Friday, April 28, 2017

Sometimes I Make Cookies When I'm Cutting Down on Sugar

No, this is not a post about me making "faux" cookies with healthy ingredients like dates and spelt-or-whatever-you-call-it flour. This is a post about how for three days over the past week, I succeeded in going without sugar, and how on the other four days, I ate cookies whose recipe called for a whole stick of butter spread out over an even two and a half dozen mounds of chocolatey goodness.

Because that's how I roll, peeps.

For the record, I am not in denial about my addiction to sugar (admittedly, mostly just chocolate). In fact, I already wrote a whole post about how sugar is my ultimate frenemy (and, just for fun, I also have written other posts about how I've cut out sugar entirely for various reasons, such as when I did my elimination diet, when I was trying to drop five pounds quickly before I ran my first half marathon, or when my doctor told me I could probably stand to lost ten or fifteen pounds when I returned home from my mission in Central America). 

Eating chocolate (or other sweets), like so many other things, is a question of balance, if you ask me.

I absolutely do not want my kids to grow up obese and have to deal with health problems their whole lives that come from eating too many unhealthy foods and not getting enough exercise.

On the other hand, I don't want my kids to inherently think that foods are "good" or "bad" and have a guilt complex every time they reach for a slice of cake or a handful of M & M's.

The tricky thing, of course, is how to MODEL that balance.

Admittedly, I am not always perfect at limiting my chocolate intake, nor am I totally free from the guilt that flares up after I realize that---whoops---I just downed about 500 calories worth of Hershey's kisses.

But I work hard to stay at a healthy weight, fill our plates with produce and healthy fats, and cook semi-balanced meals on a regular basis. I vigorously exercise about three times a week, as well as go on long walks when the weather permits.

And I eat chocolate. Usually almost daily (unless, of course, I'm in the middle of cutting back, like I am right now).

For awhile, I held a slightly unhealthy view towards food---I congratulated myself if I managed to go to bed hungry rather than eat a late-night snack, I beat myself up over eating too much sugar (which usually made me eat MORE sugar), I regularly skipped breakfast (or would have my chocolate--and only that chocolate--for breakfast so that I'd have all day to "work it off"), and I would go on short-term "diets" to drop weight quickly that never really worked in the long run.

Several years ago, when I started tracking calories religiously for the first time, I made an important breakthrough discovery (at least for me)---

Food didn't need to be inherently bad or good---it all just came down to choices and tradeoffs.

Let me explain that a bit better:

Since I was trying to lose weight, I'd restricted my calorie counts to between 1200-1500 calories a day (admittedly, that's not many calories per day, but I was determined at the time to lose the weight quickly).

Each day, I would try and record what I ate as I ate it, which meant that by the end of lunch, I could clearly see how many calories I had left for dinner or snacks, and I could also clearly see if I had overeaten and would probably need to throw in some extra exercise. Since I was determined to go the entire month without going over my calorie budget (which goal I was able to stick to), I quickly learned that if I wanted that chocolate chip cookie, I could eat it---but it would mean having a smaller dinner later or going on an extra 1.5-mile run.

Sometimes, I felt the cookie was worth it, and I would make the tradeoff. Other times, I would choose to forego the cookie in favor of having a larger dinner or a night spent inside on the couch.

Nowadays, I no longer am counting calories because I'm more or less in "weight maintenance" mode, rather than "weight loss" mode. But the same principles still apply for me today:

Because I'm determined to maintain a healthy weight, I occasionally need to make tradeoffs. Because I'm still carrying a few extra pounds from my recent pregnancy (which ended in miscarriage), I need to make a couple tweaks to get back down to my pre-pregnancy weight again. Since I don't need to lose much, I decided to just not eat sugar for three days out of the week and then pick up an extra run or workout on the weekends.

One week in, and I'm already down almost two pounds, which feels pretty good.

But what feels even better?

Knowing that I can live a happy, healthy life that includes both chocolate chip cookies AND avocados, nights watching t.v. AND mornings out running. In other words, it doesn't have to an either/or proposition---I can still have my cookies AND my waist line, too.

Everything is a tradeoff, and these are trades I'm willing to make to stay healthy for life.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering what cookies we made, I got the recipe here and just made a half batch)

How's your relationship with sugar been lately? Or are you more of a salt lover?

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Problem with Being Content

A couple years ago, when I served as the secretary of our stake's Young Women organization, I would travel to the different wards (aka, congregations) of the LDS church in our area and give a lesson to the young women there. Since we never had to give more than one lesson in the same ward, all of us in the presidency would basically just prepare one lesson blueprint and present more or less the same idea in all the wards, tweaking as needs or interests or time dictated.

