June 17; first full day in Valdez, AK

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I thought I would post some photos that I took with my phone on the first day at Hannah’s house in Valdez.

She is a very good seamstress and has a whole large room devoted to her sewing.  She has everything she needs there.  Her husband made custom work spaces for her and she has picked up things here and there to decorate with (she even has things she found during her visits to CT!).  She has a flannel wall so she can lay out quilt pieces on it before sewing and a most amazing stock of fabrics.

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Hannah doesn’t do much sewing in the summer because she and her family also have a food truck.  She spends most of her extra time keeping it stocked and running smoothly.  They have delicious foods and the best ice cream.  If you’re in Valdez, look them up and go enjoy some yummy Alaskan treats including Halibut tacos and Caramel Cinnamon ice cream.

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She drove me all around town and showed me the points of interest, all with the backdrop of the most gorgeous mountains.  It was a rainy morning and perfect for driving and visiting some of the small shops, the library, and a museum.

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There is an old Valdez and a new Valdez…..or, “Old Town” and “New Town”.  The first was so severely damaged in a major earthquake that they pulled it down and rebuilt at a different location.  The museum had a scaled model of the old town, posters, photos, videos, and artifacts.

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This man had such a friendly smile that his photo made me stop and notice.  He “cared for pets in Old Valdez, acting as the unofficial veterinarian for the town.”

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I did a touristy thing.  I held the big gun for a photo.  Thanks, Hannah!

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There was a small room dedicated to handiwork and needlecraft.  This quilt was on display with a plaque that explained that as the Quilter’s husband was dying, he asked his wife to spread this flag quilt she was currently making over him.  It was his last request and she never completed the quilt.

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As we were getting ready to leave, I heard this man and his wife tell the museum desk worker that they were from “upstate NY” so of course I had to ask where.  Turns out they lived in the same city my Mom works and he grew up in a small town nearby.  He was a Christian and his dad was a Baptist preacher.  He knew last names of my family and my grandfather,  the church I grew up in, the college I attended, and we had mutual acquaintances.  It was such fun!

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Large mural in town.

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The library!!

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I did a whole blog post about our love for Rosemary Wells and she sent me autographed books!  Therefore, it was a great thrill to see her original artwork in the children’s section of Hannah’s library.

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We sat and spent the most time in the little “Alaska” library room, which was full of every book about Alaska that they had, including posters and papers.

Hannah found a book and read some of it out loud.  It was written by a man who met the love of his life in Alaska and they had a lifetime of adventures together.

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“Ruth with a fifty-five-pound beaver.”

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Last photo in the book, “I longed to see Ruth picking wildflowers.”

Oh it was just too delightful.

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Also at the library I was able to add Miracles on Maple Hill to my Newbury awards collection because it was on their free shelf.  I also read the whole book while on my trip.  It was delightful and don’t you agree that books are the best souvenier?

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We visited the old town sight, which was very interesting.  There is a map of it, and markers to show where each building used to stand.  Some of the buildings were actually moved to the new town and we visited some of those, as well.

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**no words** for the beauty.

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Two of Hannah and Ryan’s girls; Sarah (the babysitter) and Bekah (the baker).

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Their two boys; big brother Jacob set up a tent right in their bedroom and put cots in it.  Then, they strung up the kindle so they could lay there and watch videos in the tent.

And  little brother LUKE.

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Luke is 4 years old.

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Sarah graciously let me have her bedroom while I was staying with them.

 

 

mark twain house

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Grace and I FINALLY, after all these years, went to the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT. It was easy to find, there was nice parking, and it was a charming destination for a half day exploration.  Grace has read several of Twain’s books and I read Volume 1 of his very large autobiography.  What a character he was, and what a treat it is to enjoy his writings.

We did the “Living Tour” with a man who was pretending to be the butler.  Indeed, he said he WAS the Butler.  (5 dollars more per person).  The house is heavily protected…..you may NOT sit on anything, you may NOT take ANY photos, also NO CELL PHONES, and you may NOT carry a pen in your hand.  (pencils only).  Because it was a living tour set in the year 1897 we were NOT permitted to ask any questions that didn’t have to do with that time period.  By this time I was so nervous I said not a word.

