really big, spread out place. but by golly we saw that panda.

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and we saw a lion. and it roared at us. like, a lot. so much that harper even got a video of the roaring. (that was the highlight of her week. on day one. it was all downhill for harper from there.)

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hours - and sore feet - later, we took the train back to the hotel, went swimming, and headed to dinner. oh - but first: henry found a tardis:

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i forget how our plans changed at the last minute, but somehow we ended up wandering into a garden-level teeny-tiny hole-in-the-wall peruvian place to eat. and it was fantastic. authentic food, authentic guitar-playing singer. always try the hole-in-the-wall places.

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day two: we opted to get 48-hour big bus tickets and made our game plan. the big bus offered four different tour loops, and we decided to do the blue tour on sunday. it would take us to the majority of the monuments and memorials.

we caught the bus right outside ford theater, where about a dozen school tour buses were also parked and waiting. the sunny-and-70 from the day before was gone, and we were bundled in the warmest clothes we had. even so, harper was shivering and unhappy. an unhappy harper means a day of unhappy all of us, so we ran into a gift shop and found her a hat. as we waited for the bus, we gave henry the tags and bag and asked him to please throw them away. he walked about 15 feet away to the trash, and the next thing we knew, he was surrounded by about half a dozen girls. when he came back, i asked what that was all about. he smiled a bit sheepishly and replied, "they wanted to get their picture taken with me."

yeah. i have THAT son.

we had a good giggle at henry's expense until the bus came. and then we were off ...

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(henry's favorite street in dc.)

after walking around the reflection pool, from the wwii memorial to the lincoln memorial, up the other side of the reflection pool to the vietnam memorial and a few other statues, we headed to the bus stop to ride toward arlington cemetery and the pentagon. we'd already done quite a bit of walking ... and it was not warm ... and harper was not in the greatest mood. but she hung in there. and we tested her to her very last ounce of patience. with more walking.

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we walked from the welcome center to the tomb of the unknown soldier, stood there for 20 minutes to watch the changing of the guard (a very solemn, moving thing to witness), over to the eternal flame and kennedy's grave, and back to the bus.

so. much. walking.

the bus took us past the pentagon (don't blink or you'll miss it ... the bus doesn't even slow down.), then dropped us at the pentagon mall. where we chose to (finally) eat lunch. at about 3 p.m.

we noticed there was a legal seafood on the corner (one of marc's favorite places), across the street from a sign for a drug store.

this was a good thing because washington is just enough ahead of minnesota in the seasons changing category that marc was a seasonal allergy mess. sneezing, runny nose, and his right eye was so swollen and bloodshot it was nearly purple.

(i didn't take a picture of that. you're welcome.)

so he washed his face at legal, which helped, we ate, then we crossed the street to find the drug store. only to discover that only the sign was at the corner. the actual drug store was down the street and to the left. except it was "down the street and to the left." and underground. and another mile away. for real. (so, more walking. harper was so pleased.)

three bags of allergy meds and bottles of water later, we grabbed a cab back to the hotel, and marc and i fell asleep for two hours while the kids played on their gameboys.

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at around 8 p.m., marc and the kids ate subway from next door to the hotel, and i had doritos and oreos from the hotel lobby. we were too tired for anything more interesting.

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day three, back on the bus. the plan for monday was to hit enough of the red loop to fill in the gaps in the monument-and-memorial tour from the day before, and ride the yellow line around georgetown and back to the ford theater area. it was, again, really cold. so back into the gift shop we went while waiting for the bus. this time: a hoodie. more layers. and then we were off.

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we rode that bus all through georgetown (the architecture! oh my. i want to go wander georgetown for an entire day and take it all in. and peek in windows.), then headed back to the spy museum and madame tussaud's wax museum.

... with a quick stop, first, for lunch. burgers (for the boys), mahi (for me), and chicken noodle soup (for guess who) at gordon biersch. such food. very yum.

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then the museums.

marc loved the spy museum. henry really liked it. harper was not impressed. i thought it was interesting. so there you go.

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the wax museum? we all loved that one!

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we saw every president (many of them were much taller than i expected ... especially the early ones!), many historical figures ... we all found favorites ...

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and pop culture icons ...

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marc was especially pleased to find angelina.

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which did not please brad.

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but i could not have cared less. i had george.

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and harper didn't care about any of it; she just wanted to be a badass world leader.

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(the thought of her finger on the button? yikes. she'd nuke us all at the drop of a hat.)

anyway, that was fun.

then it was back on the bus. we planned to ride it to union station, then transfer to the red line to finish off a couple of monuments we'd missed the day before, but when we got to union station, it was 4 p.m. ... which apparently means "tour over. go home." so, we did.

