Category Archives: Family

The “Yes, I’d Love To,” Jar

unnamed-1Happy February! Am I the only one happy that January is over (in 4 short hours!)? Now that sickness has swept the house (last one standing!) we can move on to the month of love!

Speaking of love, I bring you the “Yes, I’d Love To!” Jar.

Many months ago I heard about this idea on a podcast (wish I could remember which one!) The darlings became my guinea pigs. The idea is simple:

1. Put a jar on the counter

2. Label it: “Yes, I’d Love To.”

3. Every time someone asks you to do something, respond with “Yes, I’d love to!”

4. For every “Yes, I’d love to” response, put a cotton ball (or something similar) in the jar

5. When the jar is filled up, go for ice-cream

Of course the darlings liked the ice-cream idea. And it became somewhat comical how fast they could fill the jar up – like in five minutes – by asking ridiculous questions and rushing to make a basket.

I told them we had to play for real.

My older kids humor me, even when obviously feeling “I’m-way-too-old-for-your-games-mom.” (I like to live in the dream world where they actually like my cheesy games.)

And so we began.

“Nelson, would you please get me a fork?”

Instead of, “Get it yourself,” he caught himself. “Yes, I’d love to, Brynne,” in yes, a somewhat sarcastic voice. But he still handed her a fork.

“Mom, would you please get me some milk?”

Instead of, “I just sat down” or “You have legs” I caught myself trying to ever-so-cheerfully set the example with, “Why yes, I’d love to!”

“Cope, would you please cut me an apple?”

Instead of a flat, “No,” Cope darling sighed, but eyeing that jar in need of filling and with ice-cream fairies dancing in her head, responded: “Why yes, I’d love to.” Add some eye-batting. And a high-pitched Cinderella voice.

Maybe we’re just competitive. Maybe we like games. Maybe we just wanted ice-cream, but the jar began to fill. And seeing the jar fill, made us want to fill it faster.

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At first I wondered if I was just teaching them to be fake or only acting for a prize.

But then again, we nudge our children all the time to do things they don’t actually feel like doing. “Say thank you,” “Tidy up your space,” “Be kind to the new kid,” “Write a note.” In fact,  isn’t that what parenting is all about? Isn’t this part of the future training of America? Do the thing you really don’t want to do because it’s just the right thing to do!

Also, because it was on my brain, a quote from philosopher and psychologist, William James:

“Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there.” -William James

Oh yes, I love it. Armed with James and his mighty words of wisdom, I felt completely justified in the training of my guinea pigs with the “Yes, I’d Love To” jar.

An avid Gretchen Rubin fan, I loved her advice on episode #42 of her podcast: Act the Way You Want to Feel.

Based on research for Better Than Before (fabulous new book on habits) Rubin found if we want to feel a certain way, we can act that way first.

It’s really hard to change our emotional state just by wanting to change it (though Mindset surely is powerful.) But it might be easier if we ACT first and let the emotional state follow.

Wasn’t that so true when I was at home with little kids. Just the act of changing out of my pajama bottoms and doing my hair as if I was going to a real job – which motherhood surely is – changed my whole day from slogging through to more-happily mothering.

It works. It really does. When I’m irritated and snappish with a child, it works wonders for me to laugh. Or hug. Or smile.

“Fake it ‘Til You Make it” works.

Isn’t it the truth that when we speak more kindly, we feel more kindly?

It doesn’t really matter if we want to get a fork for our sister. Get the fork. It makes her happy. And guess what…we all know acting kinder makes us happier, too.

Brain research supports this idea. Act the way you want to feel. Not the other way around. If you’re walking around yelling and slamming doors, that only makes you want to yell and slam some more doors. Your brain says: “I must be really angry!”

Harvard research says that the act of giving thanks actually makes us feel happier. Such a simple and quick fix for general grumpiness.

I used to hear that boys should go “punch something” to get their aggression out. Perhaps they should make some cookies for the neighbors instead.

Feeling shy? Introduce yourself! I swear it works wonders. Suddenly we’re confidently chatting our way through an awkward social situation.

This experiment suggests that people who use Botox are less prone to anger, because they can’t make angry, frowning faces. Crazy, huh?!

This phenomenon happened to me the other day.

I was feeling pretty miserable. My energy was low. Consistently telling myself how much I hate January doesn’t help. I had to take a car full of kids all the way to Concord, be in charge of an youth activity, and then drive everyone home again. Growling would just not do (because not all of the occupants were my kids 🙂 ) I wanted to lay back down on the bed, read, and be served warm toast. Instead I got out of my sweats and pulled on a pair of jeans. I put my hair in a ponytail, slapped on some mascara and started the carpool. By the time I got home I was a totally different person. I was actually happy.

Was I being fake? I don’t think so. I think I was choosing to be the person I wanted to be that night.

The aftermath of the “Yes, I’d Love to” Jar was this: over time the darlings lost interest in putting cotton balls in the jar. But I did notice that the “yes, I’d love to” phrase hung around for much longer. It still comes out of everyone’s mouth once in awhile. The jar works best if it’s on the counter for awhile and then put away for a season. It’s like a special toy – best to be pulled out only occasionally. And then when it’s pulled out again, it’s fun.

So I ask you – How do you want to feel?

Then act that way.

The jar hasn’t been out for months. But I think it’s time again. The dishwasher needs emptying 🙂

 

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What My Daughter Has to Say About Helicopter Parents {who, me?}

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The problem with educating your children is that they become…educated. When Cope came home from Ocean Classroom (and after a period of love and kindness) I was informed we were doing it all wrong – “We need to get chickens again and eat our own eggs. And we need a goat. Mom, that face wash is ruining the ocean! And FOR SHAME – YOU’RE USING PLASTIC???!

Enthusiastic she was saving the world from her wasteful and consumerist mother, I had a silent counter-argument… just wait, honey. just wait until you’re a mom packing lunches and walking through knee-deep snow to water chickens only to find them slaughtered by a weasel and golly gee, can’t a girl use her favorite face wash? Oh, and yes, let me skip outdoors to milk the goats daily. I shall wear braids and an apron. And sing.

Sometimes it’s fun to be patronizing.

