When the Kids Take Over Dinner

Santa brought both kids knife sets this year.  They also each got cookbooks.  And since I had left the last week of their winter break largely unplanned, while I was menu planning at the start of the week, I suggested that the kids be in charge of dinner on Wednesday night. They thought this was the single BEST idea they had ever had and set to work choosing recipes they might make from their cookbooks.  Each armed with a fresh pad of post-it notes and a pencil, started to look through their books, and hour later, they had settled on what they wanted to cook.  The older one was to be the “chef” while the little one was to be the “pastry chef” – as in one would be in charge of the main course, and the other dessert.

Over the course of the first few days of the week, this little adventure turned into a full-on production with our house slowly being turned into a restaurant.  Menus were printed.  And re-printed.  Drawings of how each course is going to be plated were completed and hung on the fridge.  Designs of what the cake that was decided on for dessert should look like were similarly been completed.  And without asking permission, guests, in the form of my parents, were invited to eat at this very special eatery.

There was great excitement when we got to grocery shop for this dinner.  And even greater excitement when I announced that we would be baking the cake after lunch on Tuesday.

As I put the kids to bed the night before the dinner was to take place, I noted that they had even assembled the “fancy” clothes they planned to wear for the occasion.

They awoke the morning of the dinner to a level of excitement that almost rivalled that of Christmas morning.  While I was cleaning up from breakfast I heard them set up a “reservations desk” at the front door (a little Ikea table adorned with toy cash registers and phones) pretending to answer the phone and accept and turn down “reservations” for their restaurant.

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And then the preparations began in earnest.

The table was set, complete with flowers arranged by the little one.  The cake was frosted and decorated.  Everything that could be prepared ahead of time, was prepped.  So we took a break, had a quick visit to the ROM and a “treat” lunch out, and came back in time to finish up getting ready for the dinner.

The kids made excellent hosts, serving drinks, appetizers, dinner, and then dessert, clearing the plates between each course, and in true restaurant style, presented us each with a “bill” at the end of the meal (play money was used to settle our tabs!).  The food was fantastic (they did have some help from the Husband cooking the main dish which was pan-fried fish), and the entire experience, as a mom, was so wonderful to watch.

I hesitated to share this experience on the blog – this little anecdote is almost too much.  But in the end I opted to write about it because I wanted to share a story to show what kids are capable of when they’re given free time to pursue their interests.  Sure, I could have signed them up for camps, put them in activities, where they may or may not have had much fun or learned something.  But by letting them “hang out” at home, they were able to make a little dream they had a reality.  They got to work together.  And they go to produce something that they were both extremely proud of.  As summer camp registration season is almost here – as tempted as I may be to sign the kids up for any number of the multitude of camps that are available to us – this experience will serve as a stark reminder to give the kids lots of free time this summer – time to follow their interests, time to play alone, or with each other, and time to just be.  Maybe you can do the same???

 

Spreading Light With a Little Project for Brain Tumour Patients

Late yesterday afternoon, in a small boardroom within the Neurology department of Toronto Western Hospital, I was privileged to see the culmination of a project that almost three years ago was little more than a glimmer of an idea shared between three like-minded ladies, all touched by harsh reality that is life with a brain tumour.

Let me explain.

We are beyond fortunate to have the amazing healthcare system that we do in Canada.  We have some of the best doctors in the world performing some of the most advanced surgical procedures in the world.  And everyone in the country has equal access to these doctors and the phenomenal work that they do.

We are also fortunate in this country to have some truly wonderful support services, that are also often offered free of charge, for patients and caregivers affected by a host of illnesses and diseases.

But what can be missing in our healthcare system is a way to match patients and their caregivers with the myriad of support services that are available to them.

I found this out first hand as I made my way through my brain tumour journey.  I wasn’t sure who or where to turn to when I had questions.  And so, after meeting a woman who had just travelled the brain tumour journey with her husband also under the care of my neurosurgeon (and who is now a good friend), and along with my mom, and idea was born.

