Can We Have One?

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I swear, when we spent the day in Mystic at the aquarium, that was all I heard from my three sisters. If an animal were to appear in our living room every time I heard it, we’d have quite the collection of belugas, seals, penguins, sea lions, and various fish and other aquatic creatures.

It was rainy for the first bit, but still a great deal of fun. It was entertaining to see littlest play with my camera and try so patiently to take photos of the sea creatures, especially the penguins and seals. I took some of the photos below, and Tori took some. Just thought I’d share our little aquarium adventures!

Isn't this a great shot by Tori?

Isn’t this a great shot by Tori?

 

Another shot by Tori - she really liked the penguins.

Another shot by Tori – she really liked the penguins.

 

She also really liked the frogs! (another shot of Tori's)

She also really liked the frogs! (another shot of Tori’s)

 

I LOVED shooting these water lilies.

I LOVED shooting these water lilies.

 

Tori made a little canary friend in the Birds of the Outback exhibit.

Tori made a little canary friend in the Birds of the Outback exhibit.

 

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I'd definitely be okay with a beluga.

I’d definitely be okay with a beluga.

 

If you have the opportunity to visit Mystic aquarium, I definitely suggest it. The new exhibits are supremely well done, and it’s always an adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

My Life Lately, According to Instagram

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I finished up my third year at Southern Virginia.

IMG_20130426_172954I received my mission call.

IMG_20130511_205825Dad, ShayLea, and I traveled to pick up Taylor from Mercyhurst.

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I’ve been preparing to serve in California.

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941425_10151393152871463_77722193_nAnd generally, have been simply enjoying my family and springtime!

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A Year in the Shire

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I have been so blessed this year to live with my housemates. When I first got my housing assignment last summer, I was a little concerned about living with nine other girls in a small house (read: in a double wide trailer), with little privacy, space, or quiet. I ended up being right – I have had little privacy, I have very little space, and the only quiet moments are in the wee hours of the morning.

But I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. These girls have taught me so much over the past eight months, and I love them each dearly. I knew only a few before I moved in, and now, as I prepare to leave Buena Vista for nearly 2 years, I feel as though I am leaving behind sisters.  And so, my dear friends, this post is for you.

We’ve laughed together at our stupid antics and dumb things said out of exhaustion, hyperactivity, and out of love. We’ve embarrassed each other by yelling things as people walked out of the house on dates (which shall never be written online) and by walking out on things we’d rather not see.

We’ve mourned the temporary death of the oven Mordor, and every other time shared in hating the blasted thing for being a hundred degrees too hot and far to temperamental for an inanimate object.

We’ve sat on the floor of the kitchen eating bowls of cookie dough and devouring scones fresh out of the oven.

2012-2013 178We’ve celebrated Christmas with a dog pile on mattresses in the living room and stockings hung with thumbtacks. We even celebrated Hannukah with gelt and a menorah made out of birthday candles, paper plates, and poster putty.

We’ve had jam sessions with the guitar and cello, as well as a series of hairbrushes, wooden spoons, and any available object that could pretend to be a stage.

We’ve celebrated birthdays like it’s our job. Full on birthday feasts that smell so good that the boys next door burst in to see what’s in the oven. Pies, cakes, lasagna, soups… we got birthdays down.

We became pro at homework/study parties, complete with pizza, soda, and ridiculous amounts of sugar at obscene hours.

We’ve learned what it means to share clothes, nail polish, jewelry, and bathrooms. Especially when the hot water ran out on one side of the house or the other.

We learned not to ask questions when someone was eating ice cream straight out of the carton, no matter what time of day it is.

Brownies on the stove are always fair game. Nutella is not.

Harry Potter jokes are always acceptable. Twilight? Never.

We may have wanted to kill each other, but we’re “pack” and each of us had a place in our little family. Kelly will always be the wolf with one eye.

Coming in late, there will always be questions asked.

I have learned so much from you all, I’m honestly amazed. Patience, living with 9 other girls, was a given. But you’ve taught me the power of prayer and of faith, how to a better friend and leader, how to live my testimony, and how to be the type of person I want to be.

You all have been there when I needed a laugh, the rare hug, and at times a talking to. You’ve been my family at SVU, and I’m so blessed by each of your light.

You can’t talk about our house without mentioning those who practically live with us. They are kind of the best in the world. They may as well be moved in (I mean, David practically laid claim to the couch).

Not much can be put into words, but know that I love you and that you are dear sisters and friends. The year in the Shire is the best year I’ve had at SVU.

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2012-2013 188

Spread the Word

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My housemate Katie has been working on a project for her Marriage & Family class that is in support of a cause. She chose to direct her project towards the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign, which promotes stopping the use of “retard” or “retarded” (the r-word) in society, replacing it with the word “respect.”

This is something that is close to my heart. I’ve always hated the use of ‘retard(ed).’ It’s frustrating, because it has become such a common word used to describe just about anything, especially to label people who have developmental delays or disabilities.

I’ve worked with kids and adults with special needs for years, my step-sister Tori is special needs (hydrocephalus and dandy walkers), and my sister Taylor is headed into the special education field. The people who are most likely labeled with the r-word are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. Working with participants, most of them younger than age 21, at High Hopes has really opened my heart to individuals with special needs. I’ve been blessed to teach and work with these wonderful souls who teach me much more than I could possibly teach them.