A key component of the lesson I gave was basically this:

One of the key ways the adversary works to destroy us spiritually is to work through extremes.

I started by talking about the Paradox of Man (based on this talk), which basically just states that though man is nothing compared to the grandeur and power of God, man nevertheless means everything to God and has great importance in His plan. I talked about how living on either side of this extreme can result in devastating spiritual consequences, either by making us focus entirely on how we are nothing compared to God (making us feel worthless), or by making us think that we are more important than we are, which leads to pride (which also alienates us from God).

I also brought up a few other extremes, such as caring about our appearance too much to the extent of developing eating disorders or unhealthy obsessions with eating or exercise or fault-finding with our so-called "imperfections," or the other extreme, which is not caring at all about ourselves, to where we destroy our bodies and self-esteem through unhealthy behaviors, lack of exercise and proper nutrition, and so forth.

A few years ago, I got pretty into the idea of minimalism and slow living and just learning to be content with what I had instead of relentlessly pursuing the idea of MORE---more busyness, more stuff, more money, more likes on my blog---you get the idea.

I completed a year-long project where I got rid of probably almost half of my stuff, cut down my outer time commitments to where I could say yes to the things that were higher on my priority list, and went on a spending freeze for a month, which basically reset my financial priorities and set me on the path to being not only super frugal, but also being a much more mindful consumer.

Overall, I consider these changes to be a Great Thing---I no longer feel the need to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes every other month, I learned to embrace the benefits to living on a small income, and I feel like although I'm not perfect at spending my time wisely every second, I am at least not so busy all the time that I feel constantly stressed (like I was before).

But lately, I've been feeling beyond restless---almost like I could just jump out of my own skin, I felt so antsy. At first, I thought it was due to the increased anxiety I've been battling for the past several months. But, as I'm not being plagued nearly so often as before with stress-inducing thoughts and panic thanks to a few tweaks to my daily practices, I started looking elsewhere for the cause of why I was feeling this way.

And then it hit me---

In my quest to ultimately be completely content exactly as I was, I had become pretty darn complacent.

Sure, I was still making to-do lists every week, saving money for the future, and continuing the healthy exercise habits I've had in place for months now.

But I was feeling restless because I was feeling no fire---no big goals to work toward, no big changes I was trying to make in myself.

While it is a beautiful thing to feel content in our own skin and with who we are, ultimately, we should never (at least in this lifetime) feel so content with ourselves that we stop pushing ourselves to progress. After all, we learn from scriptures that this life is the time to prepare to meet God---this is the time we've been given to be endlessly striving to "be. . . perfect, even as [our] Father which is in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).

We know that this perfection cannot happen in this lifetime, and that the expectation of such perfection now can be a trap (one of Satan's extremes, if you will) that can bring us down, and bring us down quickly.

But the opposite extreme is also true, as is found in this chilling scripture:

"And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell."   (2 Ne. 28:21)

And I realized that that's exactly what I had done, in a lot of ways---I had convinced myself to be so content with how things currently stood that I was no longer really pushing myself to be a better version of myself---I was simply keeping up on some basic habits (and perhaps letting others slide), and calling it good.

Balance is a tricky thing to find, and since I've spent much of my life chasing the other extreme of perfection, this side of contentment/complacency is new to me.

But, since I realized what the problem was, I started sloooowly working myself back towards a happier medium on the complacency/perfection spectrum, by rededicating myself to better scripture study and more regular (and meaningful) prayers.

Then, since I have those down a little better than before, I've been extending it out to other areas---

After my last pregnancy (which ended in miscarriage), I'm still carrying around a few extra pounds that I haven't bothered with, and I had all but given up on running.

So a couple weeks ago, I started going on just one run a week (in addition to my usual exercise classes at the gym), and now starting today, I'm going to cut out sugar for three days this week to get myself back on track after letting myself binge on alllllll the Easter candy.

Financially, we've been living frugally for quite a long time now, a great habit that I don't repent of in the slightest. However, I haven't felt the fire of a big goal lighting our efforts at being frugal, either, so we've decided to finally start looking into buying a house (although we still don't know how soon that will happen, exactly, but we're hoping it's over the next year).

Intellectually, I've been letting myself read whatever I want, without trying to push myself to read off of recommended reading lists at all (like I used to), which has resulted in reigniting my passion for reading a lot again...but that has also resulted in me reading a lot of books I could have definitely done without. So I'm going to start a book soon that's off of one of my award-winning lists, since those books generally tend to enrich my mind more than a lot of the fluff I've read lately.