The inside of the house was GORGEOUS.  So lovely.  I have no photos of it, though!

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Thank Goodness we could take all the photos we wanted, outside the house!  And that was gorgeous, too.

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Look at pretty Grace.

The tour ended in the basement where we were allowed to take photos again, ask any question we wanted, and touch things.  I slowly thawed.  There were photos and books on a long table and while there was a question and resulting discussion (involving math) about exactly how old Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was when he spent time in Europe, I took a couple photos.

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His daughters and their friends putting on a play.

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Mark Twain’s Scrapbook!

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My favorite rooms inside the house were the library, the nursery, and the conservatory.  I could only get outside-looking-in photos of the conservatory.  Incidentally, if you would like to see photos of the rooms you can do a quick google search and find them all.  Check out the wallpaper in the guest room and master bedroom, it’s so elegant and whimsical.

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beautiful white lace curtains and the outside brick of the house

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THIS IS MY MOST FAVORITE PHOTO OF THE DAY; Of Grace in her skirt, by the flowerbed at the carriage house.  Our tour guide made a point about how the family of Patrick McAleer, with seven children, lived upstairs in the carriage house back in the Clemens’ day.  So Grace and I were intrigued, as that is the number of children in our family.  We were glad we did not have to live in the upstairs of a carriage house.

Well, actually, I may have gotten the feeling that maybe Grace would have enjoyed it.  🙂

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It was a wonderful house and beautiful morning.

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We left and went to lunch at a place called Tangiers International, which was a Middle Eastern Market half a mile down the road.  We shared an order of stuffed grape leaves.  I had a lamb gyro for lunch and she had chicken curry.  We bought a couple boxes of Turkish Delight on our way out.  David had asked for some at Christmas time and I finally found some, 5 months later.

“I was born modest, but it didn’t last.”  Mark Twain

easter happenings

Happy Glorious Easter!

By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us–set us right with him, make us fit for him–we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus.  And that’s not all:  We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us.  We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand–out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
     There’s more to come:  We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next.  In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged.  Quite the contrary–we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!
     Christ arrives right on time to make this happen.  He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready.  He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready.  And even if we hadn’t be so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway.  We can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice.  But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.
     Now that we are set right with God by means of this sacrificial death, the consummate blood sacrifice, there is no longer a question of being at odds with God in any way.  If, when we were at our worst, we were put on friendly terms with God by the sacrificial death of his Son, now that we’re at our best, just think of how our lives will expand and deepen by means of his resurrection life!  Now that we have actually received this amazing friendship with God, we are no longer content to simply say it in plodding prose.  We sing and shoout our praises to God through Jesus, the Messiah!

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We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end.  Never again will death have the last word.  When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us.  From now on, think of it this way:  Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word.  You are dead to sin and alive to God.  That’s what Jesus did.

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A whole, healed, put together life right now, with more and more of life on the way!

(from the book of Romans in “the Message” translation)

I could just keep typing and typing, copying out these rich and wonderful words!  Even on the worse days, the Holy Spirit keeps ministering to God’s children.  The bad days are a little better, the best days are a foretaste of Heaven!

One of those “best days” for me personally happened just yesterday.  We visited Mom and Dad’s church and then I was able to ride along with them to the Otesaga Resort for our buffet Easter dinner.  I felt like laughing all day, I was so happy.  Even when we didn’t quite know where we were going for a little while there on the back roads……..

Our reservations were for 2 and we arrived with time to spare and were seated at two large round tables, side by side.  We were in a nice open room with huge windows which opened out to the bluest lake.  The weather was lovely, warm and spring like.  The food was served buffet style and we all ate until we could eat no more, with laughter and fun conversations.

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We were missing Ethan very much.

(My sister and her family also could not make it this year.)

