Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall

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My sister has the prettiest Hydrangea!

My kids are just now in their second week of school and it is still as hot as the dickens (what does that even mean?).  So, before the crisp, full-of-pumpkin fall arrives, I want to write some highlights down.   This summer was so GREAT: so happy, so sad, so full, and so complex.

CELEBRATING     The end of school was something incredible. I’m sure it’s normal when you make a change to worry if the change is good.  Right?  I mean, if we have to make a change, we want it to be a change to the positive!

When we moved here 5 years ago, we chose our area specifically for the public schools. And MOST people we know also utilize these schools.  But some of our friends and neighbors enroll their children in the many private school options in our city.  Some of the private schools have prettier buildings and facilities than our more-dated buildings; also I would say these schools appear (to me) to have less diversity among students and families.  I’m sure there are other differences, but these are the two I noticed.  I get it.  I think it is human nature to gravitate towards similar, rather than different.

I feared maybe we didn’t do enough research, maybe we missed something, maybe these parents knew something I didn’t know?  I worried we might not be making the best decision for my children.  For some reason I found myself worrying more this year (5 years later) than in previous years??  I really don’t know why but it could have something to do with the change to middle school, which is bigger and more grown up than sweet-little-people-elementary school.  I don’t know.

Luckily my husband is very confident and often talks me off the ledge.  He is absolute.  But inside I was wondering… how does he really know?  We will know by watching and listening to our kids.

Well, I received a gift that last week of school.  Confirmation they are right where they need to be.

Two women (one friend, one teacher) came up to me at separate times, but on the same day, to tell me of their L.O.V.E. for Davis.  One told me how funny and well-mannered he is and the other told me what a great guy in the classroom he is.  She kept coming up to me and saying, “I just love that boy!”

The next day Adam and I had to separate to attend two awards ceremonies at the exact same time, one at each school.  I was so proud of Davis’ straight As all year as well as some other accomplishments that hadn’t come so easy for him.  But when he and another little girl from his class were awarded the Citizenship Award, I felt such immense joy that he is thriving right where he is.  Momma is not worried anymore!

I signed Davis out and together we raced over to Mary Fowler’s school just in time to see her receive some awesome scholastic awards, as well as a HEART award.  My girl is a hard worker but that HEART award is still up on the fridge!  Adam was stopped by 3 teachers who told him: 1. your daughter is so very special, 2. your daughter’s personality is just so FUN!  She is a great student but she is also funny and social- just a delight to be around, and 3. I hope my 2 year old daughter grows up to be just like Mary Fowler!

I was kind of floating that morning.  Adam took us all out to a family brunch and I could hardly talk because I was processing my fears/concerns/worries to the reality that my kids are just fine.

Because I can worry with the best of them, I think I may begin listing my fears on paper so I can later write down examples that may help alleviate those fears.

 

DECORATING     Just this week, I got around to visiting two different friends who hired me to help them with some work on their houses.  What validation it is to see these beautiful spaces.  Both projects felt so clean and calm and refreshed.

Sometimes when I look through magazines I start to question if I really know what I’m doing because I have zero desire to do big-time, crazy-expensive projects like the ones you see featured in magazines.  My favorite projects are normal families who just want a crisper, calmer, simpler, but well-designed, pretty space.  And seeing the completed spaces added to my confidence.

Additionally, one of my neighbors has hired me to help with a larger scale project and it so far has been so gratifying to help her get more bang for her buck than she expected.  We are still in the very early stages of planning and budgeting but this kind of work is fulfilling to me.

 

EATING     Once school started, I was hell-bent on making sure we continued having family dinner together every.single.night.  I knew once after school activities started it would be hard but I still really want to try our best to have dinner together, around the table, followed by some kind of family game.  Nothing crazy- sometimes just 15 minutes.  The key to my success was going to be planning ahead.  So I wrote out the simple meals we would have each night.  And if it’s a crazy day/evening, that means I have to plan ahead for a crock pot meal.  Planning.

It is worth it.  Sitting at the table together makes the kids talk so much more than they would if we were in the kitchen moving around, some sitting, some standing…

Afterwards, I usually have to drag everyone to play Rummicub or basketball or football, but 2 minutes in, EVERYONE is on board!  It is worth it.

