Monday, October 20, 2014

little steps for walking slowly through your busy life

"this is literally theee first time i've sat down today."

how many times have you found yourself saying that?
i catch myself saying that to friends on the phone...saying that to my husband when he texts that he's on his way home from work...saying that to my kids when they come to me with yet another random request.

"this is the first time i've sat down all day.  i've been go-go-going and i'm finally sitting down and resting.  i'm exhausted.  i'm worn out."

a few weeks ago, i found myself sitting down mid-day, catching a rare, brief moment of respite.  as i sat and just thought through my day, i came to the realization that i live my life in a constant state of hurry.
i am always go-go-going.
always rushing.
as i contemplated this, i wondered, "why? why am i always hurrying?"
and try as i might, i couldn't come up with a single good reason.

i rush because it is my "default mode."
get done with this so that i can start that.
do this tonight so that i can do that tomorrow.
hurry and get out of bed so that i can fix breakfast.
hurry and clean up after breakfast so that we can do school.
hurry and finish school so we can go to the library, or to the farmstand, or to the grocery store.
hurry and pay for the groceries so i can get home and cook dinner.
hurry and wrap up dinner so i can spend some time with paul.
hurry and fall asleep so that i can get up tomorrow and start this whole cycle all over again.

once i unraveled the spiraling of this vicious cycle, i began to see small triggers, patterns that seemed innocent enough but that led toward my daily rushing ruin.
fortunately, as offensive as these bothersome impulses are, they're almost equally easy to curb.
in fact, in my personal experience, just the heightened awareness of actually seeing this as a concern was enough to help me walk through my busy days just a bit more slowly.

i've implemented a few basic, practical strategies that have really made a difference.  i think, sometimes, the change may be more of a mental thing for me, an imperceptible shift that an outsider wouldn't even notice.  but, as all of us know, little changes can equal big results, and visible or not, increased peace of mind is result enough for me.

1. lower your voice.
this is a classic example of "fake it 'til you make it."
there are a lot of times that i don't feel calm.
i want everyone to hurry...we have things to do and we need to get them done now
but lowering my voice {and thus denying the natural instinct to raise it} instantly has a quieting effect on those around me.  and for the most part, in reality, things happen more smoothly--and therefore, more quickly--when calm prevails.

2. decrease caffeine consumption.
wait! wait!
don't let me lose you already!
i'm sure most normal people can handle copious amounts of caffeine.  but, just in case you're a weirdo like me, you may want to consider switching to half-caf or decaf partway through the morning.
i'm extremely sensitive to caffeine and have had to limit my consumption of even decaf!  the caffeine gives me deep pangs of anxiety and a general chicken-running-around-with-its-head-cut-off feeling.
if you're experiencing a frantic thrum of go-go-go-do-do-do, maybe, just maybe, try staying off the joe for a day or two.  
i've been off it completely for a week now {other than one decaf latte on saturday} and have noticed a considerable difference.

3. if you do decide to stick with your coffee, try drinking it with two hands.  
hey, even we tea and smoothie drinkers can implement this slow-down method.

4. silence your phone.
i can't tell you how many times i've thought, "if my phone rings one more time {or 'if i get one more text'}, i'm going to throw it through the window."
i'm sure your thoughts have never ranged to that extreme.
there are some days, though, where it truly feels like every single family member and friend and those who belong in neither group feel like they need a piece of me.
the truth is, if someone truly needs us, they'll know how to reach us, even through the impediment of a silent phone.
i've been silencing my phone during the day for the past two months now.  i check it at my will, usually once an hour or so.
just removing that constant, somewhat-unexpected chiming and dinging and buzzing for my attention takes away a factor of "must-do-now-ness."

5. while you're silencing your phone, go ahead and turn off your phone's automatic email "pushing" and silence the email notifications on your computer.  see reasons in paragraph above.

6. when you're driving and you come to a stop sign, always come to a complete halt.
yes, this is the law.
no, most of us don't do it.
but we should.  i find i drive considerably more in-control when i consciously come to a complete stop at every stop sign.
it also must have some sort of subconscious effect, because i find that i just don't feel like i'm in as much of a hurry when i do so.
added benefit: avoid expensive tickets! win-win!

