The Autumn Joy List

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This week we officially entered fall.

After a brutal winter, and a slow start to summer, I can’t believe that we are already entering into frosty nights, crunchy leaves blowing around in the wind, and an earlier sunset.

There is a temptation to desperately want to back peddle, snatching for what’s left of drippy Popsicles by shimmering blue pools, cheeseburgers sizzling on a hot grill, and the convenience of running outside barefoot.

I think, “How is warm weather already on it’s way out? Hasn’t it barely begun? I’m not ready for another long winter!”

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Even though we might strive to slow the turn of the earth, God designed time to stop for no man, relentlessly ticking away and reminding us that we are finite beings and that our presence here is fleeting. Thankfully, this world is not the end! We are bound for timeless eternity!

In the meantime, I’ve had to come to a realization that it’s no good for me to struggle against the changing seasons.. Longing for the past (or the future) steals my joy. It breeds discontent.

So, in an effort to fully embrace the present, I sat down with a pen and jotted down some ways to celebrate cooler days and practice joy in the season, and to remind myself of the really lovely aspects of fall (and even the coming winter).

All too often a season passes me by and I realize that I didn’t slow down to savor it’s special beauty. A list helps keep me intentional about making memories.

We’ve already accomplished a few on the list…and I’ll be posting on instagram with the hashtag #autumnjoylist whenever something gets crossed off.

What are your favorite traditions to find joy in the Autumn season? autumn2

7 ways to stay sane during hard days…

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I will admit that I have been survival mode for the last month or so, just trying to make it to the end of the day, week to week.

Circumstances lately have been stretching me to my limit, and showing me the depth of my sin. You think you are a patient person, but then you have a kid and life gets busy and messy and complicated and you realize that dying to self is a hard and ugly process in which you have barely scratched the surface.

Suddenly things like another handful of chewed up and spit out food, yet another spill (hello tub of yeast spilled all over the carpet), and one more disaster (dishwasher breaking, toy car in toilet plumbing, a light bulb that a 19 month old decides would be a good snack), or your husband buying chips instead of vegetables make you want to lose it.

And then your husband lets you go out alone, and you want to cry when you realize that the coffee house wifi isn’t connecting properly and you are wasting precious time you could be menu planning. Can’t anything go smoothly anymore?

Just being honest. It’s not pretty.

I don’t really have an answer to all this. I’m swimming in over my head here, but I know it’s the place I’m supposed to be.

God is facing me with my need for him in these relentless opportunities for sanctification, and although a large part of me wants nothing to do with being sanctified because it is just…so…hard…I know the truth is that this is best for my soul.

My heavenly Father has ordained a needy, sinful toddler, a messy house, and an imperfect husband to reveal my heart, help me see myself in His eyes, and shape me into a reflection of my Savior.

I can either turn away from this reality and harden my heart and let my frustration set destructive patterns, or I can admit my weakness, my sin, and turn from dependence on my own strength and embrace the power of Christ to deal with these challenges.

There is a whole lot of ways I could end this ramblings of my thoughts.

It isn’t the most spiritual application, but practically speaking, I’m learning to build strategic, healthy habits for self-care that help me in the discouraging days.