Now the girl is taking Psychology. She spent Sunday afternoon educating her mother. Hey parents, leave those kid alone.

“Mom, what do you think of this: in the UK there are adventure parks called The Land, designed in the 40s, where kids can make fires and uses knives and saws.”

I said: “Fires?”

Apparently this is a thing. This adventure playground looks like it was inspired by a junk yard. “It’s one of dozens in the UK fostering an endangered human behavior…RISKY PLAY.”

And I kindof love it.

Cope says parents need to stop helicoptering, using Atlantic Monthly writer, Hanna Rosin, as her muse.

“Kids who are not at risk or who don’t feel like they’re at risk (at danger) or don’t find risk in socially acceptable ways – like handle scissors before age 6, flip pancakes, chop potatoes – they will either become afraid of everything and not know how to handle real life situations OR they will seek out risk in socially unacceptable ways like doing drugs…”

She spoke passionately, wearing her brand new smarty-look glasses and gave me these gems to consider:

“If you’re always hovering and giving stuff, helping, never letting them fail, they’re much more likely to feel entitled, angry, and ungrateful.”

I took mental notes. No more hovering. No more stuff. Fail, darlings, fail!

“If you never let kids feel like they can handle themselves than they’ll never be able to handle themselves.”

This discussion made me think of my own childhood, a more relaxed time, where I was a free-range child in a Nebraska suburb. We roamed unsupervised for hours at a time. When I was 5 years old me and my twin brother walked to school. Alone. It was a mile there, a mile home. We often got side-tracked. It was glorious.

Our mother drove us maybe once a year. No matter how late we were running – and we were often running – We walked in sun, rain, and snow with other unsupervised children.

Once I arrived at school at 9:30 (school started at 9.) “Where were you?” my kindergarten teacher asked. “Just walking to school.” I remember how big her eyes got.

In second grade I picked up a dead squirrel in the road, and brought it to school for show ‘n tell (my teachers loved me).

We got into all sorts of mischief. Those memories remain some of the happiest of my life.

Oh, guess what else we did? We jumped on trampolines! (okay, okay, I broke my neck but that was a fluke.)

As I’ve grown up and become a mother, it’s less socially acceptable to let my children play or walk places independently. Parents get arrested for such things. We’re meant to feel like we’re sub-par parents unless we’ve got EYES ON THE CHILD every single second.

Once, when Cope was six months old, I gave her a fork to play/eat with. The women came out of the woodwork – OH MY GOSH WHAT ARE YOU DOING????!!!! YOU GAVE HER A FORK!!! AHHH! SHE’LL POKE HER EYE OUT AND DIE!!! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? That fork was snatched so fast out of her hand it made both our heads spin. Publicly shamed, I didn’t make that mistake again. We gave her forks in private. And she learned to eat with it.

I partly blame the media. With the speed of news, we hear about every kidnapping, car crash, accident, drowning, and child murder that ever happens. The thought sends chills and horror through my body. But guess what? Kidnapping rates haven’t gone up. Child accidents haven’t gone up. Just because we walk our third-graders to school or teach them never to talk to strangers, doesn’t lower their risk of being kidnapped. The rates have remained the same since the 70’s.

Cope quotes Rosin again, “We’re always saying kids are growing up so much faster now – they’re not. They’re just mimicking adult behaviors. And then when it comes time for them to exercise responsibility and become adults they don’t know how. They can’t.”

My own mother studied human behavior extensively in the 90s. She hated the 1980’s self-esteem movement. “Telling yourself how wonderful you are all the time is stupid,” I can hear her saying in my head. “Teaching kids how TO DO THINGS makes them feel good about themselves.” Which was why I scrubbed the disgusting kitchen floor every Saturday. And golly gee, I do feel good about myself!

By skipping milestones (not letting our kids cross the street, get jobs, walk to the store alone) are we actually depriving our kids of becoming capable? How sad. Because that’s not the intention of any parent I know.

When I was in college I had a roommate who went home after one week. I felt terribly for her. She just couldn’t hack it. She told me she had never done her own laundry or dishes before. She was too scared to find her classes. I was shocked her parents would actually let her come home. I imagined my parents saying, “Are you joking? Suck it up. After a semester we’ll discuss.” (obviously there are exceptions to every situation!)

Want more? Read this: How To Land Your Kid in Therapy by Lori Gottlieb: “Why the obsession with our kid’s happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.” Yikes.

Obviously I need to be a tad more neglectful, let the darlings feel a little more discomfort, fail more and bigger – let them discover that they are perfectly capable of getting right back up.

I vow to try.

But children, beware. Does this also mean: no more driving to school with your forgotten gym shorts, requesting a teacher, hounding the coach because your didn’t get enough playing time, or worse…writing your homework essay? (for the record, I’m batting 50% at these four.)

Remember the Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother? I loved that book – and was fascinated, inspired, and appalled.

Concluding words, Cope? “Don’t be a helicopter parent! No one likes it, least of all your incompetent children!”

My friends, these are very encouraging words indeed. Parents, it’s time to take a load off! Read in bed. Take a nap. It’s cereal for dinner – and they’ll pour the milk. Bonus: It’s good parenting!

“Cope, aren’t you glad I gave you chores and made you do things?”

“Actually, I’d rather be pampered hand foot.”

Too late! Yesterday afternoon I took her advice to heart. I took a nap. Without supervising the children. BEST MOM EVER. Right?

I also want to say: Thanks, Cope. For reals. You’re going to make a terrific mom.

(And don’t worry, I’ll bandage the cut off fingers of my grandchildren after they use scissors without supervision 🙂 ).

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Having the Best Year Ever {by setting & achieving goals}

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau

Oh yes, it is that time of year. When I feel absolutely giddy about GOALS.

But did you know? Only  8% of all people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?

On Sunday, we had a family meeting, I excitedly gave each child their very own Goal Binder (yep, I know how to have FUN!)unnamed-13 We gathered round and made covers.unnamed-11

unnamed-10First, we reflected on 2015. What was great? What wasn’t so great?