Long story short, I was more than willing to help Katie with her video. It was deeply emotional, but really awesome at the same time. You should check it out!

Coldest Spring Break Ever

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I returned home from break to find the majority of my classmates ridiculously tan and griping about the cold. I laughed, because I was as pale as ever (I swear, my foundation is called ‘freaking pale’) and completely acclimated to the cold, having spent the week back home in New England. I hadn’t seen my family in Connecticut since late August, so I felt it was high time to head home for some family time. I had a few appointments for mission stuff, but the rest of the time was reserved for hanging out with my family, which was such a blessing.

Lynchburg, VA

Lynchburg, VA

On Friday evening, I got to spend some time with my grandparents, which was so nice as I hadn’t seen them for months. It was great to be able to catch up over dinner (that I didn’t have to cook!) and talk family stuff. They dropped me off at the Lynchburg train station in the morning, which is about an hour from Buena Vista. I had all these plans of taking the 10+ hours of travel time to study for exams and get caught up on my reading, but honestly, I napped the entire way. I woke up to take a few pics out the window because I was bored, pick apart an apple scone, and transfer at Penn Station, which was absolutely nerve-wracking for a girl who is overwhelmed by masses of people and a time frame. I essentially found the nearest kind-looking, unhurried people I could hear with a strong Bostonian accent. I felt rather clever. ;)

On Sunday morning I headed to Cromwell for church, then returned home to ‘officially’ start my break. I didn’t count Saturday, because that would have involved including a day of being curled up on the seat of the train, looking a mess, stressed out, and utterly exhausted. I figured I ought to start my break out properly.

Monday began with a trip to the dentists, which made me realize that waterboarding is, in fact, legal in the United States – just take a trip to the dentist after 2 years without visiting! Doctors appointments went fine, as did fillings later in the week.

Dad, Kerri and I headed to New York City for a day to see Jersey Boys, which was absolutely fantastic. I’m 90% sure that I was the

Broadway!

Broadway!

youngest person in the audience to know each of the words to the music. I grew up with stories of my nana being a dancer in American Bandstand, and how she [allegedly] went to high school with Frankie Valli. I’ve always loved Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, so it was the perfect pick (thanks, Kerri!). Needless to say, I adored the whole thing, and was really impressed 1) by how spot on the guy who played Frankie sounded in terms of that iconic falsetto (he’s even closer than the original Broadway cast), and 2) how great their Jersey accents were. Living in Virginia, I’ve come to appreciate a proper Jersey (or Boston, or New York) accent, and good old-school music. Valli, Sinatra, the Temptations, the Penguins, Louis Prima, the Harptones… all of them.

Before the show, we stopped at a little corner bakery called Pie Face. It was so cute, and the little apple pie I had was delicious (I especially like that they marked the flavor by using a letter as the mouth of a smiley face). It was small, standing room only with no chairs or tables, but a few cases of fruit pies, meat pies, sandwiches, and pastries. Heaven! I’ll take a mini pie over a cupcake any day, rain or shine. Especially if it has a cute little face.

After seeing the show, Dad, Kerri, and I explored New York a bit. We stopped by the M&M store to buy squirt some chocolate for a St. Patrick’s day package. We went along our way, filling a bag with m&ms in the colors of the Irish flag and a bag of purple m&ms. It was chaotic, filled with people darting around toting bags of m&ms. We get up to the counter, and the cashier rang them up after weighing them, and gave my dad an obscene price. He definitely complained about it for the rest of the week – and he’s definitely getting some for Father’s day (love ya dad!).

We ate dinner at the Hard Rock cafe, where I got to see Billy Joel’s motorcycle. Such a Joel nerd, it made me so happy! After dinner, we headed to Union Station to catch a train back to Connecticut. Everyone on the train up was talking about how worried they were about the storm headed for the east coast, so we expected to wake up the next morning with a blanket of snow. No such luck – until Thursday night/Friday.

The Plum Tomoato with Shay

The Plum Tomoato with Shay

On Friday morning, I had an appointment to have some fillings done, and after that, ShayLea picked me up (with a cup of Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate and gloves!) and we headed off on an adventure, first to Mystic Village to pick up some “Irish swag” (her words, not mine) for St. Patrick’s day, as well as to explore a bit. I swear we were the only one there besides some of the shop owners and the ducks in the pond. It was gorgeous with the snow, but most of the shops were closed. We ended up driving out to Colchester and stopping at the Dinosaur Place en route to Plum Tomato. She’s become a great driver, and I was impressed with her snow skills. It was such a blast!

I took the train home and spent most of the time either looking out the window or studying for an American Warfare test I had the next day (cruel, right?). I realized that I watched the sun rise in New England, and set in the south, and it was a bit of a weird feeling, but at the same time, very cool.

It was great to be able to go home for a week, especially when I haven’t been back in Connecticut for so long. I realized that I’m definitely a New England girl – I miss driving along the coast, the trees along the highway, and the culture of it all. It was a bit like returning to civilization after being hidden away in the mountains of Virginia for so long. I love Virginia, but I’m a Northerner at heart I guess.

Not that I love Virginia any less!!