Davis chose golf and theater for two of his activities this fall.  And he also wanted to order Blue Apron to make dinner for the family 2x a week!  For me, this is an expensive option to my normal monthly grocery budget, but I am viewing this as a cooking class for him to justify the cost🙂  One other potential benefit: we didn’t have a choice of delivery day; Friday was chosen for us.  So, while most Fridays we order or make pizza, we will be replacing that with some pretty special meals by Davis!  I think it will be great!

Tomorrow is our first delivery so we’ll see how it goes!

 

EXPLORING     This summer involved some exploring!  And I’m talking about exploring of the travel and spiritual kind.

In June we spent some time at the lake with family and friends.  I always love seeing my family and the addition of friends who now have a place at the lake added a fun dynamic!  The kids and parents all had a blast together!  My kids have much younger cousins, who they love, but having friends the same age to play with is a different kind of fun!

Truth be told, I was a little anxious because soon after was our trip to the United Kingdom. Mary Fowler’s school planned this and my parents have always wanted to go to Ireland so my sweet husband sent me and Mary Fowler on another European trip, less than 3 months apart.  I owe him!

What is really awesome is that my mom had some big things she wanted taken care of that she and my dad kept procrastinating about.  So this trip was a wonderful motivation.  They got done what they needed just before we were driving to the airport.  And more change for them was to come.  I have wonderful parents but they have always struggled with some forms of “taking action.” There has been something about this trip that has helped with this dynamic.  And I notice a lightness in them.

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Not to mention, this trip was just so special in so many ways.  I wrote all about it with pictures in a photo book.  We were kind of exploring our English and Irish heritage and I know I came away with a better understanding, and even more curiosity!  Because I was the designated photographer for my parents, I completed the book really fast and sent them their copy.  Then I quickly made the Italy book, too.  Getting my pictures in print form has always been one of my passions.

We had another very relaxing and soul-filling family beach trip with Adam’s mom.  We are water people.  I love it when Adam and I take walks together.  And playing in the ocean with the kids- all together, then jumping in the pool for a little play before going in for lunch or dinner- it’s just a nice daily rhythm.  I took pictures, though not as many as last year and I look forward to making that book.

Spiritual exploration is constant for me but there this summer held a couple of family illnesses –Several of my aunts and uncles were suffering with uncertainty in their health and my beautiful cousin who I have always looked up to was undergoing treatment for lymphoma and two tragic deaths that literally took our breath away.    The first was the kind-hearted dad of one of Mary Fowler’s friends.  His death had Adam and I asking a lot of questions and opened up a lot of conversation.  Attending his funeral was a gift.  His family is very special.  Mary Fowler was with us and I imagine it will be one of those major life-altering memories for her and for us.

The second tragic death was a young man in high school. He is the stepson of one of my sweet friends.  His funeral, too, was a gift.  The family was so honest and loving and strong.  The masses of people, most especially children, attending this funeral was remarkable.  For these kids to be a part of this will promote life and light and good.  It also reignited my desire to attend this particular church.

 

LOVING     This summer I loved that I felt more present.

I love that my kids and I played tennis together.

I love that I played in the water more with my family.

I love that we spent a lot of time together as a family.

 

READING     When I was little I remember my mom and my aunt Debbie taking us to the library regularly over the summer.  My mom can read about a book a day so we would pile our arms full!  When I take my kids (usually kind of begrudgingly) I walk in and feel such excitement and hope!  All these books!  All free!  So much to learn about!

My kids are not usually as excited as me.

I can’t remember everything but I try to take pictures of what I’m reading.  Mary Fowler had to read The Book Thief and The Outsiders over the summer so I read The Book Thief, too, and really enjoyed it.  She also has really enjoyed NO FEAR Shakespeare (for school).  She said it really helps you understand and makes Shakespeare enjoyable!  So that may be helpful to someone with kids.

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Book Thief  5 stars

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The Little Paris Bookshop  4 stars

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My grandmother wanted me to read this and it has surprisingly stuck with me.

The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly 4 stars

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I really liked this one and may need to purchase. I tried several of her suggestions and I really need to post about them.  I was shocked at how well my kids responded!

Cleaning House 4 stars

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I borrowed this from a friend and read during the Ireland trip- really good!  I actually watched a movie on Netflix called The Fundamentals of Caring that I thought was similar and better.

