Yep. I Cried.

That’s me on the left

The year was 1992.  I had my Umbro checked shorts, two pairs of Keds, a Saved By the Bell inspired sleeping bag, and a pillowcase my mom had sewn for me.  No worries that I didn’t really know the super-shy partner I had been assigned, thanks to a pair of inseparable besties in my GA group.  I didn’t care.  I was heading to CAMP!

It was just as glorious as all the big girls said it would be.  The songs, the mountains, the pool, taps at night, counselors that doted on us, Poptarts for breakfast…..all of it.  Unlike many girls my age, including my assigned bunk-mate, I don’t think I spent one second being homesick.  It was way too fun for that.

Summer after summer I found myself back there.  I got called Haley Mills for my Parent Trap haircut.  I learned songs that I still sing to my kids when they are dragging on a hike.  I met Jesus there.  I got my first job there.  Actually, working at camp is the only job that I’ve ever had except teaching.  I learned hard life lessons there.  I became brave there.  Eventually, during our years on full time staff, we started our family there.

So all of that to say I had some unexpected mom emotions well up in me this week as I helped Chica prepare for her first week away at overnight camp.  Something like fear mixed with sadness mixed with worry mixed with get-yourself-together-she’ll-be-fine.  I can distinctly remember my reaction to moms who stuck around just a little too long when they dropped their kids off at camp:  “When my kid gets big enough to go to camp, I will not be doing that mess.  I will drop her off and go.  Not try to make her bed for her, not cry, NOT baby her.  Moms like that just make it worse.”

Except that day came today, and it didn’t go like that exactly.  I did not make her bed, and I did not cry in front of her.  Actually, I didn’t even hug her goodbye for some reason.  But as she stood up on the steps and introduced herself to everyone, I bit my lip willing the tears not to come.  I saved them, but only until I was back in the car.  

I stared here at the cursor for a few minutes trying to think of exactly where the tears came from.  The tears came from so many places.  Thoughts of my mom getting me ready for camp and wondering if she felt all the same things.  Realization that a week will go by where I won’t remind her to brush her hair, and she’ll be just fine.  Hope that she’ll find a friend who gets her and will make the week that much more fun.  Knowing that having experiences apart from us, from me, is what growing up is made of.  Jay joked when I got home that “even stone-cold Tracy” cried.  Yep.  And I’m owning it this time.  

Have a glorious week, Chica!

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When There’s No School Monday

In my book, three day weekends are permission to take two full days off.  Why waste a perfectly beautiful, almost-summer day grading papers and answering emails when you can save that for Monday?!

So yesterday after I had finished my Saturday morning long run, Jay reminded me that it was almost time for him to retire to the bat cave for a full day of paper writing.  (Unfortunately the three day weekend rule doesn’t apply to master’s students.  Bummer.)  I knew that in order to keep both of us from losing our minds, the little people and I needed to vacate the premises.  It took a while to decide on a destination, but I finally landed on Holiday Lake.

Before lunch we fished from the dock and checked out what the rangers had to offer at the “touch table”.  After lunch we visited with the rangers again to make an owl craft.  I think perhaps the two poor guys had seen enough of us, so they suggested a short-ish hike to an overlook for us.  I finally took out my camera at this point…

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Bubba thought this tree looked like a train.  Minutes later, he got too close to the bank and completely submerged one of his boots.  He wasn’t such a happy hiker after that._MG_8608

Chica is into maps these days.  She was our navigator.
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I love this picture that Chica took…
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And of course if you let one try the camera, you have to let the other.
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Here’s where I count my kairos moments for the day.  I just sat on the bank watching them throw rock after rock after rock into the water.  This never gets old…for me or them.

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We visited the rangers one more time and tried out their casting station.  So fun!  I’ve already put this Backyard Bass set on our upcoming Christmas list!

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We ended the day with a few more minutes of real fishing and ice cream on the way home.  Bubba had missed his nap, so he slept on the way home and then even longer once we got back.  Perfect.