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Cassandra’s dear parents joined us though, which was a fun treat; we love this family!

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Dave was able to play a few songs on the grand piano!!!  He was dying to get his hands on it.

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LOVE IT!

And one last drive away photo from out the window!  the parents! xo

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Well then, it came out in the car that Rich was in a bad mood because of something a couple of our children did that I didn’t know about until we were driving down the road and he was able to fill me in on the details.  I had wondered why he had sort of “deflated” toward the end of the meal.  My poor husband, I always have complete confidence in how he handles the issues that arise in our family.  Very thankful for that.   However, as we drove along, his irritation was causing him to retreat inside of his own thoughts and problem solving so that he wasn’t paying attention to his driving….I did notice that he was going a little fast but what with the situation and all I decided to keep my mouth shut and not nag him about speed limits.

Instead, I took pictures out my window.

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You can sort of tell by these photos that we were going 60 in a 45, right?

However, the officer was merciful and decided to only ticket us not for speeding but because our vehicle had tinted windows (I guess in NY you can only have a certain shade of tint)….and even that was eventually thrown out because after all that he wasn’t able to get his computer to work- so off we went again on our merry way and at a much slower pace, praise the Lord.

We still arrived home at just the right time; bedtime for the younger children to be exact!!!  And heart to heart time for the ones who needed fatherly guidance and instruction.

All is well.

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I took these photos just this morning; things are growing fast now that the snow has melted and the ground has warmed up.

April showers and all that.

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I saw the first spring violet this morning when I walked Sarah to the bus; picture to follow!

You are loved, xo

~Shanda

What we believe is this:  If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.  Romans 6

old sturbridge village

Somehow I lost the original post that I wrote yesterday about Old Sturbridge Village, but here are all the photos once again.  We had a great day with Hannah.  We went on Saturday, on a mild January day.  The last place we visited was the Potter’s shop and then the next day, by God’s plan, we read verses from Jeremiah about God the Potter, who shapes our lives…..Jacob, my son, read them from the pulpit and Sarah recognized the photo on the screen, thanks to the education she received from our lovely day.

“Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you.”

but wait, there’s more!

“From first to last it was crowded with delights.” LM Montgomery

My go-get-’em daughter Grace is on the hunt for a college and she made the decision to go to a Christian one.  Weeks ago, it came to my mind that perhaps she would enjoy a college that was very familiar to me as it was a popular option for church students in the area that I grew up.  In fact, my father took a few classes there, and Rich’s aunt also attended.

I was especially excited about it because my dear friend Joanna (who is mentioned on this blog about a thousand times) lives not far from the school.  So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to visit the college with Grace and then get to see Joanna?”

We went on their website and chose a date to visit:  November 11th.  Conveniently, this was a vacation day for Grace from school.  I emailed Joanna to see if she would be in town that day.

BUT WAIT, there’s more!  Not only was she in town, but she was SPEAKING at a ladies conference and asked if Grace and I would like to go with her.  Of course we would!

About a week later, as I was preparing our trip details, it came to my knowledge that…..

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!  My son Ethan (who is a Freshman at a college in Vermont) was going to be IN THE SAME AREA for a wrestling tournament!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What???? are the odds?  The tournament was on the same day as the conference so I was conflicted.  After thinking about how to solve this problem, I thought that perhaps Ethan’s girlfriend would like to come along with us.  SHE could surprise Ethan by showing up at his meet and that way I wouldn’t feel bad for being at a Bible conference while my son was literally only 30 minutes away from me (my heart!).

So, eventually, I received a “yes”from Tessa, but she asked if maybe David could go along as well, so she wouldn’t have to hang around at the gym alone.

Our little trip now included two extra teenagers=the more the merrier!  I made reservations at a hotel situated in between both events and had good reviews, and a reasonable price.

We headed out of town in the darkness of 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning.

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Grace was blessed over and over by the people of this school, and during the tour she was shown many things to be excited about.  She enjoyed every minute.

BUT WAIT, THERE’s more!

