minutes and being present

When I was in college, a couple that my family knew relentlessly asked me to come live with them. All of their kids were out of the house, and they had a lot of land and horses, and I couldn’t fathom why they wanted me to come, but I wanted to so badly. For a year and a half, they asked me. Then one day, I called, terrified, and asked if they were being serious when they asked. They said yes, and I told them I wanted to take them up on their offer.

I only lived with those friends for a semester, but I learned a good deal about grace and love and being together from them. It seems weird, even, to say that I “learned” from them. To say that I experienced love and grace fits better. I’m still learning.

What Chuck and Vicki had to give was time, and I couldn’t believe it. I was actually quite terrified of their love, honestly, and so I only lasted in their house for a semester. I have long had a fear of being a burden, and living with them was real practice: the beginning of a long journey of learning to depend on other people, to let them care for me, to not try to completely care for myself and others.

After I moved out, I started nannying for a family with infant quadruplets and a toddler. Vicki came to help me feed the babies one day, which was a huge gift of presence. One strange day that I had off, I asked Vicki if I could come hang out with her. She sat on her porch for more than 2 hours just listening and talking with me. The gift of her presence and listening was more than I could have asked for, and so rare in my life. I think it’s rare in our culture today, even in the church. We are so busy with our own lives, we drive everywhere, money seems tight, we are anxious and we zone out on our phones and computers. We don’t want to risk relationships, we don’t want to risk discovering something about ourselves that seems to be too much for us or for others. It’s scary to just sit and be with people, sans cell phones, sans TV.

My friend Liz blogs and is good at leaving posts and conversations open without a bow at the end. I’m trying to get better at that. I suck at conclusions. I will close by saying: I want to risk wearing out my welcome, I want to risk discovering others and letting others discover me. I’m thankful for friends who go deeper with me.

  
 

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star gazing

“The longer and the tighter that we hold only makes it harder to let go.” -nicole nordeman

Something very hard went down last fall, which largely pushed me to go ahead and get Lucy. I needed a big change, I needed the companionship, I needed someone or something to take up some of the free time that seemed to be in excess.

When I first started house training her, I would spend a lot of time hanging out in my backyard in the cold, and sometimes rain, waiting for her to poop. I found myself looking up and noticing the stars. Aside from having a dog, I don’t think I’d ever choose to be outside when it’s cold and dark unless I were at the beach or in the mountains. I have this memory of working at a Young Life camp in Colorado during college, and climbing on top of a cabin with a friend and seeing the stars. They have never been so clear as they were that night. But I also haven’t spent a ton of time looking at them.

In Nicole Nordeman’s song The Unmaking, she writes of God “unmaking” much of the life she had built. Sort of like my theory on creating my lovely flower pots and God coming along and dumping all of the contents out because there’s something in there that is poisoning my flowers, poisoning the air I’m breathing. Like mold or something. She writes, “This is the unmaking, beauty in the breaking, I had to lose myself to find out who you are. Before each beginning there must be an ending…sitting in the rubble, I can see the stars.” I thought about that song a lot last year as friends moved, I lost a roommate, relationships were torn apart, I was betrayed, I changed jobs, etc. I thought about the song once more as I wanted to quit all the things and then I stared up into the sky while standing in the midst of dog poop, and I started noticing the literal stars in the sky.

I’m only 29, and in the last few years my theories on how things should work have dissipated. I’m much more slow to speak in black and white, much more likely to let there be gray. God is so very much in control, and he has so orchestrated all things to bring him glory, and he loves us so much. He loves me so much. Nicole Nordeman asks, “What happens now, when all I’ve made is torn down?” I find myself asking that a lot, and I’m nudged towards trusting God, towards waiting. I hate the word waiting. But isn’t that a star in and of itself? Trusting God? The ability to say that I don’t have to know all things?

