October 2014

Happy fall! I’m really impressing myself with the fantastic job I’ve done of embracing autumn this year. I often shut down when summer ends since I know freezing cold temps and buckets of snow are just around the corner. But this year I’m practicing living in the moment, and fall has been lovely. October photos and videos in chronological order.

Soren has really fallen in love with Richard Scarry books. He’s had one in his possession for awhile, but it didn’t interest him until recently — I’m guessing it has something to do with the illustrations vs. his favorite books that show real photos of cars and trucks. So now he spends A LOT of time looking at Cars and Trucks and Things that GoThank goodness his babysitter knew all about Goldbug and where to find him — Tim and I weren’t quite up to speed.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Soren is both inhibited and an awkward dancer.

Soren and Tim have started attending Home Depot’s great workshops for kids. Soren loves Home Depot for the forklifts, but he came home pretty excited about the ambulance he crafted one Saturday.

Looks like he even got to use real tools!

Looks like he even got to use real tools!

So focused.

So focused.

These next two are a little out of focus, but the smiles are too perfect.

These next two are a little out of focus, but the smiles are too perfect.

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General Conference weekend meant we had a rare free Sunday morning. Soren had been talking about going on a nature walk for days, so we wandered around Hammond Pond.

Sunday was also the kickoff of International Babywearing Week, so we busted out the Ergo. Too bad this giant baby refuses to be back-carried.

Sunday was also the kickoff of International Babywearing Week, so we busted out the Ergo. Too bad this giant baby refuses to be back-carried.

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Oddly enough, Soren really enjoyed conference (the parts he was awake for, that is). He played pretty well on his own and would occasionally shout out words he recognized — "commandments!" "rock!" "Jesus!" On Sunday night Tim and I were in the kitchen and we looked into the hall to see Soren poring over the nursery manual. He was actually kissing pictures of Jesus. We take no responsibility for Soren's sometimes angelic disposition.

Oddly enough, Soren really enjoyed conference (the parts he was awake for, that is). He played pretty well on his own and would occasionally shout out words he recognized — “commandments!” “rock!” “Jesus!” On Sunday night Tim and I were in the kitchen and we looked into the hall to see Soren poring over the nursery manual. He was actually kissing pictures of Jesus. We take no responsibility for Soren’s sometimes angelic disposition.

The next week we joined some church friends for a morning at the aquarium. Soren ran all over that placed like he owned the joint.

The penguins are always a hit.

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That weekend John and Shauna drove up from Virginia! We had planned to spend the weekend at Butterhill, but New Hampshire’s early winter meant the house was closed for the season. So we made it a Cambridge weekend.

We started with the Longfellow House — really good (free!) tour for anyone interested.

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We’re extra happy here because we knew the next two stops were Bartley’s and Burdick’s.

On Sunday we wandered Mt. Auburn Cemetery and chased some turkeys.

On Sunday we wandered Mount Auburn Cemetery and chased some turkeys.

Climbed the tower, of course.

Climbed the tower, of course.

Soren found a slide.

Soren found a slide.

And a crazy tree.

And a crazy tree.

The next thing we knew, Tim had turned into a monkey.

The next thing we knew, Tim had turned into a monkey.

That face!

That face!

Monday was a holiday, so we spent the morning at the park and the afternoon at Wilson Farm.

Soren was REALLY sad when the hayride ended. His love for tractors surpasses all.

Soren was REALLY sad when the hayride ended. His love for tractors surpasses all.

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This pumpkin wall never gets old. I want to live at Wilson Farm in the fall.

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Free apples for all hayriders!

Free apples for all hayriders!

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We never made it apple picking this year, but since all we really care about are the apple cider doughnuts, Wilson Farm had us covered. One of the best things $0.50 can buy in this world.

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I couldn’t help myself from bringing home overpriced turban squashes and green and white pumpkins and gourds.

This must be a Soren-and-Tim playground ritual, because this video is from Tim’s phone and I’m not sure what it’s all about.

A random day at the park. Here Soren was talking about his love for the "telescopic boom" at the construction site behind him.

A random day at the park. They’ve been working on this house for the past few months, and it’s provided hours of entertainment for us. We’ve watched from demolition to now near completion. Here Soren was talking about his love for the “telescopic boom” (the large machine behind him, for those of you not up on your construction lingo).

Mass Audobon was having some sort of super sale on their memberships, so we joined and spent a Saturday morning at Drumlin Farm. (Boston friends, the deal is still on through the end of November! Buy now!)

Mass Audobon was having some sort of sale on their memberships, so we joined and spend a Saturday morning at Drumlin Farm. Looks like we picked THE most perfect fall day to go.

Looks like we picked THE most perfect fall day to go.

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Farm life. Picking fresh carrots for our dinner.

Farm life. Picking fresh carrots for our dinner.

A church friend started teaching a few of us weekly photography classes. I’ve had my camera for at least six years but I’ve never quite figured out all that aperture and shutter speed and ISO stuff. I’m still mostly worthless at taking pictures, but I can sometimes manage to shoot in manual! I’ll still probably take 80% of my pictures with my phone, but at least I’m semi-capable of using my camera when I need to.

We practiced outside one day to learn settings for the sunshine.

We practiced outside one day to learn settings for the sunshine.

Soren didn't mind being outside one bit. Our church building is surrounded by construction sites.

Soren didn’t mind being outside one bit. Our church building is surrounded by construction sites.

We went back inside and I thought I had everything set just right... but these funny faces are a little out of focus.

We went back inside and I thought I had everything set just right… but these funny faces might be a little out of focus.

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Soren can finally get both feet off the ground when he “jumps”! I’ve been waiting a long time for this day.

Friday night was our ward’s Halloween party. I decided this was my year to begin turning into a holiday mom. I decorated! I made a costume! I even thought about making fun and spooky Halloween treats, but didn’t get quite that far.

On our drive to the party, Tim revealed to Soren that Uncle Ben had an upcoming job interview in either DC or Boston — Ben’s choice. This video shows Soren’s opinion on the matter.

But back to the party.

This is not the costume I made. This costume took zero effort on my part, and I'd like to do it that way every year. We didn't have any worker man boots, but we thought the white trash onesie was a nice touch.

This is not the costume I made. This costume took zero effort on my part, and I’d like to do it that way every year. My parents provided the vest, tool belt, and tools from their Virginia toy stash,, plus a real Clark Construction hard hat. We ended up using a $1 Target hard hat instead, since it wasn’t quite so heavy. We didn’t have any worker man boots (actually, Soren is down to a total of two pairs of shoes that fit him), but we thought the white trash onesie was a nice touch.

My homemade skirt! I will wear it every year from here on out, since it took two whole naps and one night to make.

My homemade skirt! I will wear it every year from here on out, since it took two whole naps and one night to make. If anyone is looking for an easy costume, use this great tutu tutorial. Also, buy your witch hat at Target, not Party City. Better quality and $2 cheaper. Black-and-white striped tights are at Party City, though. Lucky for us, both stores are super close by, since we had to make multiple trips when Tim decided he needed a “costume.”

Church door to church door trick or treating. He was over his costume at this point.

Church door to church door trick-or-treating. Soren was over his costume at this point. The hard hat came in handy as a candy-collecting bucket, because of course I forgot to bring one.

Saturday was the Boston Book Festival. I had checked the schedule a few weeks in advance and was really excited to see that the first children’s event was by Anna Dewdney.

Anna Dewdney was a delight, and I was nearly brought to tears that Soren seemed as excited about the whole thing as I was. I guess nerds breed nerds.

Anna Dewdney was a delight, and I was nearly brought to tears that Soren seemed as excited about the whole thing as I was. I guess nerds breed nerds. Now, whenever we read a Llama Llama book, Soren flips to the back dust jacket flap and says, “Anna Doodey wrote this book!”

Llama Llama donned his famous red pajamas.

Llama Llama donned his famous red pajamas.

We stumbled upon a yoga session in Copley Square. Soren's imitation of the teacher's pose is kind of impressive.

We stumbled upon a yoga session in Copley Square. Soren’s imitation of the teacher’s pose is kind of impressive.

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The next week we visited the Museum of Science and Soren surprised me by becoming strangely interested in bees.

The museum has an exhibit with live bees, and in the children's discovery room there is a giant model of a beehive. These two employees spent about 30 minutes with Soren, running through the life of a honeybee over and over again.

The museum has an exhibit with live bees, and in the children’s discovery room there is a giant model of a beehive. These two employees spent about 30 minutes with Soren, running through the life of a honeybee over and over again.

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We started a new morning scripture routine, where we repeat the same song and scripture every day for a month at a time. Here is Soren’s contribution.