7 ways to stay sane in during hard days…

  • Stay connected to God. We need three meals a day, and our spiritual need for God’s word is no different than our need for physical energy. Am I feasting on his truth each day? Am I coming before Him in prayer to be replenished? Realistically, this may most often mean “snacking” on a Bible verse read on my iphone or a “Help me, Lord” prayer. Taking time for the Bread of Life is essential, in any way possible, both in long, lingering meals or in quick bites. Hide his word in your heart, steal moments with your Bible instead of Facebook, get a chalkboard and write Scripture to display where you see it often, or listen to audio sermons or worship music while you do chores. Practice walking in His presence. Through this, the Holy Spirit will equip and change you.
  • Set a positive atmosphere. Keeping toys picked up or having calming candles lit is probably not going to happen with a toddler. One thing that adds a definite mood to a home though is music. Carefully chosen, it can set an atmosphere of cheerfulness, or fun, or energy, or calm, or worship, among many other moods.
  • Get out of the house. One of the hardest things right now for me is that without a car while Derek is at work, Jude and I are stuck at home getting on each other’s nerves in a small space. It’s hard to get rid of all his excess energy that gets funneled into mess-making. I wish I could pack him up on a hard day and take a trip to the park, but right now the best I can do is a walk to the mailbox, or a stroller ride around our apartment complex. It is really hard to get out the door, but always worth it. A change of scenery, a breath of fresh air, and a little quiet walk (a good time for prayer) is always one of the best things for my lifting my spirits.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished. Whenever I neglect eating or drinking, I go straight to “hangry” mode, lose all my energy and just want to binge watch Netflix TV shows and be irritated and crabby. Passing on the sugary caffeinated drink and the bag of munchies is important. They will hurt more than they will help, leaving your body still starving for true nourishment. As much as you can, choose real, clean foods that are truly energy-giving, mineral and vitamin rich. Your body will thank you for picking the hard-boiled egg over the oreos and you will be a better mom for it. (And if you do indulge occasionally, or decide to order pizza for dinner, definitely skip the guilt/anxiety and realize that that there is grace and that our health is a journey, not a destination.)
  • Take time for yourself. This may sound unrealistic. It is personally really hard for me. But do what you can… it may literally be 10 minutes and not nearly enough, but it is better than nothing. Sometimes what is going to help your attitude the most is using it to tackle that pile of laundry, but really consider using those moments to just be quiet and rest. Have a cup of tea…read a couple pages of a novel…knit a few rows of a scarf…lift weights…take a bath. Whatever helps you unwind.  We don’t always need to be productive. God wired us to need rest. We have to take care of ourselves—it isn’t selfish if the purpose is to refresh us in order to keep us going in service to others. But don’t make “me-time” an idol…use it as a tool. And don’t trade distraction for refreshment. Use those precious minutes intentionally.
  • Practice thankfulness. When you bite your tongue from spewing out impatience at your child’s neediness, try to instead thank God for blessing you with that little person. Thank him for the dirty dishes that mean your bellies are full. Thank him for a family that makes piles of laundry Thank him for another day, and moment by moment forgiveness for broken people and fresh starts in Christ. Thank him for the light from the setting sun streaming through the finger-printed windows. Hunt down those little, overlooked blessings and change your perspective by looking upwards to the Giver of good gifts.
  • Just do the next thing. You may never feel like you will get ahead of the curve, go to bed with a clean house, or cross off that last item on your to-do list. Just take a deep breath and keep on going, taking one moment at a time. I’m told that this too shall pass. All we can do is be faithful in the present. Try to stay focused, prayerful, and diligent. It’s tempting to throw up our hands and say, “Why try? This is a lost cause!” and spend the day on the couch. But I’ve found that this only breeds a cycle of guilt, discontent, and frustration. I end up feeling much better when I just roll up my sleeves and keep chipping away faithfully at the task God has called me to.

 

Linking up at Capture Your Journey

5 podcasts to help you get that housework done


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Housework can be pretty tedious. Thankfully, I’ve found a solution that help me get it done when I am dragging my feet–and that is podcasts. Keeping my mind busy while doing mundane work has been great! I can multitask and soon that giant pile of dishes is tackled, or the three loads of laundry are folded and put away.

Here’s a short list of some of the episodes that I’ve enjoyed lately.

Rachel & Friends – This podcast is a gem. Rachel interviews some of her in real life friends on topics relating to Christian living. She doesn’t skim the surface but asks thoughtful questions that probe to the heart of issues and ultimately relates everything to the gospel. Each episode will leave you with lots to meditate on. Her latest episode on friendships hit me with major conviction! Give it a listen.

The Art of Simple -This podcast is an essential to any podcast list. Tsh is a great host and the episodes are fun and engaging to listen to. She chats with friends about books, personality tests, living simply, traveling the world, and a whole bunch of good stuff. Check it out.

God Centered Mom Podcast – Heather comes alongside moms to encourage then and keep them grounded in the key piece to mothering–being God centered. She covers all different kinds of topics, like what to watch on date night, embracing the family, and stories of redemption.

Elise Gets Crafty – I’ve always liked Elise’s blog and am excited about her new (ish) podcast! She talks about all things crafty, personal wellness, and running your own business with various guests.

Raising Boys – This isn’t necessarily a podcast, as it is a recorded talk. Sally Clarkson has seasoned wisdom for moms, especially of boys, and I was really blessed by her conversation with Brooke Mcglothlin, especially in regards to being reminded of the importance and power of prayer in our children’s lives.

Do you listen to podcasts? Which ones have you enjoyed lately?

 

 

 

August In Our Home

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Hello again! I hope your “last” month of summer was great!

Savoring Summertime

The turn from summer to fall is my favorite time of year without a doubt. I love still having the long days, the summer produce, and the warm afternoons with cool mornings and hints of a crisp smell to the air. We have been trying to soak in the wane of summer and savor the season.

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We’ve done this by drinking smoothies, buying tomatoes weekly at the farmers market (is there anything better than a good summertime BLT sandwich!?), eating probably too many chocolate dipped ice cream cones, and taking little family dates to enjoy the outdoors.

