Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

Another year in the books… yet my blogging was lackluster this year, especially during the last few months. We had a lot more experiences than I posted online, so I have included them in our 2015 wrap up!

We spent most of January and February snowshoeing because mother nature dumped an unprecedented nine feet of snow on Greater Boston! When we weren’t exploring the trails, we were finding creative ways to have fun while snow piled halfway up our front windows.

Harold_Parker_Snowshoeing_1_25_15_(11_of_16)

March brought warmer temperatures and melting snow, so Addie, Evan, Kate and I began exploring around town and discovered spray-painted hands in random places – which remain an unsolved mystery.

A Small Town Mystery

We also had a momentous milestone – at least as far as I am concerned. We tossed the high chairs and all five of us began eating together at the table!

Eating at the table!

In May, Kendra and I got a weekend away (just the two of us!) for the first time in a long time. We headed to western Massachusetts and challenged ourselves at Ramblewild Aerial Park. Not only was it an amazing experience, it brought us closer together.

Family Adventure in Ramblewild's Aerial Park

MPSRAAt the end of the month, Kendra and I were honored by the Massachusetts Public Schools Rowing Association. (We coached high school crew together for five years before we had kids. It was our shared passion, one we both miss tremendously.) The MPSRA named trophies in our honor, and we presented them at the State Championships.

Addie also had her first (and last) ballet recital. Though she enjoyed her lessons, she decided one type of dance was enough, and Irish Step won out.

Addie's Ballet Recital

Addie's Preschool GraduationJune was an incredible month – Addie graduated preschool, and on Kendra’s birthday, the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage, and ours became just a marriage – recognized in all 50 states.

The warmer weather meant lots of hiking and biking. The twins began protesting being carried in their packs, and hiking more and more on their own. Though it meant going slower, my back and legs were grateful!

As the month came to a close, we packed up and moved to Vermont for the summer so Kendra could take classes toward another masters. While she studied hard, the kids and I explored Middlebury and the surrounding area, hiked, biked on rail trails, visited the library, and ate lots of yummy food. (Oh, and we took care of six chickens!)

Robert Frost Interpretive Trail, Ripton, VT Delaware_Hudson_North_Rail_Trail_(2_of_9)Eight Family-Friendly Activities in Middlebury, VT1797585_10153466819299810_6233616983258760416_n

We celebrated the Fourth of July with friends in tiny Bristol, Vermont. On the weekends, when Kendra needed a break from writing, we picked strawberries, went to the farmer’s market, hiked more, and visited the science museum in Burlington.

4th of July 2015

In mid-July, the kids and I came home for a week. We celebrated Addie’s 5th birthday with her cousins, including our nieces Jada and Olivia who visited (along with Kendra’s brother Colin, and our sister-in-law Tonia) from South Carolina! Addie spent the rest of the week at “Nana & DeeDee camp,” hanging out with her cousins on my side of the family.

South Carolina Cousins

South Carolina Cousins

Massachusetts Cousins

Nana and Dee Dee Camp!

It was an idyllic summer that came to a crashing halt at the end of July when my former student and rower, Amber, was killed in a motorcycle crash. My heart broke. These are my words I shared with her family.

Untitled-1I had the dual honor of both teaching and coaching Amber, which meant, on average, I spent about 25 hours a week with her. For three years. That’s a lot of memories.

Many revolve around our shared passion – crew. One of my favorites was watching Amber race in a single at the State Championships during the fall of her senior year. Waiting anxiously along the shore, I squinted into the distance. Amber had started at the back of a pack of quads, doubles, and then singles. I was hoping she’d pass one or two of her competitors on her row down the course. As the boys’ quads rowed into view, something struck me as odd. There was a single passing them. Sure enough, it was Amber, who en route to winning the state championship title, raced faster than all of the sculling boats save for one boys quad.

Amber racing at Nationals.

Amber racing at Nationals her senior year – my first athlete I coached to nationals.

Crew was not our only shared love – Amber was one of my outstanding television production students as well. She relished being on camera, always volunteering to host a show or perform as talent. One of the most difficult shoots of the year was always the live coverage of the LHS Thanksgiving Day football game. Despite having to get up at 5am on Thanksgiving Day, we had a fantastic time as a class – first eating pancakes at IHOP, then spending our morning working hard to produce a great show. True to form, Amber volunteered to be a commentator – the only girl to do so. Perhaps a foreshadowing to her success in the field of engineering.

11223816_10153547420279810_6812600333948339505_nOf course, the thread that weaves through all of our shared experiences is Amber’s smile. Never before, and never since, have I met someone who could smile as easily during a grueling workout as when with friends. Her ever-present smile and indomitable spirit will remain forever burned in my mind.

