Sunday, December 18, 2011


One of the best things about Sam being at MIT is getting to live so close to Boston. We can easily walk or bike into the city on nice days, or take the free shuttle from our housing complex to the T station and take a short train ride wherever we want to go. Here are a few of the adventures we've had in Cambridge and Boston this semester.

Fenway Alliance Open Our Doors Day- October 10

A bunch of museums, universities, libraries, and churches in the Fenway/Back Bay area of Boston had a Saturday where everything was free. We walked over the the Christian Science Plaza (this is like the Christian Science Temple Square) and listened to music, walked in a little parade, drew with chalk, watched glass blowing, got free balloons, art supplies, and cupcakes (from kick@$$ cupcakes- my new favorites). This portion ended with a live performance of The Boston Song from the NEC students who wrote it. We got a free CD of it so we can sing along. SO GOOD! SO GOOD!

Over in the Mary Baker Eddy library, there was live music from NEC students, Halloween crafts for the kids (Anna made a spooky bat), the Mapparium- which was really cool to go inside, and face painting. This is the first time Anna's ever gone through with face painting, though we've stood in line before. She was SO EXCITED about it and it was super cute to see. Sam did some more chalk with the kids while I took a little tour of the First Church of Christ Scientist, or Mother Church, which was interesting. We finished up with lunch at P.F. Changs and walked two very sleepy kids back home.

The guy in the wheel chair is Sidewalk Sam who is a chalk artist and he would roll around commenting on all the kids' pictures.

Elephants on Parade- October 11

The circus came to Boston and the train parked on the tracks right behind Westgate. We heard they paraded the elephants from their parking spot to the circus arena in Boston, so a few minutes before they were supposed to leave, I loaded the kids up and headed to Mass Ave to watch them go by. Once I got there, I met up with a friend who informed us they had passed by 10 minutes earlier and were on their way up Memorial. Not having anything better to do, I started walking after them. Once I hit Memorial (about a half mile walk) and could see the line of cars behind them, I started running-- in my jeans and ballet flats. I ran as fast as I could for a mile and still hadn't caught up with them. Once I hit the Longfellow Bridge I decided if I couldn't see them, I'd turn around. Well, a little flash of elephant tail caught my eye, so I hauled the double stroller down a flight of stairs backwards, ran under the bridge, sprinted across four lanes of traffic and ran another quarter mile to catch up with the elephants. Thankfully, my kids were appropriately excited enough to help me forget about the blister on my foot just be glad I got to enjoy the sunny fall day making my kids happy. Here's our evidence we actually made it. Next year we're leaving 1/2 hour early.

Anna liked how the elephants held trunks and tails to stay safe while crossing the street.

Boston Book Festival- October 15

Sam had a midterm to study for, so he drove me and the kids to the Boston Public Library for the festival and went home. This ended up being a really great event for us and the kids had a great time. First, we went to see the Very Hungry Caterpillar. He was certainly one BIG fat caterpillar. The kids were very excited to see him and touch his fuzzy back and give him high 5. After he came, they colored pictures until Curious George came! They were a little less enthusiastic about George, so not long after, we left to see the rest of the library. The Boston Public Library main branch is beautiful with an atrium and fountain in the middle. Anna ran around it for a long time while Levi splashed in the water.

Anna got so many compliments on this outfit that she's wearing that she's worn it almost once a week since and calls it her "library outfit"

After we visited the children's room and read some books, we went out to Copley Square to complete their little passport book. We visited different vendors, publishers, and organizations and got stamps at each stop. The stamps spelled out a word when you were done and Anna wowed all the vendors by telling them a word that started with the letter they had stamped. After all our visits, we ended up with 3 free books, a recordable microphone toy, free candy, some yogurt that we ate for a snack, tons of stickers, a tiny harmonica, a few little crafts, and a high five from the Cat in the Hat! We also learned about this great website, It has stories for you to read free to your kids online, and every time you complete a book, it donates books to children all over the world. There's no downside! It's just awesomeness.

Head Of The Charles Regatta- October 22

While Anna went to Kate's princess birthday party (where she got a new tutu, magic wand, and her first experience with eyeshadow), Sam, Levi, and I biked down to the Weeks bridge by Harvard to watch The Charles Regatta which is a huge two-day rowing event. The start was actually right by the Boston University Boathouse that sits at the end of our street, so we got to see all the boats lining up and taking off at the cue of a guy on a dock with a bullhorn (I'm sure this guy has an official name, but I don't know it). I liked watching the teams the best because you could her the coxswain shouting out commands and the team members grunting and pulling together. Down by the Weeks bridge there were all sorts of vendors and lots of free samples of organic everything so we all had a nice snack :) Sam ran into some friends from BYU who are at HBS right now and it was nice to see them.
We came back when Anna's party was ending and went inside to have lunch. On our way up the stairs, Anna proclaimed, "Tutu, I love you!"