Come summer.  Come long, peaceful days of new adventures.

One. More. Day.

One more day of waking up to, “Mommy, can I get in bed with you?” instead of the alarm clock. One more day of making lunch when it’s time to eat it instead of 6 or even 16 hours earlier. One more day of going to bed without feeling guilty about all of the things that are undone.

This summer has been amazing.

Does every teacher turned stay-at-home-mom have that first day of summer fear? I look forward to summer all year long, and then it catches me off guard every time. What….I have to entertain these people all day? These people who don’t listen to me and argue with each other over nothing? But soon, as in the next day, we catch a rhythm and we like each other again and it is fun. This summer was no exception.

I keep coming back to the word full. About halfway through the summer I talked to one of my school teammates about something that I have since forgotten. Once we had taken care of our school stuff, she asked me about our summer. As I rambled off our trips taken and our trips planned, she replied, “Wow! What a full summer!”

So I’ve been thinking about how there are two kinds of full. There’s that full that leaves you miserable. Where you’re done and it was delicious, but you know you should have stopped at two servings instead of three or four. That kind of full leaves you tired and needing to sleep it off to recover. And then there’s the full where you’ve had just enough. That’s the kind of summer we’ve had. The kind that leaves me knowing it was delicious and perfect, but also feeling refueled for what’s next.

But I’m a bit afraid….afraid of two things. First, I’m afraid I’ll forget about just how good this summer tasted. I’ll get busy and bogged down and forget that I had two months off to enjoy my family. I’m also afraid that I’ve spent those two months slowing down, clearing margins, and learning to like my little people again, only to forget how to do those things promptly on August 22nd. So I decided to make a list. A list I can read on August 22nd (and again and again) to remind myself that I was, in fact, full and refueled to once again to do this job I am called and recalled to do each year. So here goes…

*I spent my first week of the summer teaching classes to teachers about Edmodo and interactive web tools. One foot in the classroom and one foot at home was a good way to ease my way into summer. It was probably good I didn’t go straight into all mommy, all the time.

*For Father’s Day we made fun videos with our new camera for both Grandpa and Papa.

*Chica spent a week at LCS soccer camp which meant that Bubba and I had a few hours each morning together. We filled our time with errands, visiting a friend, checking out the library, etc. Bubba’s favorite part of that week was certainly the snow cone he got to share with Chica each day when we picked her up!

*I got to go to teacher camp at JMU to learn about STEM. Jay was working summer school, so the kids also had their own vacay with the grandparents. Highlights of that week for me included finding a running partner and new friend, eating whatever the heck I wanted, visiting a winery, and a late night conversation on the lawn with friends just like we were still in college. Oh…and I learned a few things about STEM too. (Ask me about my Thneed invention sometime!)

*We spent Jay’s one true week off at CrossRoads volunteering as a family. I am not exaggerating when I say that I was more well-rested by the end of that week than I have been since the birth of Chica. No internet coupled with no responsibilities past set the table, clean the table, take pictures, and keep my two kids under control was bliss. I also admit I had tremendous fun watching CariJoy experience so many of the same frustrations that I remember feeling.  She was doing a fantastic job.

* The next two weeks were Chica’s swimming lessons at Miller Park. I think she likes swimming, but she enjoyed the socializing much more. Me too! I spent each morning hanging out with another swim mom and her sweet kids. Bubba learned quickly that her bag was full of snacks. They were best buds for the two weeks.

*Chica, Bubba, and I all experienced our first real train ride in West Virginia. Our long weekend with Daddy, Papa, and Nana to ride two different trains was just perfect. I have yet to write about it in detail (maybe one day…), but our day on the steam engine was definitely my favorite. From Bubba napping in my lap to Chica falling in the river totally unfazed, it was a perfect day.

*Nana and I followed that weekend trip up with a girls+Bubba trip to Virginia Beach. We learned from this trip: 1) There’s no point in taking a book to the beach when you have two kids with you. 2) Book the hotel early next year so we can get an actual beachfront room without breaking the bank. 3) We’re going for 3 nights next time. One of my favorite parts of the trip was visiting a long-time friend and her fun family in their home. I hope we can return the favor one day!

