I know, I can't believe it either, but I'm finally posting! (Sorry Martie and Rissa, I know that I promised to do this days ago!) So, while a number of deep thoughts have indeed passed through my mind over the last 12 days, at the moment I can't recall any of them, so I'll do a quick rundown (for posterity and any insomniacs out there).
Our visit with Uncle Van and Aunt Debbie was great - and they have inspired us to do a little more exploring here in New England (it is a little embarrassing when people who live in Idaho Falls have seen more of Maine than we have!) Nate had a quick trip to Chicago (good meetings and too much good food), and while he was gone I had a crazy long Thursday. Errands, getting ready for company, a leadership training meeting for all of the Young Women's Presidents in the Stake (which went well, but one of my counselors had to work and my secretary was out of town - although she made super-cute favors before she left - Thanks Becky! - but which left me talking for most of the meeting and my other counselor doing EVERYTHING behind the scenes - Thanks Dawnett!! You are amazing!!). If you know me this won't surprise you (I am NOT crafty/creative/etc.) but about 3 hours before the meeting I realized that we hadn't thought about a centerpiece. The previous Stake YW President was really creative and always did really cute things and as her counselor I never had to give it any thought. So, I started thinking about it, realized I didn't have anything particularly nice to use or time to pull it together, and emailed Dawnett to see if she would be stopping by her house and had anything that would work. She shows up (after a long day at work at a very busy job I might add) with a great autumn setup - cloths, straw, pumpkins, arrangements, etc. etc. etc. ... and more stuff for the refreshment table. I've got to tell you that there is NO WAY that I could do this calling alone. Every member of our Presidency adds so much and I just feel blessed to be a part of the team.
My sister-in-law Lora lives in Boston and met me at the church so that she could take the kids home and put them to bed while I was at the meeting (Thanks Lora!). She got a little lost on the way from the church to our house. Sam (7) got her most of the way there, but then they missed a crucial turn. He kept assuring her that she was going the right way (which she wasn't). Finally Isaac (4) said "this is not the way to my house!" Lora was pretty sure that he was right, but not completely convinced until she got to the dirt road ... Sam assured her that "we go on the dirt road all of the time" (nope, not true), but Lora knew that they were lost. Right about then she noticed that the gas light had turned on. Luckily, she was able to find the way to our house without running out of gas in the dark with four young kids.
After the meeting I went straight to the airport to pick up Nate's parents. It was so great to see them. We had a nice visit and then went to bed in preparation for a very early morning (we were getting up at 4:30 to get going in time to get Dad to his meeting in Braintree, MA. We made it down there in plenty of time (amazing, considering we had to get 8 people out the door and drive two cars right through Boston in the morning). After we dropped him off we went in search of Breakfast, which of course, meant McDonald's. I didn't know the area well, but, luckily, the GPS did. The first McD's we found had no play area - so we let the kids decide if we should go in and get food or try one more. They wanted to try one more time, so we headed off to the next closest one. We were rewarded for our patience by finding the coolest play area I have seen (outside of the Mecca of McDonald's play areas on International Drive in Orlando). They had a ball, including Jonas. They had a cute little area for little ones to crawl around and play, and since we pretty much had the place to ourselves he had free reign of the whole area. I would have taken pictures, but of course I forgot the camera (as usual).
After McDonald's we headed to Plimoth Plantation (located in the town of Plymouth but with the historical spelling). We learned about the early settlers and the Wampanoag tribe that inhabited the area when the Mayflower landed. It was very cool and informative, but not kid friendly. I am really glad that we went, but I think that we will try again when the kids are a little older. We drove into Plymouth for lunch at a great seafood place right on the water and then headed over to the Mayflower II. Mom, Lora, Samuel and Isaac toured the ship while I sat with the little ones while they slept. Then we picked up Dad and headed into Cambridge to pick up Lora's boyfriend. It was time for him to "meet the parents." I think that went well :) He is getting a PhD in particle physics at MIT so he took us on a little tour of some of the cool stuff on campus (we had some time to kill - Nate was flying into Logan at 7:30). We had a good time there and then loaded the kids up and I headed to the airport to pick Nate up. Lora and Teppo (he is from Finland) took Mom and Dad to see her office at HBS (they had a little trouble getting there - neither of them have cars or ever drive in the city, so while they knew how to easily walk there they didn't know how to navigate the one-way streets and bridges). We all got home around the same time and put the kids to bed and enjoyed some more nice conversation.