Last week my Kindergarteners had a Valentine’s Party. There are some fantastic moms who really know how to love on 5 and 6 year olds, and they threw a great party. The idea, of course, is for the 5 and 6 year olds to have fun. Well, one child was getting really anxious and wanting to be in charge of the party, and thus, not having much fun. I stepped into the hall with him to talk about the situation, and the conversation went like this:

KK: “Who’s in charge right now?”

Child: “My mom.”

KK: “Yes, and who else?”

Child: “ME!”

That conversation has so stuck with me. I was trying to help the child see that the moms and the teachers had the situation under control so that the kids could relax and have fun with their friends, but the child couldn’t see it because he wanted so badly for things to go his way.

Adults do that, too, and I think we miss out on enjoying life because of it. God holds the world, holds us, in the palms of his hands, and we fight to tell others what to do and keep everyone else from messing up our plans. What if we could lay down in the palm of his hands and gaze into his face? What if we could laugh more? What if we could look at hard things and acknowledge things are hard, acknowledge that we don’t have it all together, acknowledge that we live in a fallen world and that’s painful? What if we could cry instead of holding our breaths and aiming to not let the ball drop? What if we did more star gazing? Wouldn’t that be more honoring to him?

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’”

-Acts 17:24-28

  

Lovely remnants

Today I discovered that the best way to walk a dog in the snow is to get COMPLETELY BUNDLED UP. You might think I am stating the obvious, but somehow I’ve been freezing the last few afternoons because I don’t wear enough layers. So Lucy and I were out in the snow and she was having the time of her life, and I was watching the contrast of the snowflakes on her chocolate brown self and her fluff against the snowy ground. And I didn’t have my camera. I can show you our remnants though, from afterwards. That’s her pink fleece. 

I cooked dinner tonight, and I kept thinking, “Oh, I should take a picture of this.”   


Then I would skip from one step to the next and forget to take a picture, and finally the whole meatloaf was in the oven and I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the final product before cooking. Maybe my blog should be called remnants. I guess “bits” from KK are similar to remnants.  Then, I sat down to eat the meatloaf, and the beast (a.k.a., Lucy) kept jumping up on me, trying to get to the food. I mean, I don’t blame her, but that behavior is not allowed. She continued her barking and jumping fit and jumped up against the counter, snagging this. Lovely.  

  I got mad at her, and then remembered how she loves me without condition, how she reminds me that dark brown can be beautiful against the clean white snow, and how she has helped turn some broken things into lovely things. 

Also, here’s the meatloaf recipe.
Zucchini Meatloaf

1 lb ground turkey or ground beef

4 medium size tomatoes 

1 zucchini

1 onion

1 egg

2-3 T almond meal

1 T minced garlic

Salt & pepper to taste

Dice the onion in a food processor, add tomato and pulse to desired consistency. Slice and quarter the zucchini. Add all of the mixture, plus the egg, almond meal, s & p, and garlic to a mixing bowl. Mix well. Add ground meat, mix well. Pour mixture into a loaf pan, and bake for 1 1/2 hours on 375•. Drain off liquid and, oh my, you are in for a treat.

Oh, and this is Whole30 compliant!

 

surviving salads and saturdays

This morning I woke up and decided I had way too much to get done with a dog around. I dropped Lucy off at doggie daycare. The benefit of doggie daycare goes far beyond the 6 hours that she is actually playing. She comes home exhausted, and I don’t have to take her for a walk or play outside. I know those things are part of dog ownership. I’m thankful for the walks we get to take together, and I smile a lot when I watch her run towards me with her ball in her mouth and her fur slicked back against her face in the wind, but the break today was really nice. Also, she LOVES to play with other dogs, so it’s a win-win. Here she is currently as her tired self:

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I came home to do laundry, clean, cook, go to the grocery store, and pay bills, and surprisingly had some good phone conversations with friends.

The last item on my to-do list was to cook dinner. I drew a sad face next to it because I always think that I’m not going to like cooking, and then I get started and the process isn’t so bad. Someone asked me today why I was doing the Whole30 challenge, and I told them I had gotten really used to eating out of convenience…grabbing a cheese-stick, ordering Panera for lunch, cooking a frozen meal for dinner. Even though I was eating gluten free, I was eating a lot of junk and convenience foods. It’s embarrassing to type that out. Needless to say, it’s taking some effort to change my lifestyle and cook my meals.