*Then the kids and I headed off to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a week. Each morning we had a plan to be out of the house by 9 am and doing something fun…park, botanical gardens, library, etc. At nap time we worked on cleaning out rooms and closets and gathering stuff for a yard sale. We had planned to have it that Saturday, but rain made us postpone it until this past weekend. That totally turned out fine with me because I spent my birthday eating Chick-fil-A, playing at the Y, resting, and relaxing instead of haggling over quarters.

*As if that wasn’t full enough, I feel like there are a million other things that happened that don’t show up as I review my (only partially filled in) Google calendar. The kids and I surprised Daddy on his birthday with balloons and coffee at work. I taught Sunday School to kindergartners. (EEK!) I cut all my hair off and donated it. I started training with my sweet neighbor for the Ten Miler. Chica passed the swim test (finally…yesterday), got to paint pottery as a reward, and conquered her fear of the Y’s water slide. Jay started his Master’s program. We started a LifeGroup and have eight new dear friends we eat with and do life with each Thursday. We hiked. We played. We jumped on the trampoline. We read books. We grew vegetables. We went to the movies. We got to know our neighbors. We took naps. We stayed up late. We enjoyed each other.

And you know what I didn’t do? I didn’t go to school. Ok…there was that one time. No lie…I went in once because I needed whiteout at home and was too cheap to go buy some because I knew I had at least 17 bottles in my desk drawer. Besides that visit, and teacher camp, and two days of NASA stuff this past week, I didn’t do school. And I am so thankful. Admittedly I’m a bit anxious for what that means for this coming week, but I’ll take it. It will all get done. It always does.

So I’m going to spend my one more day tomorrow (err….today, now) loving on my babies and napping and preparing for the months ahead. But I think my preparation will look a little different this year than in years past. I’m not cracking open the lesson plan book or pacing guides just yet. (Shoot…I haven’t even bought the lesson plan book yet!) I’m going to spend the day thinking and praying about how I will carry the summer into the school year. How will I continue to carve out margins? How will I continue to build up Jay as he tackles a tough year of balancing school and work? How will I continue to enjoy my little people as the pressures of work build?

May this coming school year be just as full. Full of blessings and growth and joy. Full in the good way!

Today From A to Z

Applesauce—Both kids ate two cups today at lunch. These days Bubba insists on adding a drop of food coloring each time he’s served applesauce or “yogrit”. Today he had one green cup and one red cup.

Blackwater Creek—We started the day with no plan whatsoever. Scary. By 8:30 we decided on a hike starting at the Farm Basket as our first to-do. Chica couldn’t figure why it was called Blackwater Creek when it was looking so brown today.

Crying—There has been much of that lately. Ugh. We’re trying so hard to teach Chica that she needs to reserve the full on sobs for life or death situations. See U for today’s teachable moment.

Dishes—I find myself being reminded over and over these days that something is better than nothing. Kids, house, husband, God, exercise….seems to work in all directions. Standing over my sink during nap time I rehearsed this line. Getting the dishwasher loaded and started was something. The sink wasn’t spotless and I didn’t finish everything, but doing that much was better than not starting at all.

E-mail—I’m waiting these days on an e-mail from Sallie Mae to say that she has forgiven $5,000 of my college debt for working in a Title 1 school. Any day now, Sallie.

Franky—On our hike this morning we found a turtle. The kids together named him Franky. I snapped a picture of him and sent it to Jay for his daily we-wish-you-were-here reminder. When Jay got home he asked Bubba, “Who’s Franky?” Bubba, in his old man voice, replied without hesitation, “Oh, that’s a box turtle we found on our hike.” I love that old man voice of his. And I love Jay for asking.

Grieving—A sweet friend of ours lost her mama this week unexpectedly. I can’t even imagine. Wish I could have been there for her tonight.

