January 9th

I squeezed my husband’s hand, as he prayed out loud over my round belly. Moments later, the warm yellowish fluid accumulated into the sterile syringe. Shallow breaths, and the fears of “what if” pulsing through my mind. “These things only happen to OTHER people!!?” I frantically reassured myself. We left and we waited and we waited. Five never-ending days later, January 9th at 1:30 pm, the phone rang. We hadn’t thought to be together on the expected day of the call, because certainly “everything was completely fine.”

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My eager optimism was shattered into a million pieces as the geneticist sorrowfully explained to me that our baby’s amnio results showed a triplicate of the 18th chromosome. Trisomy 18. I don’t remember anything else she said as I crawled screaming out of the bathtub into a hysterical heap in the middle of the bathroom floor. I laid there numb, with my heart ripped out of my body. Why. Why. Why, oh, God, WHY. In those fresh, horrible moments we suddenly became trapped in a world of horrible and vague uncertainty. There would have been no way of knowing what a precious gift lay curled up, snug inside me. That I regarded her as some terrible genetic disaster makes me weep sad and bitter tears. I won’t beat myself up over those illogical apprehensions. How could I have known otherwise? As the agonizing layers of days, weeks and months were peeled away, our gift was revealed.

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Not a diagnosis. Not some horrible anomaly. A beautiful, precious, angelic, amazing, wonderful and perfect little girl. She might not have been perfect according to medical standards, but she was beyond perfect in our eyes. As I look back at today, 2012, my eyes well up with tears. Yes, I’m sad to have said goodbye to my own hopes and dreams of a “typical baby”, but once I held Nora in my arms, there was no other baby I would have traded her for. God had a much greater plan for me – for all of us.

I love this quote by Pope Francis that my friend Maggie shared with me this morning:

“Health is certainly an important value, but it does not determine the value of a person. Furthermore, health in and of itself is no guarantee of happiness: for this may occur even in the presence of poor health. The fullness towards which every human life tends is not in contradiction with a condition of illness and suffering. Therefore, poor health and disability are never a good reason for excluding or, worse, for eliminating a person… A society truly welcomes life when it recognizes that it is also precious in old age, in disability, in serious illness and even when it is fading; when it teaches that the call to human fulfillment does not exclude suffering; indeed, when it teaches its members to see in the sick and suffering a gift for the entire community, a presence that summons them to solidarity and responsibility.”

How blessed I am to KNOW this firsthand. Thank you, God. Thank you, Nora.

Happy Thanksgiving

I was asked to contribute a green bean dish for this year’s Thanksgiving feast. Ordinarily my green bean recipes involve a can opener, a pot and a stove… salt to taste. Voile! I did, however, have the good sense to realize that a little more effort and creativity was expected on my behalf.

I did my last minute Pinterest research and discovered several preparation methods involving an array of ingredients. Unable to settle on one particular recipe, I decided I would mix and match to engineer my own culinary masterpiece. Four pounds of fresh green beans, lots of pats of butter, olive oil, an onion, some mushrooms, 3 garlic cloves, topped with some fresh shredded Parmesan cheese, and GO! Let’s do this!

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I had everything all washed up, chopped up, ready to cook while I set to work on menial task of peeling the three garlic cloves. It took me like 45 minutes, one little segment after another, (Those of you cheffy-kitchen people probably see where this is headed.) … picking and peeling, peeling and picking. I was suddenly excited and grateful to have recalled and then actually located the “handy”, “can’t-live-without” (and never used) garlic press that I acquired at a Pampered Chef party back in ’97. We’re not big garlic people. In general, if a recipe calls for garlic, I might give it a dusting of uncomplicated garlic powder. But today? I was going to do this RIGHT and go all out with authentic, 24 carat FRESH GARLIC. After a lot of effort I eventually accumulated a small BOWL full of very, very fragrant, pressed / minced garlic. At long last I was able to merge all of the ingredients with the melted butter and olive oil. I stood there in front of the skillet, fluffing it around a little bit with the spatula, wondering to myself if possibly it was too garlicky. The smell was overpowering! “Maybe because I just spent all that time so up close and personal with it,” I reasoned. My sinuses were all but on fire and my eyes were watering. I put the lid on the skillet to let it simmer to itself when Greta, drawing pictures at the kitchen table angrily exclaimed, “WHAT IS THAT TERRIBLE SMELL?????” A few moments later my dear husband left the upstairs bedroom to come down and was unexpectedly met with an assault on his olfactory receptors, “Wooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!” These were some of my first external indicators that something might not be right. I went back and double checked one of the recipes to make sure it had indeed called for THREE entire garlic cloves. Yes, there it was, unmistakeable, plain as day: 3 cloves. I squinted my eyes to protect my corneas as I lifted the skillet lid and skuttled stuff around a little more. Woooooo, is right!!! It suddenly dawned on me — in that garlic-infused moment — that perhaps my interpretation of a “clove” was altogether inaccurate!