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day four, tuesday morning we awoke to ... snow. so glad we bought that hoodie for harp the day before. because she wore it again.

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we'd planned to wake up at 8, eat, and head to the smithsonian for the day. but everyone was so exhausted that when the alarm went off, i was the only person who moved. so i turned it back off, and we all slept another two hours.

then we got up.

there was a restaurant - founding farmers - four blocks from the hotel that i'd been eyeballing since we arrived, and i suggested going there for brunch/lunch. (at 11:00, is it brunch? lunch?) holy cow ... the food? phen.om.en.al. seriously. it was so good, i bought the cookbook. and now want to start a letter-writing campaign to get them to open one in the north loop here in minneapolis. or they could open one a block from my house. either way is good.

marc had chicken waffles (which, ?? still don't get chicken and waffles together. but he said it was amazing.), henry had chicken pot pie, harper had yankee pot roast, and i was on kid clean-up crew. because no way was either child going to eat their whole meal. (i'm a mom. that's my job.) surprisingly, they ate more than i thought (the food was just that good), so i'm glad i also had a small (super fabulous) salad.

so, lunch eaten, we cabbed it to the air and space museum. this? was marc's happy place. 110%. henry was pretty happy, too.

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(underside of apollo 11.)

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harper dealt with being there, until we found one of amelia earhart's planes. then she was giddy. and then she was done.

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after wandering the museum for a few hours, we decided a quiet evening was a good idea. so we got a cab back to georgetown for a movie (muppet movie ... awesome!) and dinner. (we tried to make a reservation at a middle eastern place. when we arrived after the movie, the place was totally empty, three employees were sitting at a table, we asked if they were open, and they responded with, "what? oh, okay." um ... no. sketchy. so we went to a pub.)

wednesday morning - day five - we again got some sleep, headed back to the smithsonian area, to go through the natural history museum and american history museum. the kids loved the animals and skeletons and bugs and science and minerals and "where did humans come from" exhibits, so we spent quite a bit of time at the natural history museum.

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harper and i went into the butterfly house which, i'm pretty sure, was another highlight of the week for her.

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we eventually reached sciency saturation point, so opted to go through the american history museum. turns out, though, our gumption wasn't nearly as strong as we'd thought. and there were so. many. people. in the museum.

happily, i got to see the swedish chef ...

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and while the boys went through military history, harper and i went through presidential history and focused our attention on the first ladies ...

(eleanor roosevelt's inaugural ball dress? squeee!)

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and we were done. i'd really wanted to spend more time in that particular museum, but oh well. next time.

the kids were asking for sushi, so we went to kaz, which was near our hotel, and henry put away about $80 worth of sushi rolls by himself (he is NOT a cheap date), and harper just wanted to eat the sucker with a scorpion in it that she'd gotten at the natural history museum.

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sufficiently stuffed, we walked back to the hotel, had another evening dip in the pool ...

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and called it a day, because thursday would come with an early wake-up time.

day six - last day - was, for me, the best.

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we had to be at the hart senate building at 8:30 for a minnesota morning gathering at senator amy klobuchar's office. we got to meet sen. klobuchar (really ... i'm a fan. she's such a neat lady.), then got a special senate office aide-guided tour of the capitol. this? was my favorite. you cannot help to feel awed in this building.

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(allegedly, it's good luck to put your feet in the white star on the floor at the center of the rotunda. unless you are an elected official. then you want to steer clear of it.)

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our tour included passes to see the senate and house galleries. we went to the senate one, sat for a few minutes, then marc suggested we keep moving. the security guy behind us told us that, if we were interested, the senators would be returning in fifteen minutes to vote on a bill. uh, YES. so we stayed.

henry and i? stoked. marc and harper? so not.

but soon the doors opened and the senators started to return from lunch. and i was pointing out all of the stars of the daily show to henry ... mcconnell, cruz, rubio, mccain, etc. ... then i saw al franken enter and give a grin and a thumbs up and leave again, and i got giddy. then elizabeth warren entered and i got positively fan-girly. love that lady.

after about 15 minutes, marc said we should really go. so ... okay. at that point, it was nearly 2:00, no one had eaten since 7:45, so we opted to to not go to the house gallery. i was kind of bummed about that ... would have loved to have seen where my grandpa worked for 16 years ... but he was right.

we ate at the capitol's cafeteria (note: most expensive ham sandwich and bowl of soup ever. thanks, government.), then walked over to the library of congress. we didn't spend much time there, but it was enough to be completely awed, again, over the architecture.

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we got moving, though, because we knew it was our last chance to make it to the memorials we hadn't yet seen: jefferson, mlk jr, and roosevelt.