And then, Halloween! On Friday morning Soren did a little trick or treating at his school. Of course I didn’t think about bringing his costume, so he got to wear something from the class dress-up bin.

He was pretty happy about it.

He was pretty happy about it.

That evening we threw Soren’s costume on as soon as he woke up from his nap. You can tell he hadn’t fully woken up yet.

He was really proud to be a worker man.

He was really proud to be a worker man. And we learned that it’s really easy to get him to smile if you just talk about backhoes and bulldozers and rollers.

Driveway photo shoot.

Driveway photo shoot.

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We do our trick-or-treating on Washington Street, along with a few hundred other neighborhood kids. Trick-or-treating at 4 p.m. is fine by me!

We do our trick-or-treating on Washington Street, along with a few hundred other neighborhood kids. Trick-or-treating at 4 p.m. is fine by me!

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We finished off the night at the YMCA for the annual pizza party. Soren ate his weight in pizza and danced his booty off.

So Soren ended up trick-or-treating three separate times, and not once did he ask for any of the candy! At every moment I kept waiting for him to ask to try one, and my plan was to attempt some sort of distraction technique. So I think he didn’t actually know he was collecting candy the whole time. I don’t know if I should be proud that he’s so unaware of sugar, or embarrassed that he’s slow. But I’m happy. And we gave away all the candy to the trick-or-treaters who came to our house, so our night and month ended beautifully.

Don’t Forget to Write

When I moved from Utah six years ago I left behind a job I really, really loved. My bosses and co-workers were some of the best people I’d ever known. I mean, Jeanette flew across the country to attend my wedding! (And she blogged about it! Twice.) I felt fulfilled by my work and, oddly, looked forward to going into the office each morning. When I moved to Boston the Bennetts kept me feeling useful by emailing me magazine proofs to edit or sending writing assignments for their custom publications. About a year ago, they launched a “daily digital venture” at UtahValley360.com, highlighting BYU sports, LDS news, parenting columns, infographics, local news, and more. I’ve had so much fun writing articles here and there for their site, even if I did abandon Utah Valley for the East coast.

Since I don’t think my own parents even read the articles I write, here are some of my highlights as of late (with links directly to the articles):

  • Utah is home to a surprising number of fantastic authors. I just finished reading and reviewing Ally Condie’s “Atlantia.” If you’re into YA fiction, check it out!Atlantia
  • I connected my Boston and religious ties by writing about LDS scientists whose beliefs have influenced their work.
  • A talented group of BYU students created a short film to tell the stories of women of faith. I was moved by experiences of women like Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert, Martha Hughes Cannon, and Mary Frances Sturlaugson and would now love to learn more about all of the heroines celebrated in the film. Also, there are great resources on the Women of Faith website for youth leaders who want to share the film with their Young Women.
  • Sometimes I think I’m a little bit funny (and a lot bit stupid) when I write things like this. For the record, I didn’t choose the animated GIFs myself. Some are awesome and some are a bit of a stretch.
  • Why don’t we know about Bible characters like Huldah and Deborah and Prisca? We should.

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    Also, we all need more Carl Heinrich Bloch in our lives.

  • Memes, anyone?
  • I had a really great conversation with Hannah Wheelwright, who started the Young Mormon Feminists blog and is a founder of Ordain Women, about losing and then rediscovering her belief in God. My original plan was to interview a number of people who had lost the “faith of our fathers,” Hannah’s story needed all the space!

 

September 2014

September: The month of random events and photos.

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Soren has breakfast with Tim every morning while I’m working. These two creatures of habit eat pretty much the same thing every day — oatmeal for Soren and peanut butter/honey toast for Tim. One day I came out to find Soren had made an exciting change to the menu — peanut butter by the handful, with a bowl of Os and strawberries (and it looks like there’s a nice dollop of PB on the cereal as well).

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Soren yells for “PARM” when pasta is being served, but this day he decided to gnaw on the whole block for his meal.

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The first week of September was plenty warm for a Walden visit. Nothing like a Wednesday morning at the beach.

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Walden’s water is heaven on earth.

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Soren on the slide during a park date with Tim.

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And another trip to Walden — we went twice in one week so Tim could join us for our Saturday adventure.

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He swims!

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And then he insists on using the largest towel we own.

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We took a Sunday walk at the Arboretum. Soren requests nature walks quite frequently.

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Driving with this boy has become really fun. Every car ride is filled with sights of his favorite things — trains and backhoes and people on bikes and stoplights. Sometimes he’s quiet, just observing the scenery. Other times he’s blabbing non-stop. On the day I took this photo, he was on a roll. In the 10-minute drive to the gym, he had me cracking up on three separate occasions: 1) I experience mild road rage most times I drive, and Soren began yelling ”COME ON” at various cars on the road. 2) He decided to rename speed bumps ”funny hills.” 3) Since we were going to meet Tim, Soren was on the lookout. So, naturally, each time we passed a male he let me know ”that’s not dada.”

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Sometimes, so I can remember the moment, I snap a photo when Soren says something funny. While checking out at Target this day he told me, “I love people” as he gazed around the store.

Soren was a little sad one Thursday when we learned Alyssa was sick and wouldn’t be able to come over to play. All day he kept saying, “Alyssa? Sick? Bed?” So he made her a video to send his love.

I bought a construction magnet set for a long car ride when Soren was still mastering the pincer grasp. Turns out it’s been one of the best purchases I’ve made, since he still plays with it a few times a week. And now that he’s getting into pretend play, it’s even better!

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September 18 marked our four-year wedding anniversary! Tim and I celebrated on separate continents. He ended up with the more exotic location for sure (Netherlands). Soren and I had a grand time that day, doing cool stuff like going to the cell phone store and the park, getting in some work time while the babysitter was over, and then making soup for dinner (since Tim doesn’t eat soup). But Tim did bring back the best chocolates of my life (Puccini Bamboni), so we’re all happy here.

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Tim got home from the Netherlands around midnight on a Saturday night. And then he was off at 6 a.m. for a church meeting Sunday morning. So while Soren and I drove to a separate meeting at 7 a.m. that morning, I told him we were going to see someone extra special at church that day (he hadn’t seen Tim for four days). He said, “Sister Parker?” very excitedly. Nope Soren, just dad. After Tim and Soren were reunited, they went adventuring to the construction sites around our church.

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This kid is seriously livin’ the dream.

I keep trying to record Soren reading some of his favorite books, but I fail miserably every time. In true toddler fashion, he refuses to comply with my stage-mom tendencies. He’s REALLY cute when he reads “Roadwork,” since he has almost the entire book memorized. In this video he made it about two pages in before getting terribly distracted.

Sometimes I just like to take videos of him playing. And I love recording his cute voice. But, of course, in most of the videos I take all you hear is me talking.

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On the last Saturday of the month, the sun was shining and the temps were in the low 80s. So, like the dummies we are, we spent the morning indoors. Soren didn’t seem to know the difference.

 

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Soren ended up with a baguette and no pants on our drive home from the museum and park. It’s not an uncommon occurrence.

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It was surely the last hot day of the year, so we spent the evening at a new splash park that, oddly, opened at the end of the summer.

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Tim is a good dad. I would probably never run through the water in my clothes for the sake of my kid.

That night I took off for the General Relief Society Meeting, and Tim captured our goodbye on camera. Soren says, “I love you” in most situations, but whenever I demand his affection it turns into, “I love me.” I think he really means it.

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And this is what our end-of-September driveway looks like. Leaves, leaves everywhere, in all sizes and shapes and colors. Sometimes when I talk about the colors of the leaves, Soren says, “autumn time!” and it’s really cute.

Happy as a Clam

Sometimes, in Mormon congregations that see a lot of turnover, there is this thing known as the “opening social.” After almost eight years in Provo, I’ve seen my fair share of opening socials — barbecues and ice cream parties and super Mormon-y potlucks and more. Our Cambridge ward is full of students, so every fall semester brings dozens of new faces (after a summer of empty pews in sacrament meeting). This year we decided to welcome all our new friends to Boston with an authentic New England clambake, and since I’m simultaneously a control freak and the president of our congregation’s Relief Society, I was put in charge.

We’re fortunate to have a ward full of talent, including a test cook at America’s Test Kitchens and his lovely professional pastry chef of a wife, a few professional photographers, another culinary school graduate, plus lots of people willing to gather supplies and help set up and keep me from going crazy. I also credit the Belmont 2nd ward for much of our success, since they contributed a ton of indispensable institutional knowledge and all the cooking equipment. I was a ball of stress for the weeks leading up to clambake, but on the day of the event it was smooth sailing and I was happy as a clam when the whole thing went off without a hitch. (Minus a few weather issues.)