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Jude went to the beach the first time and had a blast. With the shallow water to splash around in, and sand and rocks to play with, it was love at first sight. Days at the lake was a huge part of my childhood, something we did regularly on my dad’s days off, and it was so fun to make the same memories with Jude. I’m sad that a lot of beaches are closing this weekend. I am never ready for pools and beaches to close after Labor Day, and already looking forward to doing more of this next summer.

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My parents treated Jude and I to a fun afternoon at the county fair! Jude was giddy to see all the animals, and had absolutely no fear of the horses, goats, chicken, pigs and more. If he could have gotten in the pens right with them, he would have! We ate sausages and French fries and walked around looking at all the 4-H animals. Jude even got to do the pony ride and took it so seriously.

We walked in two parades this month! Jude did pretty well, as long as we kept the stroller moving! The first one with the homeschool co-op we met in at Lapeer Days, and the second with our church in our village festival. Our church did a weekend long outreach with free snow cones and a booth with literature and conversation with passersby.

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Busy with Birthday Celebrations

August is a month of birthday after birthday for us! My brother Trevor, my grandpa Kelly, my mother-in-law, Derek’s grandpa Browning, my grandma Kelly, and Derek (and plenty of cousins and a few uncles). Whew! Lots of fun celebrations and desserts. For my grandma’s birthday we made her favorite treat, white cake with lemon curd filling, boiling icing and shredded coconut. Derek’s favorite is banana pudding and I made this recipe for his birthday. Jude was an eager helper, especially in using the beater!

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In Our Home

This month has been good but difficult. Isn’t that just how life is? Sweet times of rest and fun mixed in with hard work and challenges. I’ve felt like I’ve just been treading water a lot, especially in terms of housework. It is a real struggle for me not to be anxious about the future and all the endless things to get done and places to be. It’s been good though, to have opportunity to need to depend on Christ for peace in my messy, chaotic days. My survival motto has been “Just Do the Next Thing.” I can’t possibly do everything at once or even in one day so I am just learning to focus on the task at hand, be faithful one task at a time, instead of spinning my wheels frantically and worrying about the next thing or the thing after that.

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On My Nightstand

I thought I’d mention the books I’ve been reading in these monthly blog updates, in part to keep me motivated to continue slow but steady progress in the reading habit.

Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin. I’ve been listening to this audio book (read by Joel himself–a real treat!). His passion on the topic of wise stewardship of our resources and responsible food production is overflowing and his expertise on the subject is evident. His writing style is engaging and his vocabulary impressive. Honestly, I think it is a must read for anyone to become educated on historical normalcy in these subjects. Our culture has become so disconnected with this common sense knowledge. I’ve learned a lot through this book. Read it! Better yet–listen to it!

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. Gender roles have always been an area of interest to me. I’ve given it some thought in the past, but want to continue a personal study because so many issues in our culture stem from this hot topic. Where has the church abused or confused with legalistic man-made traditions? Where has the world gone astray from God’s view on men and women? I picked up this book of essays to learn more about this, and although I am only a couple chapters in, it has been really informative and I look forward to learning more.

Your Real Food Journey by Trina Holden. I won’t say too much about this book because a full review is coming soon! But suffice to say, it was an awesome and very timely read for me on the subject of nutrition and our journey to better health!

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Links to Browse…

We Are Still the Easter People – A great post in light of the heavy events of this  month.

Courtship Tales – Courtship has gotten a lot of discussion lately on social media. This is a great defense of the freedom of biblical principles in narrative form.

Grace for Today – “Grace is not a relief of God’s expectations for your holiness, but the fulfillment of them in Christ.”

A Letter to My Pre Mom self – Some real talk on the changes of motherhood in your life, and it’s sweetness.

Why We Must Be Theology Loving Christians – Our theology defines how we live. It’s vital to the Christian to live according to who God is and what He says about the world.

Your Real Food Journey – Leaving anxiety behind in our pursuit of healthy stewardship of our bodies.

 

 

 

Linking up at Capture Your Journey 

 

 

 

 

decorating a home bit by bit

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Yesterday morning as I was pulling up the quilt over our bed, a well worn thought popped into my mind.

“New sheets would be so nice. I would love to have all our pillows match, paint our walls a soft blue, find an antique headboard and hang some wedding photos!”

Anyone would like to live in an attractive environment, but having a well decorated home has always been especially important to me. Since I was a little girl, I remember arranging things to be just so, and desiring to create an atmosphere that celebrates everyday life, beauty, and creativity.