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the thing that struck me most on thursday - and, really, all week - were the figures to whom we've built statues and memorials, and the ideas we've carved in stone and put around our capitol city in places of honor. the common thread among them all are the ideas of humanity, of care, of treating others equally and with respect, and of america being the land of opportunity and hope and progress. i had to wonder, on more than a few occasions, if our elected officials ever read the words of their predecessors and really take to heart what made them great and gave them their places in history. because it seems like none ever do.

which is sad.

our week came to an end friday morning. we returned to founding farmers for breakfast (harper's carrot cake pancakes? holy cow. and i had amazing leek and potato hash with poached eggs and a freshly baked english muffin.), then grabbed a cab back to the airport.

we returned with a whole weekend to spare ... to relax, recover, do laundry. and today? it was lovely to get back to routine. with a whole new week's worth of memories for us all.


i'm still here.

more in spirit than physically, but hopefully that will change in '14.

i'm applying that "change" idea everywhere this year. let's don't call it a resolution, but more of a proclamation: i'm making changes.

photography? gone. done. i can't compete in this shoot-and-burn overgrowth of Moms With Cameras, who do a "shoot" and give every photo (200? 300?) to the "client" for $50. i'm sorry, sweetie, but if you have such little respect for your own time, you don't deserve to call yourself a photographer. but still ... it has killed my business and killed the enjoyment i once got from it. and really? in the past year? the vast majority of photos i took of my own kids were on my phone. that's crazy. but it just shows how burnt out and bitter i've become, and i say "no more." i want to enjoy shooting again, so i'm taking the stress out of it.

my health? a priority this year. it has to be. i turned 40 (there. i said it.) and realized that all those people and magazine articles that have stated it all gets harder after 40? they were talking to me. i'm now officially in the "it's harder now" zone, and that doesn't sit well with me. so in response to both that and the nomophoto thing, i am converting my studio/office into an excercise room. we purchased an elliptical, and right now are in the process of finishing the crafty room (it's taken only 29 months ...), which will allow us to deconstruct the studio/office, which will allow us to utilize that room for fitness. marc bought a tv for the room, we're moving a shelf in there to hold work-out dvds and equipment, and this is going to happen. it is.

and on that note, i'm getting back into the swing of cooking. things have been far too busy, and i miss cooking far too much. right now, we have a five-week lull between swim seasons, so i'm going to use this time to get it together and  get back into the kitchen. i'm looking forward to it, and have been scanning pinterest and reading through clean eating mag to make a list of all the things i want to make. the hard part will be combining the clean eating i want to do with the caloric and protein/carb needs of a swimming teenager, with the picky palate of my youngest, with the "every meal needs to have meat and a double starch" mindset of my husband. i refuse to make more than one meal at a time, so either they are going to have to adapt or i'm going to have to get creative.

i've found another health outlet that is taking the place of the photography income, as well: i signed up to be a distributor for young living oils. over the past year, i've been seeing several friends post on facebook about how amazing these oils are. i did nothing more than glance over each update. at one point, though, i saw a testimonial from one of them a migraine blend, and i became intrigued. marc had been suffering with a return to migrainland, and we were at the point that he was willing to try anything. so i ordered a bottle of m-grain a couple of months ago. while sitting at one of henry's meets, marc felt a migraine coming on. i asked if he brought the oil and he said he had. he rubbed a drop on each temple, and a drop on the back of his neck/base of his skull. half an hour later, i asked him how he was feeling, and he said, surprised, "the migraine never actually hit." it was astounding. after that, i looked into the oils in earnest. i had also been growing increasingly skeptical and fed up with the whole big pharma/big insurance scheme to take our money. when every medication advertised comes with a list of side effects longer and more horrible than what the medication is treating, that's ridiculous. remedies should not hurt; they should help. so i went into research mode and eventually came to the conclusion that the oils were worth a shot. i ordered a few, and was so happy with what they did that i ordered the starter kit. the whole family was sold, and everyone i talked to about them was curious, so i jumped into the business side. it wasn't my intention, but by god if i can help my friends and loved ones, i'm going to. and i firmly believe these oils can do that. in the past six weeks? they have cleared up a candida-related toenail fungus that i've battled for years, and have reduced the candida flare-ups i get each month when my progesterone levels spike; they have warded off colds in all of us, and have reduced the severity of the one cold harper managed to almost catch; they have cleared up a molluscum outbreak in henry's armpit in a matter of weeks - not the "months" that others have gone through, and without the expense of meds that don't work or the pain of having the molluscum cut off; they have removed a plantar wart on harper's foot; they helped marc get a good night's sleep, after weeks of being on the road stripped him of the ability to rest and stay asleep; they have curbed my snoring (oh, the joys of getting older: snoring.), and that's just a sampling. next on the list: weight loss. several people in the distributor group have lost anywhere from 10 to more than 40 pounds using oils. i'm in for that, man.