The brilliant Alana Yates volunteered to document our day, and I’ve been needing a place to share the photos and archive the fruits of all my anxiety. (This will also help remind me, for next year, that all the planning is totally worth it, and it will be way easier to pull it off next time.) These photos are in no particular order, since I was a bit too harried to even notice some of what was going on (like all the fun the little kids were having — thank you, Millers, for organizing!).

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August 2014

August was pretty amazing. Sometimes in August I start to get really anxious about the cold weather that is surely just around the corner. I have a REALLY hard time enjoying fall because I work myself into a panic about winter coming. Luckily, our August was so full of fun I didn’t have time to get worried.

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“I Am a Backhoe” was on the shelf at the library one day, so I was guaranteed five minutes to flip through a magazine.

After our library stop we discovered a moon bounce and free pizza at Brighton Common. Both were a hit with this kid (and with me).

After our library stop we discovered a moon bounce and free pizza at Brighton Common. Both were a hit with this kid (and with me).

One week in to August, we ventured to Cape Cod — full documentation of that wonderful trip here.

Our return to Boston made me a little sad about our backyard-less life. But then we went for a Sunday walk and I remembered we have acres of green within minutes of our house. We're happy.

Our return to Boston made me a little sad about our backyard-less life. But then we went for a Sunday walk and I remembered we have acres of green within minutes of our house. We’re happy.

That week was Soren’s birthday! Plenty of pictures and celebratory words about that here.

And then, just four days after returning from Cape Cod, we took off for Butterhill.

I was planning to keep Soren rear facing for many more months, but Tim convinced me it would be OK to turn him around for our drive to New Hampshire. It might have been the best car ride of Soren's life. (Eating pizza on the go didn't hurt.)

I was planning to keep Soren rear facing for many more months, but Tim convinced me it would be OK to turn him around for our drive to New Hampshire. It might have been the best car ride of Soren’s life. (Eating pizza on the go didn’t hurt.)

Good morning! This might be Soren's most-loved rock in the world.

Good morning! This might be Soren’s most-loved rock in the world.

Our New Hampshire back yard.

Our New Hampshire back yard.

Tim and Soren went for a bike ride while I caught up on some work. Their destination? A lake with rocks and ducks, of course.

Tim and Soren went for a bike ride while I caught up on some work. Their destination? A lake with rocks and ducks, of course.

Preparing to throw.

Preparing to throw.

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He really would like to pet a duck. We have yet to convince him it's not a good idea.

He really would like to pet a duck. We have yet to convince him it’s not a good idea.

When they got back we went for a spin around the "lake." It's tiny and takes about 20 seconds to paddle across.

When they got back we went for a spin around the “lake.” It’s tiny and takes about 20 seconds to paddle across.

We had a few Boston friends join us at Butterhill. On Saturday morning we took a hike to Lonesome Lake.

We had a few Boston friends join us at Butterhill. On Saturday morning we took a hike to Lonesome Lake.

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I'm definitely more of a beach person than a lake/mountains person, but this sight was spectacular.

I’m definitely more of a beach person than a lake/mountains person, but this sight was spectacular.

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I guess he'd rather hike than pose.

I guess he’d rather hike than pose.

Had to get a pick w/ the white blaze for Grandmama and Pappy (and Beau and Mackenzie).

Had to get a pic with the white blaze for Grandmama and Pappy (and Beau and Mackenzie).

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Not sure how we would’ve survived the summer without Soren’s Keens.

That afternoon we did a little Butterhill exploring.

That afternoon we did a little Butterhill exploring.

Another canoe ride.

Another canoe ride, with an extra friend in tow. I REALLY wish I knew how to use my camera. Why did my pictures suddenly turn blueish?

More friends.

More friends.

City baby turned nature baby.

City baby turned nature baby.

And then back to Boston for one final August week.

Excuse the blur. But Soren loves to sit on small objects and I couldn't not keep this photo.

Excuse the blur. But Soren loves to sit on small objects and I couldn’t not keep this photo.

I walked in on these two like this.

I walked in on these two like this.

I love finding pictures of Soren on Tim's phone. This is from one of their Friday rendezvous in Coolidge Corner.

I love finding pictures of Soren on Tim’s phone. (This is from one of their Friday rendezvous in Coolidge Corner.) After a summer of beach trips and sand box shenanigans, our car and house are covered in sand.

Soren is a little bit of a playground snob. This was a new one we stumbled upon after visiting Tim at work. Creative water features (note the wet hair) and long ramps to run up and down are a major plus.

Soren is a little bit of a playground snob. This was a new one we stumbled upon after visiting Tim at work. Creative water features (note Soren’s wet hair) and long ramps to run up and down = a winner.

I'll never get tired of breastfeeding my baby. During World Breastfeeding Week I loved reading many great essays and stories, and one person online mentioned something about not having enough documentation of her breastfeeding years. So I told Tim to snap a photo after this post-church milk fest.

I’ll never get tired of breastfeeding my baby. During World Breastfeeding Week I loved reading many great essays and stories, and one person online mentioned something about not having enough documentation of her breastfeeding years. So I had Tim snap a photo of this post-church milk fest.

And then, our final beach visit in August. We brought Rachael and Job to Nahant, and Soren loved having additional playmates.

And then, our final beach visit in August. We brought Rachael and Job to Nahant, and Soren loved having additional playmates.

King of the sand hill.

King of the sand hill.

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Make It Two

As it turns out, 2-year-olds are kind of awesome. Nearly every day, at some point in the day, I think, “This is SO fun.” WAY better than the newborn phase. And even more exciting than the just-crawling and starting-to-walk and first-few-words phases.

I wish I could freeze time throughout the day to properly document every time I laugh my head off at something funny Soren does or when something happens that reminds me how crazy I am about him. I’ll log here a few notes I took right around his birthday when I realized I need to better archive this fun, fun stage.

– Soren loves holding my hand (most of the time). Sometimes in the car he’ll yell, “HAND,” and wait for me to reach my hand back. We don’t usually hold hands while we’re walking, but he knows it’s mandatory for crossing the street. If he’s ahead of me, he’ll stop when he gets to the edge of the sidewalk and wait with his hand out.

– When he was first starting to talk, he would often mumble something unintelligible (sounded like “HEH-eh”) when handing me something. As his words became a little more clear I figured out he was saying, “thank you” every time. Kind of backwards to say thank you when you’re giving and not receiving, but cute, nonetheless.

– Soren is more than obsessed with construction equipment. A few months ago we were outside and saw that a house on our street was about to be demolished. I was thrilled that we were at the right place at the right time. The excavator (or whatever) doing the work was enormous. We had a grand time watching it tear apart the house until Soren started getting really mad that there was no dump truck. All his books have taught him that the backhoe is supposed to put the rubble into a dump truck to be hauled away. He got to the point of tears that there was no dump truck. For days after, he would ask to go to the site to see if the dump truck was there.

– Soren LOVES Thursdays. His affinity for the day began when he realized the trash and recycling trucks come EVERY Thursday. It’s an extra special day on the occasions that Tim stays home until 8:30 or 9 and can take Soren out to go chase the trash truck around the neighborhood. Then Soren realized that Alyssa, his beloved friend and Early Intervention specialist, also comes every Thursday. He talks all day about “Ayissa” and wakes up from his nap thrilled to play with her. One Monday I got Soren out of his crib at nap time and he scampered off to the front room without even thinking about his usual post-nap milk session. He whimpered, “Ayissa,” and then burst into tears. He cried, while pointing at the front door, for a good five minutes. I don’t know why he thought she might come that day, but he was crushed to learn it wasn’t an Alyssa day.

– Soren seems to have a strangely great understanding of pronouns. I like to think he has impeccable grammar for a 24-month-old. I’m continually surprised at his properly formed sentences (like this morning when Tim was trying to find Soren’s clothes and Soren yelled, “AGHHHH. I HAVE NO PANTS.” But he consistently gets one phrase wrong and I hope it never changes: When he wants to be picked up he says, “hold you.” Melts my heart every time.

– Speaking of talking, Soren is a motor mouth (when we’re at home — he generally turns mute when we’re with other people). Just like he was slow to crawl and slow to walk, this kid was sloooow to talk. At 18 months his vocabulary consisted of only a couple of words. (The weekly BabyCenter emails I receive let me know that at 18 months most babies are learning 10 new words a day. Yikes.) At 20 months he could say about 10 words. And then, about a month before his birthday Soren suddenly had a vocabulary of what seemed like hundreds of words. And a few days before his birthday he launched into full-on complete sentences. At least once a day I ask him where in the world he learned this word or that word (like this morning when he said something about a “telescopic boom” and pointed to the correct picture in his book). It’s the best.