I know to anyone else, my revelation about contentment sometimes being a driver towards complacency might not seem like such a big deal, but it seriously explains SO MUCH of what I've been feeling over the past month or two. It explains why I've lost motivation to work on my photography or set more "Ideal Mom" goals or do anything at night other than watch t.v. and play Spider Solitaire. It explains why I've been feeling so restless in my own skin, and it also points to how I can fix that.

And, that, in and of itself, feels like a big relief.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go see if there are any new house listings around...

Friday, April 21, 2017

What's Been Worth Reading Lately (+ What Hasn't)

When I stopped reading mostly just from recommended reading lists and started reading whatever the heck I wanted, I was able to go a miraculously long time without hitting a bunch of duds in a row. Sure, I hit a few books I could have done without (The Signature of All Things, anyone?), but overall, I've been rather surprised at how long it took me to really hit a rough patch with my reading.

But I've finally done it---while the book I just finished this morning was STELLAR, there have been sooooooo many lackluster reads lately that I'm seriously tempted to go back to reading off of recommended book lists for awhile, just to have a better chance of being wowed by a book.

So, rather than do this book list as I have some in the past (with the titles broken down by what you, dear reader, might be in the mood for), I have decided to model this post after The Lady Okie blog, who does hers by ranking (with books that netted 5 stars starting out the post and then going down from there).

Although I generally like doing my book posts more the other way, I've seriously read so many disappointing novels lately that I just couldn't in good faith recommend many of them, so that's why you're getting this more unusual format for now.

But here goes---let's start with the great stuff first! (Oh, and if you want more in-depth thoughts about each of these titles, I've written reviews for them all over on my Goodreads account.)

5 Stars

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

The fact that I loved this one as much as I did might have had as much to do with timing as it did with the book itself---I read this memoir about Donald Miller's realization that to live an unforgettable life, he must be willing to go through unforgettable things (which often meant discomfort) in the hospital while anxiously waiting to hear the fate of my father-in-law, who was in the ICU for a long, long time. While the writing in this was nothing spectacular, there WERE some pretty spectacular insights in here about learning to see your life through a new lens, and I found this to be both motivating and even a little bit life-changing (which is not something I say much).

Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

I was really surprised by how much I loved this one because on the surface, it sounds nothing like the kind of book I would normally end up adoring. For starters, it definitely has kind of a romantic "Wild West" feel threaded throughout, and if you know me at all, you will know that I am most certainly NOT a fan of Westerns. But the writing in this was so stunning and the feel of this reminded me so sharply of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I also loved) that I was thoroughly won over by the end. In summary, this is a book about two siblings who are caught in a difficult situation when their brother, who is wanted for murder, ends up disappearing on a horse, totally eluding local authorities. While the story is pretty good in and of itself, the real winner in this is the feeling of childhood perfectly encapsulated into prose, as well as the bonds of familial love and the unquestioning presence of miracles all around us.

Gone Too Soon by Sherri Devashrayee Wittwer

My sister gave me this after I learned of my miscarriage, and I'm so glad she did---this slim volume gives an in-depth spiritual look into the loss of unborn children (through miscarriage) and stillborn infants, basing itself in the scriptures and on modern-day revelations. While written from an LDS perspective, I would think that any Christian woman who had gone through such a loss would find enormous comfort in this, which bases a lot of its doctrinal support in the Bible.

The One-In-A-Million Boy by Monica Wood

 Although I liked this one pretty much from the get-go, the funny thing was that I was thinking as I read through it that it would probably be a 4-star read. That was, of course, before I read the ending, which I found so beautiful and so perfect for the story that I thought it deserved the extra star. This touching story about the friendship between an 11-year-old boy assigned by his Scout troop to help out a 104-year-old woman living alone is charming, but at the same time not at all what I expected (which turned out to be a delightful thing). Other than some rare instances of strong language in this, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to just about anyone.

4 Stars

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

This is the kind of book where the writing style will absolutely drive you bonkers or make you fall in love with it, and since I've always been a sucker for unusual writing techniques, I liked this one from the beginning. This follows the story of the brilliant Blue Van Meer, a high school senior who has moved all over the place due to the eccentricities of her professor father, and who is now going to attend just one high school for the duration of her senior year. Used to being largely ignored, she is surprised when she is almost immediately invited into an exclusive group called the Bluebloods, although she doesn't, at first glance, seem to fit in at all. When one of her teachers ends up dead, Blue and some of the other Bluebloods seek to find out the truth, and along the way comes an ending that I absolutely did not predict in the slightest. The reviews on this one are all over the place, so be prepared to know that it's probably one that you'll love or hate. (Note: there is strong language whenever certain characters are present, as well as some minor scenes of a sexual nature.)