This eye for beauty can be a gift, and also a burden. It’s easy to become discontent when reality is a long way from the final vision. 

My mom's house is a great example of a work in progress. She's always done the best she could with what she had. The table is a garage sale find over 15 years ago. For a long time there was no curtains, and the light fixture was the brass one that came with the house. She just repainted the dining room and hung the frames she'd collected a year or so ago and filled them with pictures of our family.

My mom’s house is a great example of a work in progress. She’s always done the best she could with what she had to make things welcoming and tasteful. The table is a garage sale find over 15 years ago.  The chairs come from a combination of different table sets they’ve owned. For a long time there was no curtains, and the light fixture was the brass one that came with the house. She just repainted the dining room and hung the frames she’d collected a year or so ago and filled them with pictures of our family.

I enjoy a good before and after decorating show or blog post like anyone else. It’s fun to see the big reveal and what amazing changes were made! But I wonder if this feeds an unrealistic expectation for the average homemaker? 

Most times, decorating a home doesn’t happen in a one weekend project frenzy or shopping spree. It certainly doesn’t happen in the time it takes to write a blog post.

Most times, it is a slow progress full of sometimes significant but often small changes. Building a collection takes time, swapping out the hand-me down lamp for an updated style.

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Four years into decorating my own home, I’m learning to be content with the process. Not everything needs to be done at once. 

I’m trying to practice waiting in patience, learning to be resourceful, and above all being thankful.

Bit by bit we will build a meaningful home that suits our personalities more and satisfies my thirst for beauty. One nail hole at a time, one painted wall, one throw pillow sewn.

And I think the end result will be all the more beautiful because of the story it tells. 

 

 


Loving the Little Years: a book review & using words to shape our attitude

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A book called Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches as been on my to-read list for a while and I thought there would be no better time to finally pick up a copy from my library. As Jude is becoming a toddler, our parenting is entering a whole new territory. We are moving past the keep-this-baby-fed-and-happy stage to raising a little individual who needs discipline and instruction.

Rachel Jankovic’s writing is friendly and approachable. She is in the thick of raising children of her own and isn’t just taking a walk down a romantic memory lane. She has no qualms about telling it like it is, but with a cheerful “you can do this in God’s strength!” attitude.

Each chapter is only a couple pages long, and they are all on various topics from dealing with bickering children to the place that “me time” has in our lives. They are easy reads for the busy mama, but there is depth to her thoughts that leaves you with a lot to chew on.

In one chapter, she encourages you to use story-telling to your advantage. “Setting behaviors into stories is a great way to communicate with your little people. Got a boy hitting a sister? Tell him about a brave knight who went out to fight the dragon but started hitting the princess instead. Give children a chance to get outside themselves and see their behavior as it plays out in a story. It often turns out that they know exactly the right thing to do.”

Later, she uses the same tactic on us moms, telling the story of two children who see a daunting task ahead—the chore of cleaning a dirty room. The first child picks up one or two things, but then sits down and cries about the hardness of the task. The second one takes a deep breath, puts away one thing at a time, and eventually sees faithful progress.

She brings the point home by asking, “Do you see yourself in that? Do you like to dwell in discouragement? Do you spend time not working but tallying the work that you think is too much for you?”

Rachel goes on to say that she became resolved not to let the difficulty of life define her attitude, and committed to give up her habitual use of the word “overwhelmed.” She is quick to clarify that it does not mean she is not often in over her head! But she recognized that her use of language directed her heart, and she wanted to train herself to rise to the work God had called her to with a cheerful heart.

This was a great challenge to me, since that word has been a frequent choice in my conversation, especially since becoming a mom (just ask Derek).

There have been many mornings when I wake up to crumpled laundry tossed on the couch, and dirty dishes spilling over onto the kitchen table, with a needy baby who wants my undivided attention, and just want to crawl back into bed. It’s hard when your to-do list is three pages long and you are starting the day already in the hole (not to mention needing a shower).

I don’t think there is anything wrong with honesty or admitting that we are feeling weak and struggling. However, Rachel’s story really prompted me to think before I speak to myself (or others), and to choose the better path in preaching to my heart.

I need constant reminders that God promises to sustain me in stressful situations, and that He will bless my faithful efforts to move forward. This means carefully choosing which words focus my heart on those truths instead of dwelling in discouragement. 

This was just one of the lessons I’ve been mulling over since reading this book. I think it will eventually find a permanent place on our bookshelf so that I can read it again sometime. It is definitely worth adding to your collection, or would be a great gift for any mama you know who needs a good dose of encouragement!

