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That Look She Gave

It was hard to capture the essence of Natalie’s expression in this photo. But it’s a little bit of disbelief, a little bit of love and a little bit of pure pleasure.

You see, some of the best things about spending time at the cabin are the simplest pleasures. We have all the modern conveniences of home, don’t get me wrong, but there are usually a lot of people around and the outside of the cabin is simply much larger than the inside, naturally supporting a lot of outside play.

Prior to this photo, my three littles decided they were going to have a soup and stew contest. I was to be the taste-tester and judge of the contest. James set up a winner’s podium. One plastic lawn chair for 1st, one for 2nd and one for “chicken dinner.” Apparently in contests there are two winners and a chicken dinner – it’s going through your head right now – Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

As any good educator of the 21st century would, I gave them formative feedback along the way to help them perfect their soup. “Hm, needs some garlic salt… You could add something green…. That soup is spicy, add some cream.”

When they were finished I carefully tasted each soup (not for real; sand-grass-petal-rock soup is not my favorite). I described for them the depth of flavor their soup possessed and what I like best about it. James and Liberty beamed as I told them about their soup. James began to immediately inquire about who gets #1, #2 and, of course, chicken dinner.

But I still had Natalie’s soup to taste. She had worked separately from the others, gathering ingredients from all corners of the property. She even dumped out her soup twice to start over because it wasn’t good. I commented about how her soup had a hint of jasmine, noting how expensive jasmine is and how she must really care about her soup customers to gather spices and fallen flower petals from all over the world. I remarked how her soup had a hint of the Orient while maintaining a strong down-home-American base. She had very little to say during my critique, except that look she gave me. That look that told 1000 stories, that look the was the direct physical evidence of chains of thoughts rolling around in her head.

That look said, ‘Is she for real?’ Which gave way to, ‘My mom is pretending, right?’ And finally seemed to settle on, ‘This is mostly pretend, with my fake soup and my detailed chef critique, but it’s pretty awesome…’ And she soaked up every second.

So I maintain, it was a look of a little bit of disbelief, love and an immeasurable pleasure. Yes, it was difficult to capture that look in a photo. Pictures alone are supposed to be worth a thousand words, but hopefully this image, with these words can give a hint to the joy that these little things at the cabin make me feel.

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My favorite place to be. My favorite cousin. My favorite 3-year old.

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This is the only picture I took today.

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And I took it because I desired to spend my afternoon watching baseball and drinking beer; eating teriyaki chicken wings and onion rings. Instead, I had a string of unfortunate events that made me crabby and irritable.

I asked Shannon, who inspired me to do a photo per day, what she did when she had a horrible day – she said sometimes she just faked it; or took a picture of her sleeping daughter during that quiet time of night when you get a chance to relax, forget your trials and focus on your blessings.

On the phone with my friend Jessie tonight I said that I had an urge to take a picture of my finger nails, which are adorned with polish in a rare but exciting moment where I haven’t picked it off or chewed my nails but it felt too shallow to say the only thing that made me happy tonight was my fingernail polish. #firstworldproblems

When I really thought about it, I had a friend to email about photos, a friend to talk to about nail polish and crappy days, a friend who talked me through the crappy day (with a smile), a friend who texted just at the right moment with the right material to talk me down, a couple of friends who met me for drinks on a work night and listened to my day, family that loves me no matter what. And I remembered I’m pretty lucky. Even on the bad days I have people I can count on. If I could capture that in an image, I would. But for now, please know, I hold you all in my heart and couldn’t smile tonight without you.

This used to be fun. I have always loved office supplies. Pens, notebooks, Post-It’s, new markers, fresh folders… the list goes on. I used to spend time finding neat notebooks – like composition notebooks or hardcover science journals – for my notes. I have a penchant for choosing smooth-flowing ink pens and have always preferred those of some color other than black.

School supply shopping has changed. Teachers list very specific supplies and choices really come down to brand of number 2 pencil and color of pencil case; perhaps pink versus white erasers.

And so, with three lists of similar supplies, procrastination that took me until almost the last possible moment, dwindling supplies in stores and the lack of choice in supplies, I went to Amazon. I ordered, bundled, and Amazon-Primed it up with free shipping. Everyday when I come home my front step is littered with packages. As I unpackage and collect the supplies I ordered, I have come to realize this is the best possible way to order supplies.

Perhaps I’ll take a trip down the office supply aisle next week and grab myself some swift, smooth-flowing pens and a neat unlined notebook for this year’s thoughts, ideas and to do lists.

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Playing catch is one of our favorite pastimes. Or, at least it’s one of mine. And this little one loves to do whatever mom wants to do. For a while now she’s been eating, drawing, and writing with her left hand. Throwing changes day to day. I usually roll her a ball and whatever hand she grabs and throws with, I give her a glove to match. Yesterday she threw righty, today she threw lefty. I figure if I let her ‘switch-throw’ she will eventually choose a throwing hand. And maybe she’ll be a switch-hitter. Or just reap the benefits of being a left-handed batter who throws right-handed. Time will tell. For now, it is fun to see her do both, choosing whichever throwing hand she favors each day.

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They Swim Too Well!

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Today, in “What Should We Do While Taylor Is At Football Practice, Chapter 12″ we decided to go swimming. The outdoor pool was already closed for the season so we went to a hotel that we used to swim at. As an added bonus, we had 4 unused punches left in our punch pass there from a year and a half ago.

The kids love to swim, but took things to a new level tonight. Liberty was floating on a noodle all by herself. I was working on strokes with Natalie and canon balls with James. I turned around to see Liberty jump off the side in the deep end with just her noodle. And she loved it, proceeding to climb up the ladder and repeat multiple times.

Later I asked Natalie to get the noodle so that I could get a picture of all of them jumping. Liberty said, “I can jump!” and leapt off the side of the pool unassisted, swam underwater to the stairs, climbed out and said, “See?”

Sure did! With my mouth agape in shock at the child who, 2 months ago, wouldn’t jump off the dock with me catching her!

The fact that they are all swimming so well and with such confidence made my job as a single mom at the pool much more difficult as they continued to jump, leap, cannon ball, float, fly and splash in three directions at any given moment. I was constantly on the lookout for noses and mouths above the water line.

We all survived and this makes just the kind of story I want to remember in 365 Photos.

Exercise for Fun

If you’ve been watching my daily photos, you’ve seen that I’ve started running. But I much prefer tricking my body into exercise – like by playing volleyball. We’ve been playing on a team with somewhat rotating members since last fall. And I didn’t realize that I could still, at my age, practice a sport and continue to get better. We started out a losing team on the C-league, also known as the beer league, last fall. But we’ve come a long way as a team. Tonight our opponent forfeited due to lack of players. An A-league team was in the same boat, so we petitioned them to intermix with us and play a scrimmage. They agreed and it was an absolute blast. It was almost like having a team of coaches show us some more advanced plays.

Regardless of whether we have played A, B, or C league teams, exercise is much more fun when you’re out socializing, laughing and drinking beer with friends.

The photo tonight is of the Chippewa River, on the property where we play. Tonight’s humid and sticky whether had us sitting by the water soaking our feet with a Summer Shandy before our game started. Good-bye summer league! It’s been real!

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