NOooooo!

“(Typing) What. constitutes. a. clove. of. garlic,” quickly gave me the answer to my question. At first I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one with this question, as illustrated in Yahoo Answers. “Bulb” / “Clove” = not synonymous. The reality of this atrocious situation suddenly became very apparent. I had spent too much money on it to throw it all away, nor did I have the time to make another trip to the grocery and start all over. We were supposed to walk out the door in 30 minutes. I turned off the skillet and frantically began relocating the green beans to a colander, hoping no one would notice that I was now attempting to rid them of this garlic scourge. As if on cue, “WHAT are you DOING??!” William curiously inquired. William is no Chef Boyardee either, but he knows enough about cooking to know that people don’t generally remove foods from their cooking vessels to then wash them off under running water, sinuses stinging.

The beans were rinsed and the skillet decontaminated. New butter and olive oil coalesced for Round Two. I lit a delicious cinnamon candle to mask the garlic struggles, but it was no match for the grand scale of this unwholesome cooking disaster.

Fingers crossed, corning ware dishes loaded up, I blew out the candle and we headed out the door for Thanksgiving dinner with my beloved extended family.

I didn’t want to devote too much of the day reminiscing about, “This time last year….” That has its time and its purpose, but I can’t and I won’t set up camp there. I recalled how Channel 9 came to our house and interviewed me about Nora, specifically on the topic of being so thankful for her. I remembered how she sat at the dining room table in her Bumbo with her little white pumpkin and her Thanksgiving music box, and how we LOVED her, just part of our family.

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While Nora’s physical presence is gone, the LOVE and the memories remain. How treasured and blessed to have known her and to now be surrounded by this awesome family as we give thanks for SO MUCH.

Sarah’s Thanksgiving prayer:

Lord,

We sit together in Thanksgiving. We have so much to be thankful for, the things we take for granted, our families, our homes, our jobs, our schools, our health.

None of this is coincidence! It is Your favor shining down on us and we owe all the glory to You. May we be aware of Your love for us, not just today, but every day, as we strive to be who You want us to be. May we focus more on You and less on ourselves.

As we carry sadness this year in missing the earthly presence of little Nornor, Lord, we ARE thankful for the time she DID spend with us. We are thankful for the impact she made on this earth to bring so many people closer to You, and that she is now in Your loving care.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (‭Psalm‬ ‭100‬:‭4-5‬ NIV)

Post-post: After all was said and done – the green beans turned out fine and no one was admitted for garlic poisoning. Phwew!

November

In my previous post, I wasn’t admonishing myself for thinking about Nora and wondering what we might have dressed her up as this year for Halloween. There I was wondering what are we going to dress her as this year. I get frustrated with myself when my brain begins to think of her in the context that she’s still alive in the physical world. Those thoughts span only a couple of milliseconds, but dispense just enough time for the knife of reality to rise up and gain momentum on its way into my heart. It’s the same concept of reaching for the phone to call that special person who has recently passed away. That’s just what you’ve always done. Those neural pathways are rutted deep.

It’s so hard to believe that November is here and nearly over. This month that represents a time of thanksgiving is also National Adoption month. November 22, specifically is National Adoption Day. I suppose I can tie the two together into a beautiful bow and state that I am so very thankful for the option of adoption. Over the past 21 years – that one decision has been the source of countless friendships and bonds, not to mention the positive effect of it by those (myself included) who are directly affected.