Hammock—When I started my A to Z list tonight, Jay was attempting to fall asleep under the deck in his newly acquired birthday present. He asked if I minded if he slept out there. My response? “Of course not, as long as I get a night out there another day!” I think the bugs have since sent him back inside.

Ice cream—Mommy confession: I have cut out treats after lunch each day for the kids. However, as soon as both kids are down for the count at nap time, the first thing I do is grab a bowl of ice cream. Do as I say, not as I do kiddies.

John—Our life group challenge last week was to read through the book of John. I started much too late to finish the whole book by Thursday, so I’m still working my way through it. Our goal was to read it like a story, focusing on the idea of a beginning, middle, and end without getting bogged down in the details. I’m liking this plan.

Knocking—Bubba heard the sound of a woodpecker on our hike and didn’t know what it was. Chica and I together explained how a woodpecker gets bugs from trees. We never saw the bird, however. Bubba must have asked us ten times in a row, “But where IS the woodpecker?”

Laundry—I came home from the pool this afternoon grouchy because Chica was grouchy. It took two small things to get me to stop moping: 1. I sent Chica to her room until dinner was ready. There was much sobbing, but she actually stayed there. 2. Jay offered to fold the laundry tonight. I love that guy.

Marble game—This toy is still out in our living room…it usually doesn’t make it more than a day! This morning before breakfast I sat on the couch and just watched both kids play happily together for an eerily long time.

Neighbors—Can I just say we have the best? I have such sweet friends on both sides of our house. I started the day with one (See T) and ended the day with the other. We are so blessed.

Omitting words—I should have known. Bubba asked for the Stripes book for the 5th or 6th night in a row. Sheesh this is a long book! So tonight towards the end I started skipping words and a few sentences here and there. Let me tell you, there is no getting by Chica on that! She found me out right away. Jay’s laugh while listening to our conversation from the other room was priceless.

Pool—Bubba’s request for the day was to go to “the pool with a playground.” So off we went this afternoon to Miller Park pool. We have been spoiled with the indoor pool at the YMCA. There was lots of whining.

Quack—Chica is still trying to get Bubba to play along with some (dumb) joke about dogs and ducks. It’s lame, and I think he knows that, but he so wants to do whatever to make her happy. I think the gist of the joke is that if she asks what the dog says, he’s supposed to say, “Quack.” Yeah, I don’t really get it either.

Rip—My dumb joke of the week is calling Bubba “Rip”. Today before nap time we wrestled and tickled and teased. He laughed every time I called him that. He’s easy.

School—I’m trying not to think about it.

Three miles—I’m so thankful for my neighbor friend who’s been dragging me out of the house at an un-summer hour for a run. Today we talked about church, school, kids, pets, and everything in between.

Under the table—We ate on the deck tonight. Under Chica’s chair was a huge spider web and ugly spider. Instead of an, “Ah! Spider!” or “Hey…can you get this spider web?” she just started wailing. Somebody please tell me the drama queen stuff will die down soon.

Vlog—This is what I watched today while folding the first half of the laundry. It’s definitely my favorite background noise for getting chores done these days.

Walk—With a bribe of chocolate, I convinced my little family to take a lap around the neighborhood after dinner. For the first time, we made it without any stops to rest.

X-ray—On Wednesday I took Chica to the doc in the box to get her knee checked out. There was much drama over the knee throughout our quick beach vacay at the beginning of the week. The x-ray was clear, but she was told to ice it and rest. In spite of a fall yesterday off the tall end of the porch with her bike and onto the prickly pumpkin plant (??), she seems to be doing much better. Phew.

YMCA—I love that place these days. Today I swam 25 laps while the kids played in the Kids’ Gym and playroom. Mommy confession #2: Yesterday I finished my workout, took a shower, and since my two hours weren’t up, I sat and read a book for 15 quiet minutes while they kept playing. Eek.

Zucchini—We got our first one out of the garden today. That was a long time coming!