What about you? Have you thought about the effect your choice of words have on your attitude when you are faced with challenging circumstances? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

July in Our Home

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Monthly Updates

I really enjoyed writing the “Weekly Miscellany” posts. Blogging is the easiest way for me to record our memories at this point, and it makes it easy for those who want to keep updated with what’s going on in our lives! But it actually took a good bit of effort to produce it once a week, and once I missed a week, it was hard to get back on the horse. When I get a spare moment to blog, I’d like to write about more than just our family as well, and weekly updates take a good chunk of that time.

So instead I will be writing a “miscellany” post at the end (or beginning, ahem) of each month to recap our happenings, overload you with iphone pictures, and blabber about what Jude’s been doing lately. I may even round up what’s been going on around the blog (it’s obviously been very quiet the last couple months) and a few links to read. I don’t have much prepared this month, though, as it only dawned on me the last couple days that I could do a monthly feature and keep the updates hopefully regular.

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Independence Day

Derek had to work the holiday, so our plans weren’t big this year. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law to`ok Jude and I out thrift shopping and then we went over to their house to grill dinner. Derek joined us in the evening, and we just hung out and chatted and played games. Sadly, we didn’t even see any fireworks this year, so Jude has yet to have that traditional American experience.

IMG_1925Lots of Family Get-togethers!

This has been the month of seeing family!

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Derek’s extended family on his paternal grandmother’s side is very close and meets in July for the annual Brady Reunion. This year was the 35th (I think?) reunion! Everyone drives from all over the country to take over a hotel in a central location for a few days. We ate lots of puppy chow, went mini-golfing, had a junk auction with fake money, and honored our heritage (this year’s theme). It’s such a privilege to be part of such a great, loving, massive, loud, fun, godly family.

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My mom’s parents (we call them Pake and Beppe) and siblings and their families all drove to meet at a park one Saturday. We had a picnic and just caught up–it had been two years since I’d seen some of them! Jude met aunts and uncles and cousins for the first time.

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The week afterwards, my Pake and Beppe came into town to visit. At first, we had some terrible storms Sunday night that took out my parent’s power, so everyone came over to our apartment last minute and had dinner together. Later, it came back on and we went and visited my parent’s home for a meal of chicken satay, peanut sauce and fries. The flavors of this meal are from my mom’s childhood growing up as a missionary kid on Bonaire, a Dutch Caribbean island.

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Jude at 17 months

Jude has fast leaving babyhood behind for being a toddler. He’s running full speed everywhere, and chattering up a storm. I don’t understand much he says, yet, but he sure has lots to say! A few decipherable words are “mama, doggie, thank you, hi, bye, no, night-night.” He’s shown a lot more interested in books and likes to be read to or flip through them on his own.

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He’s super friendly to anyone, so this introverted mama has had many conversations with random strangers after Jude waves at them and says hello. We were at the farmers market last weekend and he was twisting around in his stroller to wave at people and launch into a string of jibberish. Before I could stop him, he even reached over to pat a lady on the behind who was waiting in line ahead of us to ask a few very intense sounding questions. He also waves goodbye for everything, even when I go in the bathroom and shut the door.

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He’s also become really interested in guns. His uncles and cousins have let him play with their nerf guns and he loves it. We don’t have any toy guns at home for him to play with, but he is learning to be resourceful! He picked out a tiger-shaped puzzle piece to use as a gun, and also a letter “F” fridge magnet and will run around the house yelling, “Ba, Ba!” (bang, bang)

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Jude also jumps at any chance to be outside. His favorite thing to do is go on walks, which we’ve been trying to do every day. Last week he brought me my shoes and went and sat in the stroller to say, “Okay, enough waiting, mom, it’s time to go on a stroller ride!”

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Enjoying Summertime

Summer is half over, and it feels like I’m just starting to enjoy it! We’ve been trying to visit the park, go on walks, frequent the Farmer’s Market across the street, eat fresh produce, and have the windows open whenever possible. I’m determined to soak up every bit of sunshine left and am in no hurry for colder weather.

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On the Blog

The only post from July was Ten on Ten, a monthly photography challenge.

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A Few Links

A beautiful desktop calendar for August

I’ve been enjoying reading through some of the archives of this common-sense, wisdom from experience blog on the ins and outs of homemaking. It is like sitting down with an older woman for a chat on so many practical and helpful ideas on how to run a home efficiently. Check out the category The Reasonably Clean House.

Jim Weiss from Greathall Productions has lots of free audio to listen to on Spotify!

That’s all I have time for today—since we are having dinner guests tonight I think a shower and vacuuming the crushed cheerios off the couch are in order.

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Linking up at Joydare Capture Your Journey