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While we were sitting in the dorm listening to our tour guide explain dorm life, a familiar face walked by.  I recognized this young lady as the daughter of an old friend of mine!   It was a joy to see and speak with her, and for Grace as well, especially after realizing she was the cousin of her friend Kyle and a best friend of her cousins.  “It’s a small world” & “church connections” are the best!

Our tour at the school was over at 3:30. Joyfully, Joanna was able to finish up her work and texted me to ask if we could go to her house for pizza dinner.  This was another unexpected blessing: to be able to see her entire wonderful family, see the things she’s done in her home since the last time I was there, and also allow Grace and Dave to meet her husband and children.

Before we went to her house, we decided to head to our hotel to relax for an hour.  We checked into our room and dove on the beds, each of us with our own electronic device.

But wait, there’s more!  I checked our group text (between my husband, myself, and our three oldest) and saw that Rich had questioned Ethan about where the wrestling team was staying that night.  We hadn’t asked him before because we didn’t want him to become suspicious about us going to his tournament.

GUESS WHAT????????  The team was driving to our VERY SAME HOTEL to spend the night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  You can imagine the squeal of shock as I leapt out of bed in my joy.  Tessa and I were beyond amazed and thrilled to learn that we would actually SEE ETHAN THAT VERY NIGHT!

You have to realize, we were in a very populated area in PA, there are probably one hundred hotel options, and God put us in the SAME EXACT ONE!

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WITH MY FRIEND AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!! after two years!

love you, Josephina!  🙂

Steve and the kids were just the sweetest and nicest and we had delicious pizza together before heading back to the hotel.

Using the handy dandy “find my phone” feature on our iPhones Rich was able to let me know when Ethan’s bus was within 10 minutes of the hotel.  Grace and I sat in the lobby, and I was still in denial that this whole thing was happening.  I felt like “I’ll believe he is truly staying in this hotel when I see the bus pull up.”

AND IT DID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Grace ran off to get Tessa for Ethan’s surprise #2 and I wasn’t aware of it so I didn’t get that one on video.  But he was thrilled to say the least.  After the team settled into their rooms, Ethan was able to come back to us and we were able to see each other until almost 11pm.

The next morning, I drove Dave and Tessa to the college to watch the wrestling tournament.  Grace and I continued on to Joanna’s house.  We picked her up and had time to go through Dunkin’ drive thru for tea, and then to the church where Joanna was one of three women speakers.

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Right off the bat, my soul was being soothed by the songs, the women, and the atmosphere.  It was just what we needed to make this weekend away from home PERFECT.

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And to see my daughter and my dearest friend together…..Bibles open…..learning, growing, singing praises, loving…..it was such a gift.  God ministered to me and my children over and over in the most tangible ways.  It was overwhelming, to say the least.  I’m still feeling the adrenaline rush as I type.

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Joanna’s talk was Christ centered and soulful, I was in tears.  One of the stories she told was about the time she and her husband adopted their daughter from Ethiopia, and how moving it was to be able to take the orphanage clothes off her new baby, and, as her new mama, to dress her in a handmade, beautifully smocked dress (made just for her by dear Dawn).  This continues to serve as a beautiful reminder to her of the very same way that God clothes us as His dearly beloved children, showing us that we belong to Him.

She even had the dress with her to hold up and show the women.  Tears!

(Dawn made Sarah Joy a dress with the same pattern)

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sisters in Christ, friends for over twenty years, soul sisters, always and forever

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Joanna came with Grace and me to the remainder of the wrestling tournament.  This was the first meet she had ever watched, and it was fun to share with her something that is a HUGE part of my life each winter.  We had missed out on Ethan’s two matches but Tessa was kind enough to record them for us.  He lost his first match by points, and won the second by a pin.

I was able to meet one of the other moms of the team, and two of the coaches as well.  It was fun to watch the matches and it made me excited for the upcoming wrestling season for my younger boys.

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The meet ended and we took a few photos before Ethan got on the bus for Vermont.