 

Still Your Kid

As I’ve written once before, Jay and I take great fun in pointing out traits we see in our kids that resemble each other.  “That’s YOUR kid!” we quip quite often.  This week was no exception…

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Chica has been taking swimming lessons for the past two weeks at Miller Park.  Learning to jump in and go under, sliding down the slide, and conquering the diving board were all highlights.  But just as fun for her (and me and Bubba!) were the friends we’ve made through swimming lessons.

After yesterday’s lesson, while we were sitting around drying off, Chica’s friend Levi was so excited about the treasure he had found during the lesson.  Her response was priceless.

Levi:  Look!!!  I found six cents!  (You must imagine him saying this with an excitement level 9 or 10.)
Chica:  Oh.  Well, when you get a dollar, call me.  (This with an excitement level pushing 2.)

Levi’s mom and I immediately begin to crack up, but Chica continues…

Chica:  Cause if you have a dollar, then we can go to the mall and ride the rides.

Even though Jay wasn’t there, I’m sure he would agree that’s my kid.  This is the tell-it-like-it-is kid, matter of factly figuring out a solution to her problem with little regard to the feelings of everybody else.  I want to ride the rides, but I need a dollar.  When you’ve got a dollar, let’s talk.  Love her.

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I must admit I’m getting a little nervous for this guy and the upcoming school year.  He is square in the middle of being two and a half….pushing the limits in every way imaginable.  I’m fearing end of the day conversations with his teachers about screaming when corrected or biting.  Ugh.  We’re working on it, I promise.  He is, at the same time, saying his sweet, “Thank you, Mommy,” or “I’m sorry, Sister,” without being asked.

One morning this week Bubba climbed up in Jay’s desk chair and began to open the drawer with all the fun stuff.  (Ex. The permanent markers which he recently used to color all over playing cards that he also found in the fun drawer.)

Jay:  Bubba, don’t open that drawer.
Bubba:  Why?
Jay:  You know there’s nothing in there for you.

Somehow his tiny little brain could compute that there was just enough sarcasm in Daddy’s answer to tell him that he could get away with being funny.  This is what Bubba shot back:

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Bubba computation was right, and Jay and I both laughed.  (Yes, I know, not the best parenting strategy.  Working on that too.)  But then this happened:

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I know I’ve seen Jay make that face and that point a hundred times, usually in all seriousness and not just mocking Bubba.  But until I saw them do it one right after the other, I hadn’t put it together that Bubba learned it from him.  “That’s YOUR kid!  I know where he gets that face now!!!!”  More hilarious laughing.  Never a dull moment around here.

How about you?  Leave me a comment about your latest, “That’s YOUR kid!” moment.

All Aboard Part 1

This summer has been so full and fan-cas-cick (as Bubba would say) that I’ve had a hard time stopping to record the memories here.  In spite of my mama’s frequent reminders that she’s waiting for a post, I’ve tried to live more in the moment and less for recording the moment when I get home.  I know that means that plenty of the memories are going to slip away, but I’m trading that for well rested and two empty hands and more snuggles.  It’s ok.

Thankfully Jay carted the camera this weekend on our train trip, so, Grandma, you can thank him for these few moments not forgotten.

On Saturday morning, we rode the New Tygart Flyer in Elkins, West Virginia.

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Papa’s dad and brother both worked on the railroad, so he had answers to all of our train questions.

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Bubba’s funny little speech patterns are one of my favorite things these days.  I’m hoping for another “Bubba Speaks” post soon, so I’ll save most of them, but this one’s too good not to share.  These days he uses the word because to actually mean so.  He’ll say things like, “I’m hot because I need to go inside,” or “I’m hungry because I need to have a snack.”  For the whole hour waiting for the train, he reminded us over and over, “My hat has a train on it because I will wear it.”

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While we waited for the, “All Aboard!” Chica, of course, made a friend.  I constantly feel myself tiptoeing down this fine line with her that divides friendly and annoying, open and reckless.  I love that she has never met a stranger, and it’s so perfect in these moments.  But other times I worry.  Worry that she’ll get hurt.  Worry that she’ll be too much.  Jay joked as we watched her that she certainly didn’t get her ability to make instant friends from me.  Even though I worry, many times I wish I was more like her.