We all agreed, Tenny getting hit by a car was a low point 🙁 Also, Paige did not achieve “cutting stuff.” I don’t know what to tell you. Except you can learn a lot about the people living under your roof…

unnamed-6Next, we wrote down what we wanted to accomplish in the next six months.

To make it a little easier, we divided our goals into categories: spiritual, educational, physical, and personal.

After all the reading and listening I’ve done this year, I’ve learned:

The best way to keep a goal:

  1. Be specific (“be healthy” is not specific. “Eat 5 fruits and vegetables every day” is better)
  2. Set a deadline
  3. Write down the “next action step”
  4. Be accountable to someone other than yourself

The “next action step”

Writing down the next action step is crucial. For instance, you want to run a 1/2-marathon in May? Then maybe your next action step is to download a 1/2-marathon program. Maybe it’s driving to the Runner’s Ally to buy a pair of shoes. Maybe you need to ask a friend if she’ll be your running buddy every Saturday for the long run.

Want to eat 5-7 fruits and vegetables a day? Perhaps the next action step is to write down some fruits and vegetables that you will actually eat, on your grocery list.

If your goal is to hang family pictures on the wall, then your next action step might be: “Go to Lowe’s and buy nails” or “Gather pictures I want to hang.”

The point is: break big goals up into small, easy steps. Post in a place you will see them.

Wisdom says it’s best to only have 5-7 goals at one time. Otherwise we get overwhelmed. But hey, even 1 or 2 goals is great.

Being accountable to someone else

I have to have running buddies – not every day – but at least once a week. It’s huge for my progress. We text each other, check in, sign up for races together.

My friend, Kelly, wants to run her first 1/2-marathon this June. She schedules her run in her calendar. This appointment cannot be broken! We also email throughout the week to talk about any issues and to keep her pumped up! Accountability, my friends, works.

I should probably have a “cleaning-the-house” accountability buddy. But. Nah.

After the six month goals, we made a list of the goals  to accomplish in one year:unnamed-3I encouraged specificity and next action items (working on that 🙂

Next came some fun speculation. We looked into the future. Where do you want to be in life? Who do you want to be? We wrote goals down for:

  •  the next six months
  •  the coming year
  •  the next five years
  •  the next ten years
  •  the next twenty years unnamed-8 In five years, Paige wants to start her Personal Progress Program (our church’s fantastic youth program), play on her mama’s soccer team(!), and make high honor roll. Her mama approves!

unnamed-2unnamed-7 In twenty years, when she is 28, Paige plans on having eight children. Hey, I said be specific!

unnamed-5   In 20 years, this darling hopes to be “low-key” wealthy. “Enough to be comfortable, but not mad rich.” Made me laugh.

unnamed  It was great to see Brynne wants to be brushing her teeth 2 x a day in 20 years 🙂

And it’s good to know I’m going to be a grandmother surrounded by many many little tots.

Thank you, darlings, for giving us a small peek into your personal goals!

And for you? I highly recommend Michael Hyatt‘s free three-part video series:

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There are tons of goal-setting methods out there, countless “how-to” posts and articles. But however you want to improve, I suggest just starting. See where it takes you. Find a method that works and begin, even if you’ve failed before. Procrastination fosters big dreams but kills big goals.

Did you know? A person will set the same New Year’s resolution 10 different times without getting it done?

I love goals, but I’m also reminded that there is a time and place to JUST STOP. To BE STILL. To be happy right where we are right at this moment. I have struggled with contentment for a long time, always wanting to be better at being me. All this “becoming” and growing up has led me to a good place, but now? Stop. Breathe. Say thank you.

We are doing a wonderful job being. Just being. It’s a form of gratitude to sit still and say “thank you for this. And that’s all.”

There are a thousand ways to be a good mother, even if it’s different from everyone else around you. Be happy with that. We don’t always need to be a “BETTER” version of yesterday. Sometimes, we just need to BE.

Maybe that’s a goal for 2016.

Goals shouldn’t make us more busy. No, instead, writing out goals should help us focus on the things that matter most. Goals help me not drift or become too driven by my own ambitions.

 

Some favorite resources:

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits . . . You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. . . .” -Flannery O’Connor

Happy New Year – to your best year!

The End.

And of course I’d like to know – do you write out goals for New Year’s?

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A Glimpse at Christmas

Paige has been asking for an elf on the shelf for years. “They come to your house and watch you and you can’t touch them and please please please, I NEED an elf!”

IMG_3393 Inspired by my friend, Lindsey, and  this post, twin elves arrived at our house while the girls were at school. There was much shrieking! After Paige read the note she said, “no, no, no we can’t TOUCH THEM!” So  they ended up moving themselves every night after we were in bed. They are magic, after all.

DSC_0327 To get into the Christmas spirit we did our family annual “secret santa.” How tricky could we be? Always fun!

DSC_0366 Sometimes the elves got into the pretzels, but mostly they reminded us to do nice things.IMG_3381 I found this hysterical.

IMG_3430 We bought our tree from the local fire department, decorated it, and had a fight about the ornaments…we repented later with tears and apologies. Yep, just keeping it real here.

IMG_3555 Our church youth group went caroling at a retirement center. After a shaky start, we sang with gusto and had a great night 🙂DSC_0388 Our elves continued to move, hanging out in odd places.

DSC_0374 Our tree has a duct tape star, made by my Nellie-mak many years ago. He now thinks it looks trashy. I refuse to get rid of it!

DSC_0318 Paige left little snack crumbs for the elves. If we get mice I’ll blame it on Christmas.

IMG_3800 Our elves speak Spanish!

IMG_3507 Brynne proved to be my real Christmas elf, addressing Christmas cards. Whew.

Apparently, our address is difficult to find:

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Did you know, one of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy!

Making cookies makes me happy…

IMG_3728   It’s one of the most fun things we do as a family in December. Even when Nelson tries to walk out of the picture. Note the weather? AWESOME.

My children were grumpy there was no snow whilst I not-so-secretly expressed my great glee at 50-degree December temps. It makes the morning run so much better. And I know…the white stuff is coming.IMG_3736 Christmas favorites.

It was an odd year, too. My children are getting older. They have amazing opportunities!IMG_3589 Nelson left before Christmas to go ski in Canada with his Nordic team.