Me Before You 3 stars

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After You 2 stars

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To Heaven and Back 5 stars

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A Man Called Ove 4 stars

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The Language of Flowers  5 stars  This would be a great book club pic!

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Davis really loved Swiss Family Robinson and Tom Sawyer.  We read them aloud.  He also loves graphic novels (cartoon-strip-ish books) on his own.  I have never liked graphic novels or comics for that matter??

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Well, that’s a wrap of the highlights of summer.  I do plan to continue my weekly digital scrapbook pages but I am so far behind that I may do summer and then try the little Instagram Chatbooks for the daily mundane?  I have started a totally private, no following/or followers family insta site and supposedly every 60 pictures it can be printed into a Chat book for $6

I don’t know if it will satisfy me but we shall see…

 

 

Father’s Day

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We love our dads!  I don’t know about you but it’s always a bit of a struggle for me to pick out a Father’s Day gift that says, “We love and appreciate you, dad.”

I started doing photo books several years ago because I know Adam loves them and I certainly enjoy making and having them.  They’re really great for multiple dads (like grandpas, uncles, etc.) because you make one and order several copies.

Each year is a little different but now I seem to focus on more event-based books.  Like this year’s week at the beach book.  Sometimes I wish I had planned things a little better (colors/sizes/etc.) so the bookshelf looked a little more cohesive, but all in all, I’m happy that pictures are printed out where we can see them rather than just stuck in the computer🙂

 

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This year Adam bought himself an early Father’s Day present (Yeti soft cooler) but I’m still giving him a copy of this book – mainly created for my dad.  This year, I wrote a letter to my dad in the opening page.

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What are your favorite Father’s Day gift ideas??

 

 

Playing Hooky

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We had a family wedding in the Outer Banks this past weekend so my parents asked us to join them for a week at the beach, making it a little vacation.  Having kids still in school makes me pause, but as a kid, I remember loving it when my parents took us out for special occasions.

Each fall, our family would fly to Florida (St. Petersburg, Sanibel Island, Orlando, etc.) and we would miss a week of school.  It felt special:)  My sisters and I would load up our backpacks with schoolwork and baby dolls- usually never opening a notebook.

However, my kids are not so enthusiastic??  They are a bit nervous about missing school work.

The highlights of the week for me include:

playing tennis with my parents and my two monkeys

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walking on the beach (and even jogging with Mary Fowler!)

my dad’s daily bloody marys and perfect soft-shell crabs

playing cards (500 Rummy)

laughing so hard as Davis tells us his secrets to great hair:) “A lot of shampoo and conditioner… I’m talking a crap-ton.”

Mary Fowler doing my hair and nails for the wedding- I looked great!  So proud of her!

going to my cousin David’s house for dinner and the kids playing with their cousins just like I used to do!

both kids loving all over their dad while throwing the football on the beach

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and definitely spending time with my aunts and uncles- Anne, Kerry, MaryAnn, and Danny… I cannot get enough of their stories growing up.

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I hope that one day my kids treasure these moments like I do🙂

Sparkle

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I have a file on my desktop that I call INSPIRATION where I put little things like this above.  I actually used this quote for Mary Fowler’s 12th birthday party, printed them out, and tied them to all the party favors- some of her favorite treats!

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But today this quote makes me think of someone else.  My dad called me yesterday to tell me that one of the families I babysat for lost their mother to cancer over the weekend.  The Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Her name is Cassidy, mother of FIVE children, and I am in shock.

I met this sweet family when I worked at the athletic club in high school.  I worked in the nursery and they brought their oldest daughter (at the time their only child) in and Cassidy stayed to chat while the dad played racquetball.

Cassidy was such a bright, energetic, and happy mother.  Her eyes were luminous, her smile infectious,  and she spoke with such excitement!  We talked a lot and she loved my name- I found out later they named their second daughter Olivia🙂

One time, years later, I was working in the bakery during college and without even seeing Cassidy, I heard her booming, excited voice happily chatting with her clan of kids somewhere else in the store.  For whatever reason at that particular moment, I decided to BE HAPPY.  And by that I think I mean project happy.  That’s what she was doing.  Projecting happy energy.

I don’t even know if I ever spoke to her that day but we must have stayed in touch somehow because they came to my wedding and my photographer took many photos of their sweet family:)  I sent them the photographs in a thank you note but I’m going to resend with my condolences.