The crowd (and Harvard behind)

The Rowers

Spooky Sloan and Westgate Trick or Treating- Halloween

The Sloan Business School here at MIT throws an amazing Halloween party for all the children of Sloan students and faculty. They had snacks and goody bags while everyone got together and then we followed monster footprints all over the school for trick-or-treating and fun toys. It all ended with a pizza and cookie dinner. Anna was in heaven to have so much fun with her friends Kate and Kayla AND have Daddy there AND get to ride the bus home (Levi liked that part, too).
Levi did NOT want to wear his bat ears (really they are piggie ears promoting Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie books from the Boston book festival, but colored over in black, they made good bat ears)... we bribed him by letting him watch Baby Signing Time. Cutest baby Batman EVER.

comparing bags

Friends are fun, but even more fun is...


Just before Halloween, there was trick-or-treating here at Westgate. Levi stayed home and passed out candy with Sam until he went to sleep while I took Anna out to trick-or-treat. She told everyone about being a ballerina fairy princess and was pretty good about saying "trick or treat!" She simply could not believe that there is actually a day where she's supposed to dress like a princess and get candy at every door you knock on. She was so crazy happy that not long after we got home and inspected her loot, she broke down in tears and had to be carried to bed. It's tough being a kid sometimes :)

The Boston Museum of Science- November 8
Our ward has a little playgroup that meets on Wednesdays at various parks and playgrounds, but occasionally we'll go to a museum or on a big outing. It was fun to get in for free on friends' passes. Anna liked playing with the jointed skeleton and playing with some matching and texture toys in the kids room. Levi liked the water table and kid sized birds nest. They both liked this giant light brite.
After lunch we went upstairs with Anna's friend Lily and the girls played on a playground physics exhibit racing lights down a track, swinging on swings (of various lengths to learn about pendulums), and spinning with the bike wheel gyroscope until it was time to go home.

Ice Skating on the Frog Pond- Dec 10
Sam and I did this for our date night. I got a coupon for skipping the line, so we got right in, and started skating. I went ice skating a lot in high school and every time I've gone since I remember why I enjoy it so much. During the zamboni run, we got some free hot chocolate that came with my coupon and then skated some more. It was the perfect winter activity!

Merry Christmas from Boston!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

the holts

I'm getting my Christmas cards ready and of course it got me thinking about my Grandpa Roly. He would sit at his beautiful and impeccably organized desk and write out Christmas cards to every single member of his family. He did this on birthdays too and his cards were never late. I always looked forward to Grandpa's card arriving. I'd find it tucked between the frame and mirror that was on the table in the entryway; it meant my birthday was coming soon. It was always the first thing I opened on my birthday because I didn't have to wait until after school for it like I did with the presents. It usually contained a crisp $5 bill and a note that was illegible to anyone but Roly's own daughter, my mother, about what a wonderful child I was and how much he and Fawnie missed me. It hardly ever contained any subjects but instead had sentences beginning with their verbs. "To our beautiful 7 year old. Wish you all the best this next year. Love to hear about all you're doing at school. Miss you lots."

I was imagining what my Grandfather's Christmas card would say this year. "Love taking walks with Fawnie. So happy to hold her hand again." "Met Dean. He and Fawnie sure do laugh." "Ate gravy on ice cream." It is heaven after all. I'm sure it would still end with "Miss you lots."

I know I miss them. Sometimes it just hits me how much I miss them. They were the definition of unconditional love which I suppose it what grandparents are for, but they just went all out. Everyone needs to feel that from someone in their life and I'm so glad I got to experience it with them.

After my Grandpa died, I inherited my Grandma's pearls. Grandma didn't wear a lot of jewelry so I don't really associate them with any specific memory of her. But after she died, Grandpa told me one of his favorite things when he went on business trips was to find something beautiful to take home to Fawnie. He felt sorry that he couldn't afford to pay for her to get her hair or nails done every week like lots of her friends (we're talking about 1950's and 60's curls and up-dos) but he could afford a treat every now and then. Let me tell you. My grandpa knew how to give a treat. He was such a thoughtful man that he bought beautiful tasteful jewelry that would match specific outfits of my grandmother's that he liked. And he bought these pearls because everyone needed pearls then. It goes to show that while his co-workers were doing less-than-honorable things with their time after work on these trips that he was thinking about his wife and how he could make her happy.

That's what I think about every time I wear those pearls. I think about how much my grandparents loved each other, and as different as they were (which is to say, surprisingly different in their talents and temperaments) they were crazy about each other. They respected each other, and they looked for ways to excite and delight each other.