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(David took a 2 hour nap in the hallway during the meet, LOL)  And Grace (although you can’t tell) was in tears and starting to feel shaky and sick.  The excitement was starting to catch up to her.

So Joanna and I dropped them off at the hotel and the two of us were able to go out to eat.  She took me to a Greek place that she and Steve go to on their dates. (Thank you to Steve for the suggestion!)

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You can just imagine all the talking we did.

I took her home and continued back to my hotel room, completely filled up with the goodness of the day.

The next morning we allowed ourselves to sleep in a little.  We left by 9 and made a stop at Krispy Kreme donuts before entering the highway for the three and a half hour drive home.

This post doesn’t even begin to describe all the ways God blesses our lives.  But it does give a taste of how what we think will be an ordinary life can become abundantly and richly touched by His hand.  It was a *praise and thank you Jesus* sort of weekend!  And it is a *praise and thank you Jesus sort of life* for all those who believe on His name.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you.  May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.”  Numbers 6:24-25

But there are also many other things which Jesus did–so vast a number indeed that if they were all described in detail, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would have to be written.  John 21:25

 

 

 

mount monadnock

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Today has been a blessedly relaxing day after some very fun adventures.  I’ve spent the day slowly puttering around the kitchen, cleaning it up, washing down the island with Method wood cleaner, wiping the granite counters, and washing the glass on the doors.  I’ve done about 6 loads of laundry and also buzzed to the grocery store just to get milk and things for dinner.  We are having corn chip salad tonight, using lettuce from the garden.

Yes, it’s been a quiet sort of day.  I even took a nap on the couch, only waking up *about 17 times because of the children coming in and out of the house slamming the door each time*.

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Something wonderful has happened to me.  There has always been a deep down hankering to walk and hike and I’ve finally met a friend to give me that extra push and camaraderie to do it.  Amy, (Ethan’s girlfriend’s mom) is an experienced mountain climber, ice climber, and hiker.  She and her family are also our neighbors, and since our kids (obviously) get along so well, she and I have also been visiting and getting to know each other, too.

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When school was finishing up for the year, I mentioned to Amy that we should plan a hike together.  We ended up deciding on Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.  Amy went to college near the mountain and had hiked it many times.

Mount Monadnock is known as one of the most hiked mountains in the world and was admired and visited in the past by such well known men as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  (both of whom I love to quote here on my blog).

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Amy and I took along our teenagers.  She brought her daughters and niece and I brought David, Ethan, and Grace.  (Thank you Michael P for babysitting my youngsters so I could go on this trip.)  We were able to take one vehicle — I drove there and she drove back.  Everyone in our party each carried their own bag with water and food and we all put sun screen and bug spray on before our ascent up the mountain.

We followed the white dot trail up, which is 2.2 miles.  It is the shortest but steepest trail up the mountain and indeed, about half way up I made up my mind to quit.  My heart was thudding, I felt sick, my legs were giving out, I was shaking, and I simply decided I could not do it.  The kids kept going while Amy stood by me wondering what to do….I begged her to go, trying to hold in the sobs, and told her I would text her and keep in touch so she knew I was okay.  So after much begging on my part, she went to catch up with the kids.

I leaned back on a tree and propped my feet up on another tree and slowly drank water.  I ate a Cliff bar and rested.  I saw several other people hike past me, one of which was an overweight shirtless man.  I thought “good grief, if he can do this I should be able to as well.”  After 10 minutes or so, I turned back to look up the trail again just in time to see Amy returning.  Alas, I had forgotten that I had let David use my phone to take a photo and when she texted me “Are you okay?” and didn’t get a reply, she was worried and came back. “I couldn’t leave you!  You just don’t leave people behind on a trail.”  It was quite touching to have her come back to me, actually I had tears in my eyes at times thinking about it.

I told her I thought I would be okay to continue since I had rested, so happily we set off again.

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The trail was nothing but rocks.  I mean, I have to laugh now.

Would I ever go back again?  YES!!!