– His vocab may be excellent, but his ability to pronounce words correctly is horrendous (but cute). He doesn’t say his Rs, Fs, Ts, Ls, Ws, etc. very well and can rarely blend consonants. He still calls himself “Norin.” When counting, four is “door” and five is “dive.” Water is “yaduh.” His favorite book is known as “yode yuk” instead of Roadwork. One of his favorite machines is the dullbozer, not the bulldozer. And the best is how he says, “I wuv woo” for I love you.

– Once every few weeks I remind myself that I meant to start, around his first birthday, some sort of Soren School to work on letters, numbers, colors, etc. I pictured myself getting Pinterest crazy and working on a letter/number/color of the week to have him reading chapter books by the time he’s three. But, as it turns out, I have done absolutely nothing to further that effort. And he’s picking it all up on his own. He nailed red, orange, yellow, green, and blue before he could actually say the words (and now he’s added purple, black, and white to the list). I about fell down the stairs the other day when he counted to 11 on his own (we often count the stairs while going up and down, but I’d never heard him do it without me leading the way). And he knows about half the letters in the alphabet. The cutest is when he sees letters on a sign or on the tag on his car seat or something and thinks it spells his name — he knows to say “S-O-R-E-N.” So… good thing my minimal efforts have been sufficient.

– Soren is starting to show evidence of all the classic toddler behaviors. He HAS to get in the car by himself and climb into his seat without help. If I ever dare to pick him up and put him in the car, he quickly scrambles out to start all over. Soren loathes having his diaper changed and occasionally cries dramatically when he’s forced into it. (If only I felt like I had the energy and time to potty train him.) The other day, at a friend’s house, of course, he screamed his head off when I wouldn’t let him have a second cookie after dinner. Luckily, tantrums are few and far between at our house (it helps when you don’t have older siblings to show you the way), and most issues are resolved fairly quickly.

For Soren’s actual birthday, we followed last year’s approach and kept it simple. We did unintentionally stretch the celebration over a few days, though.

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The night before Soren’s birthday, we went to Regina’s for pizza. I wanted to make lasagna for his actual birthday dinner, and kids eat free at Regina’s on Tuesdays, so having a pre-birthday celebration seemed like the perfect solution.

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Since when does a 2-year-old get his own pizza? Spoiled little thing.

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Tuesday night at Regina’s also includes a balloon man. Crowd pleaser.

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Our server brought the kids ice cream push-up pops. I didn’t have the heart to tell him no, so the sugar ban was lifted temporarily.

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When we wondered if we should invite any of Soren’s friends to join us for dinner, the first person we thought of was not a peer, but the lovely Brenda. Definitely one of Soren’s BFFs.

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An early birthday celebration called for early present-opening. This five-pack of Caterpillar construction mini-machines was $6 and probably the best purchase I’ve ever made. They’re the perfect toy for taking in the car or the stroller or to church. And they get lots of use at home as well.

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Parallel play at its best.

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Another reason Regina’s is a favorite — trains! The restaurant is housed in a former train depot (built in 1893) and it sits right on the commuter rail tracks. So while you’re eating your pizza, a train charges by every so often. Little boy heaven.

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Outside of library events and community playgroups, Soren rarely gets together with friends (and by friends, I guess I mean my friends’ kids). So we were so glad Ari and Wes were free to celebrate with Soren!

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And then, the birthday morning!

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He really would’ve been fine without any other presents. Especially when we supplied some rocks to put in the dump truck and loader!

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Birthday pancakes! He did not appreciate the candle, so we quickly ditched it and offered the blueberry pancake plain.

He only ended up opening half of these on his birthday. And I now have a few items tucked away for future celebrations.

He only ended up opening half of his presents on his birthday. And I now have a few items tucked away for future celebrations.

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This Duplo train set (from Tim’s parents) is pretty wonderful. It’s the first thing Soren runs to in the morning, and he’s showing no signs of getting tired of it.

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We spent the morning at the park for playgroup.

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Always digging.

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Can’t be late for circle time! (And can’t put the sticks down.)

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Plans got thrown off slightly when baby Elowen came over to play. Her dad got in a bike accident in the morning, so we watched Elowen while her mom spent time at the hospital. I wanted to use Soren’s nap time to make dinner, so I threw Elowen in the Ergo and got down to business. She took a great nap, and I made the entire dinner without disturbing her slumber!

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And then more friends came over to play! McKenna and Charlotte stopped in to drop off a treat, so we invited them to stay for dinner. We really aren’t normally party people, but it was fun to liven up the celebration.

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I found a half-price scooter on Craigslist and decided to go for it. He can’t quite manage it on his own, but it works pretty well when he’s on the slight incline of the driveway. He’ll be all over it in a few months (when the ground is covered in snow, of course).

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Trying it out at the park.

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Soren loves a good ladder climb.

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Don’t be fooled by the stone face. I promise he’s a happy child.

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Our back yard.

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We had just enough time after dinner (note the lasagna-covered face) for one more present — a wood tool set from Grandmama and Pappy. Every now and then when we talk about needing to fix something, Soren runs to grab his tools. Very helpful.

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And then a quick treat. No cake this year. Nothing actually planned in advance, in fact. I threw some frozen bananas in the Blendtec to make “ice cream,” and I even let Soren have a few chocolate chips on his! He’s a chocolate lover — like mother, like son.

Cape Cod

There is surely no better place in the world to live than New England. After our August week at the Cape, Tim and I are certain we couldn’t love a state more than Massachusetts. This trip came together thanks to diligent planning on the part of three good friends who traveled — with husbands and children — to our state from New York and Texas.

We left Boston Saturday morning, anticipating loads of Cape Cod traffic, but we were pleasantly surprised to have no more than 15 minutes of stop and go on the bridge. Soren played with his new construction felt board for nearly the whole drive (thanks Lauren!), but we did catch a little bit of talking on video.

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Once across the bridge, we stopped for breakfast then found our friends at the local Trader Joe’s. We all ventured together to our neighborhood-for-the-week to await check in at our house-for-the-week. It just so happened that our house was next door to a great wildlife sanctuary where we picnicked for the afternoon.

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Once we got into the house, we put Soren down for a nap, unpacked, and then found that our sweet, lovable, even-tempered baby had turned into a monster during his slumber. No joke — he had been acting completely regular all day then woke up as the saddest, crankiest, and craziest boy alive. And it lasted for two days. After the first four hours of crying (from nap wake-up to bedtime that night) I thought I was going to lose it. I hoped and prayed he’d wake up on Sunday and be back to his usual self. No go — Sunday was the same story. We lasted an hour at church, which I spent on my phone Googling his symptoms — excessive drool (which used to be regular for Soren but had resurfaced in the previous weeks), screaming each time he yawned, fingers in his mouth non-stop, and crying every time he attempted to eat or drink. My conclusion was teething — two-year molars to be exact. I’ve never noticed any change in temperament with the other 16 teeth he’s acquired. When other parents blame their babies’ fussiness on teething I’m usually rolling my eyes. But the two-year molar thing is REAL. And it’s AWFUL. I called the doctor 24 hours in to our disaster and he suggested either teething or hand, foot, and mouth disease. My mother’s intuition felt it was teething, and it turns out I was right. The pain and misery (for Soren, me, and Tim) lasted about 48 hours, and then life was good. I mainly document this so if I have other children who turn into demons for seemingly no reason, I can refer back to this and remember that teething is a real thing.

But back to our trip. Sunday was a wash, between church and crying and our family’s dinner night. We did squeeze in a visit to CVS for baby Tylenol and teething tablets (both of which seemed to do nothing) and Trader Joe’s for applesauce pouches (which he declined to eat, for the first time in his life). But thanks to the mini shopping carts at TJ’s, we had a few minutes of no crying!

The next day we stayed mostly close to home since we’d been awake a lot the night before and Soren was still a sad little hellion. We spent the morning at Gray’s Beach, near Yarmouth Port and about 15 minutes from our house. It’s a pretty, sort of marshy little spot, but great for kids.

The sand proved to be enough of a distraction that Soren forgot about his woes for a little while.

The sand proved to be enough of a distraction that Soren forgot about his woes for a little while.

His ghostly sunscreened face kind of creeps me out a little bit. That's zinc oxide for ya.

His ghostly sunscreened face kind of creeps me out a little bit. That’s zinc oxide for ya.

The sand at Gray's is a little rocky, but Soren didn't seem to mind.

The sand at Gray’s is a little rocky, but the lovely vistas and free parking made it a great spot for a half day.

Tim and Soren caught lots of "big guys" (Soren's term). Tim dug many holes and tunnels for his finds.

Tim and Soren caught lots of “big guys” (Soren’s term). Tim dug many holes and tunnels for his finds.

After the first poop in his swim diaper, we decided to turn Gray's into a nude beach.