IMG_3558   Cope went to Germany to au pair for her nice and nephew!

IMG_3680I think she really ate a lot of treats and bratwurst. Incredible experience!

IMG_3765Finally, all my children came home.

IMG_3824 Christmas Eve is always special. We read the story of Christ’s birth in Luke 2, Matthew, and The Book of Mormon. This is our angel declaring the good news!

IMG_3850 Andy Rooney said, “One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day.” This is the “before” shot.

IMG_3456I bought myself some Wicked Good Slippers from L.L. Bean 50% off. Life is complete.

After the presents were open, The Professor left us Christmas morning for a basketball tournament in England! What???!   IMG_3980 But guess what? They won!IMG_4028 And strutted the famous crosswalk in front of Abbey Road Studio. Proud of our #hornets!

We’ve missed our daddy. Especially when the basement flooded. I can’t talk about it yet.

But…IMG_3972 It snowed! And the kiddies were happy. I’m adjusting. It’s beautiful!IMG_3982 And our dear Mr. Goody plowed me out when I got stuck in the driveway. Hey, I’m a feminist and all that but I sure like men with tractors!IMG_3987 Obsessed with brussel sprouts this season. I’ve got a knock-out recipe…

DSC_0442 Days before it snowed we had a photo shoot. IMG_3940 My parents arrived from Arizona. Yahoo!

DSC_0432 Striking a pose. DSC_0426 Ewwwww…my feet are getting wet!DSC_0447 Mom, I can’t sit down on the wet rocks – my pants!DSC_0449 So he sat on his sister’s hand. “This is so wrong,” he said. But aren’t they cute?DSC_0481 Walking down the catwalkDSC_0487 That’s enough, paparazzi.

So there you have it. Our Christmas. Food. Our beloveds. Snow. Presents. Love.

My friend, Scott, sent me this article by Tim Urban, an author/illustrator. It’s called “The Tail End.” He writes: “I’m 34, so let’s be super optimistic and say I’ll be hanging around drawing stick figures till I’m 90. If so, I have a little under 60 winters left.”

But his bigger point was that he’s used up about 90% of his time with the people he’s loved best: his parents and siblings.

I’m thinking about my children now. They spend so much time together now. But these long December days together are dwindling. They are going incredible places. How many more moments do they have with each other? How many more Christmases will we spend together?

Gee, aren’t I a bundle of fun???

I’m just saying: The Tail End has made me feel more intentional this season, more mindful of this time that is flying by.

When you actually draw a picture, marking out the days you’ve had with your parents, siblings, children, best friends, like Tim Urban did, it becomes starkly clear that although you might not be at the end of your life, you may be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important, and the most loved people in your life.

So this season, I especially liked this:IMG_3813

First there was a little family. Now there’s our little family. Your little family.

I hope that this Christmas season we made the most of our time together. But if not, remember: tomorrow is a new day. Tomorrow is a NEW YEAR!

Happy 2015. Happy 2016!

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Giving Thanks For Those Around the Table {our captain has come home!}

The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner has always been the people seated around the table. Though pie is surely a close second.

On the eve of this Thanksgiving, I’m feeling thankful for those around my table.

Two months ago our Cope sailed away on schooner Roseway.21514238710_9077ed7728_k That was weird.21702166825_341453a866_k Interesting how the whole family dynamic shifted.

My friend, Lindsey, who sailed the ocean blue many many years ago, nodded her head at the strangeness. “Yeah, and she’s the oldest of your kids. She’s your captain. Your captain is missing.”

Yeah, that was right. Our captain was missing!

21711410531_aa2d356702_k The mates missed their captain.

In the end, it wasn’t all bad. 1st mate, Nellie Mak, had to start high school without her. I was sad about this fact, but many others thought it terrific; the boy would have to navigate high school on his own. And he did just fine.

The best part of having someone gone is realizing how much you like having them around.

Brynne was particularly excited about taking over the captain’s sleeping quarters. She got busy right away, cleaning and organizing all the captain’s drawers, throwing out what she deemed “nonessential junk.” (isn’t that thoughtful? ha :). She made the bed, fluffed the pillows…and then slept in her sister’s room exactly once. It just wasn’t the same.

21875132735_0208668129_k In the meantime, Cope and her crew mates were having a most amazing adventure (and thank you to all the ocean picture takers; none of these are my photos!) GoPro included!

And the girl was happy.21687426488_f52189c36c_k She saw the world in a way she has never seen it before. Lucky!22558649980_3dc617710a_k She learned many a sailing skill. For instance, how and where to barf over the side of a boat is an art form: “Not on the high side and definitely not into the wind!”22872751082_f1d8bb8536_k She sailed in stormy seas and calm waters. She had spiritual experiences and felt close to the divine.22412118245_12343fcd3e_k She witnessed almost magical creatures.21597567873_9cf2ac535e_h Best of all? She missed us, too.

She wrote home often (we were lucky!) while being tossed and turned by the waves. She understood what a big deal it was, for a hand to stretch forth and say, “Peace. Be Still.” 22733008222_b0839a4c6c_k And her soul was stilled, too.23103932742_1e91418660_k The crew stopped at many an island22218588485_769ebe5c31_h And had a 14-day journey from Florida to Puerto Rico with no land in sight (“that was about the coolest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”)

She stood at the helm, learning how to sail Roseway, (“much harder than it looks,”). She had a watch group that was on every 8 hours, 24 hours a day. “If you’re off just one degree you’re in big trouble! Now I know what all those conference talks are really about…”

At night, they were required to be locked into a harness when on deck. Because, as their instructor told them, “If you go overboard in the middle of the night, we’ll never find you.”22031712999_731af85a3a_kCheerio!

22757763871_67232d081c_k This was an adventure, but it was also SCHOOL with no electronic devices for two months (makes a mama happy!) They studied Maritime Literature, Maritime Science, Maritime History, Nautical Mathematics, and Seamanship. 22467899878_0a793ddaa5_kThe closer to the Caribbean they sailed, the warmer it became.

IMG_3279-1 As ocean water was the only way to get clean, baths were super fun!22698193850_d26566e15e_k 22218590875_2418eed932_k 23091755876_91372dedcd_k It was truly a life-changing adventure she will never forget.

