Small Miracle

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Amazon

Last year as school was winding down,  I was chatting with a friend about how I had high hopes that our family (i.e. my kids) would keep the house “together” despite having the routine of school.

She had great input, adding that in years past she had high expectations for summertime which usually lasted a day or two and then went to hell.

She recommended this book.  I was got it from the library and was very intrigued because it is unlike the typical parenting books that demand we “whip our kids into shape” because we are the parents and they are the kids.

This author sets the tone that it is our job as parents to educate our kids about how to grow and become independent and that they will feel pride in doing so!

So I started with one chapter and then gradually moved to another and she was right!!  The kids loved it!  I remember being amazed that even on vacation, they were making their beds!  Great daily habits.  They especially loved the jar of $1 bills (for daily chores) and each child making dinner once a week- they both really got into it!  Davis even encouraged us to do Blue Apron this school year because of this book- and the whole family looks forward to the weekly Blue Apron meals!

Eventually I returned the library book, then the new school year began, and yada-yada-yada we fell off the wagon.

So here we are with a week or two left of school and they told me they wanted to do the “chore thing” again this summer!  I just picked it up from the library so we shall see!

Monday ~ Week in the Life 2017

My plan for starting Ali Edward’s Week in the Life 2017 got thwarted last week.  It turned out to be a really important week in our life but there was no way I could pull it off.  So this morning after my tennis clinic, it was such a gorgeous day that I took the dogs for a walk.

As I walked, I thought why not this week?  This morning was kind of rushed so the last thing on my mind was taking a million photos but I can start now- at 10:30am.  Really trying to roll with it and just capture something!  As I look through last year’s photos they are FAR from perfect but I love that all these little things were captured.

My hope is that I will live life, take more photos than feels comfortable, and at night write words here so that the hard part is over by Sunday 🙂

Goals: take more photos of OBJECTS, use my big camera, and write words at night.

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The weather felt like heaven!  It was just glorious with hardly a cloud in the bright blue sky.

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This is one of Davis’s many creations.  Maybe a light saber?  He loves to modify things and I love his creativity.

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Treats left over from Grandma Debbie’s visit over the weekend.  Oreos, Twizzlers, Pringles, and Reese cups… Have mercy.

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Most days I pick up Davis’s discarded socks.  He gets it from me. I leave my shoes by every door in the house.

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I was disappointed when Grandma Debbie had no desire to answer any of the journaling questions.  Kids want to know their parents but it’s just harder for some.

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I was clipping some coupons and laughed out loud when I saw this ad for “The perfect Mother’s Day gift”?!?!?  Seriously?!?  No joke both of my children mentioned buying it for me for Christmas.  Haha

Then it was time to order my groceries with Kroger Click List- I love it!!  I order them and then pick them up at the reserved time.  Life changing!

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Last Friday I was browsing a home store and I just had this overwhelming feeling to go home and clear STUFF out of my house!  I’ve recently done my closet and it feels great!  I planned to start with the playroom closet.  A neighbor is collecting books for the Children’s Home Society so I started with that.  Turns out I am a book hoarder.

I just love books; they are life-changing.  Probably more so than ordering the groceries:)

When I see each book, I remember the experience of it.  Did we pick it out and buy it or was it gifted to us?  Did we read it to little ones a million times or did we read it together before bed when the kids were older?  Did we laugh or did we get teary?  Did we like it or did we LOVE it?  I did occasionally take photos of favorite books or books we were reading and I’d like to continue doing that.

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Going through all of these emotions was bittersweet.  Time is moving along.  We are all growing.  There is so much to look forward to but there are some really sweet times in the past.  In the end, I made sure to keep the really loved ones and any that I consider classics- like Amelia Bedelia.  And just forget it if anyone wrote in the front- it’s ours forever!

In the end I was able to bag a LOT of books and it feels really good to have them out and on their way to hopefully touch someone else.  Now we have space on our book shelves for some future reads!

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The current state of the playroom.  I see the treadmill which we all use most days.  Davis and Adam use it daily.  They walk on an incline.  Mary Fowler just wrapped up 4 days of dance per week so she either runs on the treadmill or puts on a video.  I hate the treadmill so I choose tennis, talking a walk outside, or a Pilates or Yoga video.

Do you think we have enough nerf guns?  Davis and his friends are still loving nerf wars.   They enjoy making funny videos with special effects, too.