Long, long ago in the land of 2005 there lived two women. One of them was me and the other was a young lady hundreds of miles away in Pennsylvania, named Shannon. Shannon was amidst the crisis of her own unplanned pregnancy and had stumbled across an old blog I had floating around on the interwebz. This other blog told my adoption story — the pain, the heartache, the beauty, and the love of it. In her quest for advice and direction, she reached out to me. We exchanged emails for few days before eventually talking on the phone. In addition to offering her my post-adoption birthmother’s perspective, we were also able to share in the joys, aches and pains of pregnancy with each other as I was also pregnant (with Greta). We became fast friends. That March, Shannon successfully made it through the adoption placement of her birth daughter and Greta made her debut into my world five months later. Over the next 9 years, my friendship with Shannon withstood the tests of time and distance. We kept in touch by email and shared our secret online blog journals with each other — the occasional phone call tossed in for good measure. Over all this time, we had never met in person! Shannon intrigued me not only with her wit and sarcastic sense of humor, but also with her tales of life as a female mechanic. She was the epitome of the tomboy I had always aspired to be, yet adorably girly at the same time. Truly, only Shannon could pull that off!

This past August I had the opportunity to FINALLY meet Shannon in person! She graciously did the 9 hour drive from Delaware to Kentucky — against all better judgement… Essentially “going to meet some AXE MURDERER she met on the internet,” as her son David warned!! 😂

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Strangely, the moment we stood before each other in a hug, it was as if we’d always known each other, that we’d done this very thing a million times before. “Are you SURE we haven’t met in person before?” I wanted to ask her, knowing we hadn’t.

We had the best of time together, despite nearly running out of gas in the middle of an intersection and having to go back to the house at least three times any time we tried to go somewhere because I kept forgetting everything. I’m waiting for a sarcastic skid of ginkgo biloba to show up on my doorstep any minute now.

The weekend came and went all too quickly. I was only slightly surprised by the lump that formed in my throat as I packed up some goodies for her on her extensive journey back to DelaDelaWarewareware. Of course I was going to miss her!! Lots!! We’d been through so much together over the past 10 years. We finally met and now here we are being separated again. There’s no point of reference for this kind of thing!? I stood on the front porch and watched her drive away through a blur of tears. Tears of sadness, but also tears of gratitude. Your “stumbling” across my adoption blog all those years ago was no accident, Shannon. I’m so thankful for you and so thankful to God who connected our lives, simply because He loves us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭3-7‬ ESV)

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Halloween

It’s not so much the sightings of the 3 birds and the hearts as it is the timing of them. They pop up during a moment of prayer, in times of thanks giving and in bouts of sadness.

A few weeks ago I passed a rack of baby Halloween costumes in the grocery store. Old patterns and ways began wondering what we should dress Nora up as this year. The thought wasn’t out of the gate for but a millisecond before the hinged steel jaws of reality snapped shut, grievously lacerating it. My eyes welled up with tears. “You’d think I’d stop this by now…” I muttered to myself, glancing “randomly” at freshly patched drywall in the front of the store. Two unmistakeable hearts and a barely discernible “Thank You ….” that was once lettered above the windows. No. Thank YOU, sweet baby. Thank you for flooding my heart with such love. Thank you for teaching me and showing me how to trust and rely on God, even when it seems impossible. Thank you for pointing out how frail and precious our time on this earth is. Thank you for helping me to understand that while none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, we are guaranteed new Life. I could not have dreamt up a sweeter little messenger of God’s goodness and love than you. You were [and are] so much more than a scary diagnosis, Nora. I just had no idea. Thank you, God for entrusting us with such a sweet creation, such a precious gift.

Back home, unloading the groceries, my heart still a little tender, I looked up at the sound of geese honking past in the sky. THREE of them, “I see you. I see your pain. I know your heartache. I’m right here by your side, always will be. Stay strong in me. This is all going to be so worth it. Just wait a little longer, and soon you will see.”

Thank you, God.

No, I didn’t get to dress Nora up for Halloween this year, but she must certainly be dressed up as one of the sweetest little angels there ever was, REAL halo and all!