And she got a wicked-good tan.

The anticipation of greeting our girl and her mates felt more exciting than Christmas!

It’s been a tough fall for our community. We’ve lost friends in a variety of ways. We’ve all been contemplating how exactly we are supposed to navigate loss. Some people come home. Some people don’t. Some still wander.

With Cope gone, this feeling felt especially heightened. I had the morbid mother thoughts, what if she never came home? How would we go on without our captain?

It was also heartening to see the way our community rallied around each other. As one friend put it, “If I’m getting sick, I’m getting sick here.”

When things were beginning to calm again, our beloved doggie, Lord Tennyson, was hit by a car (our van!) when he decided to test the whole New Hampshire Live Free or Die motto, by making a run through the electric fence and into the road. He did live free (but nearly died) .

It was terribly traumatic, with three kids in the car, going to school. I held him in my arms as he bled from his mouth, nose, and left eye and I could not stop crying. I realized that we could not lose our best beloved

When the kids were in school (worried sick) The Professor and I drove to the vet. The Professor was sure it was the end. I could not handle this assessment and forced him to think more positively, darn it!

Tenny was away for three days. Every time I came home I missed him. He wasn’t there to greet me. He wasn’t there when I left the house. He wasn’t following me around the kitchen. I hadn’t realized how much I talk to my small and furry friend 🙂 His muddy, annoying paw prints all over the kitchen floor were suddenly endearing.

So it is with children, isn’t it?

The vet was “pleasantly surprised” that he recovered so well. His left eye was sutured shut for a week so that he looked like a pirate, (so fitting for our captain’s arrival.) He may or may not see out of his eye again, but he lived to bark another day.

Whew.

It’s gut-wrenching to have your people (and beloved pets) leave you. Sometimes it’s needful. It’s good. But before Cope left, I kind of thought that other kids left home, not mine. Aren’t we still that young couple with babies in diapers? What a terrible realization…they will leave. Every last one.

Good thing I like The Professor so much. Even when he’s cranky (kisses, honey! 🙂

A friend wrote to me, after I posted about Cope leaving on her ocean trip:

“Hi. I hope I did not sound patronizing in my note to you. If anything, your post touched a nerve and I am in a rough place over this “growing up and growing a way” stage. My deepest fear has been overwhelming me lately and I am at a loss about how to cope with it. *** is being what I hope is typical of 21…she is pulled away and doing her own thing. Sometimes that shows as being thoughtless . Her own wants and needs top everything and it is painful, to see and to experience. I desperately want her to WANT to be around me on occasion and to feel connected, and she is on her own course. Yes, growing up and having “wings” is good – I am just praying that her foundation is with me as well, and that we can have a good relationship into her adulthood. Ocean seems so long ago, and …she came back. Now I am waiting again….and my heart hurts.”

Sometimes my heart hurts, too.IMG_3036But other times it sings.

One way or the other, I believe this: we all make our way back home.

On the eve of this Thanksgiving, we are cherishing the captain’s return. This Thanksgiving there are no empty chairs. Or dog beds.

I am thankful for those seated around my table. I’m also thankful for those who have departed, who are on different life journeys, to places we cannot yet comprehend. In a different way, they are with us, too.

“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another…that we may all sit down in heaven together.” -Lucy Mack Smith

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we enjoy one another and give great thanks to be surrounded by the ones we love so much.

And don’t forget to enjoy lots of pie, too 🙂

xo.

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In the Land of Trees and Apples

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Fall in New England, with more apples than we know what do with. We start by eating vast quantities and then move on to applesauce. Um, by the way, have you eaten the Honey Crisp apple? Oh yum, I can now die a happy woman.unnamed-15 Finally, after seven years, our apple trees are bearing fruit. We don’t spray (because I’m lazy and afraid of chemicals) so our apples are not “perfect,” on the outside, but they sure are perfect on the inside. There’s a lesson somewhere in there, isn’t there?unnamed-5 We also picked up all the drops from a tree at Hogwarts on Columbus Day when we all miraculously had one full free day, with no other obligations except apples. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do applesauce this year. But Brynne persisted – and I’m glad she did! “It’s a tradition, mom!” And traditions must be followed.unnamed-6 The weather could not have been any more perfect, where I could cut and core apples outside (surrounded by bees 🙂 The colors were popping!unnamed-4 I didn’t feel guilty about not cutting off every speck of apples – off to the compost it goes (as the chickens are no longer.) It comes from the ground and goes back to the ground.unnamed-7 After the apples are cut, they are put in a small bath, and onto the stove until they are mush. unnamed-13 Then it’s all pushed through the strainerunnamed-11 Out comes the applesauce! unnamed-9 The seeds and skin all get pushed out another chute.unnamed My 6th-grader, the newly-appointed domestic diva. She loves cooking.unnamed-3 Her sister was especially helpful! Paige was in her pioneer clothes…obviously acting like a lady.unnamed-8  The green funnel (from Amazon) makes this job so much easier when you’ve got small-mouth mason jars.unnamed-10 The applesauce doesn’t need any help, but we give it a touch of sugar and cinnamon. Mmmm. Brynne likes it best served warm.unnamed-2 What you don’t gobble, you can can. Can you do the can can? Think Thanksgiving and neighbor gifts! For the step-by-step canning, Click HERE.unnamed-1Our neighbor, Mr. Goody, is the best. So he gets applesauce. We know that in a few weeks he’ll be plowing us out of our driveway. We’ve got to make sure he feels appreciated. And doesn’t he have the best neighbor name evuh’?

DSC_0101 But don’t worry, you don’t have to give it all away.

DSC_0118I give full permission to lick the jar clean…

Happy Fall!

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Because I Love You: Tech Rules in This House

“Dear Children: It’s time to have the talk.

Not that talk. The other one: The Great Tech Talk.

With school in earnest this week, so begins begins conversation about technology use in our home.

As a preamble, I’d like to say this: I love the internet.

As a follow-up: I despise the internet.

It’s complicated, this love-hate relationship.