I wish I had a picture of what I made tonight for dinner, because it was really good. I consumed a good amount of protein earlier today, so at dinner time I stocked up on veggies. I made a salad with mixed greens, tricolor peppers, different types of olives, avocado, and red wine vinegar. Then I sliced a sweet potato and broiled the slices (both sides) in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Delicious.

Since I don’t have pictures of my dinner, here are some pics of what my fridge and pantry looked like yesterday. I know, sooo interesting. I didn’t bother taking a pic of my fridge before I started the Whole30 challenge because I woke up, decided I was doing it, and immediately started throwing things in my fridge away. They say preparation is key, but I dove in on adrenaline. I’ll be sure to take a pic at the end of this whole shindig as well. Some of the these items already got thrown away today. I was holding on for sentimental value, and in the thought that I would eat them after the 30 days were over, but I changed my mind today. I am just feeling so much better! I’ll be getting rid of the hot chocolate mix, too, because I’m making the switch to 100% cacao bars and powder. Stick with me here. I know these pics aren’t amazing, but I’m keeping it real. This is all part of the process.

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a game changer

Hello, my name is Kiersten, and I just recently realized I’d fallen off the cliff into the depths of unhealthy eating. Last Saturday, I woke up and realized that the night before, I’d eaten an entire bag of potato chips. Ya’ll, that’s totally not who I used to be.

Lately my energy level has been going up and down and I’ve been moving through my days exhausted. There are probably a lot of things that factor into this, but one thing I realized I could change is the way I eat. So I accepted the Whole30 challenge. I cut out dairy, grains, legumes, added sweeteners, and alcohol. After 2 days, I could already tell a difference: much more energy and I was sleeping better.

I bounced into school on Monday and told another teacher that I had made a life changing decision. I may keep this life style up…we’ll see. Seven days in and I’m now craving a piece of gluten free chocolate cake and a glass of wine, so I really need to come up with some creative recipes to take pictures of and write about to keep me tasting and motivated! I’m probably not going to be one of those people who posts an update or a meal log daily, or even every other day, but there might be an occasional Whole30 post. Cheers!…without the wine glass =(.

Tired and messy

So for a while I have been dreaming about a blog post that will be whimsical and fun, but I’m just not there. Recently I made myself tell someone I was a mess. They laughed. I said, “No, really, I’m a mess. And it’s good for me to tell you that, and Jesus loves messes.” 

Tonight for some reason Lucy wouldn’t stop barking. She never barks…seriously. So I was trying to figure out what in the world was going on. Of course this happened at the end of a long day, at 10:30 pm, after a full past 4 days, when I was exhausted. I took her outside. She barked and barked. The air outside is thick and humid and cold, and in case you are wondering, at 11 pm in the cold, a dog’s bark can likely be heard across the city. So I think my neighbors are really enjoying having US as neighbors. 

I finally gave Lucy an extra meal, and covered her in calming essential oils. And she’s asleep and here I am, writing. Here’s my point: I try and try to go to bed early, to get up on time, to fix breakfast and pack a lunch and eat dinner and take my dog for a walk and plan tomorrow’s lessons, and I keep falling short. I look around at others who seem to have all their ducks consistently in a row…like never a single one out of place…and I wonder HOW?! So that’s all.

I’m thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who loves me even in my hectic mess, who gives me breaks, who cares intimately for my needs. I’m thankful for my crazy dog who really has brought so much light into my life these last few months. And I’m thankful even for her constant barking because it kept me from going to sleep early so I now have a clean kitchen and all of my laundry is folded and put away. 

   
 

a deep breath

That title is really more of a reminder to me in this very moment than a title…a reminder that it’s so good for me to write, and to breathe, and that writing helps reflection and deep breathing.