Starting today, all new patients of my neurosurgeon will receive a small bag.  Inside, they will find a pamphlet, co-authored by my friend, my mom, and myself, outlining all the pertinent hospital information new brain tumour patients might need.  In it, you’ll find all the policies and procedures for the doctor’s office, little things like the hours and locations of the blood labs in the hospital, and BIG things, like where to go when you need help – medical or emotional, regardless of where you are in your brain tumour journey.

Also included is a brochure for an absolutely amazing support centre called Wellspring where all cancer patients and their caregivers, including patients with either benign or malignant brain tumours, can go for support.

And lastly we’ve included the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s handbook.  So patients will have, at their fingertips, the most accurate information about brain tumours, of all kids, at their fingertips (eliminating, we hope, the need for endless google searches that may or may not yield accurate information).

I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it is our sincerest hope that this little project will  be a little beacon of light for other patients, that in looking through this information, they may find a spark of inspiration to seek support, and that maybe this might help brighten the path along this journey for new brain tumour patients.

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Saying Hello to 2017

I awoke this morning to the first rays of what promised to be an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.  The sky was awash in the most glorious shades of pinks that were so stunning I had no choice but to throw on some clothes so I could get outside and take a photo of it.

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Not long after, I found myself at the gym, where, from the vantage point on my treadmill, was treated to the most glorious, half hour-long sun rise I have ever witnessed.  There is something so visually amazing about the sun rising through the clouds against a backdrop of clear blue skies on a cold winter morning.

As my workout ended, I was silently thankful for the beautiful start to my day – not just because I was treated to such beauty, but also because the word I have chosen to live with this year is “Light”, and it seemed like a good omen of sorts to start of this year of light, with a brilliant display of nature’s most perfect light show.

Late last summer, I stumbled on the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley.  I fell in love with it as it helped me to organize my week, plan out how I wanted to accomplish my goals for the week, and of course, because it is the prettiest planner I have ever seen.  (For those of you who live in Canada, like me, try ordering yours from Indigo, not from the Emily Ley site – you’ll save a lot on duties that way).  But I digress.  As images for the Simplified Planner started popping up on my social media feeds, a kind of companion product, produced by Lara Casey, called PowerSheets kept popping up too.  I got curious . . . curious enough a few weeks ago, to order my own copy of the 2107 PowerSheets.

Over the past few days, as the kids have been involved in playing with their new Christmas toys and building lego, I’ve been able to sit down and work through the goal setting portion of the PowerSheets book.  I’ve said before that I don’t like setting goals – I have a tendency to chase them down with an intensity that doesn’t do good things for anyone, or, I simply get overwhelmed by the goals I’ve set and abandon them before they’ve been met.

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But working through this book is not about setting goals for the sake of setting goals – it’s about setting “goals with intention” and then providing a framework for working towards those goals, little by little, month by month.  You are also encouraged to choose a word of the year, in order to help guide you with your goals.

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Which brings me back to my word of the year.  I loved the process of the One Little Word workshop and I loved working with the word Joy last year.  It brought me a lot of . . . well . . . joy.  But as this year is a year of self-declare new beginnings, I wanted a word that would serve as a touchstone for how I wanted to feel, to be, to live my life.  I was mulling a few different word choices, but as I worked through my PowerSheets, and reflected on what brought me the most joy over the course of the last year (aside from the Husband and the Kids, of course), it was my sky photos, and the habit of looking for the light.  And thus, my word was chosen.

I want to be light and frolicsome
I want to be improbable
Beautiful
And afraid of nothing,
As though I had wings.
-Mary Oliver

As I was reading quotes today from some of my favourite poets, the quote above by Mary Oliver came up.  And it summarizes exactly how I feel today, on this first day of the new year.

I hope these words inspire you as much as they inspired me today.  And I wish you nothing but the absolute very best as you navigate your way through this new year, with all your hopes, your dreams, your goals, and your aspirations.  May they all come to fruition.

xoxo

Bidding Farewell to my Year of Joy (and in which I will cover #56-100 morsels of joy)

What a year this has been.

Before starting this post, I had a look back to my first post of 2016 – I loved seeing all the things I was excited for at the start of the year – and just how some of those things turned out.

