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Back to School.

Three words that can cause joy for parents and nervousness, excitement and fear in children…and me. All of those emotions and more for me.

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After being out of school for (cough)16(cough) years, I am going back. Or going -period-, I guess, since I’ve never been to college.
I’m sure some of you are shaking your head in puzzlement. I have kids! A family! Also I can obviously put words together to make semi coherent sentences, right? So why school? Why now?

Well…honestly, because my children are getting older, definitely on the road to being trusted enough to be left at home alone for periods of time. When I was pregnant with my first daughter and working at a low paying but fun for a 20 year old clerk’s job, we agreed that the cost of childcare matched up against my meager paycheck just wasn’t worth it. Why hand over my entire pay check to a stranger that gets to spend all day with my child, when I could do the same thing and be able to really be there for her growing up? When my second daughter came along a little over a year later, it was a sealed deal. No job on my pay grade was worth it. It was a choice that we made, but one I have never regretted.
Except maybe on those few days when all my children were all small, and I was sick, and suffering from a combination of fever induced delirium, cabin fever and ‘hey mommy, look what I just drew on your freshly painted wall with marker?’

Have you ever seen Overboard? That movie with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell? There’s a scene where her husband comes home and she’s sitting in a chair, after a hard, crazy day with her rambunctious children (boys, naturally) and she’s staring off into space making nonsense noises. This is what I have most often referred to in those days. Heck, I felt that was last week. 😛

(Watch this: It’s hilarious.)

Anyway, my husband just recently went back to college, to train for a job that didn’t include plunging stranger’s toilets. He is absolutely enchanted with college and the whole process and so proud of himself for finishing and finishing well, he really inspired me to want to do the same. Just don’t tell him that, ok? Then he’ll get a big head, and know that I actually listen to what he says…and I’ve spent a really long time disabusing him of that notion. But really, he worked full time, went to school full time and came out of it with a good degree, and honestly a better attitude about everything. So it only took a little gentle prodding for me to fill out the paperwork and do the things necessary to begin.
And now, with only a few days left before the start of the semester, I can share with you that I am about 80% scared out of my mind, 15% sure I’m going to bomb this whole thing like I did my entrance exams for Math (HA! a 19! I didn’t even think they grade that low! Should have paid more attention to middle school math) and maybe the last 5% can be reserved for being excited. Not about school, maybe, but more about learning a new thing. I’ve always been self-taught; if I wanted to learn something I picked up a book or researched it until I was confident. Or, if I started and needed to set it aside for a while, I did. Now…now it will be different. There will be instructors and tests and (Good Lord!) group projects.

And time management! Can I even do that?

I think I can. With the part of my brain not paralyzed by fear, I know that my confidence will grow as these first semesters progress. My friends and loved ones are totally stoked for me to have this opportunity. I am totally stoked to have their support and my own personal cheering squad. Even my kids are excited by the prospect of mom going to school, though I think that excitement will wear off after about the second week. We’ve had many a discussion about how I will need them to pitch in more around the house, how when you see a stray sock on the floor or a displaced toy, you should pick it up, rather than step over it. And they have all nodded their heads with angelic faces. And all the while I knew they were going to turn around, step over that sock or that matchbox car and go on about their business in blissful oblivion.

I may survive two years of school. I still have doubts about whether or not my house will be standing at the end of it.

Sig

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I do not like to cook.

I know, I know. It’s a shocker. I LOVE to eat, but the cooking part is not so much fun.

That being said, I have found a few recipes lately that I love enough to share. This, too, is a shocker! What probably won’t surprise you, though, is that they’re easy, fast and delicious!

The first recipe is one I found on Pinterest. I started a board there called Nailed It! for the recipes and patterns that I have actually used, loved and are willing to do again. So, I found this recipe, but the link was kind of blah, so I went in search of a better link and a good clear recipe. I found it with Kim over at Makin’ it Mo’ Betta . You can head over there for her recipe, trust me, it is worth your time! My family of picky eaters gobbled this one up!

Bubble Up Pizza

bubble up pizza 2

 

The next recipe is one that I got from a family friend during a pool party. She made this Spicy Crackers and we ate until our mouths were on fire! But they were sooo good! Every other month or so I get a craving for these crackers and I end up eating probably the entire thing by myself.