I've shared this on my blog before, but it's one of my most cherished memories of my grandparents. It's what I hope my marriage will become. On my Grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary, I asked my Grandpa if he had any favorite memories of their life together. He said, "Oh, well, I got lots of 'em. There were lots of special times and memories. I carried your grandmother down a mountain once-- not a real happy memory, but, well.... I guess it's all the little day to day things that made it special. You work hard at it and you just keep going at it and holding hands. And then after a time, you're not just holding hands, you're holding your heart's delight, and then even the little things like holding hands become special."

Saturday, December 03, 2011

a complaint and a confession

The Complaint
I really love Christmas time, and I love being involved in the parties and the music. But I do not like it when people ask me to sing or play or plan (all of which I consider talents) with very little notice. Just because I am good at something in general does not mean I am good at them when I'm rushed.

The Confession
There's a perfectly lovely woman I know who is generally admired by all know her. When I first met her though, she told me she only liked bacon cooked in an oven since it came out in nice, straight, evenly cooked strips. I told her I had to disagree and that I only ever cooked bacon in a frying pan. Then she told me she was a bit of bacon snob, and that's why she baked her bacon. I haven't really liked her since.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

a change from change

Whew. Now that that's all off my chest, I want you to know that it's not all somber pondering around here in the Cosby house. There's still plenty of laughing, chasing, hiding, seeking, tickling, and watching buses out the window. Here are a few particularly awesome moments from the last month or so.

1.) I went to a lecture given by Esther Duflo on MIT's Poverty Action Lab which uses scientific methodology (double blind studies, randomized evaluations, variable and control groups) to figure out what works and what doesn't in helping people out of poverty. It was, in a word, fascinating.

The goal of the center is to make sure that whatever funds and programs are available to alleviate poverty are both A) founded on research and B) actually working.

I got to re-experience the excitement of the scientific method when applied to real life. It's certainly disappointing when a great idea doesn't really work out (for instance, she said they found that micro-finance does get women more money and more business, but it's not getting them significantly greater political or social freedoms or their children much more education). But when it does, or when you can figure out a way to make it work, you are changing peoples lives for the better. And that is awesome.

She works in South Asia so most of her examples were about teaching farmers in India about fertilizer and how best to incentivize them to buy it. But she also talked about mosquito nets and vaccines. One of my favorite points was one she made near the end. She reminded us that it's real people we're talking about and while it is important to have science backing your actions, you should act (then evaluate, and act again, better this time). Many people and policy makers she talks to want to wait for more and more information and she said she needs to remind them sometimes, "If we want to help people, they need to be alive for us to help them. So lets get them food and vaccines, and then work from there."

I left inspired. I'm now reading Half the Sky and I'm waiting for Duflo's book to come in at the library.

2.) We ate dinner. Together. I made chicken tikka masala (double the recipe so I could freeze some) and naan. I ate a ton. I have realized lately that warm, creamy, spicy Indian food on naan is my ultimate comfort food. Sam didn't have to rush off to homework so we all just sat and ate and talked about the Joy School Halloween party that happened that morning and laughed ourselves silly at our crazy boy Levi. He loves to laugh. Here's more evidence. And I love that Anna is talking to the camera; she was so excited about Halloween this year.

I love how Levi sucks his stomach in in this next video

And here he's playing peek-a-boo and smashes his face into the curtain

3.) The leaves! Here's the view from my window about mid-October. It got even more beautiful about a week later.

4.) We made a house. Anna was driving me crazy one night, so I broke out the glue gun and raided the recycle bin. We cut and glued and taped and then painted. Since then, on various days it's been completely painted, given a garage and stairs, and adorned with googly eyes and mini pom poms. Anna puts her doll house family and furniture inside and talks about how incredible her house is. It has a garage! And stairs! And a back yard! We have the same dreams...

5.) Sam got a perfect score on his homework in his hardest class 3 weeks running. Here's a typical evening-time view of Sam.

I don't know which of us will be happier when he's done with this class. (Just for a little perspective, if you went to BYU, Sam is taking the equivalent of 24 credit hours of graduate level courses. Remember how the limit was 18 as an undergrad? Yeah, just some food for thought... And he still manages to be a great Dad!)

6.) The kids. I am way over my head at this stage. Anna is... contrary. It's so hard to find things to motivate her. She swings from silly, brilliant, and creative to mind-blowingly annoying, whiny, dependent, and dramatic. I can hardly keep up. And Levi desperately wants to communicate- he's getting better and trying new words- but he can still get pretty frustrated. I moved his nap up by half an hour and that's been a world of help. He is, as my father-in-law sagely puts it, at the age of no reason where he must have whatever anyone else is having, and must have things exactly the way he wants it, except when he doesn't and is the happiest, cutest little creature on earth.

a little self-portrait I found on the camera

So life, it's good. We live simply and are happiest when we're all together, supporting each other. I think we all feel safest and most at ease here at home, which is as it should be. There are always improvements to be made and we're all working to make them. But we have a happy little family and we love it.