I did really love working with my word Joy this year.  So much so that a few months ago, I started a blog series in which I planned to document 100 morsels of joy that I found in my everyday life.  Well, turns out that it’s a LOT easier to find morsels of joy worth writing about when you’re on vacation, or engaged in something really interesting.  And while I love sharing the big moments of joy that we had this year, I loved the quiet little moments of joy that are sprinkled throughout the day, but that really just aren’t blog-worthy.  I mean really, how much can you say when the 4 members of your family (outfitted in matching Christmas Disney jammies) are snuggled together watching a movie on Monday night?  Over the past few weeks, there have been so many of these little morsels of joy – from the Little One and I making impromptu stops on the way home from dropping off the Older One in the morning to take photos of the sky, to making our annual batch of sugar cookies to sledding.

There was also my victory in getting them into matching footed jammies one last time (for old times sake), seeing the Little One get even more excited about her progress in skating, letting the kids run wild outside on Christmas Eve spreading “Reindeer Food” on the front lawn (oats mixed with red and green sugar crystals), and of course the morning I came downstairs to find my two monkeys “mining” their gingerbread houses for icing and candies.

And thus, my big idea kind of fizzed out . . . on the blog anyway . . . but in our house, we lived way more than #100moreselsofjoy!  (Consider #56-100 covered off!)

This year was definitely a year of change.  This has been a year of letting go, moving on, and planning for the future.  When in June I was given the all-clear with regards to my brain tumour, and my next MRI was scheduled two years from now, I finally had the medical permission I needed to start letting go of the tumour and everything associated with it.  While the news was reason for celebration, it has taken a few months for the reality to really sink in, and for me to really move on from it all, and to start planning where and what I’d like to be in the next 5, 10, 15 years.  My son changed schools this year, and we started to make plans for my daughter’s move to a new school next year.  The husband saw changes to his job.  And I made some changes to – I started skating again and I took up sewing classes again, among other things.

We certainly did cook a lot this year.  And we travelled a lot this year too (although always as family of four – that trip with just the Husband and I never did come to fruition.  Nor is it likely to anytime soon.  And that’s ok).  Both of which created a LOT of joy and many happy memories for all of us.

And while my body did change this year, it wasn’t necessarily in the ways that I expected.  I softened in some places and hardened in others.  There weren’t many PR’s this year (if any), I didn’t learn many new skills (if any), but I did have FUN.

I read an article at some point over the last week or so about how astrologically this past year has been one of cleaning up and tying up loose ends metaphorically and physically.  It resonated with me, and as I look back on the last twelve months, that is pretty much what this year has been for me; I wound up, closed up, and worked to put behind me everything that has happened over the last decade of my life.  So while I can’t look back on this year and revel in the bliss of having accomplished big goals, I can look back and be proud of all the work that did get done.

Which of course leads me to next year.  I will have a new One Little Word to guide me through 2017.  I have new hopes and desires and expectations for the year.  And while I’m sad to say goodbye to this year, my year of Joy, I’m very much ready to move on and start on this next chapter of my life.  You see, that same article that said this past year was one take care of any unfinished business, well, it also said that next year will be one of fresh starts, new beginnings, and endless possibilities.  With that in mind, and in between loads of laundry and the clean out/clean up of all things Christmas, I spent today working on my goals, my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations for the year ahead.  I can’t wait to share my process with you, the word that I’m going to work with, live with, and be guided by for the next year, and how I’m setting things up to ensure 2017 will truly be the best year yet.

On that note, I wish you all the very happiest of New Years.

xoxo

 

55. Anything’s Possible

Last night as I was putting my son to bed, I told him, as is part of our bedtime routine “I love you”.  He looked at me and said “I love you more”.

My response was unconscious and automatic.  “Not possible”.

“But mom,” he said, “Anything’s possible”.

At which point, I’m fairly certain my heart burst with love.

But as I’ve moved through my day today, my thoughts have returned over and over again to what he said.  And given the week we’ve just had, it’s not overly surprising he said what he did.

You see, a week ago, the Husband and I surprised the kids with a trip to Disney.  As in they woke up, came down the stairs and saw the suitcases packed and ready to go.  What followed was a truly magical week away.