The love is THIS BLOG. I get to write and publish, and meet other bloggers and writers and commenters from all over the world – Amazing! Wonderful. The love is connecting on Facebook and Instagram and sharing pictures immediately. It’s Google calendar, email, and Lindsey Stirling Youtube videos. It’s recipes and Shutterfly and Airbnb and GPS directions (because otherwise I’m not getting there.) It’s newsletters and research and googling Donald Trump’s hair. Yes, the World Wide Web is simply awesome.

I’m inspired daily and believe there is no greater and faster tool to spread goodness and light than the internet.

I also believe there’s no greater or faster tool to spread evil and destruction than the internet.

Like the despicable Ashley Madison Website whose tag line is: “Life is Short. Have an Affair.” Which boasts 40 MILLION users. I mean, what the heck is going on?

News like this makes me want to crawl in a bunker with my children.

Alas, we cannot hide. There is a battle going on, and we, my friends are the resilient foot soldiers.

Did you know? 11.7 is the average age a child encounters pornography on the web. Some researchers say it’s now closer to age 8. It’s one of the reasons I’m very wary of sleepovers. It’s not that I don’t trust my kids. I just don’t trust your kids – kidding!

There’s a slew of research on the effects of technology on the teenage brain. It’s not their fault they’re more impulsive, easily swayed by their peers, and feel more invincible  – it’s the physiology of their brain!

It’s not just pornography. Frequent Facebook use makes many kids and adults unhappy. Tech addiction thwarts time well spent, relationships, an explored earth. I don’t want my children’s lives waylaid by virtual interaction. I want them to live in the real world, man!

Technology addiction is a thing. Google it. You’ll get 15,300,000 hits.

The LDS church has just rolled out a “12 Steps to Change” video series, hoping to provide understanding and hope for addiction recovery.

The videos are wonderful. They’re brutally honest. But I’d really love to avoid the “recovery” part and start with prevention. I want to protect myself and my children from the great pain of needing a 12-step program.

Just this week I’ve had two older gentlemen shake their heads at me and say, “I’m glad we’re not raising our kids today. I’m glad it’s you and not me.”

Well, we are raising our kids in this generation, and far from being pessimistic about all the crap they navigate on a daily basis, I’m confident about their future. Because our children possess great light. They know the difference between right and wrong. But it’s hard to stand alone. They need to see their parents modeling good and intentional online habits.

So this is where we try.

As an adult, I have to be careful. I adore my iPhone. Its my precious. I’m too often drawn in, checking email too often, feeling a writer’s “high” when one of my posts receives a “like,” as if my worth is measured by comments and likes. I’m not always a great example.

The Professor is my accountability partner. I tell him my goals: No phone checking upon wake up. Early morning is for quiet meditation, scripture reading, and running on real roads. With school starting, I resist the urge to reach for the phone until the kids have left for school. And every single day I fight that urge. The brain likes what it likes.

Seen on Instagram: “Technoference.” New research out of BYU’s College of Family Life and Social Sciences shows that technoference is statistically linked to lower relationship quality AND life satisfaction.

unnamed

Brilliant Sue, science teacher has written much about How Kids Learn. She’s helped me see the wisdom in kids “buying in” instead of adults being too militant and having all the control. We can’t stem the tech tide – nor should we! Kids will find a way to Google. Paraphrasing Joseph Smith, “we teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” (and monitor and pray a whole heck of a lot!)

In 2012, Janell Burley Hoffman wrote the iPhone contract heard round the world for her 13-year-old son. I loved it. Not everyone did. Based on some of the comments, you’d think she was the world’s worst home dictator. In my opinion, Janell is a resilient foot soldier. She’s fighting a good fight.

My take is this: we cannot be too careful. The dangers are real. Our family has not been immune. And it breaks my heart that there are images and words that can never be erased.

As our children grow older, there are more tech users in the home. We now iPads, iPods, and phones (but not iPhones. I refuse.) It’s becoming more common to have all homework assignments, textbooks, and reference materials on-line. As such, our kids are on-line a lot. We’ve all become foot soldiers, trying to find the balance between good, better, and best.

As school — and therefore technology use — begins for real this coming week, we will revisit “the great tech talk” as a family. As part of the talk, we sign a contract. Is a contract really necessary? I believe it’s essential.

Do our children have input? Absolutely! To avoid power struggles, I highly suggest it. Tech power struggles have been hard on my relationship with my children. I become the nag. They can’t stand me. So. We continue to discuss and (mostly) agree. We all know the rules. They help shape the consequences.

It’s working.

Our Tech Contract goes something like this (adapted from Hurley):

Dear Children,

Congratulations! You are in possession of a powerful piece of technology.  Aren’t you the luckiest? With this great privilege comes great responsibility. Your devices have the potential to do great good. They also have the power to cause great harm, not only to yourself but to others.

As a tech user in the Makechnie house, you agree to the following:

1. Technology is used under the supervision of your parent. Before using your device, you must  ask permission.

2. Technology must be used in a public place, like the living room or kitchen. Devices are not to be used in bedrooms, behind closed doors. If you need a quiet place for homework, we will discuss.

3. All apps must be approved.

4. We will always know your passwords and follow you on all social media sites. Learn to love it.

5. We will be able to read  your texts and KIK conversations at any time.

6. Technology is put away at all meal times.

7. When you begin driving you will never ever text or talk while driving. (See A Deadly Wandering!)

8. Never post anything online that could be hurtful or harmful to another human being.

9. Never search for or post anything that you would be embarrassed for your parents or bishop or Heavenly Father to see. While on-line, imagine us standing next to you! No pornography. If someone shows you pornography, FLEE. Come talk to us. It’s destructive. It ruins lives.

10. When you enter the home, put your technology on the black shelf by the front door.

11. At night, after homework is done, turn in your technology to the black shelf or hutch.

12. On Sunday, we have a technology Sabbath. This is so we remember what one another looks like and that the scriptures are actual books. Even God, who was incredibly busy creating the  world and animals and people, rested on the seventh day!

13. When riding in a car with us, ask permission before using your device. When riding in the car with friends or other adults, use devices appropriately. Have conversations. It’s polite. It’s important to learn how to communicate — even when it’s awkward.