In the years since graduation, I watched Amber grow into an equally amazing adult whom I was proud to call my friend. She touched the lives of all who had the good fortune of crossing her path, infinitely improving the world around her.

I will miss Amber tremendously. She was one of my babies before I had my own, and to lose her so early will remain a sadness from which my heart will never quite recover.

When I came home with the kids for Amber’s celebration of life, I didn’t have the energy to return to Vermont. Emotionally, I was too drained. Kendra came home for the weekend, then returned for her last few days of class and packed up the rest of our stuff.

On August 21st, Evan and Kate turned two, and not long after, Addie began Kindergarten! To say she loves it would be an understatement!

Evan and Kate turn 2!

Addie's first day of kindergarten.

Addie’s first day of kindergarten.

hiking cardiganA few weeks later, our friend (and my colleague) Nina moved in to our spare room, and has since become a part of the family. We even convinced her to go hiking and camping with us… needless to say, she’s a good sport. Evan is particularly attached to her, often running to her when he’s overwhelmed by his sisters, stretching up his arms, and crying out, “save me, Nina!”

The fall brought a lot more hiking, and a visiting teacher from Germany! Mareen stayed with us for two weeks, joining in our adventures when she wasn’t busy with her exchange program. We visited Portsmouth, NH, threw rocks in the ocean at Hampton Beach, carved pumpkins at the neighborhood Halloween party, and took her hiking.

Mareen hiking with us!

Mareen hiking with us!

Carving pumpkinsKate and Addie in Portsmouth, NH Evan at Hampton Beach

12194730_10153742666374810_5840006693828034432_oOctober ended with a bang when I accidentally punched my hand through a window at work. I ended up with three stitches – so I tried to make the best of it by dressing up my finger for Halloween. I called her, “Frankenfinger.”

November brought with it a milestone birthday for me – the big 40! I felt like a celebrity! My family threw me a surprise birthday brunch, and thanks to our amazing friends Kate and Amy, Kendra and I were able to leave the kids at home and spend the night in Boston. We were like two college kids on the town – we took our first Uber ride to the show, rocked hard at an Indigo Girls concert (as much as you can to folk music…), then walked back to the hotel and ordered room service. We promptly fell asleep waiting for the food, because we’re old, and have three kids, and we were out way past our bed time!

Enjoying my 40th birthday with Kendra

Our family Christmas photo!

Our family Christmas photo!

December was a whirlwind of work and holiday celebrations. We had latkes and matzo ball soup during Hanukkah, and celebrated Christmas with my extended family. It was also a month of unseasonably warm weather.

Addie and I spent Christmas Eve hiking together, and she got to try her new glasses out for the first time. Just days before, we found out she has terrible vision – an astigmatism and farsighted in both eyes. She’s wearing a weaker prescription than she needs, and every three months she will move up to a new one until she reaches full strength. On our hike, one we’ve done many times before, we got to the lookout, she shouted, “Mama! There are houses down there! And a bridge. And a barn! And I can see mountains!” Needless to say, it’s been a life-changing experience.

Addie's new glasses

Though it was a year filled with ups and downs, we laughed a lot and had some really fun adventures. Evan’s heart is still stable, and he even gained lots of weight over the summer, pulling even with Kate who had been three pounds heavier. For the first time since he was seven months old, he made the weight chart!

We spent our last night of 2015 in New Hampshire, swimming in a hotel pool, eating pizza, and snuggling. Here’s to a new year – wishing you all well in 2016!

Addie, Evan & Kate

My Favorite Posts of 2015

  1. How to Find Adventure in the Everyday
  2. Hiking the Robert Frost Interpretive Trail in Vermont
  3. 5 Tips for Canoeing With Teens
  4. Eight Family-Friendly Activities in Middlebury, VT
  5. What Urban Teens Think About Snowshoeing

Readers’ Favorite Posts of 2015

  1. How to Find Adventure in the Everyday
  2. An Open Letter to Medical Professionals from a Lesbian Mom
  3. Family Adventure at Ramblewild Aerial Park
  4. Do It Yourself Raised Garden Beds!
  5. A Small Town Mystery

About Jen

Outdoor adventurer and traveler. Writer, Photographer & Communications Professor. Wife. Mom of twins plus one. Tubbs Snowshoes Ambassador. Blogger at gayfamilytrips.com.

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3 Responses to Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016!

  1. Betty Jane Crandall January 2, 2016 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you so much for sharing your year with me. Kendra and Jen, you are so beautiful, and so are your darlings Addie, Evan and Kate. I am blessed to have your blogs and pictures. Best, best wishes for a wonder-filled 2016.

  2. Janiack January 2, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    Thanks for the great pictures and summary of your year. I look forward to each post.

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