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.

 

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!

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 this year was something incredible. When we moved here 5 years ago, probably our biggest focus was making sure the kids had an easy school transition. We met with a professional and she recommended we not overthink this but simply find out where educated parents send their kids to school.

Well, as one child is beginning her last year of middle school and the other is beginning last year of elementary school, I received the gift of confirmation that we made good decisions.  We want our kids to do well in school, and they do very well, but it is of higher importance to us that they are kind, respectful, grateful, and receive the support as they figure out who they are and how they want to contribute to this world.

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’s straight A’s 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.

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 different 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… thriving, really.

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??

 

 

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!!