7. eat only while sitting down.
how often i've found myself standing at the counter, fisting a half-empty bag of chips, wondering how i could have possibly eaten all of them!
i'm trying to force myself to take the time to plate a small meal and eat it at the table.  
many days it means that i eat my lunch around 2:00 in the afternoon, simply because i prefer the peace and quiet of lunch alone {we eat dinner as a family, and i am in the kitchen with the kiddos for both breakfast and lunch}.
grabbing on-the-go snacks and meal replacements not only adds to our waistline, but also to indigestion.
when at all possible, fix yourself a small meal--a half sandwich, a small bowl of leftover soup, a simple salad, an egg or two fried with some greens and veggies, an apple with a bit of peanut butter and granola for dipping, whatever--put some thought into your food and make the time to sit down and eat.

8. make yourself "pay" for using "bad words."
no, i'm not talking about cussing here.  although, if that's your weakness, maybe this does apply.
what i'm talking about is this: listen to yourself.  what are your code words, the phrases you over-use especially when you're trying to get people to hurry?
that same day that i had this little talk with myself on the couch, i observed that i repeatedly use the phrase "hurry up" and the word "quickly" {just that word, all alone, as a command}.  i determined to eradicate those from my daily vocabulary.  i simply forced myself to make a tally mark on our big chalkboard either time i slipped and said either of those or any variation thereof.
the first week, i think i had six tallies.  the second week three.  and now, four weeks out, i've quit keeping score, but i know i'm down to just one or two slip-ups a week.
i'm not saying that it's bad to occasionally ask your people to light a fire under it, but if you find that you are constantly harping on people to "move it! hurry up! quickly! now! get going! come on! faster! hurry! let's go!" you may need to enforce a small consequence to train yourself out of that verbal pattern.
all of us are different, i know that.  but of all these small changes, this is the one that has made the biggest impact on me.

9. remind yourself as often as needed that life is not an emergency.
emergencies will arise.  but nine times out of, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, that text or that phone call or that email that you missed because your phone was silenced was not in any way related to a bonafide emergency.

i'll be the first to admit, i still stumble and fall into the old, troublesome routines of urgency on a regular basis.
i'm human...aren't we all?
but if i...if we can take small steps on a daily basis that help us to be more calm, to walk more slowly, with more intention through these busy lives that we lead...if we can all do that, even those little steps promise to accrue to a great big change.

i love practical little tips like this...small things that i can start doing today to make a difference in my life, in my home, in my relationships.
do you have any proven techniques that you use to center yourself?  to calm the inner "noise?" to slow yourself down?  please share.
i'm willing to say that this is an area i struggle with...always have...probably always will.  but i'd love to know what has worked for you.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

random randomness 10/17/14

saturday--the sentiments expressed here so identically parallel the way we feel about our annual uncle tom's cabin trips...i had to share.

sunday--yes, this is still very much on my mind.  and another article, written by one of my IG friends, on the same subject.  and i love the way this woman from the UK concisely lays out so many helpful dos and don'ts.

monday--i'm new to this whole trend {purchased my YL starter kit recently}, but i love, love, love this open and honest post.

tuesday--and so then, i instantly wonder which category my hubs and i would fall into--master or disaster?  we've made it 14 years {17 if you count the dating years}, but still, it'd be interesting to see how this expert would classify us.

wednesday--this recipe looks divine for a get-together i'm going to.  i shudder a bit at the thought of store-bought dough, but i'm thinking i could easily adapt the recipe and make it my own.

thursday--do you think i could convince paul that we need one of these {but in the largest size} for over our sunroom fireplace?

friday--loosely acquainted, but her heavy on my heart today.

and because it's too good not to share...
we had a fun little giveaway from Impressed App this past week over on my IG.  i'm pretty crazy about the prints they sent me...people, these are great.  for real. {see photo below}  
they've extended a free shipping offer {valid on deco prints} to tweetpotatopie readers for this entire weekend!
simply enter the code tweetship at checkout {valid until midnight 10/20}.
Impressed App can be found online, in the app store, or on IG at @impressedapp.

so much fun coming this weekend...
craft night with a whole group of girlfriends tonight.
then tromping around the countryside saturday morning with yet another group of friends, visiting stops on our area's annual autumn drive.
keeping a friend's kiddos overnight saturday into sunday...
church on sunday...lunch and study with our couples' group to follow.

good times...good times.

happy friday, y'all!