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This closet could kill someone!  It took several hours but I was able to empty it out, sort piles: trash (2 big bags), my sister’s 2 boys (4 bags), and complete sets for donating (12 bags).

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And again I found myself feeling some emotions… The wooden Thomas trains and track were such a big part of our lives years ago.

I found a pad and pencil set that we used to give Mary Fowler whenever we’d go out to dinner.  And as I flipped through the pages, I found this and almost started crying!

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It is so true that the more you simplify, the more you find… that you forgot you had.  I might have to frame this handwritten note from MFS when she was much younger!

Bags of donations:

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Much better…

Some days I keep up with laundry.  Most days I let it pile up until we can hardly close the door to hide the mess.  Mondays are a great day to do laundry.

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Most days this guy likes to be dropped off at home before we pick up his sister.  He likes to get all homework done and treadmill time out of the way before relaxing down time.

Currently, he knows he needs a haircut but doesn’t really feel like taking the time to do it.  I see his tennis shoes that we bought at the beginning of 5th grade and it really is time for some new ones.  But Davis doesn’t really care about clothes or shoes all that much.  I like that about him.  Ironically, he would be in favor of a new family TV upgrade?

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Currently, he loves playing Star Wars Battlefront with friends from school on the PS4.

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While I was waiting for the lady to pick up the bags of books, I started cleaning the windows.  They need it badly.  I took this picture by setting my camera’s 10 second timer and placed it on a cutting board on the kitchen island.  I love that this photo project forces me to get to know my camera better.

Most days MFS enjoys reading on the Eno while Davis seems to prefer the top of the woodbox 🙂  He loves the Star Wars Jedi Academy series.

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This time I had a helper come with me to pick up the groceries.  She wanted to switch shampoo/conditioner from her usual Suave Rosemary Mint.  She picked Tresemme, a clean scent.

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When I was in middle school, I specifically remember the scents.  Some kids were starting to wear perfume or cologne or scented lotions.  I remember one of my friends smelling so good!  I wanted to smell like that!  Turns out it was soap- Dial or Ivory or Dove soap 🙂  Simple, clean smells are my favorite!  Although I also loved the perfume my aunt Jean wore- I think it was Georgio?  It smelled sophisticated to me and I wanted to be sophisticated.

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7:47pm Putting the groceries away.

Adam called from Denver.  He was able to meet up with his cousins for dinner at Scott’s house and they had a great visit!

8:55pm Both kids in bed.

When my dad would travel, my sisters and I would take turns sleeping with mom.  My kids definitely don’t fight over that “privilege” 🙂  But in the end, sweet Davis took pity on me.

11pm Goodnight Monday.

 

#GOALS

This morning my tennis clinic was pushed back an hour.  So what do I do with an unexpected free hour?  I knew I should do some exercise- I just read an article that said interval exercise is better than moderate exercise (my usual is walking outdoors or yoga).   Well, first I got on the treadmill for a whopping 15 minutes walk/jog (oh how I hate it) but then I was over that idea so I treated myself to Ali Edwards‘ latest blog posts.

She is so inspirational to me for so many reasons.

  1. I love her photos + words philosophy- it is my passion
  2. I love her honesty
  3. I love how she does “life- perfectly imperfect”
  4. I really love how she parents.  I can tell she lets her kids and step-kids be themselves.  Another passion of mine.
  5. I love how she creates such thought-provoking journaling prompts
  6. I love how she creates such fascinating scrapbooking projects!

One of these projects is called A Week in the Life.  It involves documenting the everyday, mundane pretty intensely for one week.  7 days.

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from 2016

These photos and words are something I would treasure if my mom had done this during our childhood.  Last year I participated by taking the photos and then I started (but did not finish) placing the photos and words into her templates via photoshop.

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from 2016

At the time I did not think my pictures were pretty and I did not think my words were profound.  Additionally, I started losing interest/attention thinking about layouts and how I wanted things to look.  I completed and printed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

However, now that I am looking over these pages for the first time in a year, I am so happy to have them!  They really are perfectly imperfect.  This weekend my goal is to complete last year’s Thursday-Sunday.

This year I would like to try again, knowing my sticking points and hoping maybe I can simplify and actually get it done.

My plan is to follow what she did this time around.

  • Daily taking photos
  • Typing up the words the following day
  • Then cutting and pasting the words along with photos onto the final documents
  • Sending to printer and slapping in an album

I am nervous just writing these intentions, but I really do love and believe in this project so I’m going to attempt before school lets out.  I might even try to start Monday.  Gah!