6 weeks ago, I was at the beach. I was scheduled to be at the Storyline Conference, but because of a sequence of many events, I decided to sell my conference ticket and head to the beach. My dear friend, Lizzy, met me there, and we had a wonderful couple of days together. While there, I decided to definitely get Lucy, and I decided that Lucy and I should consider a permanent move to the coast.

We haven’t quite gotten there yet because when I got back to STL, Lucy arrived, and 5 days later, she had emergency surgery to remove ROCKS from her stomach. Then she wore a cone on her head for a week, and then it was Thanksgiving, and then I packed the following week and moved the week after that. Lucy and I are enjoying our new apartment, though I get tired thinking about all of the things that have happened to get to this spot.

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This past week I trimmed one of Lucy’s nails. I stopped after one because I immediately cut through the quick and it bled and bled, and I decided to not do that again. Well, home girl was needing a nail trim DESPERATELY today, so I took her to get her nails done at Petsmart. She hated it…whined, growled, snapped, barked, growled some more. The recurring theme when I get Lucy groomed is that the groomer will say afterwards, “So, she didn’t really like having ______ done. You might want to work with her on ______.” (Fill in the blank: face trimmed, nails touched, bottom of paws trimmed…) I want to say, “Well, she IS a puppy, and she’s learning. We are working on these things ALL.THE.TIME. When people give me feedback on how Lucy is doing, it does make me really examine the way that I communicate with my students’ parents! Sandwiching the negative between positives has never held so much meaning to me as it does now. Also, we really can’t expect perfection…like ever.

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As we drove home I was thinking about how the last few months seem like a blur. I started wondering if I was crazy to get a dog, and then I thought how she has caused so much change, and in this case, though it’s been hard, it’s been necessary. She pushed me to move, which was positive. She’s opened up a heck of a lot of conversation with people…seriously, conversation dies down? Talk about Lucy. And I was bored before I got her…now I’ve gone to the opposite extreme and am desperate to slow down. She also keeps me in the present more than ever. I can’t think too much when my dog is needing to go out for some exercise. She can’t sit still and keeps me going…

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Recently, I read an article on the Storyline blog about settling for less when a fuller life is in reach. The author wrote about a man who had grown up in a yard with a beautiful maple tree. The maple tree started to cause problems to the foundation of the house, so the family cut the tree down. The man was sad about the loss of the tree, so his mother collected some of the acorns from the yard and mailed them to him. He planted the seeds in his own yard, and now has the new beginning connected to the old roots of that beloved maple tree. The author made the point that sometimes change is necessary to prevent the damage that our current circumstances could have on the foundation of who we are…but how there are always bits, always seeds, of the old that have become a part of us and we can take with us as we grow. That’s pruning.

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A couple of years ago, when I applied to teach at my current school, the education committee asked me to share some of my story and to tell how God had been working in my life. I told them that over the past year, it felt like God had taken the flower pot of my life that I had carefully constructed, and he just dumped it all out on the ground because there was something in there that was poisoning me. He didn’t do it out of cruelty, but out of love, he had to get the poison out. I didn’t know at the time that I would have the same pot-dumping experience multiple times in life. I’ve experienced it again recently, and now I scramble to rest and preserve the little energy I have. I’m thankful for a loving Father who withholds no good thing from his children, even when it might be something painful. Here’s to 2016, which I’m certain will be filled with pain and joy. Praying that we will see God’s goodness, love, and faithfulness to us in the midst of it all. And if you hear of an incredible (or even not so incredible) opportunity for Lucy and me to move to the coast, contact me IMMEDIATELY!

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With Lucy Lou, who’s teaching me things

What no one ever told me about getting a puppy is to check the weather forecast first. Having a long weekend at home with my sweet new pup was amazing, and then Monday came, I left for work, and the 2 day torrential downpour began. Crate training and housebreaking are a LITTLE bit tough in the constant rain and mud. I see a bath and a trip to the groomer in the very near future because I do have a white couch. Smart play, KK.