{prints from @impressedapp.  photo on my IG--i'm @tweetpotatopie over there, too.}

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

finding balance {kim's story}...

my friend, kim, is sharing her finding balance story today.
kim doesn't blog.  and she really doesn't instagram.
but kim is one of my longest-standing, very best friends in the world.
kim and i met in our very first class on our very first day of college, and were roommates for our junior year. 
she was the "lady of honor" in my wedding...
since she was already married and we both thought "matron of honor" was just too...well...matronly.
i value kim's opinion {and regularly ask for it} on everything from homeschooling curriculum 
to cleaning out closets to fish tacos.
yes.  fish tacos.


For years, I wanted to be balanced.  I tried.  Really hard.  I tried so hard that I think that some people thought I lived a balanced life.  But inside, I was a wreck.  I was the “I’m so broken I can’t even cry”, “wonder if my life was always going to be so hard”, “fake it…though you’ll never make it” kind of girl.  I was in a marriage where I was measured on a moment by moment basis.  I had to do everything right, look right, clean right, and perform right.  To me, balance was exactly as we all envision it  – as we teach our kids.  Put a crayon in one side, then balance it with an eraser.  Put a penny in one side, then balance it with an m&m.  That was my life.  Laundry on the left.  Exercise on the right.  Cooking on the left.  Cleaning on the right.  Socialize on the left.  Homeschool on the right.  And the list goes on.  All day.  Every day.  I could never get it right and I could never be enough.
Then, my world fell apart and looked just like I felt on the inside.  A disaster.  The whole balance toppled and spilled the discarded contents of my life.



The loss of my own moral compass.


Not a great list, I know.  And you’re probably wondering what that has to do with balance.  For me?  It meant everything because there was no more hiding behind the façade of “okay”. The real me was spilled out for everyone to see.  I had to reevaluate everything:  what I do, why I do it, and who I’m trying to please.  Those are really big questions, that in the life of a believer – which I am – should all point to the Creator and to my Savior.  But, they didn’t.

But even in my brokenness, I was not alone.  God saw me.  God loves me.  God wants me to be whole.  And, God gave me a gift.  Perspective.  Honesty. Truth. Self Control. Unselfish. Good. Pure. Love.  All wrapped up in one handsome package – my husband, Seth.  (Don’t worry – this is not going to be a love story… I’m truly getting to the balance part!)  Seth and I were friends when we were kids…the best of friends.  And he knew me.  He also knew that when we renewed our friendship almost 20 years later, that I was not the girl he once knew.  One time, I remember him saying, “Who are you…where is my Kimmy?”     So began the hours, days, weeks, and months of introspection.  This led to conversations about what is really important and what it really means to be balanced.

Here is the heart of what I learned and what I TRY to live every day.

When Seth and I started talking marriage, he gave me a list:  Relationship (ideals), Fitness, Diet, MAKING time for each other, Doing Right, Budget, Family, and Church Involvement.  He asked me to number them 1-8 in order of how I view them in light of our relationship.  Try it – it’s hard!  But I did it and so did he.  Then, we compared our lists and saved our results.  It was a way to prioritize what we believe is the most important.  It gives value to what is important.  For example – we have SIX kids.  If one wants to play hockey, we need to look at that in light of the things “above” it on the list – Does it fit into the budget? Does it take too much sacrifice of our time together? etc.  And if it fits, then we say yes.  

Another example – On Tuesday, I was supposed to go to Bible Study.  I REALLY like the Bible Study and the group of women who go.  BUT, we just finished a REALLY hectic, busy vacation week with all of the kids SO, Seth cancelled on his golf league and asked me if he could take me out to dinner and spend the evening with just ME.  The Kim of old would have felt so much guilt and would have gone to Bible Study because *gasp* we can’t go on a date instead of Bible Study!  But, according to our list, Church involvement comes after MAKING time for each other so the decision was an easy one.  And there was no guilt.  (Disclaimer:  Church involvement does not equal my personal walk of Faith, but how I view that is another story for another day!)