Spring Break Stingrays

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We just got back from a very relaxing trip with the kids to Treasure Cay in the Bahamas.  We traveled with four other families and it was a blast!  My kids have been spoiled and now say they always want to travel with other kiddos!

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This beach definitely lived up to its title of a top 10 beach in the world!  I loved it so because the sand was like white flour and the water was glowing turquoise.  But the best part was how quiet it was!  No resorts and very few people around!  There were chairs and umbrellas out on the beach and there were always some available.  No getting up early to snag a chair here!

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I think this is a good destination if you want a perfect, absolutely gorgeous, quiet beach.  If your family likes to have lots of activity, shopping, or entertainment- this is probably not the destination for you.   We rented a condo (via VRBO) in the Bahama Beach Club and loved that the condos all faced the pool and the beach.  It was a lovely view and if you sat on your screened porch, you could see all that was going on.

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We had one chartered boat expedition that came highly recommended and then we planned to take a boat on our own, visiting the different islands, for several other days. It was pretty breezy the week we were there which made for great weather and no bugs!  But if did make the ocean water choppy and the women especially did not love the boating as much as just staying in paradise.  So we ended up having 2 boating days total and I have no regrets about that.

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Having said that, my two most favorite experiences did occur on the boating trips.  First on the chartered tour, we went out, fished for our lunch, and were taken to another desolate island where they cooked the fish for us.  It was so delicious, but the most amazing thing were the stingrays!!!!  The guides told us they were friendly so we had no fear petting them and letting them “pet” us!  Having just read The Soul of an Octopus, I was in awe and amazement the whole time!  Truly the highlight of the whole trip for me!  Only when we returned home did my husband talk to several people who have been stuck by stingrays.  I am so glad we didn’t know those stories before the experience!

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Whenever I have a unique encounter with an animal, I google that animal’s spirit meaning.  I love animals, and I have been told (and believe) that they are here to help us along this earthly existence.  This is what I read about stingrays on one  website:

If Stingray has come swimming by you today;

Stingray is letting you know that everything is now in place. You have the knowledge, you have the means, you have the tools and you have the skills – now get busy and get on with it. Everything you have worked toward is open to you so stop hesitating. Have faith in your abilities and follow your inner guidance.

Hmmm… this message is probably meant for me but I’m still not entirely clear what “it” is 🙂

Another thing I loved was when the adults went for a short boat ride.  We found a small desolate island and we all jumped in the water and swam to it. It was just so nice- the clear water, the clean sand below, and there  were a lot of big conch shells so I took one (its very imperfect- not all shined up like in a novelty shop) and brought it home.

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For the most part we relaxed and read and talked and ate:)  We either grilled dinner or we went out to one of 3 places.  As always, the kids preferred to have dinner at home all together in one condo while the parents went out to eat every other night.

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Because it is a fairly remote place, they have to import everything in.  There is a small grocery store but it is pricey.  Luckily, we had lots of advice from others who had been on ways to prepare and pack ahead.  And that is what I have listed below because some have asked:

  1. We were told to pack (in checked luggage) liquor and food because we all had our own full kitchens and groceries are quite pricey on the island, as most everything is brought in. This was very stressful for me to plan but now I feel like a pro. Our group had a loose plan to eat in 3 nights and eat out 3 nights.  Our airline charged $25/checked bag under 50 pounds.  So at 3 o’clock in the morning as I was packing the cooler, I realized it was more economical to check two bags as opposed to paying $100-$250 for an overweight (over 50 lbs) suitcase. I ended up having one suitcase with things like a medium sized plastic liquor bottle, small box o’ wine, coffee, 2 cans of tuna fish, peanut butter & jelly, seasonings like baggies of salt, pepper, seasoned salt, garlic cloves, dry pasta, protein bars, tortilla wraps, and oatmeal packets. The soft Yeti cooler (which we also planned to use on the boats during the week but did not end up needing) was packed with frozen tenderloins, cans of crab, frozen shrimp, turkey lunchmeat, sliced cheese, frozen bacon & sausage, frozen lasagna, frozen pizzas,  and frozen hamburgers.  Let me just say if you had heard me shlepping those bags up and downstairs at 3 in the morning to weigh on my bathroom scale, you would have heard some words!!  Never did it occur to me to bring the SCALE downstairs…  Some things I bought like packs of crackers/chips/club soda did not make the weigh in.  In the end, was it all worth it??  Yes, it was!  Each fun fruity drink from the swim up bar was $10 so the luggage fees were recouped almost immediately.  And we certainly did indulge and let the kids order some fruit smoothies, too 🙂

 

2. Things we bought from the little grocery store were: bread, eggs, milk, club soda, and a couple snacks.

My family had a blast and especially loved traveling with other families.  Adam and I would go back- it was just so beautiful and relaxing.  Although I’m not sure the kids would say that.  They feel they kind of “mastered” the island and would prefer to explore somewhere else.