14. When using technology, and another person enters the room, close your device and acknowledge the person (it is also polite to stand up in certain situations).

15. When we call or text, answer immediately.

16. Download and listen to music that is uplifting. With any website or song, ask yourself: How does this make me feel?

17. If you break your device  (it will happen) you are responsible for the replacement.

18. If you break one of these rules, your devices will be taken away for a period of time.  They will be returned to you when your parents deem it appropriate.

Remember that these rules have been put in place because we love you. You will make mistakes. We will still love you. We are a forever family. We want you to be happy.

Love, Mom and Dad

 

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labor day weekend: work hard, play hard

Labor Day! A dreamy four-day weekend and the last hurrah before school really begins. But before we play, we must labor. unnamed-19We bought the wood for new garden beds two years ago and these strapping young men finally nailed them together. Yeah, that’s how we roll around here.unnamed-22One must use these corner pieces or your garden beds to fall apart!unnamed-21Tenny was working very hard, too.unnamed-23We were away so much this summer that this beauty was one of the few, the brave, the proud…tomatoes hanging on the plant.unnamed-24These little punkins are somehow growing outside the garden beds in a random garden patch. Who knows how these things happen. It’s like a Jack and the Beanstalk story. We like it!unnamed-26And the squash is doing something. Remember: you can eat these tasty things!

unnamed-20 Do you see our dry grass? We’ve had an unusually dry summer. While boys nailed wood, I cut down all the hostas. This little gem of a girl swept them all up…unnamed-25And dumped them on the garden beds to protect them from weeds and winter.unnamed-27We peeked into the compost. Do you compost? It makes the most magical dirt.

After the work, came the play on Monday: the ocean! Whew!

unnamed-15Paige was buried as a mermaid.unnamedHailey, my adorable niece was twirled around by Ian – just arrived from Alaska!

unnamed-11We kinda like Ian

unnamed-18Beach games!

unnamed-1 unnamed-17Grandma took us down to the water’s edge where the children were given a history lesson on our ancestors and the great sink shipping at isles of shoals. It was fascinating. I’m so grateful for this woman! It reminds me: we need to know and write our stories or they will be lost.

unnamed-4 Ian and Nellie went head to headunnamed-6 unnamed-5 unnamed-8 Cousins!unnamed-10 Boogie boarding – my favorite! It was 90 degrees, making the New Hampshire water bearable.unnamed-9 Rye Beach, NHunnamed-12 Diving into the wavesunnamed-13

unnamed-16And the fab four came out of the sea together…ready to greet another school year. Ready to work hard and play hard.

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The End of Summer and Start of School (woo-wee!)

The night before school required one more trip to the water…unnamed-2 We were a wee bit excited!

unnamed

Woo-hoo! (why are my pictures fuzzy? I must have been jumping, too.)
unnamed-1Mama, the water is cold….! I love how kids never seem to mind those minor details
unnamed-10And just like that, the sun set on summer. We turned toward a new school year, which always requires a new mindset and is always epic in its own way. The Professor and I looked at each: “I wonder what’s going to happen this year.

The next morning the alarm sounded in the children’s bedroom…beep, beep, beep. Horrifying noise.

Paige was most excited about packing her lunch because her mother had bought her a YumBox! The Professor rolled his eyes. “What is this, lunch boxes of the rich and famous?” Hey, I it was reasonably priced ($20 with a coupon,) and a justified purchase as packing a lunch no longer requires non-recyclable plastic bags (and maybe because it was just so super cute!)

unnamed-6 And now I become one of those parents who post pictures of their child’s school lunch. Hey, I get it now – it’s fun!

IMG_1778Paige thinks cutting up little pieces of food is FUN. She practically skips around the kitchen.

Sadly, after I bought one for Brynne, she chickened out: “Mom, I’m in sixth grade! I can’t bring a Yumbox.” Sigh.

IMG_1776Food groups. FUN.

I’m stopping now.

 

unnamed-9The next morning, only two of our kiddies were going to school. We have entered a new era.

unnamed-8I told the boy to stand by his sisters. “Ha ha ha…you have to go to school.” Aren’t brothers the best? Just you wait, Nellie, your time is coming and ninth grade ain’t no walk in the park!unnamed-7

Always my favorite picture…we’re holding this hand TIGHT. It’s the last hand. The sixth grader had already dashed off! But she still gives me kisses.

unnamed-3Meanwhile, the new high schooler cashed his paycheck to buy some preppy clothes. #landsend

unnamed-5And he made his own duct tape keyboard case for his iPad. Do you think he’ll get beat up? (kidding!) Love his creativity. He sure loves me taking his picture.

Happy new school year.

xo.

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The Last of the Great Adventure: Normandy and Paris

This is it – the last “trip of a lifetime” post! Congratulations on making it this far with me; you’re a true pal. With just four days left, this is how we saw France:

After leaving England at 10:45 pm via the English Channel, we arrived in France at 6:30 a.m. Our spirits could only be lifted with a chocolate croissant, which the French do very well. We disembarked The Brittany and embarked on a 30-minute bus ride to Caen. (This took tons of planning and rearranging; trying to figure out how to get to Normandy. Did we do it correctly?)IMG_0947Here we are waiting for our train to Bayoux. As you can see, we look stunningly beautiful after an all-nighter across the English Channel. Yes, definitely one of my better shots.

IMG_0592We boarded the train and headed to Bayoux, a most beautiful part of France. We had a breakfast of ham and cheese quiche; very different than our usual fare.

Stopping at Normandy was definitely a highlight of the whole trip. We debated whether or not to pay for a tour guide, but are very glad we did. Charlie was excellent.

DSC_0996This is Omaha Beach. What a gorgeous part of the world!

DSC_0990Much of this Omaha Beach memorial is just as it was in WWII, with underground and overground bunkers built by the Germans. Just this week we watched Unbroken. Seeing these pictures again reminds me think of all the young men killed, fighting against Hitler and his evil regime.DSC_1007Hitler was building a great wall down the coast. What humanity does to this world is often heartbreaking. “Unfortunately,” Charlie said, “It’s what the human race does.”DSC_1068The American memorial in Normandy is incredibly moving. It was established by the U.S. First Army on June 8, 1944 and was the first American cemetery on European soil in World War II. The cemetery site is 172.5 acres and contains the graves of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.