After pooping in his swimsuit, we decided to turn Gray’s into a nude beach. Cutest cheeks ever.

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After naps (for all), Tim and Soren rode bikes to the end of our street, and I met them at the lovely Bone Hill Beach, which is part of the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary. Like Gray’s Beach, this one isn’t exactly a real beach, but it did have sand and it did have water, so Soren was OK with it. And the miles of tidal flats were a sight to behold.

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The tide was low, which made for yards and yards of wet sand and puddles to tromp in to get to the shallow water. It also meant that each time Soren wanted to fill his bucket he and Tim had to make a ten-minute trek.

And then Soren would dump the precious water.

And then Soren would dump the precious water.

And then Soren would dump the water and ask for more.

And then ask for more.

On Tuesday morning Soren woke up cured and ate plate after plate of eggs courtesy of Lucas. He had been feeling pretty light after two days of no food, so I was thrilled to get my good-eater boy back. We celebrated with a trip to Corporation Beach in Dennis.

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Corporation Beach is a bay-side beach, so no big waves here. Perfect for tiny wading children.

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It couldn’t get any more perfect!

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Tim and Soren.

Hiking the dunes.

Hiking the dunes.

Sand castles require water. Off we go to load up.

Sand castles require water. Off we go to load up.

Soren shows me how it's done.

Soren shows me how it’s done.

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After lunch and naps at home, we spent the evening hours at Gray’s Beach again, this time to partake of the low tide perks:

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Wet sand for digging and building.

Shallow water for treasure-finding.

Shallow water for treasure-finding.

On the hunt for a crab.

On the hunt for a crab.

And plenty of crab catching.

Found some!

And an incredible adventure through the cold, cold water (couldn’t bring my camera, since we were immersed above our waists) out to the sand bars. So neat.

Wednesday was our one not-sunny day, so we spent the morning exploring the trails at the nature preserve.IMG_9897

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The paths took us to the beach, where we inspected the oyster beds.

The paths took us to the beach, where we inspected the oyster beds.

And ran and ran.

And ran in the sand.

This kid loves a good beach run.

This kid loves a good beach run.

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Our walk home took us to the visitor's center, where we watched baby turtles in a tank and checked out other local wildlife. And then we stumbled upon an apple tree that was begging for little hands to pick the fruit.

Our walk home took us to the visitor’s center, where we watched baby turtles in a tank and checked out other local wildlife. And then we stumbled upon an apple tree that was begging for little hands to pick the fruit.

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Then Cynthia, who uses part of the sanctuary's land for farming, brought us and a bucket of apples over to the animals. Time to feed the pigs! (Don't worry, the electric fence was off!)

Then Cynthia, who uses part of the sanctuary’s land for farming, brought us and a bucket of apples over to the animals. Time to feed the pigs! (Don’t worry, the electric fence was off!)

Those piggies were fed well that day.

Those piggies were fed well that day.

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And then back to the house, just before the rain drops began to fall.

And then back to the house, just before the rain drops began to fall.

What a sight — fresh laundry and two boys getting themselves ready for nap time.

What a sight — freshly folded laundry, and two boys getting themselves ready for nap time.

We made our way to Barnes & Noble during the afternoon hours to find some rainy day fun. The place was packed, but Soren knew just which nook to hide out in.

We made our way to Barnes & Noble that afternoon to find some rainy day fun. The place was packed, but Soren knew just which nook to hide out in.

And a train table! The only way we were able to get Soren to leave was by promising him a pizza for dinner.

And a train table! The only way we were able to get Soren to leave was by promising him a pizza for dinner.

Thursday was one of my favorite beach days. Cold Storage Beach was the spot of choice, and it was the first day our entire crew ended up at the same place at the same time.

Surveying the surroundings.

Surveying the surroundings.

Buddies. (Soren still mentions Ruby, or "Yoobee," every now and then.)

Buddies. (Soren still mentions Ruby, or “Yoobee,” every now and then.)

Time for a swim.

Time for a swim.

Look at these BFFs!

Look at these BFFs!

Soren looks like he's ready to dive right in.

Soren looks like he’s ready to dive right in.

And then the trench-digging began.

And then the trench-digging began.

And then, the trench-digging began.

Soren got stuck a few times.

 

Planking.

Planking.

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Maybe this meal is the reason I loved this beach day the most. Lobster roll, clam cakes, fries, and cole slaw from Captain Frosty's.

Maybe this meal is the reason I loved this beach day the most. Lobster roll, clam cakes, fries, and cole slaw from Captain Frosty’s.

A few minutes of peace for the shaded ladies.

A few minutes of peace for the shaded ladies.

We ALMOST got a group shot. The idiot teenager who took this photo chopped half the group off in most of the pictures he took. In this one, everyone made it in but Ruby.

We ALMOST got a full group shot. The kind teenager who took this photo chopped half the group off in most of the pictures he took. In this one, everyone made it in but Ruby.

Airing out.

Airing out.

And then a little swimming before Soren expired for nap time.

And then a little swimming before Soren expired for nap time. Tim went to go fetch the car while I got Soren ready to go. Soren asked for milk; I started nursing him, then looked down to find him asleep! Guess the beach really takes it out of you.

On our last full day we ventured to Mayflower Beach, which might have been my favorite if not for the tricky parking situation (we made it into the lot, but the others in our group had to wait in a long line for a spot to open up), the wind, and the cool temps (low 70s should be nothing to complain about, but it was chilly in the shade!).

This beach was another dream spot for kids — awesome tidal pools and sand bars, plus perfect sand for digging.

This beach was another dream spot for kids — awesome tidal pools and sand bars.

Beach and pool, all in one.

Beach and wading pool, all in one spot.

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The last beach day is always a very hard thing for me. I’ll be looking at these pictures throughout the winter to remind myself that there will be warmth and swimsuits again.

Other highlights from the trip include:

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A beautiful back yard for playing, eating, reading, art projects, and napping.

The backyard was also the perfect spot for the blow-up pool we brought. Unfortunately, the water from the hose was freezing, so Brian rigged up a hot shower solution.

The backyard was also the perfect spot for the blow-up pool we brought. Unfortunately, the water from the hose was freezing, but Brian rigged up a hot shower solution.

Visits to the Cape Cod Creamery. The Dennis Double Chocolate (with a hint of cinnamon!) is still in my dreams.

And a few visits to the Cape Cod Creamery. The Dennis Double Chocolate (with a hint of cinnamon!) is still in my dreams. Other foodie fun to remember: The Common Ground Cafe, which was the most bizarre restaurant experience ever , and Pain D’Avignon, a lovely French spot with amazing breads and baked oysters (with bacon, leeks, and Parm).

Until next year, Cape Cod. Who’s in this time?

July 2014

Oh, summer. What would we do without you?

On the first of the month, Tim sneakily recorded a little video of Soren reading his favorite book (“Things That Go” — a thrift store treasure). If you can’t tell, the words he’s saying include Bobcat, roller (yoyuh), dump truck, and forklift.

Next up was a much-anticipated trip to Virginia. Soren talked about airplanes and airports for days leading up to his seventh and final flight as a lap child. Lucky for him, our flight was delayed and he got to spend extra time in the terminal.

We started our July with a much anticipated trip to Virginia. Soren talked about airplanes and airports for days leading up to his seventh and final flight as a lap child. The usually quick trip turned disastrous when we got stuck on the runway for 2.5 hours, but Soren handled it better than I did. Thank goodness for JetBlue's unlimited snacks!

And then the usually quick trip turned disastrous when we got stuck on the runway for 2.5 hours. Not surprisingly, Soren handled it better than I did. Thank goodness for JetBlue’s unlimited snacks!

He did start to get impatient toward the end, though. Every few minutes he would yell and sign “GO GO” (which mostly sounds like “doh-doh”). Not quite the same when he’s prompted for a video, but here it is nonetheless.

The cousins came to play on our first day in Ashburn. We love cousins!

Taking turns with Truman.

Taking turns with Truman.

Soren talked about this firetruck A LOT while we were in VA.

Soren talked about this firetruck A LOT while we were in VA. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s diaper-less here. Tim might have been trying to teach Soren to pee in the woods.

The girls begged to watch a movie, so Grandmama sat with them for "The Wizard of Oz." Soren followed the crowd and scrambled onto the couch, and I debated about removing him from the room (we still haven't done any screen time with him). Fortunately, he was more interested in the kids than the movie, and he wandered off to play after a couple of minutes.

The girls begged to watch a movie, so Grandmama sat with them for “The Wizard of Oz.” Soren followed the crowd and scrambled onto the couch. I thought about removing him from the room, since we still don’t do any screen time. Fortunately, he was more interested in the kids than the movie, and he wandered off to play after a couple of minutes.