 

spicy crackers

 

Spicy Crackers

 

1 bx saltines (or oyster crackers)

 

1 pck of Hidden Valley Ranch Seasoning Mix (2tbs if you have the giant container)

 

1 tbs garlic powder

 

1 tbs red pepper flakes

 

1 Cup vegetable oil (or light tasting olive oil)

 

Put the crackers in a sealable container, like Tupperware or whatever.

 

Mix together your oil and other ingredients. Add more pepper flakes if you’re feeling particularly spicy that day. Pour the mixture over the crackers and close up your Tupperware. Shake and turn your container, making sure to coat the crackers as thoroughly as possible. Repeat the shaking and turning every 15 minutes or so for two hours.

Enjoy!

 

The third recipe was found –somewhere- (internet, food magazine, I have no idea anymore) and since then my aunt has made it often for potlucks and birthday dinners. My picky eaters don’t usually like red pasta sauce but they do love ravioli so…Lazy Day Lasagna has become a staple. I have a family of 7, and we always have leftovers.

 

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Lazy Day Lasagna

(feeds 10, at least)

Ingredients:

2 packages cheese ravioli

2 jars pasta sauce

1 package frozen spinach

1 package mozzarella cheese

Spray oil

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350°. Microwave the spinach and wring out the excess water. Spray two glass casserole dishes with the Pam. Spread a little sauce on the bottom of each dish to keep the ravioli from sticking. Begin layering each pan with the following:

A layer of frozen ravioli (no, you don’t have to cook them before hand)

A layer of spinach

A layer of sauce

A layer of cheese

Repeat until the dishes are full. End with a layer of sauce. Top with extra cheese. Throw in oven for 25-35 minutes. When the sauce is bubbly and the ravioli’s are cooked through, it’s ready!

 

There you have it folks! Two meals and a snack, I hope you enjoy!

Please post comments if you have made these before or make them now! I’d love to know how you liked them!

Sig

 

 

In the way that most preteens do, my daughter decided to wait until the very last moment to inform me that she had to have something for science on Monday that:
1. Had to fit into a brown paper bag bag the size of a lunchbox, and
2. Could be experimented upon.

The rules and regulations for said experimentation were dodged around and avoided, and then I learned it was because no matter what her teacher had suggested, she had decided she only wanted to experiment on those grow your own dinosaur tablet thingies. You know…the things that look like medicine and you put them into water and watch them burst out, roaring mightily! (or at least, they did in my imagination…)
So one trip to the Dollar Store later, we had dinosaur tablets and nothing to do with them. We decided she could try and see how they developed in water, salt water and….hey! How about slime?!

Oh. My. God. Do you have any idea how many recipes on the Internet are for Nickelodeon type slime?? Do you know how many of them involve Borax, Clear glue, liquid latex or anything else not easily found under your kitchen sink on a Sunday afternoon? Finally, when I was in the middle of reaching for the wine bottle in desperation, we came across one that stated it was borax free and perfectly safe! And so…a blogpost was born.

Ask.com‘s version of Borax free, Nickelodeon Slime.
(btw…when I think of slime…I thought of THIS. This,however, is not what my daughter wanted. We will definitely be making that though, on a very in the near future time frame. Cause that stuff is rad.)
Anyway, The ingredients are:
2 cups water
4 cup cornstarch
Food coloring of choice.

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The first thing I learned about making slime was this: my daughter can -not- scoop cornstarch! She had white powder substance -everywhere!- But that was ok…what experiments are neat and orderly?

Cornstarch, cornstarch everywhere!

Cornstarch, cornstarch everywhere!

We warmed the water on the stovetop, slowly adding in  cups of cornstarch. I stirred, she poured, and we both waited. I’m not sure what exactly we thought was going to happen, but we were a little dissapointed when all that we could see was white water.

I thought it was an excellent idea to use the strainer to prevent lumpy slime.

I thought it was an excellent idea to use the strainer to prevent lumpy slime.