When I took Lucy Lou for a walk this evening, it was dark, raining, and my yard was all mud. To my neighbors in advance: please please PLEASE forgive me for not picking up the poop that my dog left in your yard. I couldn’t really tell what was mud and what was poop, and I was in survival mode. Here’s the other thing: everything we’ve learned in the last couple of days about walking WENT OUT THE WINDOW tonight. The car lights were reflecting off of the sidewalk and street, the smells were different, there was rain falling on us, the air was different. So much newness. And in the middle of the walk, as I was telling Lucy about how no one told me about walking her in the rain, I thought about how A.A. Milne would have turned what we were doing into puddle jumping. I tried for a minute to turn mine and Lucy’s walk into puddle jumping, but then I thought about how A.A. Milne’s characters also lived in trees and holes in the ground in The Hundred Acre Woods, and his illustrations didn’t show how mud sinks into rugs and stains them. You can’t smell the wet animal smell in the books.

My dog’s name means “light,” which is ironic because she’s a chocolate brown Goldendoodle. She’s bringing light into my life and reminding me of the unconditional love of God each day. She’s getting me out of the house for a walk each day…even in the rain. And…the snuggles I got while I towel-dried her were pretty great. Here’s to life in The Lou with Lucy Lou. Hugs and puppy kisses (and dreams of a new children’s book series stirring),

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grounding

This summer has been really weird. Many of my people have moved away, and I’ve stayed put. My roommate moved out, my neighbors and dear friends moved south, and another set of good friends are moving in the next few weeks. The school where I teach had a major teacher turn-over and growth this year, and we now have a new principal.

Yesterday I went up to the school, stood in the office, and got really overwhelmed. All of the changes seem to be good ones, things that I am excited about. I’m excited to get to know the new people, I’m excited to be moving from preschool to kindergarten, I’m SUPER excited to be team teaching with my friend, but change and transition are hard, too.

Sometimes I feel like I’m standing in the midst of a whirlwind. I felt like that this week, and yesterday as I drove home from school, I decided I needed to think of things that are constant.

I’m so thankful for community life. I’m thankful that I live 2 blocks away from the post office and the library. Those are such stable, safe places. I’m thankful that the mail comes 6 days each week, and sometimes something comes on a Sunday from Amazon Prime. I’m thankful that I typically know when my neighbors will be home. Gosh, I’m so thankful for my neighbors. The ones that I know well have moved away, but there are others who are constants in my life.

As I’ve stepped into living in a house by myself, there are occasionally things that I realize I don’t have because in the past, I’ve used my roommate’s. For example, a can opener. Now, I’ve been working on my budget, and it’s pretty tight. I’m not good at sticking to a budget. A few weeks ago I was having some friends over for dinner, and as I was cooking, I realized I didn’t have a can opener. I said, “LORD!!!! This is why I need a miscellaneous category in my budget!! Because I need a can opener! But right now I don’t have that category so please help!!!”

I decided to try to borrow one instead of going to buy one (practicing sticking to that budget…). I walked across the street to some neighbors whose car was home, but there was no answer at the door. I texted them…and still no answer. So I thought, I’m going to have to try my next door neighbor, Wok. He speaks Chinese (I think) and English, but English is his second language and so sometimes we have a little trouble communicating. I went to his front door, rang the doorbell, and knocked, but there was no answer. I thought, He HAS to be in the backyard. He’s always in his backyard. The man, who is about 50, is a master gardener, built his own pond, has multiple fish, and as of this week he has 2 pet birds. He likes to take walks in his garden, which is about 1/6 the size of your typical Walgreens store…but he works so hard on it and has so many beautiful plants. He loves his garden.

So anyway, I walked back there, and he was there. From my side of the fence, I said, “Hi, Wok! I have a question. Do you have a can opener?” He doesn’t understand me. I proceed to gesture and make motions and describe what you use a can opener for….and he says, “OH! Can opener, yes! Yes!” He disappears into his house, and I wait for a few minutes. He comes back out, gives me the can opener, and says, “You keep it! I have two!” I said, “Oh, no, Wok, I can’t keep your can opener…” and he insists, “No! I buy one, I can’t find…I buy another, and then I find this one. I have two! This is why! You keep one!”