Greta made this “Nornor pumpkin” that glowed from our front porch last night, in true Nornor style. Her little light still shines on!

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Greta recycled her Shirley Temple costume from last year’s wax museum project, and Gavin wore his Jigsaw costume from Halloween last year.

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They ran around the neighborhood in the 40° for an hour and a half and came home with a combined 93 lbs. of candy (I think) and a sore throat (Gavin). Grrrr.

I’m loving the Facebook newsfeed. I saw a baby centaur, and a baby Golden Girl. So funny!!!!!!

Hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween!

Catching Up

August 10

The Mercy Me concert awaited us the day after we arrived home from our Michigan vacation. I had been in contact with Stephanie – a blog follower from West Virginia who we met for the first time last year at the same venue! She and her family were in town again, so it was only natural that we would meet up! Kelly was with us too, just as she was last year!

It didn’t seem like an entire year had elapsed since we had been together! I was so touched by little Josie who is the same age as Nora would be. Josie kept looking at me and smiling excitedly. Stephanie explained that Josie recognized me from a photo that was taken last year of all of us together with Baby Nora. So so SWEET!

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This was a whole new experience for William, Gavin and Greta. Kelly and I remembered how perfectly such an unlikely experience had unfolded before us last year. Even though Nora wasn’t with us in person this year, she certainly was in spirit. There were plenty of hearts and bird trios. Almost as soon as we sat down the band began playing “Happy Birthday”. It was a band member’s(?) birthday, I think? It’s not every day you get to hear Mercy Me sing “Happy Birthday”!

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It was so great to see you Stephanie, Neil, Jacob, Jonah and Josie! Let’s do it again next year!

August 12

✔️Last minute school supply shopping
✔️Clothes and shoes that fit, meet the dress codes, and don’t have holes in them
✔️ Kids put to bed early
✔️ Lunches packed

It’s the first day of school and the transition back into a regimented routine. I worried about this. God gave us the 3 months of summer to sleep in if we wanted. It was nice – even with the company of a broken heart.

I survived my first walk down the steps at 5:30 AM. The sky still dark, the painful quiet awaited. The familiar low murmur of the TV or radio, oxygen concentrator, the nurse. I miss them so so bad. I hate this quiet. There was no one to turn the porch light on for, but there was a sleepy headed little boy who needed breakfast made and a lunch packed. Gavin is in middle school now. Being at a different school requires him to be up much earlier. He has a 6:37 AM bus to catch! This is the sweet boy who distracts me from the void of the mornings. I’m so thankful for him and for his new schedule, and for my husband who joins him at the breakfast table before leaving for work.

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I have 40 minutes to take a breath before I have to wake Greta up. I know better than to climb back in bed, so I spend it watching or listening to Joyce Meyer.

Waking Greta up in the morning is no easy task. She hates to be extracted from her warm “schnoogy” nest. I warm our breakfasts up in the microwave that I premade with Gavin’s and we have a nice relaxing morning without any sibling shenanigans or teasing.

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The first week back to school usually coincides with both of their birthdays. Greta turned 9 on August 20th and Gavin turned 11 on August 17th. We celebrated with the family that weekend.

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Parker must have called Gavin from his Leapfrog phone to see what he was wearing!

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Happy birthday to my sweet kids.

the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
(‭Numbers‬ ‭6‬:‭25-26‬ NIV)

North – Day 15

August 9

The early morning sun partners with the great blue sky for the making of a beautiful day. It seems such a waste to spend it in the car, but “real life” beckons. The kids start school in 4 days. So much to do!

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I steal some last moments on the cedar perfumed shore with only a little lump in my throat. How absolutely wonderfully blessed not to have to wait an entire year before coming up here again.

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Bags, boxes, totes, duffels, suitcases, pillows, boats, trailers, jet skis, dogs and kids, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, cousins, a nana, a papa, and a nanny. We are all packed up, packed in and ready to roll out.

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Bunkheads.

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Heading south on the bridge is very anticlimactic. It is the tear-stained back page of a beautiful album of memories.