(and i truly suck at sales so maybe this isn't the best route for me to go, but i believe in these oils and that it's worth it to try. if you want more info or are curious if there's an oil for something, let me know. i'll do the research and help you out.)

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moving down the list of proclamations: craftiness? with the repurposing of the office for exercise, it has become necessary to finish the craft room. and i'm excited. i can't wait to start pushing paper around again and getting our stories and memories down on paper. one of the biggest hurdles over the past ... man ... six years? is that my printer became a thorn in my side, and it wasn't a priority to figure out why, so i haven't had a printer for photos or words since then. and i just stopped; i walked away. but that ends now, i will get back to the crafty, and harper will have her own space to create her own art. we're both happy.

these are simple proclamations, and seem totally doable. up until this week? it seemed less doable. things were crazy.

high school swimming season finished, with two meets per week. henry earned a spot on the true team sectional team (only the top four swimmers in each event from each school, and he swam both individual events and relays), which actually won their sectional for the first time in years, so he was then on the true team STATE team that competed at the U ...

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and he also earned a spot on the varsity sectional team that swam last week at the end of the regular season. he qualified in the 100 backstroke, and came in 23rd out of 28 high school boys in the section. he was the only 8th grader on the team who made it. so that was exciting.

also exciting? he turned 14. he blows us away with how amazing he is. recently? he took the ACT explorer ... an assessment ACT to see where he stacks up to other 8th graders in the nation ... and he scored in the 100th percentile. seriously. where did he come from?! the aptitude section also confirmed that his career goals are on the right track - he wants to work in astronomy or statistics, and scored high in aptitude for both (physical science/physics, and statistics).

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which was lucky for us, because we rocked our little budding astronomer's world at present time:

 

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luckiest kid in the world, i tell you. totally spoiled, but not a spoiled bone in his body.

not to be left out, harper has also been around.

she continues to do a great job with piano. we've found, though, that it's best to leave her alone and just let her work through her practice pieces. the minute one of us tries to get involved and help, it becomes a battle and she freaks out. and that's the end. so we tell her to practice, and she does.

key to harper: leave her alone.

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she is also taking an art class after school through a program called young rembrandts. it isn't your typical after school doodle-and-craft art class; it is technique-based and is teaching her how to really see what she's drawing, and draw what she sees. the work she's brought home is amazing, and she absolutely loves it.

we did get her to leave the house last weekend and attend the father-daughter dance at school. she knew her best friend was going, so she also wanted to go. but she didn't want a new dress ... in her words?  "i just like simple." works for me. (we did, however, buy her new shoes. from the women's department at target. size 6. what??) and she didn't want to have dinner or do anything like that. she just wanted to go.

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and then an hour and a half later? they were back. she was done.

and she ran upstairs, put on her jammies, and climbed into a chair to watch her brother play on the computer.

and that's harper in a nutshell.

she will really benefit from the less crazy schedule we have for the next month, and i'm hoping all of the extra time and the intentions of getting into a better routine will be good for her and her anxiety, which is good for all of us in return.

so, that's where we stand. i am still here. and hopefully will have more interesting things to talk about soon.


christmas

look at me ... two posts in two days! way to finish off '13, amiright?

i've gotten so removed from keeping track of the little things on here, and that seriously hinders my ability to have these stories on hand when i want to do something with them. (on that note: 2014 will be the year that i *finally* make that crafty room usable and get back to making some art. promise.) i need to be better about that. so without further ado, christmas:

first of all, it has to be said that i like the Getting Ready For Christmas part about as much as the actual holiday. i am always giddy when all the red and white and glitter and pine and glass balls make an appearance. nothing makes me happier. it makes every day a cheerful anticipation of what is about to take place. and christmas music is a constant - all day, every day, much to marc's delight (sarcasm). however, twinkle lights and shiny brites and the scent of the tree are as synonymous with holiday spirit as the sound of frank and bing and nat. in my opinion.

regardless of the work and time involved, coming downstairs in the morning to see the tree on and the icicles glittering fills me with warmth and happiness. it just does.

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(for the record, steaming the curtains was on my to do list. it really was. just didn't happen.)

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(there's your glimpse at the gallery wall. i'll tell you more about that in january. maybe.)

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(blue ball jars. always.)