“On the Walls of the Missing, in a semicircular garden on the east side of the memorial, are inscribed 1,557 names. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.”

IMG_0565The dead were buried as they arrived. Charlie told us the story of the Bedford brothers from Virginia, both of whom died within days of each other at Omaha Beach. The story of their parents receiving the telegrams made us teary. I kept thinking of my grandpa. He and his six brothers all served in WWII. His brother Keith was on this very beach.

The last time I saw my grandpa, I mentioned how remarkable it was that all seven brothers came back alive. He looked off into the Utah sky and said, “Yep, that was really something.” Seeing this place was very emotional for us.

DSC_1045DSC_1049“Some must die so others might live.” – Winston Churchill, prime minister of the UKDSC_1017A lookout for the Germans. The whole story of the D-Day invasion is incredible as the U.S. was the underdog for this particular invasion. The Germans had a huge advantage as you can see from the above picture; the coastline is completely exposed, making a sneak-attack near impossible. How we were successful is miraculous. The sacrifice was high.

Our 9:15-1:15 tour flew by. I definitely recommend it; it’s unforgettable.

DSC_0008While in Bayeux, Cope HAD to see the Bayeux Tapestry, IMG_0943 The tapestry depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy, and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings.

According to Sylvette Lemagnen, conservator of the tapestry, “The Bayeux tapestry is one of the supreme achievements of the Norman Romanesque … Its survival almost intact over nine centuries is little short of miraculous … Its exceptional length, the harmony and freshness of its colors, its exquisite workmanship, and the genius of its guiding spirit combine to make it endlessly fascinating.”

By this time it was late afternoon. We were hot, tired, and exhausted. We caught a 6:30 p.m. train to Paris (a 2-hour journey which was heavenly; we love the train!) From the train station we have to get on the subway. The Paris subway system will prove to be the most difficult. It’s complicated and yes, all the announcements and people speak in French!

This is also the first time we use the airbnb, a site where people list their rentals. We arrive at our apartment at 10p.m. It’s dark and the neighborhood is sketchy. We don’t speak the language. A heat wave is just about to hit the city.

I wearily say, “This is such an adventure.”

“I’m ready for this adventure to be over,” Cope says.

IMG_0672Our apartment, rented to us by Armelle, turns out to be a great place to rest. We sleep until 9 a.m., pose by our French apartment window, make a plan for the day (PSG soccer stadium, the Louvre, and boat tour off the Pont Neuf). We are off to Paris by 11 a.m. DSC_0219_2There were three keys to get into our apartment; this one was our favorite.

IMG_0600Making a plan the night before proved to be very smart. Luckily, we had the internet.DSC_0112_2A boat tour off Pont Neuf (thank you, Dave Flemming!) was a great way to travel down the Seine River. Like the Taimes, you can get off and see the sites you want.

Here’s something I learned while traveling: Play to your strengths, but challenge your weaknesses. For me, this meant not being afraid to try new things, like getting around on the subway in a foreign country, or using euros, or asking questions when I thought it was a stupid question. Being afraid will hold you back; you really have to make an effort to learn. To get the most out of an experience like this, it’s easy to coast and do what sounds easiest, like letting others do all the navigating. We tried to ask our kids a lot of questions like, “How would you get back to the apartment from here?” and “Here are some euros. Go buy us breakfast.”

This was scary! But our richest experiences were often harder ones.

DSC_0103_2DSC_0091_2DSC_0087_2DSC_0153_2Our Paris experience was hard. Our enthusiasm waned as we were tired from days and days of travel and the 104 heat wave that decided to hit the city.DSC_0152_2IMG_0691This was cool. Cope informed us that the Seine was the same river in which Javert jumped to his death. Yes, these are the facts that keep our life interesting.DSC_0083_2The famous “love locks” were removed from the Pont de l’Archeveche because of the great weight they were adding to the bridge. The locks moved to a different bridge. You write your name on the lock and throw the key into the river, locking your love in Paris.

DSC_0077_2We walked and walked the city, admiring the century-old architecture.DSC_0030_2Notre DameDSC_0026_2Never in our life were we so grateful for water. It was SO hot.DSC_0040_2Outside Notre Dame, the flowers bloomed gorgeousDSC_0044_2DSC_0038_2We were particularly fascinated by the gargoyles atop Notre Dame, remembering the story of Quasimoto.DSC_0035_2More Notre Dame. The details!DSC_0058_2When in Paris, may I suggest a crepe?DSC_0206_2With little time remaining, we arrived at the Louvre. I had NO IDEA how gigantic it was. Unfortunately, we had to catch the last subway back to our apartment and did not get a tour of the famed museum. I hope there will someday be another trip to Paris and Mona Lisa.IMG_0649IMG_0655The sun sets above The Seine RiverDSC_0222_2The next day was a tour of the Victor Hugo museum, where Hugo began writing Les Miserables.DSC_0223_2IMG_0683DSC_0224_2IMG_0572Now let us turn our attention to the pastries.DSC_1080DSC_1081DSC_1079IMG_0605IMG_0611PSG stadium. What I most remember is eating the best olive pie pastry of my life. Priorities 🙂IMG_0603On the subway, an accordion player played his tunes – and asked for money, of course.

IMG_0675The Arc de Triomphe de l’ÉtoileIMG_0645During a 30-minute subway delay, we did wall sits for entertainment.IMG_0705By the end, I was holding on to Paige’s backpackIMG_0688Nellie carries his sister home.

Our Paris adventure was short, but memorable. Someday, I’d love to go back. There is so much history, so much of the world; it will take a lifetime to see just a portion of it!

IMG_0723Passports in hand, we headed to the airport.IMG_0717An 8-hour flight brought us back to the United States, where we landed in Phoenix, Arizona for a family reunion!

I’m hitting publish before editing. Please forgive the mistakes…

How great it was to have this adventure. How empowering it is to find your way in a foreign land. How bonding it is for a family to travel together, get lost, consult, and find their way back. Onward to the next life adventure…!

 

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