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Almost 9 hours later we are back at home plate. The carpet feels strange beneath my feet and the cat has a million questions. The old synapses in my brain look to turn on a missing oxygen concentrator. Her squeals, her cries and the toy noises and songs have all fallen silent. I distract myself with laundry, steadying myself beneath the weight of familiar grief. The past two weeks had been a gracious intermission from the glaring reminders. We needed that. Thank you, Mom & Dad!

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
(‭Psalm‬ ‭62‬:‭5-6‬ ESV)

North – Days 13 & 14

August 7 & 8

In the early afternoon we head over to my uncle and aunt’s property to visit with all the relatives and to see the new house they built. It is so nice to visit with everyone. Most of us live far apart from each other in “real life.”

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Their cozy niche in the world, a respite from traffic, deadlines, meetings and emergencies. Blessed.

Gavin visits the awesome staircase library ~

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Greta and her Dad check out the screened in living space that is underway. The mosquitos up here are horrible. I thought it was very woods-savvy to have the underside of the deck planks screened also. No bugs allowed!

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We immediately notice the heart inside ~

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No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
(1 John 4:12)

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Boggy!

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The unique tree formations make me pause in wonder.

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They also make great hiding spots for little girls during games of Hide n’ Seek!

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William, Kelly, Gavin and I head off to The Islander for dinner. Greta opted to stay behind with her cousins. It’s nice (and important) to spend one on one time with each of the kids.

(He doesn’t realize his picture is being taken!!! >:)

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Hustla

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On our walk down to the Hessel Marina after dinner we are intrigued to see the same boat that we saw just the day before on Mackinac Island. In my quest to find out more about this boat, I found these pictures (<– click link) online of its really cool interior. It is rumored to be owned by the owner of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.

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“Yes, operator? I’d like to place a text to Melanie to let her know my Instagram screen name? It’s ALEISAAK.”

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Okay. Now here we go trying to get a nice picture again. As you can see, the mere sight of a camera (phone) pointed in Gavin’s direction and a request to SMILE(!) elicits this response. I’m all, “Gavin! Come. On. Really? Please?”

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I’m completely confused as to where he gets it from. It really doesn’t make any sense.

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Haha!!! I guess we’ll see that one on Awkward Family Photos at some point.

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We are back to Island No. 8 in time to catch the sunset from the Kissing Bridge where we are reunited with sweet Greta.

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It’s not even possible to capture the beauty of this sunset with my iphone, alas.

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It’s hard to believe this is our last full day. The two weeks flew by so fast, just as we knew they would. Mom & Dad are out on one first and last kayak excursion ~

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Greta and her Daddy head off on a jet ski adventure to explore new lands and islands.

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William took this really cool picture of Greta standing on a rock with the vastness of Lake Huron behind her ~

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I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
(‭Ephesians‬ ‭3‬:‭16-19‬ NIV)

Meanwhile, I am off an a shopping excursion with my Mom, sister and Kelly. One cannot have too many Les Cheneaux sweatshirts, T-shirts, etc.

While shopping in the Pine Cone Gift Store I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Rachael T. who recognized me as “Nora’s Mom.” Again, I remind you, we are almost 600 miles away from the Greater Cincinnati area, which is where Rachael is from also! It really is an incredibly small world! We really LOVE meeting blog followers! Thanks for saying Hi, Rachael!

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Back home and out on the dock I watch with raised eyebrows as Gavin takes the reins of the jet ski. He stayed close by and docked it like a pro!

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Rather proud of ‘eemself!

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Ship in ~

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Ship out ~

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Sarah and I take a trip down to the Kissing Bridge by kayaks.

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We’re both so bummed that we are leaving tomorrow and try to soak up all of the beauty in the storehouse of our souls.

This guy. He’s a sweet one. He takes a 5 second rest with his Papa. He’s really, really busy!!

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Nana, Dustin and Joe are really, really busy whipping dinner together. Delicious turkey straight out of the smoker. Yes, please!

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The kids construct some last minute sand castles before dinner ~

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Everything is squared away, and we take a rest before the long drive ahead of us tomorrow. How quickly the days rushed by.

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This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. (‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5‬:‭18‬ NIV)