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the best anticipation for this christmas, though, was that my family was coming up to spend it with us.

we made the hard decision this year that christmas break is just too difficult a time to travel. the kids don't have enough days off school to do everything we want to do (see both families, have a bit of a downtime break to recharge ourselves after the constant insanity of life), the weather can be dicey and unpredictable, and now that henry swims high school, he needs to be around for mandatory practices. and his coach schedules a travel meet the day after christmas each year (this year being the exception; he and his wife were gone for a wedding); since henry already swims varsity, i can't imagine that there will be a lot of understanding on the coach's part for the next four years when henry tells him he can't participate for two weeks right in the middle of the season. so, visiting family will now become a summer thing for the foreseeable future. and when my parents and sister said they would come up for the week of christmas? yeehaw!!

during the weeks after thanksgiving, becca and my mom and i talked and texted constantly about how much we were looking forward to being together, hanging out, relaxing, enjoying each other. luckily, their trip here was problem-free, and the next day, minnesota provided brand new snow, for our white christmas.

all the kids got suited up and headed out to the backyard with sleds.

all except nora. poor nora. she got as far as the boots, and was denied further access to the snow.

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but the big kids had fun.

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until a couple of runs in, when harper decided to be pissy that henry was being nicer and more patient to wyatt than he was with her (partially true; partially justified), and she decided to throw a fit.

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the boys tried to reason with her, but ... has anything i've written about harper in the last nearly nine years led you to the conclusion that she can be reasoned with?

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no. so, they kept having fun, and she eventually gave up and did her own thing.

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speaking of doing her own thing, nora wasn't too bothered that she was missing the snow.

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so, that was sunday. monday came, and we took henry to morning practice, then headed to our little downtown bakery to have a donut before heading back to the pool to watch him swim. turns out, the pool doors were locked behind the kids and we couldn't get in. so we missed morning practice. which in turn changed all of our plans for the day so that we could go watch his afternoon practice instead. it wasn't ... bad ... but it wasn't good, either. it was "unfortunate" ... let's say that. however, we had fun at the afternoon practice. instead of just a workout, the practice was a "fun meet" of silly races. unbeknownst to henry, we all made "go henry!!" signs, and every time it was his turn to swim, we held up those signs and cheered our hearts out. (it needs to be said that we were the only people in the bleachers. and the only people at the pool not swimming. we stood out a bit.) luckily, henry is a self-confident kid who borders on Mr Popular, so he took it in good stride, and none of his teammates gave him trouble.

and that was sunday.

monday was a blur of last-minute target runs, cooking, game-playing, etc., and christmas eve was more of the same. my mom, becca, and i ran to the grocery in the afternoon, only to discover that half the things on our list were gone. lots of on-the-fly change of plans. two hours later, we exited the store into a big, beautiful snowfall. we detoured on the way home to enjoy the lights and the time to just be quiet and together. once home, it was all about the christmas eve traditions: notes to santa, cookies and carrots left out, hanging stockings, reading "'twas the night before christmas."

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amazingly enough, the kids all went to bed without issue, and slept without complaint.

until 7 a.m.

and then ...

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and everyone was happy.

and for all the things that didn't go according to plan, we were still together. and it was still the most wonderful time of the year.

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soooo ... the elf is back.

and i almost forgot all about her.

december first ... we'd gotten home from indiana late on saturday evening after a whirlwind thanksgiving/grandma's 90th birthday celebration:

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sunday morning, we all tried to get a little sleep ... except for harper, who was up and watching "my little pony" by 7:30. i went downstairs at 8:30 to have some coffee, putter around, and at 10:00 i realized that it was december 1st.

crap.

so i quickly did a little crafty sign, ran upstairs, grabbed the elf out of my underwear drawer (didn't want to have to scramble to find her, like last year), stuck it in harper's room (thankfully, her room is always super dark, and she doesn't turn on lights when she wakes up. so the idea that the elf was there all along and she just didn't see it was plausible.)

an hour later, i told her she needed to get dressed so we could eat lunch. at that point, she noticed the elf and squealed, "snowflake is back!!!!! wait ... was she in my room when i woke up? i didn't even see her!"

luckily, harper forgot it was december 1st, too.

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monday morning, harp came down for breakfast and found snowflake and gray kitty swinging on the (still undecorated) christmas tree.

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that evening, she grabbed some dolls and doll accessories and set up a Welcome Back, Snowflake tea party, complete with hot cocoa goldfish crackers and placecards. (placecards, people. how does she know what a placecard is?!)

so of course snowflake was in attendance on tuesday morning.

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the party must have gotten a little crazy, because on wednesday, snowflake was under the weather and called in sick for the day.

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thankfully, she was feeling much better this morning, and donned an ugly christmas sweater and was waiting for harper on the reindeer head outside of the kids' room, along with gray kitty.