Ok, Lord. Humbling moment. Thank you for providing a can opener. Thank you for Wok. Wok is a really good neighbor.

Another dear neighbor likes to walk bare-footed. He can often be seen a mile or three away from his house with no shoes. He is probably 60, an engineer who drives a red moped, is married to a teacher, and practices tai-chi. When I see him, or talk with him, I am reminded to slow down and enjoy life. It’s so easy for me to get caught up in the logistics of the daily, and to miss the beauty of the moment. This man reminds me to slow down and enjoy life.

It seems like that is a constant way the Lord speaks to me. He puts people in my life who are playful, who remind me that splashing in puddles is fun. When I’m stressed, if I can go on a walk and wander to a playground and hang upside down from the monkey bars, it is good for my soul. I know, weird. One friend refers to me as a bat…but seriously, go try it. It relieves pressure from your spine and makes you feel like a little kid.

In the past, when I’ve nannied, I’ve been able to play with children. Now, I sometimes get that privilege, and of course I still work with children, but oftentimes it’s adults who remind me to play, to work in my yard or go for walks, or laugh. Play is grounding. It reminds you that you stand on solid ground (what a gift from the Lord and a picture of his stability!!), it allows you test your strength, and builds courage.

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I’ve played with decorating my house this summer. Loving this cabinet from a local vintage chic store, and the fresh flowers, and the picture of the horses from my friends’ farm. Also loving Shauna Niequist‘s book Savor. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out!

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Self explanatory. DO IT.

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Another neighbor had an overgrowth of cone flowers and decided to share! Apparently they multiply each year….so I’m excited to watch these grow! AND they are native to Missouri. #midwestisbest

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The best kind of play in my book….playing with my friends’ kids. Loved this little on a trip to Memphis.

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Yep. Mr. Magoo glasses.

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Working on my garden.

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A trip to Purina Farms. Piglets??? How can you get more playful than that?

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Lizzy and I playing at modeling at the foot of the arch. If you’re interested in being our agent, contact me.

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This katydid stayed on my car for over an hour while I drove all over the city. It came home with me, and I released it into my garden, where I am sure it is devouring my cone flowers…

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So much fun with my friend Shannon and her baby who came to visit. Shannon is a friend who reminds me who I am. I am so thankful for her, and so glad to meet her baby boy.

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Hugs,

KK

the gift of good neighbors

There are two things of life that I am counting on these days: life is constantly changing, going through seasons of life and growth and death and rebirth, and that God NEVER changes. Man, he really points us back to him in this. He created life so that we have to cling to him as our steady center.

I’m in the midst of having to say a lot of goodbyes. It’s hard, but it’s hard because I have such good, rich friendships, and that is a huge blessing. So, to my good, good neighbors:

Thank you for being across the street, for playing in your front yard, for gardening, for having an open door, for letting me walk over with wine in hand, for the hugs, bike rides, hikes, park trips, shared stories, letting me be a part of bed time routines, bringing your children to my house, letting me borrow your clothes, being honest and vulnerable and real live people. Thank you for the shared adventures, the laughter, and even the tears. It has been so good sharing life with you. I’m counting on this not being good bye, but see you later.

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Hiking Powder Valley

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Sledding Art Hill

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Impromptu/emergency slumber parties

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Turtle Park….so thankful for the sunshine!

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Camp’s giggles

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After a round of being bats

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Look! There’s a bee!!

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Can you eat with your eyes closed??

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Love you so much.

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When I left your house tonight after packing boxes, I got to glimpse you standing outside your house one last time. I know I’m going to miss all of that, but I don’t yet know how much. You are loved, and you are leaving a void on this corner of our street and in my life.

Here is your key. But here’s the deal. You are still welcome in my house any time, and I will likely show up at your door. You’ve been good neighbors. Much love.