Saturday we went to Concord, MA. I should mention that this whole weekend the leaves were absolutely beautiful. This was the peak of the colors, and they were amazing. In Concord we toured the Orchard House (where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women - it was really neat, I enjoyed learning about her family), had lunch at a fun diner called Helen's, and toured the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery - which is beautiful - it is very large with winding paths and has crumbling old headstones alongside newer ones. Nate loves old cemeteries, and this one was full of interesting stuff. This is where Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others are buried. There is a massive granite monument erected by a soldier from the Civil War in memory of the 3 brothers who went to war with him and didn't make it home. After the cemetery we went to Walden Pond. It was beautiful. We watched the sun set over the pond while we skipped rocks and enjoyed the reflection of the colorful trees in the water. There were people swimming, but it was pretty cold water (it is October after all). We visited the replica of his cottage there, and then we headed home for dinner.
Sunday we went to visit the Peterborough Branch (I had to go for their Branch Conference, so I took the whole family along. The timing worked better with their flight schedule, and I thought that the drive would be beautiful, which it was.) It was a great day, especially because our new Stake Camp Director was set apart - and I am very excited to get to work with her. The meetings went well and we had a nice "linger-longer" with the Branch afterward.
Nate's parents and Lora and Teppo left that night, and Monday Nate had no work and Samuel had no school (Columbus Day) so we made the most of it and ... cleaned the garage!! Boring, but it was so great to get it done. Then for family night we went to Lull Farm to visit the animals and pick out our pumpkins. It was a fun night.
Tuesday I did service in the temple laundry, which was a wonderful way to spend the day, and the rest of the week seemed to fly by. I had an eye infection for a few days, which was pretty painful and very inconvenient. I couldn't wear my contacts and my glasses have been mangled by the kids (they now only have one side) so I couldn't go to the gym for 3 days, which I missed. But, Friday I was fine and went back for a great class. Friday night was Samuel's Violin Recital. He did WONDERFUL. This was his first performance, and Nate and I have been speculating over whether he would be a "sweaty hands fumbles under pressure" or a "steps up and shines under pressure" kid - he is definitely the latter. I was very pleased with him. We had a great discussion on the way over about how when you have worked really hard and done all the preparation that you can then you can ask Heavenly Father for help and he will help you do your best. We said a prayer and he didn't even seem nervous after that. It was a fun recital and while the kids weren't perfect by any means they behaved pretty well.
Today I spent most of the day up at Zion's Camp in meetings with the YW Presidents and Camp Directors from all 9 Stakes who do Girl's Camp there. The meetings were productive, but VERY long. Nate kept all of the kids and made lots of progress on getting the yard cleaned up for winter. The leaves are falling now, and staying ahead of them is always an uphill battle.
The kids are all doing well. Sam has learned about choices and consequences this week. Isaac has become a backseat driver. He admonishes me often - "Mom, why did you go? The light was red. Red means STOP!" (I'm making legal right-turns I swear). Grace is sweet and her maturity (compared to the boys at 2-1/2) is astounding to me. She knows what she wants and she can be a little pushy if she doesn't get it. Jonas continues to be so sweet. He has a tooth (and likes to use it) says "Dada" and is spending lots of time working on standing up alone.
We are looking forward to a good week - especially because the Gough cousins are arriving this week Hip, Hip, Hooray!! And, we hear there is a package of Halloween surprises in the mail from Grandma Cherie - if the mailman would ever bring it to us :) now, if the boys could just decide what they will be for Halloween ...