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yee-haw.

(while we're at it, dear pinterest: thank you for having an abundance of elf on the shelf pins. you take all of the hassle and work out of having to be creative every day. if i have to come up with my own ideas only every fourth day or so? sweet. you're awesome. love, michele)


sooo ... THAT didn't go as planned

remember how i got all excited about fall? i was going to Get Stuff Done? couldn't wait?

yeaaaahhhhh ...

we DID get the gallery wall up in the great room. still need to shoot pix of that. (i KNOW, jen.) however, right now there is too much glare. why, you ask? because i was going to finally get around to having the curtains hemmed (oh. we also finally put up curtains.), but wanted to have them cleaned first since the bottom 7" were covered with mario fur. but when i took them to the cleaner, they had a bad reaction to the dry cleaning and turned yellow.

how does white linen turn yellow when cleaned?? why did linen have to be dry cleaned in the first place?! but it did. so i called the manufacturer, they are sending us replacements, THEN i'll get them hemmed, THEN i'll take pix of the gallery wall.

however, once the gallery wall was done and i was ready to move on to other fallish things, i got busy with this:

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and this:

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and this and this and this (parts 1 and 2):

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and suddenly, it's the last week of october, and i've done nothing but edit photos for a month. and go to st augustine, florida for a weekend for one of my oldest and dearest friend's 40th birthday slumber party ...

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and marc and harper were in indy for a weekend for his dad's 70th birthday ... and henry had a swim meet and a science project ... and marc traveled ... and henry got bronchitis then a double ear infection then gave it to me ... and marc's parents stopped by for 36 hours on their way from denver to chicago ... and literally nine hours later, his sister and her family stopped by for about two hours on their way to a conference ... and our neighbors had a halloween party, wherein marc dressed as a skeevy girls' basketball coach and i was a knocked-up player ...

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and this week, marc's gone a night, then he turns 40 has a birthday, then halloween. and maybe we'll carve the pumpkins we bought two weeks ago, when we combined Hit The Orchard with Celebrate Our Anniversary. (17th = Year of the Apple Cider Mini-Donut, FYI.)

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(yes, my children are that tall. yes, henry is this close to the 6' mark.)

so perhaps i shall Get Stuff Done in November.

then again, maybe i should stop assuming i will ever get anything done. that seems safer.

 


a tale of two cities

it was the best of times, it was, well, times have been pretty good. so good, in fact, that the summer is flying by. instead of ignoring the ol' blog because i have nothing to say, i haven't blogged because there's been too much. june was chaos and we were gone for half of it. and this is that story.

back when marc was only on week eight of being gone, his company, red hat, was holding its summit in boston the week of father's day. we decided that since the school year was done and the kids and i had been left alone way too much (and it was likely to continue. which turned out to be true. a month later.), we would fly out to boston on friday to join marc for the weekend. boston is one of my favorite places, but the kids had never been, so it seemed time.

i tried to hold off telling them about the trip, but decided to spill the beans the day before. our flight out of minneapolis was at 6:30 a.m., which meant we had to leave the house at 4:30 a.m. ... didn't seem like waking them at 4 a.m. saying, "surprise!" would go over well. they were troopers getting up and ready to go, and after a fiasco at the airport (one security line open. still waiting in line as our plane was boarding. running to our gate after security. no coffee or breakfast for anyone. the "no coffee" thing really sucked. made it onto the plane, only to be delayed 30 minutes because some brilliant person thought the plane was going to alaska, not boston, and put in waaaay more gas than we needed. which then had to be emptied.), we were on our way.

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the rest of the trip was uneventful, and we landed without a problem. a quick cab ride downtown, and we walked into the hotel just as marc did. perfect timing. after dropping our bags in the room, we took a cab to little italy to meet marc's aunt and uncle, cousin and cousin's wife and new baby for lunch. after lunch, henry was, unfortunately, feeling pretty nasty so we headed back to the room for some cool, dark, and quiet. (ie everyone fell asleep and napped for, like, three hours.) we ate dinner close to the hotel and called it a night, hoping henry would feel better in the morning.

saturday turned out to be a gorgeous day, and henry was feeling much better, so off we went. first stop: dunkin' donuts. our poor midwestern kids have never tried dunkin' (they don't exist in minnesota). they were totally impressed.

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our plan was to head downtown, wander, ride a duck boat, take the kids to the garden, etc.

but first, my boys had to stop and gawk at a lamborghini parked in front of a hotel. while they appreciated the car, i had to wonder what sort of person drives a lamborghini, parks in from of the w hotel, and self-identifies as "gatsby." turns out, according to the doorman, it is a local student.