I was and AM clumsy.  Not coordinated.  AT ALL.  I can barely walk across a balance beam without falling off.  Truly.  I wobble. Now, picture balance in this way…like a balance beam.  We are walking a line through this life.  What that line looks like is up to us. Our line could be as thin as a balance beam and we could wobble and fall and get back on and wobble and fall and get back on…  Or, we can build a foundation that is wider.  Firmer.  Stronger.  One that even I, in my uncoordinated state (and don’t we all feel a little uncoordinated as we navigate our lives?) could skip and hop and dance across!   We do this by determining the right priorities and living by them.  By living a life firmly established on Biblical principles.  I truly believe that life – that balance -  shouldn’t be so tricky.  Your list of what is important to you won’t be the same as ours.  Yours might include bed times, kid activities, alone time, work, etc.  Think back to the other blogs on balance that you’ve read in this series:  it’s not about comparison to the specifics of how I found balance.  It’s about you building your own platform on which to walk…on which to balance.  It’s critical that we look inward for balance – not at the ever changing landscape of “style”, social situations, neighbors, and friends.


My previous, broken life was that way because there was no foundation on which to walk.  There was no choosing to do right and turn from evil.  There was no value placed on what is important.  That left me – clutzy me! – trying to walk a tightrope.  We need to DISCRIMINATE (Yes…I used that word!) against the things that threaten what is important, truly important, in our lives. 
I end with this thought:  Some of you are struggling with balance and you would like me to tell you HOW or WHAT to do…  If that is what you’re thinking, please go back through and read this post again.  It’s not about a formula or about getting everything right.  It’s about BEING right.  About being consistent in your choices.  About building a foundation of solid thinking based on your priorities.  Consistently CHOOSE to live your life CHOOSING what is important.

Balance comes from a strong platform on which to walk. 

{the rest of the posts in this series can be found here.} 

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

on writing letters...

there's something about this digital era we live in...
something i'm afraid we've lost...
the art of writing letters.

when's the last time you found a stack of yellowed emails bound together with a grosgrain ribbon bow?
when's the last time you saw a rumpled, dog-eared, tear-stained text tucked under someone's pillow?

my guess is...never.

i understand that the benefits of the conveniences of this day and age far outweigh the drawbacks {although at times, that's highly debatable}.
but nothing...nothing takes the place of thoughts, words, feelings, sentiments scratched out on slips of paper.

we make it such a big deal in our mind...
"i just don't have time..."
"i forgot to buy a card..."
"my handwriting is terrible..."
and on the excuses run.

but tell me, when you receive a hand-written letter in the mail--a personal letter, rather than the regular daily menu of bills and solicitations--don't you still get that little thrill as you anticipate opening it?
i don't know of many things that make me feel more like an eight-year-old at christmastime than receiving a letter from a friend.
and the thing is, it doesn't even have to be a lengthy epistle...
a simple note on a generic card will do...
but for me to know that someone actually thought about me!
and not only did they think of me, but they took it one step further and made sure to let me know that i was on their mind.

it takes a little bit of thoughtfulness, a few moments of our time, and a 49¢ stamp...
but it's guaranteed to make someone's day.

who can we surprise with just a little bit of lovin'?
~our parents or in-laws...send a few photos of the grandkids!  or if you don't have any photos at the ready, have the kiddos color some pictures!
~our spouses...i'm guilty of not expressing my love and gratitude on paper as often as i should.  i'm thinking i'm not alone?
~our kiddos...i've often said that my oldest daughter's love language is notes.  she is constantly leaving little messages of love for us.  and i know it's extra-special for her when she's on the receiving end.  i'm thinking prickly teens may even respond favorably with the non-confrontational nature of a sweet note. 
{note: that is not a non-teen parent giving all teen parents advice.  it's just an educated guess.  i learned a long time ago that the only kids i know much of anything about are those that live under the same roof as I.}
~our neighbors...especially if they're good ones.
~our pastor/pastor's wife...and even more oft forgotten, the assistant staff people of our churches.
~foreign missionaries...the stamp costs about a dollar...but consider how rarely they get surprise "happy mail."
~our children's teachers
~our employer or employees

the list could go on and on...
my point is, there really isn't much of anyone whose day couldn't be brightened a bit with a little written ray of sunshine.

as for me, i'm going to wrap this up and go pen a short note for austyn to find as soon as she wakes in the morning.

how about you?  anyone you can think of that could use a hug on paper?
take a minute and let them know you care.