My daughter showed her love for several characters, and was rewarded with them showing her some love right back.

 

 

My son got to meet all SEVEN of the 7 Dwarfs (something he has wanted to do for years), and he got to stay up late enough with me to watch the Christmas Wishes fireworks display at the Magic Kingdom (something I have wanted to do for years).

Both kids got to not only have all their favourite Star Wars characters walk right past them. . .

But they both completed Jedi Training, and got to have a light sabre fight with some pretty scary characters from the Dark Side . . .

And then there was the taping of the Descendants Christmas Special that both kids got to watch from a front row vantage point, even getting to interact with one of the Descendants and some of the dancers!

And of course, there were a host of other amazing moments over the course of the week . . . the little on and I had our annual meeting with the Fairy Godmother, the little one had several other encounters with Goofy, including one with Santa Goofy, the older one overcame his immense fear of Space Mountain, and we were all able to go on that ride together as a family . . .

The trick, now that we’re back to our regular lives and our regular schedules, is to remember that anything’s possible.  But not only that, it’s also to remember to show our love even if we’re not sure our affection will be returned; to do things that will bring us closer to or see us fulfill our dreams; to fight against the darkness that we all have in our lives; to fully enjoy the moment when something wonderfully unexpected happens; and to always look for the magic, because, even in the midst of our everyday lives, there is magic to be found.

And on that note, I wish you the most magical of days.

54. Memories to Last a Lifetime

We’ve just returned from a magical family trip to Disney World.  As is to be expected, the kids loved every minute of it.  And the Husband and I  . . . well . . .we had a pretty good time too.  It’s hard not to have a good time when you’re in the happiest place on earth.

But, this trip didn’t go by without some introspection, and some lessons (re)learned.  You see, Disney holds a special place in my heart – it’s where we had our first family vacation – but it’s also where I first came to terms with the symptoms of my tumour and the fact that there was something wrong.  But in the five years that have followed that fist trip, Disney has been a place to celebrate birthdays (mine, my son’s, and even my daughter’s).  It’s been a place to celebrate being together, and to celebrate making it through the tumour situation more or less intact.  And so, with ever trip we take there, I tend to take a bit of time to reflect on the past, where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and where we might be going in the future.

This trip was no different.

But, just as our trip was coming to an end, and I was starting to plan out how the next few weeks would go once we got back, my path crossed that of another vacationing family, and through that chance encounter, I found a much clearer picture of how I want things to be now that we’re home.

Let me explain.  After a long morning at Hollywood Studios, the little one and I decided to go back to the hotel to spend the afternoon by the pool, while the Husband and the older one opted to travel to EPCOT.  As the little one and I took our place in line to wait for the bus to take us back to the hotel, another mom with two children about the same age as my little one got into line behind us.  As the kids started to interact with each other, I started to chat with the mom.  Before long, I learned why they were at Disney; her sister, a mom to a 4 year old and a toddler, who was waiting further behind us in line, in a wheelchair, has terminal cancer.  They were there, to create lasting, big, happy memories for her kids with their mom, while they still could.

I was instantly reminded of the time, between my diagnosis and my surgery, when I would say to the Husband, “I just want them to remember me”.  This sentiment affected a lot of my behaviour towards my family before and long after the surgery.  When the kids were little, I tried my best to make every day just a little bit magical.  That often resulted in frequent little “treats” and overdoing it when it came to Christmas and birthdays.  As the kids have gotten older, I have turned more towards spending quiet time with them, and relied less on purchases to create happiness.  This has meant we’ve spent more time cooking, going on runs together, making crafts and the like.

And of course it’s meant I have put a priority on things like our trips to Disney, where we can take a complete break from our everyday lives and focus on being together and having fun.  The kids relish these trips, because they know they will have undivided attention from both the Husband and I, and that together, we are making truly magical memories.

The stark reality of our world today is that more and more of us are having experiences with disease and tumours.  Regardless of the cause of the rising rates of disease (although my focus on clean eating and exercise is how I work to mitigate my chances of ever experiencing a tumour again), none of us know if or when we might be faced with a similar situation.  And not to be overly melodramatic, if something were to happen, how would you like your family to remember you?