So, we deviated from the plan. We added in a cup of flour, because surely 4 cups of cornstach was a lot?
We turned down the heat on the stove because that’s what the instructions said to do. It didn’t make sense to me, since every time I’ve used cornstarch in gravy you’re supposed to wait til it boils but…who am I to judge? I’m certainly not the expert in slime development!

Then we stirred. And stirred. And it just stayed…..blah. Milky. Weak!
So we added another cup of flour. And another cup of cornstarch. And we stirred.

Still milky water!

Still milky water!

I think it was about at this time that my daughter looked at me and said, ” Are you sure you didn’t just make this up?”
It was also at this point that I said to myself, ” The Internet lies!!!”
All in all, it wasn’t too bad. It came to a consistency very much like gravy, so we decided it into two bowls and added food coloring.

No, it wasn't Christmas time slime...just the food coloring we had the most!

No, it wasn’t Christmas time slime…just the food coloring we had the most!

My eldest daughter, by the way, despises the color pink, and of course insisted that I have no idea what I’m talking about and used an entire container of red food coloring proving to us both that I was right and no amount of red food coloring is going to make white goo red. Instead it just becomes more vibrantly pink!

red plus red plus red still equals pink.

red plus red plus red still equals pink.

She was not amused.
But I was!
A few hours later we took the slime out of the fridge and stirred. It seems the longer its cold, the firmer it gets. Nice to know!

Just...ew.

Just…ew.

Oh, and the science project? Success, though we inadvertently also learned that it goes bad after a week, fridge or no.
And when it goes bad, it smells like moldy death.

Sig

Hello, Readers! It has been quite some time since we’ve touched base with you! Things over here have been crazy and busy and we are so SO sorry to have neglected you! And so, as an apology, please enjoy reading about the mess I got myself into over the summer!

At the beginning of summer I made a post about all of the crafts I was super excited to try during the summer. With it being January and all and the kids back in school I can successfully report that we have tried none of them. Yes…you read that correctly, none of my Top Ten Crafts were done this summer! Looking back, I think perhaps that list was a bit overzealous, considering the amount of other stuff we had going on this year. Visits and pool time and babysitting, oh my! We did however, get some things started.
First, in preparation for our summertime Grammy visit, I saw something I thought might be neat (probably on Pinterest) and immediately decided that was a fantastic craft to accomplish while my niece was here. I bought wooden letters for each of the kids first initials and some paint. I figured they could each decorate their letter in their own style, with a variety of decorations to do so with. Well….then I actually took stock of my dwindling craft box. I planned to stop at the craft store(s) before they got here…and then I didn’t. So I planned to go to the craft store while they were here, and let the kids pick out what they wanted to decorate with. Well…that didn’t happen either. Before I knew it, it was the last week my niece and mother and law would be here and was still hadn’t done our craft!
On top of that, my niece had called me before they left, challenging me to help her create a jewelry holder, like those fancy metal dress forms. Challenge accepted, little girlie. We brainstormed, came up with a fantastic idea for a tree shaped hanger (more on that in a minute) and I told her I’d pick up molding clay.

Which…I didn’t…because well, it involved a trip to the craft store.
So there we were, craftless and sad. After a trip to the zoo, I had my husband stop at the craft store and I grabbed some shinies for the letters and the required clay for the jewelry box. I really wanted this big brick of clay from Mexico, but the entire package was written in Spanish and I only know the swear words so…I went with something a little smaller but whose directions were plainly in English. Then a day (or maye two) later we started on the letters. The paint jobs were varied, the painters all chose something totally their own, and I got to stand back, take pictures and not get painted on. Then we agreed that the letters should really have a day to dry, in case we needed a second coat.

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(as an aside, I really wish I would have bought some kind of sealer or primer or both, because the paint dried way lighter than it showed wet and it was matte…lame!)
Then my niece came down with a cold. And we went out. And we went to urgent care (for the cold). And then we went out again. And sooner or later ( or, you know, two days before they were leaving) we realized we had to start the jewelry holder! So we put aside the letters to be completed during Thanksgiving break and took out all the goodies for the jewelry container.

This was so rad! I really wish we had started it earlier and also that I had made one for myself because it was way too much fun!
First we took a wire hanger and cut it into various lengths. Then we took a pair of pliers and twisted them together, Ina vague tree shaped form.