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hmm. no comment.

and then we were off.

we grabbed a cab to the prudential center to board a duck boat. during all of our times in boston, neither marc nor i have ever taken a duck boat tour. and i'm so glad we did it with the kids. we were able to see all of the important/noteworthy/cool/historic areas, hear some amazing history, and were totally entertained by disco danny, our driver, the entire time.

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and we bought the kids duck call necklaces. and they quacked a lot. that may have been a bad idea. (though it was actually the fault of danny disco. he told duck call holders to quack when he told them to. and to quack at other duck boats. my kids were just following orders. for the rest of the weekend. they quacked at every duck boat they saw.)

funny (to us) story: while we were on the tour learning all of the amazing historical facts and seeing all of the noteworthy places, we passed a bar called the red hat. i told marc he needs to take his co-workers there next time they're in town.

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the tour ended about an hour later. we grabbed lunch at legal seafood ...

(oh, those lobster rollllllsssss ...)

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and then started to wander.

our walk led us down boylston into copley square. it was a pretty emotional experience, being there only two months after the bombings. there is a beautiful memorial set up in the square with hundreds of pairs of running shoes with inspirational messages and prayers written on them. i thought it in bad taste to photograph the memorial, but i did get a picture of an adjacent tree that had been yarn bombed with love.

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so we hung out in copley for awhile ...

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and i saw my favorite thing about cities: old and new architecture sharing the space ...

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as luck would have it, we were in town as the boston bruins were playing in the stanley cup finals against the chicago blackhawks, and the statues around town were celebrating:

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we then continued our walk down boylston, heading to the park. we passed a chocolate store and got a little pick-me-up ...

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the kids looked for and counted all of the "welcome red hat" signs around the area ...

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and we paused for a quiet moment at the marathon finish line.

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once we got to the park, the kids definitely seemed to relax in the green space. henry hugged a tree ...

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we met a nice couple out walking their cute little puppies ...

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i tried to take a photo of one of my favorite trees in the park, only to be photobombed by my eldest ...

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and we found the "make way for ducklings" statues. harper decided to be an honorary duckling ...

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we continued our walk up toward beacon hill and the state house. we talked about some of the historical points that disco danny had pointed out, and spent more timing observing and reading plaques along the way.

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henry then observed and read this plaque, giving me a smirk and saying, "there's a general hooker entrance. where do the special hookers enter?" thus proving a) he's totally a 13-year-old boy, and b) he's totally my child.

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further we walked ... the kids were both amazing and kept up and stayed interested the entire time. it was getting to be late afternoon by this point, and we were all hot and tired. henry found a place that looked like it might be right up his alley ...

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but decided, "it's too early for dinner. and we're in boston. we need to eat sushi." so, okay then.

we wandered on to the granery burying ground - the third oldest cemetery in boston, and spent some time trying to read the headstones that had been weathered over the past three hundred years.

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we turned off of tremont, heading toward faneuil hall, and passed the old state house, with its lion and unicorn statues, and the balcony on which the declaration of independence was read for the first time.

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we made it to faneuil and wandered through, but it was a bit chaotic. so we settled into a booth at anthem for some iced tea. and the boys had clam chowder. and harper photobombed me.

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seriously ... what is it with my children?!

that little pick-me-up got us through the remainder of our walk. we ended up at the harbor for a quick walk by the water, where harper was obsessed with finding jelly fish (because i told her i'd once seen the harbor full of jelly fish). she did ... a few ... all dead. and i discovered where i think i'd be perfectly happy living for a while ... boston, view of the city, view of the water, a boat. yup. totally doable.

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as we waited for a cab back to the hotel, my kids continued quacking at duck boats, and harper kept track of which ones we saw in a little booklet she picked up at the ticket booth. (we scratched off more than half of the list before our weekend was over.)

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henry had said he wanted sushi, and he had seen a sushi place at the end of the block by our hotel. we opted to try it ... and let me just say that it was some of the best sushi we've ever had. ever. we will definitely return to genki ya the next time we're in town.

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after dinner, we all fell into bed. i have no idea how much we walked that day, but the path looked something like this:

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the next morning, i was up by 7:30 ... and at 9:30, my people still looked like this:

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so i started bouncing on beds until they woke up.

sunday was all about the aquarium. it was the one thing harper had her heart set on doing while in town.

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both of the kids loved it.

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and then as we left, harper looked for more jelly fish in the harbor. this time, she saw two that were still alive.

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which made her very happy.

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we walked from the aquarium to the rose kennedy greenway and hung out by the rings fountain for a bit. it was a nice day - warm, but breezy, and the mist from the fountains felt wonderful. harper got as close as she dared ...