So, as we’re now home and already back into our daily routines, and looking ahead to the holiday season, I am going to put a renewed focus on my family.  Years from now, the kids won’t remember the gifts I might have bought them, how many activities they participated in, or how rushed we were running from one thing to the next.  What they will remember is how loved they felt, how we took time as a family to honour our little traditions, and how we slowed down so that we could truly enjoy each other’s company.  And those, regardless of whether they happen at Disney or at home, well, those are the memories that will last a lifetime.

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53. A Moment of Gratitude for this Perfectly Ordinary Day

It may only be lunchtime, but today has been absolutely perfect in it’s ordinary-ness.  And for that, I am SO grateful.

I had a great morning with the kids, even if it did start at 4:30.  I had a great class at the gym, and had the chance to catch up with a few friends.  I did a few errands, including picking up bat-shaped pasta for the kids to have for dinner tonight.  I did some laundry.  I had a quick lunch.  And then I sat down to get some work done.

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Yup, it was a perfectly ordinary day.

“It has taken awhile, but I certainly do know it now – the most wonderful gift I had, the gift I finally learned to cherish above all else, was the gift of all those perfectly ordinary days.”
-Katrina Kenison

I discovered Katrina Kenison a few years ago, and absolutely love her writing – her books are true gems, gorgeously written, and filled with wonderful little quotes like the one above.  If you have time, you absolutely should pick up one of her books . . .

But I digress.  I was so happy today, and so filled with gratitude to have this perfectly ordinary day, that  I chose to celebrate with a small slice of leftover cake from our family celebratory dinner last night (the Husband planned and made an amazing dinner for my whole family to celebrate the 5-year mark of the surgery).  The cake is from The Rolling Pin – it was the Dulce de Leche cake, and it was PHENOMENAL.  While I don’t normally eat sweets at lunch, well, I don’t normally eat too many sweets period, I’ll take my small slice of lunch-time cake over any halloween candy my kids might bring home later tonight!

On that note, I’m going to get back to my ordinary day and see how much work done before I get to pick up my little ones and hear all about how much fun their halloween celebrations were at school today!

And yes, in case you’re wondering my work today is pretty tough . . . it involves lots of photo editing and photo book creating . . . with some last-minute planning for our upcoming trip to Disney sprinkled in too!

Have fun tonight – enjoy your little ones, or if you don’t have any little ones at home, enjoy seeing the little ones out and about tonight!  And I hope you can find some joy in the gift of your ordinary day today.

 

 

52. Drawing a Line in the Sand . . . Over Beanbag Chairs

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So, I’ve always loved the idea of the Pottery Barn Anywhere chairs for kids – but I could never quite wrap my head around them . . . when the kids were little, we read books with them on my lap.  And by the time they were old enough to read books on their own, they preferred to sprawl out on the couch, or in the big chairs in their rooms.  Which is to say, I could never quite justify purchasing the chairs.

The kids each have a beanbag chair at the cottage – I bought them at the Walmart up north a few years ago – and this summer, they really took them.  And Pottery Barn also makes super cute beanbag chairs (the ones on offer at Walmart currently aren’t exactly the sorts of things I’d like to have on display in my family room). . . And I got really excited . . . Until I saw how much the beanbag chairs cost at Pottery Barn.

And I drew a line in the sand.

There were several free patterns for beanbag chairs on the web, I do know how to sew, and who doesn’t like making a trip to pick out fabric?  It was a win-win-win.

In the end, I chose the pattern featured on Thread Riding Hood’s site.  I picked up some cute, heavy-duty fabric.  And I got to sewing.  In total, each chair took me about 90 minutes to cut out, serge and sew – which is about how long it took me to make the rounds trip to the closest Walmart in the city to pick up the little styrofoam beans that I filled the chairs with!  That being said, I did NOT make a lining for my chairs, nor did I use any batting.  I simply made the outer shell.  Why?  Because I figured that we will outgrow these chairs before they are in need of a serious wash (the upside to making these for older kids).