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Once we had the limbs going in the direction she wanted and tied them together with tape, we had a pause, because what on earth were we going to use to hold it up?

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Enter my husband, who has a crazy love for molding things with liquid plastic and very little opportunities. He said, “Hey, why don’t I just mold the base?” And so, he was in charge of that.
Except not really, because of course I didn’t like his tentative plan for using a bowl and had to stick my nose into it.

His job, not…you know, the mold…because who wants a mold of their nose?
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Eventually there was a fine metal tree imbedded in an equally fine plastic bowl…and it was 11 o’clock at night. So we had my niece put it away for the night…and in an incredible crafting fail, ran out of time to finish. I ended up sending the molding clay home with her, with instructions for her to send me pictures when she finished it.

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I am a horrible aunt, and Martha Stewart would be ashamed!

Things I learned from this:
1. I am totally not Martha Stewart.
1A. My niece is ok with this.
2. My crafting eyes are bigger than my crafting stomach.
3. I need to learn the difference between acrylic, tempra, water color, oil and water based paints. It would take the guesswork out of life but leave me less likely to make up cuss words when painting anything.

Sig

Recently, I came to a dismaying realization: my cabinets were gross!

We are currently living in a large household with 3 generations…one of which likes to put their dirty kid fingers all over the kitchen cabinets! After coming to the aforementioned realization, I tried to clean them with dish soap and water….but they laughed at me.

So…next was the magic eraser. They called Mr.Clean a sissy girl.

I realized I was going to have to bust out the big guns…so I took to the Internet. I needed a good, strong cleaner that wouldn’t poison my dogs, my kids or my manicure (yeah,right). Something that would be ok to use on painted wood cabinets, since we all know I was not going to repaint them just to get them clean! Though in retrospect, that might have been easier…

Several websites suggested the use of equal parts white vinegar and hot water. Two suggested adding Dawn dish soap to further the grease cutting contents. So, I gathered up my vinegar and soap and reached under the counter for my cleaning bucket…and there was a huge bottle of animal friendly, orange oil containing cleaner my aunt had bought some time ago!

Instantly, I was sucked into indecision land. Should I use the cleaner? Try the Internet suggested method? Put them together to see if they’ll cause a nuclear reaction, thereby eliminating my need to clean the cabinets?

Nah….but what about a Clean Off?!

In THIS corner: The Internet Method!
2cups white vinegar
1cup hot water
A healthy splash of dish soap

And in the OTHER corner: Stuff I found under the kitchen sink!


It said for cleaning counters to use 1 part soap to 10 parts warm water. I enjoy both burning the skin off my hands and ignoring directions, so I used more like equal parts cleaner and water and turned up the temperature from warm to ‘Omg what is wrong with me?!’

Then, I gathered up a cleaning rag and a sponge with an abrasive side and got down to it.
Literally.
My first cabinet was at ground level.

I blame that bit of ew on the molasses jar…that stuff gets everywhere!

First I used the cleaner mixture. Mostly because it’s the second most touched cabinet in the house and wasn’t so sure plain old vinegar was going to cut it. There were these weird water streaks on the cabinet, but since I was making kind of a bubbly mess, I didn’t mind. I just figured it was because I was dripping water down the cabinet. I used the cleaning rag to wipe the cabinets, figuring it would give the best idea of just how good the cleaner was working. After all, if I didn’t have to move on to the blow torch method it must be pretty good right?

It worked pretty well. Took all the accumulated dirt off the cabinet and left it with a nice shine even after I wiped them down with a wet rag to make sure there was no residual cleaner left on them for the dogs to lick.

Now I had a dilemma. Go on with the cleaner or give the vinegar a try? Mostly because the children had sensed that mommy was in crazy cleaning mood and had wisely vacated the area, I chose to go on with the experiment. So I chose a cabinet of equal grubbiness and applied the vinegar mixture.

Don’t judge. Apparently Clean the Dishes is code for Slop Liquid Food All Over the Place.

Instantly, I could tell the difference. Beside the fact that it splashed into my eye about 42 times, it dripped off it the cabinet without actually cleaning anything. I put aside the rag and picked up the sponge and even then, it seemed like I was mostly wiping them down not actually doing any heavy cleaning. When it dried, I was even more disappointed because it left a Matte finish, and that was not very flattering to my kitchen.