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

green and gold and measuring up...

last week , i received this email from starbucks.
it looks innocent enough, right?

but the emotions that it immediately stirred up inside me weren't as benign.

my level "dipped"...
i needed to earn so many stars within a certain amount of time to maintain my "gold level"...
and, quite obviously, i didn't earn those stars.

flash back to elementary school and earning stars for my "star chart"...
red, blue, green, silver...
but the only way to earn a big gold star was to score a 100% on a test.
i had plenty of red and blue and green and silver...and yes, even big, shiny, gold stars back in my day.

but that same punch-in-the-gut of disappointment that i felt, way back then, when i saw a big red 90% or 94% or--most dreaded of all--99%--that same disappointment is what i felt when i received this email.
i didn't do well enough.
i fell short.
i disappointed myself.

for about 47 seconds.

and then, i thought about it.
how utterly silly this is.
let me break this down for you...
in one year's time, if i buy five drinks {for simplicity's sake, let's just assume my drinks are of the uncomplicated sort--which they never are--and cost $2 each--which they never do}, that entitles me to all the "privileges" of "green level" status.
in one year's time, if i buy thirty{!!!} drinks, that entitles me to all the "privileges" of "gold level" status.
easy.  spend ten-ish-dollars within a year {but more}.  
earn "green level."
not quite so easy.  spend sixty-ish-dollars within a year {but more}. 
earn "gold level."

oh, but gold level gets a free birthday drink or treat.
so does green.
oh, but gold level gets a birthday coupon for 15% off online.
so does green.
oh, but gold level gets custom offers via email.
so does green.
oh, but gold level gets free in-store refills on tea or coffee.
so does green.

what then, you may ask, is the grand difference between the gold and green rewards levels?
well, if you earn gold level, you get a shiny gold card with your name on it.
no credit on it.  no free drinks already linked up to it.
your name.  your name is on it.  that's it.
and if you earn an additional twelve stars {read spend an additional $24 on top of the $60 you already spent}...
if you earn those additional twelve stars, then you get another free drink.

i could break the math all down for you, but it doesn't take a genius to see that it's $74+ out of pocket before you see any difference between green level and gold level. 

here's the thing...
i don't fault starbucks at all.
this is clever marketing, if ever i did see it.
"spend money with us, so you can earn a card that will help you remember to spend more money with us."

the fault lies in me.
in my thinking, my reasoning, my equating a dipping rewards level with lower-than-hoped-for grades.
and then i wonder, how many things on a daily basis do we allow to tell us that we don't quite measure up?  
that we didn't try quite hard enough?  
that we almost earned that "special" privilege...but we fell short?
and really, in the end, if we dissect the matter, we find that we are actually better off without that proverbial gold star {money ahead in the starbucks example}.

here's where i tie this all up with a shiny gold bow...
or top it with a shiny gold star {wink, wink}...
here's where i tell you that you are good enough...
that you do measure up...
that you did try hard enough.
but the fact of the matter is, i can't do that.
what i can tell you, though, is this...
be certain that the scale of "good enough or not" is worth being on in the first place.
be sure that "measuring up" is worth the stretch, worth the reach.
and be positive that what you're trying for is worth all the effort.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

uncle tom's cabin {ontario, wi} 2014

every fall, our family goes up to ontario {not canada}, a little town in north-central wisconsin.
the population of ontario is 554...and over half of those people are amish.
the rolling hills, covered in trees resplendent in their autumn foliage, combined with stepping back in time, sharing the twisting, climbing roads with old-world horse-drawn wagons and buggies truly makes for an idyllic combination.

my parents took my brothers and me up to ontario every fall back during my growing-up years.
a friend of my dad's has owned property up there for ages and ages.
back when we were kids, we stayed in an old, abandoned school house on his land.  he's since retired and turned that old school house into his permanent residence--remodeled and modernized, of course.
"uncle tom" {that's all i've ever known him as} then bought a patch of picturesque valley-land down a hilly gravel road and had an authentic log cabin built down there.
no electricity.  no running water.  an outhouse.  a hand pump.  a wood-burning stove.
and it's our autumn-heaven.