P.S. Does this post actually have more pictures of Levi than Anna? That may be a first...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

change (part 4)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

This section, which I anticipate will be the last, has certainly been the hardest to write. I’ve sat down several times and nothing I’ve written seems right. I suspect it’s because I’m in the midst of it. Some days when I sit down I’m hopeful and eager while other days are more discouraging.

I’ve been seeing a counselor at the MIT medical center for the last 7 or 8 weeks. It’s free here which gave me the will to finally pick up the phone and call someone for help. I can't tell you how much I’ve appreciated having someone to talk to about my situation who isn’t really invested in the outcome. With my counselor, I’ve talked a lot about my support network and have realized just how much I need friends to talk to, people to appreciate me, and time to myself.

However, what I really long for is the ability to be at peace with my current situation, and I mean that in a moment-to-moment way, and not just in a big-picture way (though that would be nice, too). I’ve been wanting to learn some tools to let go of the frustration and anger that seem to haunt my interactions with my children, and the self-deprecating internal dialogue that tells me I’m not good enough. We’ve spent a little time talking about this, but I remember expressing this desire to her and her response was, “Isn’t that what we all want?” with the tone of “Sorry, can't help you there.”

But unlike my therapist, I know this kind of peace and contentment is possible because of grace. Paul said, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:11-13) Isn’t that beautiful? Through times of struggle and times of power, through emptiness and fullness, through abundance and want, we can find contentment through the grace of Jesus Christ. It is a gift freely given that I must learn to accept.

The Savior has promised me that if I will seek His help, He has the power to change me. He promised, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) Though finding peace is now my weakness, it can become my strength. I will be able to share that peace with others, especially my children, all through grace.

But how do I find that grace? How do I let it permeate my thoughts to forgive rather than to punish myself? How do I stand firm through the waves of abundance and emptiness, joy and loneliness? It will not be easy. It may even be the hardest thing I ever do. D. Todd Christofferson said, “It would mock the Savior’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross for us to expect that He should transform us into angelic beings with no real effort on our part. Rather, we seek His grace to complement and reward our most diligent efforts (see 2 Nephi 25:23). Perhaps as much as praying for mercy, we should pray for time and opportunity to work and strive and overcome. Surely the Lord smiles upon one who desires to come to judgment worthily, who resolutely labors day by day to replace weakness with strength. … real Linkchange may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving. Divine forgiveness and healing flow quite naturally to such a soul, for indeed “virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; [and] mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40).”

I am ready to be diligent. I have been praying for the strength to strive and overcome. I have fasted and prayed. Today, after these efforts, I was given a place to start. Paul wrote, “Be careful for nothing (meaning, don’t worry so much); but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) Through prayer and gratitude, I will begin to seek the peace of God. I will not and can not understand it, but it will keep my heart and mind grounded in my Savior instead of in my worry and self-doubt.

I want to finish this with something I wrote in my journal a few months ago. It’s back to the topic of motherhood and finding myself within it:

“Motherhood is the most important aspect of my life. Everything I do for the rest of my life will be affected by the fact that I am a mother. I would guess that any woman who has been a mother—even just for a few minutes—would agree that motherhood changes everything in your life. Even things that seemingly have nothing to do with my role as a mother are affected by what I have learned as a mother. Motherhood changes you. It makes you stronger and weaker, more confident and more vulnerable; it plays with time, stretching and compressing it; it brightens and darkens the world around you. When you become a mother you are given new eyes, new hands, and a new heart which you can never trade back.

And yet they are still my eyes, my hands, and my heart. Though motherhood will always be a defining part of my life, it will not define my life. I am more than a mother, and that more part of me makes me a better mother.”

What I’m working and hoping and praying for is that while I seek that more part of myself, I will be given the peace to share the joys that I find with my children. I hope that they will see my love for myself and know that my love for them is simply an extension of that since they are part of who I am. I hope they will learn how to accept their mistakes, forgive themselves, and try again as they watch me struggle to make this change.

Tonight, thankfully, I’m feeling hopeful. That serene feeling that washed over me in a tiny kickboxing class in the basement is here again, and I’m hoping it will stay.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

why MIT is cool

Want to know whether or not my laundry is done? Just check here.

Monday, October 31, 2011

visit in maryland- levi

Levi loved all the ride-on toys at Doug and Lesli's house. He also learned how to say cat ("Dat! Eeeeahow") while chasing their cats around the house. Here are pictures of Anna, too.

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