Uncle Ben (aka "Uh Ben") showed up too!

Uncle Ben (aka “Uh Ben”) showed up too!

We celebrated the 4th of July at the National Zoo. I’ve been to plenty of zoos in my day, and this is surely the best (and it’s free!).

Pappy and Grandmama swung Soren along.

Pappy and Grandmama swung Soren along as we walked to the zoo (we declined the $22 parking option).

The cutest lion cubs wrestled and romped around all morning.

The cutest lion cubs wrestled and romped around all morning. (Side note: I fall more and more in love with Soren’s curls every day.)

The kids went nuts for the fountain-filled tide pool by the seal exhibit. Every few minutes a giant gush of water poured down the rocks for the littles to splash in.

The kids went nuts for the tide pool by the seal exhibit. Every few minutes a giant gush of water poured down the rocks for the littles to splash in.

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And then, nap time.

And then, nap time.

Tim and Uncle Ben played with the nieces atop the giant pizza playground.

Tim and Ben played with the nieces atop the giant pizza playground.

We hung out at Reagan’s all afternoon, enjoying Cafe Rio, a backyard, the neighborhood pool, and a few daytime fireworks.

We kept the animal theme going the next day by visiting Frying Pan Park — a Dickson family favorite. We went as kids, and Soren has been there a few times now.

No hesitation about petting any of the animals.

No hesitation about petting any of the animals. Tim and I dream of having a farm that our kids run so we can enjoy the eggs and goat cheese and honey without having to do any work. We’re well on our way here.

The afternoon brought us backyard heaven -- an empty pool, perfect for throwing rocks.

The afternoon brought us backyard heaven and solo pool time for splashing and throwing rocks.

Topless gardening.

Topless gardening.

Uncle Ben (aka"Uh Ben") gave Soren a lesson in scootering.

Uncle Ben gave Soren a lesson in scootering.

The trip was too short,  especially since we thought we were flying home Tuesday and found out at the last minute our flight was actually on Monday.

All my snuggle dreams came true when Soren fell asleep while nursing on the plane. He hasn't fallen asleep during milk time since he was teeny tiny!

All my snuggle dreams came true when Soren fell asleep while nursing on the plane. He hasn’t fallen asleep during milk time since he was teeny tiny!

My calendar for the next week shows we packed in the fun but took few pictures — five different playgrounds in five days, a trip to the pool, a successful day at Soren’s school, a friend over for dinner one night, and one evening with lobster rolls and fountain fun in the North End.

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Plus, a Friday evening train ride with Dada while I got my gym on.

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On Sunday evenings we usually go for a little spin around the neighborhood. Soren is always up for a stop at the pond to throw rocks. The slope into the water is a little steep at the edge, so I feel the need to steady him by the shirt collar. I’m certain he’ll run right in one of these days.

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Street find! One of the houses by the lake had a few children’s items out for giveaway. We snagged this great Melissa & Doug easel for future use. It was a bit cumbersome to carry, so Tim set it down for a few minutes while we played.

The following week Soren and I visited our Boston zoo. It wasn't much compared to DC's, but we did have a great time watching the gorillas.

The following week Soren and I visited our Boston zoo, thanks to free tickets from the Allston-Brighton Family Network. It wasn’t much compared to DC’s, but we did have a great time watching the gorillas.

I promise he was having fun.

I promise he was having fun.

Soren likes to help me water our herbs, and I like to record our conversations (even though our conversations are often nearly identical from day to day).

We ventured to a new beach the next Saturday, and now we can’t figure out why we’d never been to Nahant before.

Easy parking, great sand, and typical New England freezing cold water.

Easy parking, great sand, and typical New England freezing cold water.

This was our first real beach day of the year, and Soren quickly learned to love the sand.

This was our first real beach day of the year, and we were relieved that Soren quickly learned to love the sand.

Tim is really good at digging and building, and I'm really good at sitting in my chair and reading or taking pictures.

Tim is really good at digging and building, and I’m really good at sitting in my chair and reading.

Buried alive.

Buried alive.

That night, we discovered a scary bullseye on Soren’s leg and had to start antibiotics for Lyme disease. I had ambitions of keeping antibiotics out of my baby’s system for his whole life, but we decided it was a better alternative than an actual disease. We killed some time at the park while walking to CVS to get his prescription filled, and Soren taught me all about picking up trash at the park.

Another day, another video. Conversations about gooses and popcorn and Wild Things and so on.

Uncle Ben came up for yet another visit toward the end of the month, so Tim took a little time off work for some play time. Our first stop was Walden Pond.

The parking lot was full and wouldn't open again for two hours. So Soren and I hopped out of the car and snuck in the old fashioned way.

The parking lot was full and wouldn’t open again for two hours. So Soren and I hopped out of the car and snuck in the old fashioned way.

The best water in the world with the best scenery. That Thoreau knew what he was doing.

The best water in the world with the best scenery.

Channeling his inner Thoreau.

Channeling his inner Thoreau.

We had more water fun the next day at the Frog Pond (after a quick stop at the courtyard story time at the BPL).

Soren was the first one in the water, and he was clearly thrilled about it.

Soren was the first one in the water, and he was clearly thrilled about it.

Back and forth from the playground to the pond.

Back and forth from the playground to the pond.

Shoulda brought my suit.

Shoulda brought my suit.

I never knew Soren had these moves in him.

Next we took Ben to Giacomo’s, our tried and true favorite for pumpkin tortellini, lobster ravioli, butternut squash ravioli, and more.

The line was as long as ever, but Soren kept busy by wandering the Freedom Trail and taking rests to read.

The line was as long as ever, but Soren kept busy by wandering the Freedom Trail and taking breaks to read.

And of course we had to also pick up pastries and stop by the fountains while in the North End.

On Saturday we were off to Castle Island.

First, some playground fun.

First, some playground fun.

Playgrounds should always be right on the beach.

Playgrounds should always be right on the beach.

Tricky bridge.

Tricky bridge.

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Perfect day.

Sandy train tracks.

Sandy train tracks.

My dreams of cultivating a beach bum are definitely coming true.

My dreams of cultivating a beach bum are definitely coming true.

And to finish the month off, I tried to capture on video some of the funny things Soren knows/says. It never works out quite as well when he’s on camera. He likes to talk about our respective workplaces (Harvard for Tim, “office” for me), a few numbers, some letters, and so on.

Oh, and one more random from the last of the month.

I'm not sure how this started, but Soren really likes to fill the bottom of the slide with woodchips, walk around to climb the ladder, then crash down into his pile.

I’m not sure how this started, but Soren really likes to fill the bottom of the slide with woodchips, walk around to climb the ladder, then crash down into his pile. Also, note his pocket full of Trader Joe’s stickers. Always good to keep those close to the heart.

June 2014

June must have been a very quiet month — I didn’t take a single picture on my “real” camera, and the photos on my phone and Tim’s don’t show much action. Or maybe it was a really busy month, so we didn’t have time for photo/video shoots? I can’t remember. Here is the update from our June journal.

In a matter of days, it seems, Soren went from having a vocabulary of about three words (mama, dada, yeah) to now knowing every word in the dictionary. It’s so fun to hear him say words I had no idea he was aware of. Note that he typically turns mute if I try to get him to perform on video. (He still signs here and there — in this video he does “love” and “rock.”)

Sunday afternoon walk. I tucked his shirt in for the first time and he turned from baby to big boy right in front of my eyes.

Sunday afternoon walk. I tucked his shirt in for the first time and he turned from baby to big boy right in front of my eyes.

Despite my best efforts to keep the word “no” out of our house, Soren came home from Minnesota in May with some interest in the word. It took a couple of weeks, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve eliminated it from our family’s vocab again. He had taken to growling the word (as seen at the start of this video), so I would ask him to try again with a nice word; in response he’d say, “yeah.” And now we’re back to a no-free household.

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If there is one Boston event I crave every year, it’s the Scooper Bowl — unlimited ice cream, froyo, and gelato from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s, Breyer’s, and Garelick Farms. Soren was so distracted by all the action that he hardly noticed the ice cream binge Tim and I were engaging in. Thank goodness for the nearby garbage trucks and construction site that aided me in keeping my child mostly sugar free.

As usual, we spent a good part of each day at the parks near our house. Some days we don’t even make it to the actual playground because he spends so much time wandering around the park gathering rocks and sticks.