I feel compelled to let her children (daughters and son) know how inspiring I found their mother to be and how her radiance reflected onto, enhancing my personality.  How amazing.  She really did leave a sparkling impression on me.

Mother’s Day

Mday_2016_final.jpgThis year my mother-in-law came to stay with us for Mother’s Day weekend and it was very relaxing.  Saturday night Adam and I went out to dinner with friends and grandma took the kids to her favorite restaurant.  Then Sunday we all just hung out around the house.  After looking at all our Italy pictures, Davis and grandma were dying to make homemade pizzas so we did that for lunch and then Adam grilled out for dinner.

I made a salad and grandma made her wonderful baked beans.  The dinner took me back to when Adam and I were dating and I would go to his house for dinner.  His dad always grilled on Saturday and Sunday.  It is still hard to believe sometimes he’s gone.

If I’m completely honest, I would love to have a family photo each Mother’s Day of my sweet family in our Sunday best.  I love all of those beautiful, Spring photos I see shared on Facebook.  What a treasure!  But that does not happen each year (and even when it does, Adam really resists so I try to save my battles for the Christmas card photo:) so I really started thinking about something I could do to get some of my reflections down on paper.

A couple of years I wrote each of the kids letters and stuck them away to read later.  This time I thought about one of my favorite photos.  I actually have it in a frame on my bedside table.  It was taken when Davis was born and I love that it shows me eating him up!  I love it.  So I used one of my digital scrapbooking layouts and journaled a little bit.

To all those thoughtful, caring, supportive, selfless, unconditionally loving moms out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Reading

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Now that my kids are older (7th grade and 4th grade) book choices are SO MUCH more enjoyable for me! I volunteered at Mary Fowler’s book fair and bought several that looked yummy, planning to read them to the kids.

Davis, especially, loves to be read to. It is really a quality time activity for us. Right now we are reading Counting by 7s which is about a fabulously-interesting 6th grade girl who suddenly, tragically loses both her parents on the same day.

The story is about how she deals with this great loss and the motley crew of people she surrounds herself with. We were about halfway through the other night and I just had to finish it myself after Davis went to bed. Oh how I cried!!!!! I mean, sobbing. And it has a good ending, I just think it touched on one of my all-time greatest worries in life… how kids make it when they don’t have the family network so many of us do. It really touched a chord with me.

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Mary Fowler and I are reading I Am Malala- the young adult version (for my sake:). We are only a couple of chapters in because she has less free time available in the evening. I am hoping that the book will show Mary Fowler that to some children education is a privilege. I am SO proud of how she is doing in middle school but it never hurts to get a little world-perspective:).
I have found that my favorite place to volunteer in the kids’ schools is the LIBRARY! I love it! I love being around all those books and I love discussing books with the librarians! So much better than the cafeteria😦  And I love how the teachers at our elementary school read so many books in class to the kids. For example, I’ve always felt that a book (fiction or non-fiction) written from one child’s perspective during the Depression can teach so much more than just remembering facts of the Depression.

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And for me, I am loving The War of Art and You are a Badass! One a friend gave me and one I  heard about it from one of my scrapbooking blogs.  They are SO, SO good! I usually try to get books from the library but I’m so happy I own these because I’m going to refer back often!!

Little Things

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Lately we have been having some TRUE spring days and the weather is just invigorating!  I LOVE it!  My favorite climate is around 72 degrees (although I also love a good rainy day for staying inside and making soup:)

I’ve taken several walks and the blue skies make me feel all bubbly inside.  This morning I took my big camera outside because my Irises are blooming!  I’m sure my neighbors thought I had lost it outside, still in my pajamas.  But Irises are my mom’s favorite flower so I always think of her when I see them.  She loves their sweet scent and we can’t believe someone hasn’t invented Iris-smelling perfume or candles?!?

They are so delicate and it had just rained.  I have tried cutting them to vase indoors but it never works out for me- they kind of wither- so I snapped away and will have the photos to enjoy instead!

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The Spring blooms and clear, blue skies are two of my favorite things this week and here are some others:

 

 

  • This article from Parade Magazine (in the Sunday newspaper): Exceptional Minds Movie Magic It makes me so happy to know that society is learning about how different we all are and instead of focusing on what we can’t do, focusing on what our gifts are!