So…back to the cleaner/hot water mixture. I rewashed the cabinet I had applied the vinegar to, and was excited to see the remnants come off with little elbow grease. I applied it um…liberally…to the next cabinet and before I could wipe it down, my phone rang. Five minutes later, I went back to the cabinet, dipped my sponge into it and wiped off the top of the cabinet…and a healthy swipe of paint, too!

Let’s just say there was a liberal application of cuss words then…and I moved on, after I put my cell phone far away to prevent future distractions and after I prepared another bowl, this one of just straight water, to rinse the cabinets with.

Who would have thought that a cleaner labeled nontoxic would take the paint right off my cabinets??

Anyway, the cleaning went superbly, and my cabinets looked shiny and fantastic after that…and very chic with their new ‘distressed’ look.

Ta-da! So much better!

Hey…I live in a farmhouse built in the 1800s, it’s supposed to look like that!

…right?

Things I learned:

1. Vinegar is a very nice cleaner, but not for heavy duty jobs.

2. Don’t leave the cleaner on painted surfaces. Even if it says nontoxic. Or natural. Or safe for all materials.

3. It wouldn’t hurt to take the words ‘test on hidden surface’ seriously.

 

 

Back to school days are for me, filled with conflicting emotions. In just one day I can go from ‘Yay! Back to school!’ to ‘Ugh! 35 glue sticks?! seriously?’ to ‘I think homeschooling in the answer. I’ll miss them too much otherwise!’ and usually back to some form of ‘Yay! Back to school!’ by the end of it.

With one exception. My inner monologue is almost -always- stuck on ’35 glue sticks? What are they going to do…feed them as snacks?’

You see, in my state, as is in many others I’m sure, we buy our children’s school supplies. Not just the cool bookbags or special pens or ninjago notebooks, but everything they need for school. I do not blame my school district or our teachers for this, because I understand about taxes and budgets and all, but I reserve the right to complain about it, once a year, at length. I have four kids, after all. I have to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of these supplies.

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So after the first year we moved here, I began to gather school supplies throughout the year and stock them in a shoebox. And then, everyone was going to school. So it graduated into a tote.

And then, I started working from home. So…office supplies got added to the tote, and trickled over only my desk.

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And the we started doing a lot of arts and crafts at home. So, that large shoebox turned into a small nation of containers, including a large tote, an art box, my desk and…a few shoeboxes of varying sizes.

Ok…I admit it…my school/office supplies are out of control!

Do I have a hoarding problem? Not usually…but I will admit to a crazy obsession with office supplies. And…you know…I’m a little..urm…frugal…so I hate the idea of spending an enormous amount of money on school supplies because I thumbed my nose at all the good sales all year.

So, this is me, sharing my mess with you, and asking, no begging for help!

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Readers: help me organize this hot mess into something useful! The tote was a great idea, but everytime I need to get one thing out of it, I end up dumping half of it on the floor and then throwing it all back in all wily-nily.

I often have to take notes on the fly when I work (as few and far between as that is) and my desk is upstairs, the supply box downstairs. So what started as two notebooks and some post it’s at the desk turned into that stuff. Please ignore the World of Warcraft books..they too are very necessary sometimes.

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Ok, now that youve seen the dark, dismal reality of my mess…

How would You begin? What makes the most sense to you in terms of organization and getting everything in reach? Am i going to be forced to add an addition onto the house in order to keep all this stuff neat? What are your dirty little organizing secrets?

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This summer has been absolutely insane. We launched the blog, I took to babysitting my niece, the kids were home from school, and we had lots of awesome visits from family and friends. As such, I just couldnt find the time to post, and Rosie, bless her heart, jumped in with both feet and rocked it, 100%! I sat down during a particularly terrible day and began to compose an I hate post and then stopped. And really thought about it. Sometimes, I am the biggest, grumpiest ass on the planet. I hate everything, from my stupid hair to my aching back, from the grass in my yard to whatever is on the television at that time. But more often then not, I love my hectic life, my loud family and my crazy kids. So, rather than rant about all things suckish, I made this list instead.