to be able to take my kiddos to the very same places that i remember from my own childhood is beyond special.
one of my brothers was actually able to make a trip up there this fall, too {separate from us}.  he was group-texting photos to my dad, my other brothers {i have three, total}, and me...all memories that we share from our times up at uncle tom's cabin.
i can only hope that twenty years from now, austyn, colton, addison, and eden will be exchanging similar sentiments.

our trips to ontario are usually friday through sunday.
any time we are up there for friday night, we eat our dinner at the blue goose.
it's a little tiny restaurant, tucked back in the middle of nowhere, down a long country road.
the blue goose serves only pizza.
and you must have reservations if you've any hope of getting in to eat.
it's not that the pizza is that good {although it isn't bad, that's for sure}...
but when you're the only eating-place for miles and miles around,
you're bound to fill up fast.
anywhooooo, the blue goose has a juke box...
and on friday, eden had her very first juke box experience.

friday night was chilly!
i slept all night with one of my favorite hats on...
and a scarf.
in the morning, one of my snuggle buddies crawled in with me to keep me warm.
{yes, we take our own pillows.  and i take my own quilt.
it's kind of like my "blankie" mom made it for me and it's on our bed most nights.}

saturday morning...
yes.  it's right under 30º...

☝{one of my very favorite shots from the entire weekend}☝

{view of the cabin from down at the pond}

this girl and those boots.
my mom-in-law originally gave them to colton several years ago...he wore them and i tucked them away, thinking i'd save them. {for his own kids?  who knows.}
i came across them last week, and decided to have addison try them on...
i mean, they're cowboy boots...boy, girl...pretty universal, right?
she fell head-over-heels in love with them.
{heels! ha!  boot pun.  get it??}
don't know if they'll make it to colton's kiddos now...
but there's one more girlie after addison...
so at leastl we'll get good use out of them!

eden's "taking a pit-ser" of a giant wild toadstool addie found...obviously.

a while back, i found addison one of these vintage cameras for cheap at a garage sale.  
the shutter still clicks when you press the button and the film wheel still advances with lots of loud clicking...
basically, it's a perfect toy camera for a six-year-old.
well, this weekend, i found another one...
so now eden finally has one of her own.
she spent the entire weekend "taking pit-sers"...
i'm thinking they've watched mommy do this just a few times☺

this is not uncle tom's cabin.  
this cabin is up on a hill {uncle tom's is in a deep valley}...
but this is the cabin that we all "fight" over.
"that's my cabin."
"no, dad, that's mom's cabin."
"mom, dad says that's his cabin."

i don't care what anyone says.
it's mine.

the boots, again.
{big heart eyes}

all the photos near the end were taken at wildcat mountain state park...
yet another stop that we--we, being my parents and brothers and me--always made.
i'll have to dig through our old family photos...
i know there's a shot of us four kids by the state park sign.


i'll be honest.  truthfully, brutally honest.
trips like this make me miss my mom more.
i miss her so much on just a daily basis...
and then to travel ground, fertile with memories, her scent still lingering on each of them...
the missing grows until it threatens to choke out the enjoying.

it's october.
soon, we'll reach the four-year mark.
october is my favorite month.  
but it's hard.  it just is.
i'm having to compartmentalize my thoughts these days.
having to allow myself time to dwell, to remember, to reminisce...
and then having to shut that "compartment" off for certain times, certain gatherings, certain events.
otherwise, all i can think of is how much it would thrill her to see the sheer childish ecstasy as my kids toss leaves up into the autumn breeze...
otherwise i think of how much she loves campfires and how she'd surely bundle up under a pile of quilts with me, just to watch the sparks dance heavenward, just to gaze at the stars...
otherwise, all i can think of is "we did this place"...
and "we went here...on this day..." and "oh! remember when..."
and those memories, while precious and treasured, hurt.
in october, they hurt.

so, if you're a grandma, "read" these pictures through eyes of a grandma who will never get to see them.
and if you're a young mother, "read" these photos through eyes of a young mom whose only wish is that she could share them with her own mom.
and by all means, give each other a hug...or a kiss...or a phone call...

i'm getting all sappy.
i'll stop.

thanks for letting me share.
i needed this.


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