Now let me talk for a minute about something that changed my life. (I’m mainly telling this long story for anyone who could benefit from the program but may not know about it… so all others should feel free to skip right ahead.) A couple of months ago, I had a few different friends from community playgroups tell me about the services they’d used from the Massachusetts Early Intervention program. I’d heard of EI before but didn’t think much about it since I knew it was a service we didn’t need. But the friends who told me about it weren’t the types who “needed” assistance either. One friend’s daughter qualified for the program because she wasn’t talking much at 18 months. Most kids I know aren’t talking much at 18 months. Soren certainly wasn’t, but I wasn’t worried about it. He crawled “late,” he walked “late,” and he was right on track to talk “late.” But his comprehension and communication skills (I mean, he had a signing vocabulary of 40+ words) were excellent. He was perfectly healthy, very happy (even if he wouldn’t crack a smile or show emotion to strangers), and was (and still is) such a good listener and direction-follower. So again, I wasn’t the least bit worried. But when my friends talked about how neat it was to have an early childhood educator come to their homes for an hour each week simply to play with their kids, I was intrigued.

So I had Soren tested. The evaluators came to our home and asked me various questions while playing with Soren to determine his cognitive function, fine motor and gross motor skills, his ability to communicate, etc. Thanks to his non-verbal communication, he qualified! (Their development checklist suggests 15-18-month-olds should be repeating two-word phrases — Soren definitely wasn’t interested in that.) They had me outline a couple of goals we would work on, and it was then that I learned they were perfectly trained to help Soren’s inability to separate from me. I threw out the goal to work on his language (since I knew that would come in its own time) and decided we should work toward getting Soren comfortable with other adults and helping him learn to be happy without me in the room.

So Soren’s “development specialist” started coming over once a week, and we LOVE her. Her degree is in psychology and child development, and she and Soren are a lovely match. She brings fun toys and games along, and I’ve learned a lot from her about new ways to play with Soren. And since she’s over for an hour, I can usually get dinner prepped and the kitchen cleaned while watching my baby learn and grow and have a grand time.

He also got a spot in one of the toddler groups (like a mini preschool) at Thom Boston Metro. It’s one day a week for two hours, and the parents don’t attend. The kids are in small groups, and there is generally a 2:1 ratio of kids to teachers. I had mixed emotions about this. Based on how he’d done with our church’s nursery (or rather, how he had not been able to attend nursery on his own) I was expecting to stay by his side at this group and for the rest of his life. The head teacher of the class recommended staying with him the first session, staying just an hour the second time, and only 15 minutes the third time. I assured her Soren would need much more time than that. But, to my absolute shock, Soren did OK without me for about 45 minutes during his second session (pacifier required)!And by his fourth time, I played with him for 15 minutes, asked for a kiss goodbye, and walked out of the room without him minding one bit (and no pacifier this time!). I was glued to the two-way mirrors the entire hour and 45 minutes, certain he was going to break down at any moment and need me. But he was happy! He played with the train table and the sand table and the kitchen and the farm. He did an art project and went to the gym to play on the slides and in the ball pit and on the trampoline. And he had snack time and circle time and didn’t appear to miss me once. And after singing the goodbye song, he came out the door to find me and had the biggest, proudest smile on his face — like he knew he had just accomplished something totally awesome.

So, long story short, if your kid can qualify for your state’s Early Intervention program, USE IT. We’ve had only the most positive experiences with Thom Boston. And Soren’s successes have translated to other areas of his life. He’s now a pro at nursery at church, he can finally handle the child care at my gym, and he has a grand time with his babysitter a couple mornings a week while I work. I love knowing that he’s learning and playing in different ways from the methods I provide him. And that is my testimony of Early Intervention.

Soren started "school." And now he's cured of his inability to leave my side. It has been absolutely magical for us. I get a huge kick out of watching his every move through the two-way mirrors.

I don’t think I could’ve done this without two-way mirrors. Greatest invention ever.

One Sunday morning we went to church an hour early for one of Tim's meetings. Soren and I took a walk around the block knowing we would find plenty to see at all the construction sites. He was pretty happy about fitting perfectly inside the backhoe's scooper.

One Sunday morning we went to church an hour early for one of Tim’s meetings. Soren and I took a walk around the block knowing we would find plenty to see at all the construction sites. He was pretty happy about fitting perfectly inside the backhoe’s scooper.

Sometimes when I’m posting all these photos and videos, I wonder if anyone is judging Soren’s wardrobe. Is it normal that I change him into pajama pants for his naps?

One Saturday I told Tim I’d had a brainstorm about creating my perfect storage solution. We have a huge storage area in our apartment and it had been the largest disaster of my life for most of the time we’ve lived in this house. Picture storage bins and cardboard boxes and suitcases and food storage and baby chairs and bassinets and wrapping paper and craft supplies and more and more and more — all strewn about haphazardly. And of course it costs one million dollars to buy shelving systems that are sturdy and just the right size and shape. So off to Home Depot we went, with Tim grumbling all the while.

Soren begs to watch the forklift at Home Depot. Sometimes I'm tempted to ask for products on the top shelves, just so he can have his wish come true.

Soren begs to watch the forklift at Home Depot. Sometimes I’m tempted to ask for products on the top shelves, just so he can have his wish come true.

Tim and I aren’t the handiest with tools and building stuff, but look what we (mostly he) did! I couldn’t be happier.

I can now fit 12 storage bins and a whole lot of junk on these shelves.

I can now fit 12 storage bins and a whole lot of junk on these beautiful shelves.

We found yet another awesome park in walking distance of our house. This one is right next to the T, so we get the added bonus of being able to sit on cool chairs and watch the trains go by.

We found yet another awesome park in walking distance of our house. This one is right next to the T, so we have the added bonus of being able to sit on cool chairs and watch the trains go by.

One Saturday Tim took Soren to the grocery store and on a nature walk. Soren is a lover of sticks of all sizes, and he took a particular liking to this one.

One Saturday Tim took Soren to the grocery store and on a nature walk. Soren is a lover of sticks of all sizes, and he took a particular liking to this one.

When he discovers a stick or rock he wants but finds it's too cumbersome to carry, he demands that we do it. And since we're suckers, we usually oblige.

When he discovers a stick or rock he wants but finds it’s too cumbersome to carry, he demands that we do it. And since we’re suckers, we usually oblige.

And this was the day Soren discovered rock climbing (also known as "yock yiming").

And this was the day Soren discovered rock climbing (also known as “yock yiming”).

Soren falls more in love with pizza as he ages. We couldn't be more proud that he's adopted our favorite food as his own. He's no respecter of toppings or restaurant. The only downside of this beloved meal of his is that we don't have enough for leftovers when we buy just one pizza.

Soren falls more in love with pizza as he ages. We couldn’t be more proud that he’s adopted our favorite food as his own. He’s no respecter of toppings or restaurant. The only downside of this newly beloved meal of his is that we don’t have enough for leftovers when we buy just one pizza.

It’s really fun to watch this kid eat. Any food that doesn’t get eaten quickly turns into a train or a truck or a tower.

Our first pool day of the summer was on the last day of June. I was wondering what had taken us so long until I realized the pools had only opened a few days before.

Our first pool day of the summer was on the last day of June. I was wondering what had taken us so long until I realized the pools had only opened a few days before!

May 2014

Ahhhh, May. One of my most favorite months. There’s always a little extra excitement in the air with special dates like my birthday and Mother’s Day. The weather is generally wonderful. And this year our May included two out-of-state adventures.

Soren loooves bubbles. And he fearlessly hunts down the geese and ducks by the pond, so we combined it all one afternoon.

Soren loves bubbles and fearlessly hunting down the geese and ducks by the pond, so we combined the two one afternoon.

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I got almost a foot of hair cut off! I did it on a bit of a whim, and I haven't looked back. It was either going to be messy ponytail every day or messy short hair, and the latter is a little more presentable.

I got almost a foot of hair cut off! I did it on a bit of a whim, and I haven’t looked back. I realized I had to live with either a long, tangly ponytail every day or messy short hair, and the latter is a little more presentable. I sent my lovely locks to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program.

And then we were off to Minnesota for a week with the Laytons and Hepps. We left chilly Boston for even chillier Wayzata, MN.

Since Tim and Soren and I were up a few hours before everyone else, we did lots of morning exploring.

Since Tim and Soren and I were up a few hours before everyone else, we did lots of morning exploring.

Soren learned the fine art of throwing rocks in the water.

Soren learned the fine art of throwing rocks in the water, which launched a full-on rock obsession. I can’t count how many times a day I find random rocks throughout the house that he’s snuck in somehow.

First zoo trip! Soren would look at each animal for about three seconds then sign/say "more more" and walk away to find something else. I'm trying to teach him to live in the moment.

First zoo trip! Soren would look at each animal for about three seconds then sign/say “more more” and walk away to find something else. I’m trying to teach him to live in the moment.

Three generations clip-clopping on the bridge.

Three generations clip-clopping on the bridge.