In fact, this mountain keeps returning to my thoughts over and over.  I think I fell in love.

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Amy and I were both so proud of these kids.  They were happy and enjoyed the hike, which meant we were happy, too.

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“Look to the north where Grand Monadnock’s height
Enchains the fancy, and rewards the sight;
Such rock-ribb’d hills our own New-England gave
To mould her sons as rugged and as brave.
Ancient Monadnock! Silent pine-girt hill,
Whose majesty could move a Whittier’s quill;
Whose distant brow the humbler pen excites;
Whose purpled slope the raptur’d gaze invites;
Stand thou! Great Sentinel, though nations fall –
In thee New-England triumphs over all!”

H.P. Lovecraft

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If you squint and look at the middle of the photo, you can see the little lovebirds, Ethan and Tessa.

The children were most often ahead of their Mothers.

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And then in the midst of the Hallelujah chorus playing in my mind, we arrived at the very top!  It was windy and there were lots of people there already.  We sat and ate some food and then enjoyed the 3165′ elevation and 360 degree views.

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David was the best mountain climber among us….hopping and leaping up and down very nimbly.  He smiled a lot.  Rather than slowing him down, hiking seemed to give him more energy.  However, he did fall asleep on the way back home.

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mother/daughter love on the mountain tops

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((so windy!)) but we were very joyful to be up high breathing in all the fresh air and soaking up the majesty of God’s country.  Grace was even amazed to find our old familiar friends *toad tadpoles* in a pool of water.

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((mine and Amy’s packs))

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The trail back down was (white cross trail) just as difficult as the trail going up.  By the time we reached the bottom, our knees were rather shaky.

The feeling of accomplishment was incredible.

The soreness of my muscles even today is also incredible.

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As soon as we left the mountain, we headed straight for a refreshing ice cream place right there in Jaffrey, NH.

 

dave and maria went to paris

 

(music for listening!)

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Hello, dear friends!  It’s about 55 degrees here with sunshine….I should be outside, but after a busy weekend and busy morning I am perfectly content to be in comfy clothes (baggy sweater, yoga pants, socks), inside my cozy living room, with curled up sleeping cats on the couch with me.  It’s quiet!  Sarah is napping.

I had a nice chat with my brother Dave this afternoon.  He and his wife Maria recently returned from two weeks in Paris.  He had promised to share pictures with me and he’s already sent me over one hundred digital photos….I looked at them all several times….feeling sort of, envious, but mostly heart-happy to have world travelers in the family.  Can a mom of seven be a world traveler at this point?  No.  But I can live vicariously through Dave and Maria.  They had such a good time, I love the photos, and Dave said I could share them here with you.  Enjoy!

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Notre Dame Cathedral

 

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The Louvre Palace and the Pyramid

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He said the Mona Lisa is still attracting people like a rock star.  They got up to it, took a couple quick pictures and then continued on…….

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so fun

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Catacombs of Paris, very sad place indeed.

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the majestic Versailles::

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Marie Antoinette’s bedroom:

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my personal favorite picture of Dave:
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and favorite picture of Maria:
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The Sarcophagus of Napoleon Bonaparte::

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Rodin Museum; The Thinker Statue

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The Thinker statue

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more wonderful art

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onion soup!  Dave said he had it (his favorite) about 6 times…..delicious, outside by the street, with a bottle of wine in an ice bucket and his beautiful wife, how can life get better in a moment like this?

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black cat in a cemetery

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Thanks to all the miles and miles of walking he said he didn’t gain any weight even with so many Paris treats.

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(this is where I was envious)…..fabulous bookstore “Shakespeare and Company” !!!!! ^^

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Tomorrow I will share their pictures from Belgium.  xo

 

PLEASE FORGIVE any errors in this post, I am not a *City of Paris expert* and I quickly googled information to go with Dave’s fabulous photography.

Have you been to Paris?

 

PS. Thia, I wrote you back (and mailed) today!

and, Joanne, I received your letter! thank you!