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while henry tried to decipher the timing of the fountains, in his rodin-esque way.

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harper continued to keep a respectful distance ...

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but henry thought he had figured out the system. so he was all in. and feeling very confident. even after we said, "you know, if the fountain gets you, you'll be wet all through lunch and on the plane." but his confidence said, "i know. i'm fine."

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well ... guess who was surprised by the fountain's random timing ...

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that's right, boy. you'd better run.

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(also, notice how he runs. this is why he swims. he gets his running skills from his mother, too.)

once we had a good laugh at henry's expense and expressed our thankfulness that he was still, amazingly, dry, we had one last lunch in boston then headed to the airport.

it was a great weekend ... too short, but wonderful. the kids loved the city as much as we do, and we are talking about when we can go again and spend more time. until then, boston ...

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but wait: i said this was a tale of TWO cities, right?

so we got back home on sunday night. monday morning, marc left ... again ... for the week ... again. he got home thursday night, and friday henry had a camp until 3:30 in the afternoon, at which point we picked him up and pointed the car south to indiana. my cousin got married on sunday in indiana, we hung out with family on monday, and on tuesday we drove two hours south to drop the kids off at marc's parents, before driving three hours back north to chicago, where marc was working for the next two days. so i tagged along.

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we started our Kid Free two-and-a-half days with a grown-up fancy steak dinner on tuesday night. just us. and a cocktail.

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on wednesday, marc left for his meetings, and i left to wander ... and, turns out, buy a rain coat, because it wouldn't stop raining ... to meet a girlfriend i haven't seen since high school. we killed the afternoon at the art institute, looking at the art and sharing memories and catching up. it was so great. then i walked back to the hotel (marc prefers cabs ... i prefer sidewalks) and got ready for dinner. we tried a sushi place that the concierge recommended (it was okay; couldn't compare with the stuff in boston.) ...

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wandered up michigan for a little window shopping, then stopped by a theater to see a movie. world war z. because when i have "kid free date night" time with my husband, we see a movie he wants to see. it was okay ... henry tells me i would prefer the book.

that night, we could not get to sleep. we kept hearing sirens and yelling on the street. turns out, the stanley cup was in town, the blackhawks having won it a few nights before, and it was making an appearance at a bar a few blocks north of our hotel. i was convinced the zombie apocalypse was starting and the crowds were yelling in fear. but they weren't.

i should have known. i'd seen the hockey helmets on statues that afternoon. a week earlier, it was jerseys on statues in boston. the symmetry made me smile.

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anyway, on thursday i was feeling not so great, so i opted to enjoy the quiet of a hotel room and king sized bed all to myself. i laid in that bed and flipped ... and flipped ... and flipped through terrible daytime hotel tv, and i re-read every magazine i'd brought on the trip. the movie i wanted to see that had been playing the day before at only 1:00 and 4:00 and i thought for sure i could go see on thursday? no longer playing. figures. however, marc was done for the day by mid-afternoon, we got cleaned up, and met his boss' boss for delicious cuban food. then we walked all the way up michigan and back to our hotel again and called it a day.

on friday, we had a few hours before we needed to leave for indy to get the kids. the blackhawks parade and rally were being held in the morning, and we debated what to do and whether it was wise. in the end, we decided to do an architecture boat tour along the chicago river and out into lake michigan. like boston, all the times i've been to chicago (which is innumerably more than the times i've been to boston), i wanted to do a boat tour and never have.

we headed down the stairs to the boat, which was docked by the wrigley building. more old/new architecture juxtaposition for my nerdy little heart. wrigley and trump, two tycoons and their expressions of wealth.

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the tour was really amazing. like the duck boat tour, it was full of information and history, and was so worth the time and money.

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(old IN new, as opposed to old AND new.)

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we were on the boat while the parade was going on, so the sky was full of planes with banners and media helicopters. i think we counted 11.

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soon our boat went through the lock and headed out into my beloved lake michigan.

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it was a wonderful ride on a perfect day.

as the boat turned to head back to the river, we started hearing yells and tons of bangs coming from the south shore. the rally in hyde park was ending, and fireworks filled the air ... the loud booming kind. you can see the smoke.

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our tour wrapped up about 15 minutes later, and we joined the throng of red and black-clad fans walking through the streets. we walked back to our hotel, grabbed a nice mexican lunch around the block, then got in our car to head south. the traffic was, amazingly, not terrible.

we spent the night in indy before heading back home on saturday. we drove right through the town where my dad and stepmom and grandma live, and met them for an impromptu lunch.

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in the space of a week, we managed to see all three families, attend a wedding, have some alone time in a fantastic city, and be smack in the middle of a stanley cup celebration.

truly, the best of times.