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Legacy of LOVE

We just returned home from a wonderful Spring Break vacation.  It was so special for so many reasons but one was this book:

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Amazon link

I read about it somewhere (probably Amazon) and bought it and I’m so happy I did.  It wasn’t the best vacation read I could have chosen… I cried ALL the way through it… but I LOVED its message SO much that I really want to start a group just to talk about it and put her ideas into action!  I think it could be fun to do it together with girlfriends!

After losing her mom to cancer at a young age, the author discovered that the surviving family members don’t always get the loving support they need so she began asking questions and has given us the gift of this book.

I feel like all my memory-keeping is for this end… to help show me and my kids what we did and who we are.  Years ago I read a story in People magazine about a mom dying of cancer (in England, I think) and she prepared a long, detailed list for her husband.  Things to remember after she had gone.  Things like: check her hair for nits and let her buy a new dress for each school dance.  I don’t think I realized how difficult major milestones like graduations, weddings or holidays would be for surviving children.  For example, I definitely prepare the Easter baskets so that needs to go on my list of reminders.  Gemini recommends simply writing a letter to be opened as a future surprise.  She says you cannot imagine the comfort even just one letter will bring your surviving family 🙂

After attending several funerals over the past year, I have more work to do.  Think of the funeral arrangements alone!  What would that look like and how would my family be able to make those decisions while suffering with overwhelming sadness?  My husband has generously over-prepared for the unlikely future without him and I want to help my family by preparing now for the unlikely future without me.

Does all this sound morbid?  It brings me comfort… so I guess I just need to get started!

Grasmere Gingerbread

IMG_6759.JPGBecause today is St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve been thinking about our trip last summer to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England.  I expected to feel an immediate connection with Ireland, as I’ve always known about my ancestors immigration from Ireland and my dad’s family is your pretty “typical” Irish Catholic huge family.

But the place I immediately felt at home was actually in Lake District, in the county of Cumbria, England.  The mountains and the water reminded me of Smith Mountain Lake, here in Virginia where we have always had a vacation home.

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I also love all things Beatrix Potter.  She lived and wrote & illustrated here.  They had a precious little shop featuring all her books and trinkets.  As a child my sisters and I had children’s china featuring her sweet characters and my couple of Easter decorations look very much like they could have some from her illustrations.

IMG_6732.JPGI loved touring William Wordsworth’s English home.  It was so English- go figure!  The fabrics, the furniture, the style- so charming!  And I have always loved English-style gardens so walking through the beautiful, tidy gardens was so relaxing.

IMG_5318.JPGWe had a delicious lunch and I will never forget my mom and Mary Fowler running to Sarah Nelson’s for their famous Grasmere gingerbread.  The mouthwatering smell led you to the tiny, little shop.  The recipe is top secret and it was delicious!  Not at all a cake-ey gingerbread but a very sweet, crumbly texture that goes perfectly with a cup of tea.

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We bought a few pounds of it and I had a little piece every day after we returned home with hot tea around 4pm.  But when it was gone, I started researching online for a recipe.  The best I could find was from some kind of thread where an old lady mentioned she had a little souvenir paper recipe book that mentioned a Grasmere Gingerbread recipe.

So the other day I tried it and it is a good starting point!  The texture was just about perfect.  My family loved it but I still want a stronger ginger flavor so I’ll keep tweaking it and then share once I think it’s good to go.

Ironic

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Adam’s mom sent us a picture of this framed newspaper article from his childhood.  In it Adam says his dad is the best because he went on a field trip with his class.  So sweet.

So isn’t it something else (not sweet) that this morning when I told Davis I would be a chaperone on his field trip to the Virginia Beach Aquarium, he handed the check back to me and said, “That’s okay, mom, we don’t need you this time.  I’m going to be in my friend’s mom’s group.”