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So the people who run this train certainly aren’t dumb, and it appeared that they stuck all of the families with kids in one car and fed them lunch first.  Brilliant!

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Even though there were lots of new things to see and do on a train, 4 hours is still a long ride for a little guy.  My normal keep-Bubba-busy questions have gotten a little old, so I tried something new this time.  Instead of, “Bubba, where’s your nose?” I asked, “What part of your body smells?”  Without skipping a beat, he spreads his leg and pats his hiney with and expression halfway between, “Easy, I know that!” and “Are we really supposed to talk about that, Mom?”  We have gotten plenty of laughs off of that one.  (You can bet that’s a story Nana will be telling in her office for quite a few weeks to come!)

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Chica’s funny for the day came after the announcer let us know over the speakers to keep an eye out for the upcoming high bridge and rapids down below.  When we got to the bridge, Chica was quite distressed that she couldn’t, “See the bottom of the trees.”  After a few questions from Daddy, he determined she was looking for rabbits.  Oops.

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We eventually found some rapids and waterfalls which provided a great place to take pictures.

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Chica was immediately fearless and ready to hop from rock to rock.  As you can see, I wouldn’t let Bubba go.  He wasn’t too happy about that.  I promised myself I would take them somewhere else this summer to play in a creek, pack a change of clothes, and just let him go.

While we were here, I couldn’t help but think of our adventures last year in the Grand Canyon at Havasu Falls.  There were many places we explored on that trip where the water was just this deep and fast, but the rocks weren’t slick because of the travertine.  Chica learned the hard way that rocks underwater here = slick!

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While exploring the falls, Bubba kept saying he wanted to go back and give the “white girl” a hug.  I quickly figured out he meant the bubbly girl in the white shirt who came by periodically to check on our train car.  He was brave enough to ask her for a hug, and then Nana asked if we could snap a picture.  They both ate it up.  Watch out, ladies.

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Too much mackin’ on the ladies can wear a man out, however, and he slept happily on Daddy for much of the return trip.

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When we returned that afternoon to Elkins, we checked out their city park and then ate at a great place called C.J. Maggie’s.  Our day ended with a play directed by Chica on the “stage” outside the train station.  Bubba was a good sport and went along with it.  Mostly he was just excited he got to be the monster and chase her without getting in trouble.

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Look for more pictures and memories from Day 2 soon!

Bubba’s Day in Pictures

Today we went on a trip.  This day had all of my favorite things:  lots of Frozen music, Grandma and Grandpa, swimming, my cousin, Tyler, and smarshmallows.  I love summer!

Right away when we got there, Uncle Taylor took me to the playground.  He’s funner than my mommy and daddy.  They just wanted to sit around and talk.
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Then we went swimming in the lake.  Like I said, Uncle Taylor is way funner than Mommy.  He took me to the dock with all of the big kids. 
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I thought that we didn’t have to take naps on trips.  Mommy must have missed that memo.  Even though I screamed real loud, she still made me sleep in Grandma’s cave.  (Everybody kept telling me it was called a tent, but I like cave better.)  After the nap, Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, and I went for a hike.  Ackshully, I didn’t really want to go, so Mommy carried me for a long time.
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Look what Mommy caught.  It’s the tinniest frog I’ve ever seen. I tried to hold him, but he was scared of me, I guess.
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Grandpa brought his shooting thing and was attacking trees in the woods.  He showed me how to pull it back.  He said he would teach me when I get big.IMG_3276

Everyone got to take a turn holding my hand.
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Chica told Mommy that the chicken cooked over the fire was the best she had ever tasted.  I think sister was just sucking up so we could get to the smarshmallows faster.  Mommy let me do it all by myself with her help.  She’s not so bad, after all.
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I ate two.  So did Mommy.
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I love my family!  Happy Father’s Day Daddy, Grandpa, and Uncle Taylor!
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