Gorilla love.

Gorilla love.

And a smooch for good measure.

And a smooch for good measure.

The Como Park Zoo has a really fun children's gallery with lots of hands-on activities. Soren is never one to turn down a place to splash.

The Como Park Zoo has a really fun children’s gallery with lots of hands-on activities. Soren is never one to turn down an opportunity to splash.

We also loved the gardens.

We also loved the gardens.

Does it get any cuter?

Does it get any cuter?

After the zoo and gardens, Soren didn't think it was possible that his day could get any better. And then Aunt Rita took us to see trains!

After the zoo and gardens, Soren didn’t think it was possible that his day could get any better. And then Aunt Rita took us to see trains!

Back at the house, Soren tried to teach cousin London about stomping on bubbles.

Back at the house, Soren tried to teach cousin London about stomping on bubbles.

Not the cutest face here, but I had to document what Soren does when he hears something interesting. I guess I was in the habit of pointing to my ear when I would ask him if he heard an airplane, truck, bird, etc. So he started pointing to his cheek when he wanted to note an intriguing sound.

Not the cutest face here, but I had to document what Soren does when he hears something interesting. I guess I was in the habit of pointing to my ear when I would ask him if he heard an airplane, truck, bird, etc. So he started pointing to his cheek when he wanted to note an intriguing sound. He’s been doing it for a few months now and I kind of hope he never stops.

Watching the boats on the bay.

Watching the train in the distance.

Soren had his socks knocked off again when we visited the Mall of America. We started out at the aquarium, which involved a lot of crying until we figured out Soren was not feeling great. When I would ask him if something hurt he would point to his stomach. So we had a miserable time until we got to the end and I changed the most disgusting diaper in the history of the world. And then life was grand and we walked through the aquarium again and Soren suddenly thought it was the best day ever.

The LEGO store was pretty great, too.

The LEGO store was pretty great, too.

And then, the rides! Taking Soren on the amusement park rides made me want to spoil him like crazy and give him every thing he ever asks for. The first ride we tried was the mini semi-trucks, and Soren was absolutely enthralled. I had a hunch he would be sad when it was over, so as it was winding down I let him know we would go on more rides. When the trucks stopped and I reached to get Soren out, he burst into tears and started signing “red” — he wanted to go on the red truck! I promised him we would go find another fun ride, but he was pretty sad until he realized what I meant. Our next stop was the roller coaster. In typical Soren fashion, he didn’t crack a smile, but he showed how he felt about it by bursting into tears when it ended. And that’s what happened on every ride we went on. Total despair when each one would end. I wanted to take him on a billion rides.

And then it was Saturday and the worst day of Soren’s life when he woke up with a burning fever. As soon as Tim put Soren in our bed and I felt the heat emanating from his little body, I knew we were going to have a rough day. For practically the first time in his life he wasn’t interested in food, and all he wanted to do was lay in our bed. We got him started on baby ibuprofen to bring the 103 fever down, but he was in sad shape all day.

Tim was secretly thrilled to finally experience Soren in a cuddly state.

Tim was secretly thrilled to finally experience Soren in a cuddly state.

Not a bad place to be sick.

Not a bad place to be sick.

And of course Soren's sick day landed on the day of the family party. You know how you always want your kid to perform well in front of family and friends who don't see him often? Soren totally failed.

And of course Soren’s sick day landed on the day of the family party. You know how you always want your kid to perform well in front of family and friends who don’t see him often? Soren totally failed.

The next day was a real letdown of a Mother’s Day. I woke up to a diarrhea-soaked baby next to me in bed (but the fever was mostly gone!). We spent the morning packing and cleaning up the house. And then we killed a few hours before our flight at Tim’s grandparents’ house. I attempted to give Soren a nap on a mattress on the floor, and he was all over the place. He’s definitely not moving out of his crib anytime soon. He eventually fell asleep with his head hanging off of the bed. About 30 minutes later, he woke up and had a major freak out when he realized he was half on the floor, not in a pack-and-play, and in a strange room (I was sleeping next to him the whole time, but that was not at all reassuring). He screamed for the next 15 minutes while Tim and I frantically tried to calm him down and simultaneously get ready to leave for the airport (and again, I was feeling 100% embarrassed thinking Tim’s relatives must see me as a totally incompetent mother). Soren finally succumbed to the breastmilk, and I started changing his diaper. And then he peed ALL OVER ME. My pants were soaked (it totally looked like I was the one who had the accident), and all our suitcases were packed away in the car. And we were late for our flight. So I strategically held my purse in front of me as we said our goodbyes to the family. The flight back to Boston was uneventful, although keeping Soren both entertained and contained for three hours is no small feat. And then we were home and all was well and I demanded a do-over Mother’s Day.

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The best family photo we could get.

Happy Mother's Day to me.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

We came home to two normal days of work and library trips and playground adventures. And, of course, playtime with the doggies.

And then it was my birthday! I think I’m 32 now; I usually have to do the math to figure out my age. Soren and I got lunch downtown then fed the ducks and rode the swan boats. We wandered the Public Garden then moseyed back down Newbury Street to play on the playground, where Tim met up with us to join the fun. After Soren went to bed, Brenda brought me flowers, cheesecake, and her exceptional babysitting services. Tim and I got dinner at Toscano and felt like normal people who go out after 8 p.m.

I took a whopping one picture on my day. Soren and I got lunch downtown then took a ride on the swan boats. I had to wrestle Soren to keep him on the boat (the baguette helped).

I took a whopping one picture on my day. I had to wrestle Soren to keep him on the swan boat (the baguette helped).

Tim took off for a conference in Chicago for a few days then came back to take us on a Saturday bike ride. Soren sometimes carries his helmet around the house asking for a ride in the bike trailer.

Tim took off for a conference in Chicago for a few days then came back to take us on a Saturday bike ride. Soren sometimes carries his helmet around the house asking for a ride in the bike trailer.

Soren has a newfound love of sticks. He insisted on bringing this one in the car. Is that a safety hazard?

Soren has a newfound love of sticks. He insisted on bringing this one in the car. Is that a safety hazard?

Soren has been helping me with the dishwasher for a few months now, but he's finally become (mostly) independent with the flatware.

Soren has been helping me with the dishwasher for a few months now, but he’s finally become (mostly) independent with the flatware.

We've learned to always sit by the windows when we eat out. After dinner we let Soren roam free so we could eat dessert. He had no idea what he was missing.

We’ve learned to always sit by the windows when we eat out. After dinner we let Soren roam free so we could eat dessert. He had no idea what he was missing.

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We love to stop by this park and sand hill on our way home from Costco.

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It doesn't hurt that it's right on the river.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s right on the river.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlBjG0ltLgo

For Memorial Day weekend, we took our maiden journey to Butterhill, a pre-1800s 10-bedroom house in Franconia, New Hampshire. Gram’s cousins own the house, and family members are welcome to come stay anytime. So now we know where we’ll be all summer.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVa4mdlhucA

We took a Sunday evening hike to Bald Knob.

We took a Sunday evening hike to Bald Knob.

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On Memorial Day we did a slightly more serious hike at the Basin in Franconia Notch State Park.

Grandmama and Pappy and a crazy tree.

Grandmama and Pappy and a crazy tree.

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And then obviously we spent lots of time throwing rocks in the water.

And then obviously we spent lots of time throwing rocks in the water (we had time to kill while John and Shauna searched high and low for their fifth child, the AT).

These are the curls that melt my heart.

These are the curls that melt my heart. We’re seeing no haircuts in the near future.

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After lunch and nap we spent a relaxing afternoon at Butterhill.

Tire swings and za'atar crackers -- two of Shauna's favorite things.

Tire swings and za’atar crackers — two of Shauna’s favorite things.

Soren fell in love with the vintage toys.

Soren fell in love with the house’s abundant toy collection.

More hummingbird watching.

More hummingbird watching.

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Toddler rock climbing.

Toddler rock climbing.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFyjyLBOEIg

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And then back home to Boston. We read A LOT of books on the 2-hour drive. This is when Grandmama helped us discover that Soren really has been paying attention for the last 20+ months. She tried leaving words out of the story here and there to see if Soren could fill them in. Turns out he practically has “Hop on Pop” memorized! Since then, we’ve done the fill-in-the-blank game with lots of other books at home, and he knows way more than I ever would have guessed. He didn’t inherit any memorization skills from me.

We finally got back into our normal life routine at the end of the month. Soren is becoming a lot more independent at home, and it’s really fun to sneak around and watch him playing solo.

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One day I discovered a trio of animals staring out the window. I figured Tim had done it while playing with Soren in the morning. I put the toys away and then noticed they were back in position a few hours later. Must’ve been Soren!