10 Things I love about the Summer!

10. I get to sleep in during the summer. Some days, it may only be til 7:45, but everyday is better when I wake up after 6am. Sometimes I wish I would have appreciated the art of sleeping in when I still could. Getting up with a Middle Schooler sucks. Or multiple Middle Schoolers, as of this year.

9. Mowing my Lawn is rad. Yes…I am one of those freaks that loves to mow. I put on my ipod, blare whatever music I feel like listening to without worrying about the lyrics (Eminem, I’m lookin at you, dude) and enjoy 4 hours of quiet mommy time. Our mower broke no less than 4 times in 2 months, and I was reaaaaally grateful for it once we got the problem worked out. And not just because my lawn was starting to look like the grasslands exhibit at the zoo.

8. I was born to lounge by the pool. I can’t swim. If my plane went down over the Atlantic (or Pacific, or Lake Erie, or the Creek in my town…) I’d be a dead duck, because I never learned to swim. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy taking my kids out to the pool and lounging out on the deck. I read a book or a magazine, soak up some vitamin d and enjoy life. Pool days are good days.

7. I can go to the library every day. We usually keep it to once a week, but the kids have such a great time, playing with the other kids in the children’s section, looking for new books and selecting movies. This year, my oldest has ventured into the young adult section and has devoured about half of it. My youngest has discovered non fiction movies about tornadoes, lightning and everything else that happens to be on his mind that week and my middle child is quickly decimating the comic/ graphic novel section of the children’s library.

6. Cold weather makes me cranky. Even when our air conditioning isn’t working, I would rather be drenched in sweat than huddling under blankets in three layers of sweat pants. Summer gives me warmth! I know…why don’t I live somewhere with perpetual summer? Because my family is -here-. 🙂

5. Impromptu everything! Kids want to have a sleepover? Sure, it’s summer! Swimming til 9? Ok! Disney movie marathon while turning the living room into a blanket covered wonderland? Why not? Its summer!

4.Fairs,Fairs,Fairs! This year our kids participated in 4H for the first time, which made Fair Week in our home county even more crazy,nerve-wracking,annoying,headachey fun! We got to be a part of the whole thing, as well as enjoy other parts of the fair, namely the food, the games and the other events. We also enjoy Farm Days, which is hosted by a tractor club in the neighboring county (please comment if you, too enjoy the thrills of the children’s pedal pull!) and visiting the other fairs in the counties surrounding us. Rose has been trying to get us to the irish festival near her place for the last 3 years, too. Ok, we’re fair junkies. Admittance is the first step in recovery, right?

3.Crafting inspiration! In the winter, I tend to stick to crochet and knitting, mostly because yarn is warm and I don’t have to move too much…but in the summer, I always tend to want to make stuff. Paint, wood, fabric, you name it, I want to use it to make -something-! I currently have a bag full of wine corks waiting for craft time, and a boatload of Pinterest pins to go through.

2. I miss my mother in law during the school year. Yes, I believe Rose and I might be the only two ladies in the world that love their mother-in-law! We moved away from mine 5 years ago, and since then summer has been the highlight of everyone’s year, because it is the time when the Grammy comes to visit! The kids love to take their Grammy to whatever place or restaurant or new store we found since her last visit, their dad loves to spend time with his mom and I love our down and dirty death match Skip-Bo games. This year was especially awesome because my niece came with her!

1. My family is awesome. We went out to dinner a few weeks ago, and as I as looking around the table, I actually got teary! We were hands down the loudest bunch there, and probably 45% of the conversation at any given time was totally inappropriate for public, but there we were, 3 generations from all sides of both my husband’s and my family, throwing fortune cookies at each other, laughing hysterically over everything sharing food and chopsticks and old stories, being a family. In the winter, we are all busy, being students and workers and mommies and whatever. Those things don’t go away in the summer, but it makes it much easier for us to put aside all that stuff and just be us for a while.

 

So, that’s my list. And I gotta tell you, I felt loads better after writing it! I guess there’s something to be said after all for turning negative energy into positive! What are some of your favorite things about summer? Or is winter your favorite season?

 



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