Which brings me to my next point – you can totally fill these with the little styrofoam beans that you can get at Walmart for about $15 a bag instead of stuffed animals as the pattern suggests.  If I ever undertake this project again, I think I will choose to use stuffed animals to fill them – for the simple reason that our house seems to be overflowing with stuffed animals and my son is getting too old to have a bucket of them in his room.  But for now, the little “beans” work perfectly.

The kids love them, I love them, I loved making them, and I can use all the money I “saved” from not buying these at Pottery Barn to buy something nice for myself . . .

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51. Five years later . . .

This morning, just a few minutes before 5, both kids were awake and bounding into our bed for a snuggle.  And I didn’t mind one bit.  In fact, it was probably one of the sweetest snuggles we’ve had.

Five years ago today, just before five, I snuck into each of their rooms to give them each one last kiss before heading down to the hospital for the surgery to remove my tumour.

I wasn’t sure that morning how I would be returning to them.

And this is how I did actually return to them . . .battered, bruised, but SO happy to be back with them in one piece with a good prognosis.

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As I look back on the last five years, I know, without a doubt that, I have returned to them in a way that is SO MUCH better than how I left them.  While this journey hasn’t been easy, I have come across some  of the most wonderful and amazing people that have taught me so much, and helped me along the way (I believe you all know who you are . . . THANK YOU.).

And as I reflect on it all, I can distill all that I have learned into this:

  1. Don’t rush through life.  We live in a time when there is always something more we could be doing, getting, becoming.  And it’s all to easy to get caught up in this endless cycle of trying for “more”.  We do it ourselves, and we do it to our children.  When I look back over the last five years, it’s not the activities my kids did that I look back on fondly – it’s the time we spent together – reading, cooking, playing, and even just snuggling.  What do you want to remember about your life right now five years from now?  Do more of that.
  2. It’s important to be strong.  Physically and emotionally.  Life can change at the drop of a hat.  We don’t know what we’ll be tasked with enduring.  Physical strength can help you weather the storm.  Emotional strength can help you survive with your marbles intact.  Get into the gym, do what you can, and get as strong as you can get.  That might mean getting out and walking.  It might mean challenging yourself to pick up a heavier weight.  Or it could be pushing yourself just a little bit harder in a workout class.  It’s a funny thing . . .but I’ve found that when I push myself harder physically, I get a little bit stronger emotionally too . ..  And the added benefit of physical and emotional strength . . . you’re less likely to fall ill.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of food.  Food has the ability to heal, to strengthen, to soothe.  Food also has the power to cause illness and disease.  Choose the food you eat, and the food you feed your family wisely.

And on that note, I am off to make myself some breakfast and spend some more time with my two favourite goofballs before they head off to school, and I head off to the gym (like I said . . . it’s important to be strong!).

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50. Putting the Garden to Bed for the Winter

Yesterday morning was gloriously sunny here, with temperatures bordering on warm, meaning it was the absolute perfect day to get out into the garden and to finally put it to bed for the winter.  We’ve had such a warm fall here, it’s been next to impossible to even think about pulling out the annuals and planting bulbs.  But winter is going to come, and I’ve found it’s usually nicer to get this work done when it’s warmer rather than colder.

When I got out to the garden, this is what it looked like:

Three hours later, this is what I was left with:

Luckily, I had some help in the form of my sweet little girl, who was particularly interested in harvesting the last of our fruits and veggies.  We picked our prize watermelon that has been growing for quite some time, and about a million green cherry tomatoes that never had time to ripen on the vine.  I’m hoping to turn these into some picked tomatoes tomorrow if time permits . . .  She was also quite interested in helping me with all the bulbs . . . together we laid out and planted over 400 of them!  I can’t wait to see what spring will bring . . . if the animals get to our tulips, we’ll at least have some narcissi to usher in the warmer weather!

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The only thing I haven’t touched is my roses.  Because they are FILLED with blooms, and I just can’t bear to see them gone just yet.  I figure I need to wear gloves when I deal with them anyway, so I can leave this chore till it gets a bit cooler . . .

 

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I hope you all had a chance to get outside yesterday and enjoy the weather!  Happy fall!

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