Cress by Marissa Meyer

It's taking me an embarrassingly long time to read through The Lunar Chronicles series (of which this was the third installment), but that isn't because I haven't enjoyed them---it's because all of my holds at the library kept coming in at the same time! Anyway, while this YA series based on the merging of several fairy tales seemed super cheesy to me at first, I've been consistently delighted at the twists this series has taken, and I've found a lot of pleasure in reading something that's not meant to be brilliant or life-changing or serious---just pure entertainment. Sometimes as a reader, I really need that!

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl

I've been a big Ruth Reichl fan since I read my very first book by her a few years back, and I found this early memoir based on her childhood experiences around cooking and eating and being in various kitchens to be especially fun. If you're a big foodie (especially if you feel a special fondness for cooking or baking at all) and haven't given Reichl a try, you're missing out.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

What's almost as interesting as reading this true account of one reporter's mission to discover what happened to Chris McCandless, a recent college graduate who said he was going into the wilds of Alaska and never returned, is reading all the reviews on Goodreads about it. Whether or not you think McCandless was a fearless idealist who would stop at nothing to achieve a dream or a selfish boy from privilege who threw away everything important, one thing is for sure---this book will probably haunt you forever, as I'm pretty sure it will haunt me.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance

I don't often like to label a book as "important," but that was the first word that came to mind upon finishing this memoir that was written by one Harvard graduate about his childhood growing up in "Hillbilly America." While I didn't ENJOY reading this book a lot of the time (due to the strong presence of obscene language, violence, and terrible situations throughout), I felt like I came out of the reading of it at least more understanding of what people growing up in that kind of background are up against. I wished that I would have read this while I was still teaching because it made me feel like I understood some of those kids from some of the poorer, really rural areas a lot better, and I might have taken a different approach with them had I read this sooner. Although many people recommend this book because they say it explains the widespread support of Trump among certain populations of people, I thought it was important to read for many more reasons than just that.

3.5 Stars

Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

I try to avoid giving half-star ratings, but I was too on the fence on this one to promote it to a solid four or demote it a mere 3, so at 3.5 it sits. Anthony Doerr is the author of the widely acclaimed All the Light We Cannot See (which I ADORED), and this small memoir is the story of the year he and his wife and their newborn twin sons spent in Rome, when Doerr was given a grant to go write (coincidentally, the book that would later become All the Light). While I'll always be a fan of Doerr's writing style, there were parts of this that dragged for me, especially when he got really sidetracked into some of the history of Rome and such. If you're expecting a well-paced memoir, this isn't it, but it's a fun journal-type read that still paints a vivid picture of Italy in all its beauty and history (with some delightful insight on new parenthood thrown in). 

3 Stars

Serve it Forth by M. F. K. Fisher

Because I'm such a big fan of Ruth Reichl (as mentioned above), that was the main reason I picked up this first work by M. F. K. Fisher (who Reichl writes about often in nearly all the books I've read by her so far). While Fisher's writing isn't as modern as Reichl's (because she was born 40 years before her), I still could clearly see Fisher's influence on Reichl and had fun reading through some Fisher's early experiences as a food writer and before. Since this was a collection of essays, it wasn't the kind of book I read through quickly, but I can still recall some of the experiences in the essays even now, months later.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I'm usually a huge fan of any books on running (especially memoirs), but this one fell a bit flat for me. Had it not been for a few polished pieces re-published in this about some of his more important races (that had been published previously in magazines and such), this would have gotten just two stars for me, probably. Although Murakami has been such a big runner for so many years and it's such a big part of his life, I didn't feel much of a passion at all coming from the memoir--it was almost like throughout, he was just reiterating, "Well, I guess I'll just keep this up as long as I can because I figure it's good for me. So there you have it."

Harry Potter & the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, J. K. Rowling

Since this got its own post, I won't go into more detail here---I'll merely reiterate that though this was kind of fun for my geeky Potter self to dive back into the magical world of Hogwarts, I'll never consider it as part of the Harry Potter canon.

2 Stars

***Note on all of these titles: I definitely seem to be in the minority for these books. If you look on Goodreads, these books have high ratings by readers (especially the Ferrante), so take my reviews with a grain of salt, as it appears that almost everybody thought otherwise on these.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

On the surface, this book sounded promising---the story of the trajectory of a regular marriage, without the added fanfare of unusual drama or tragedy or anything like that, mixed with bite-size philosophies on how love grows and changes and shifts throughout a relationship. So many people RAVED about this book, even going so far as to say that every couple should read this before getting married (and other such things). The fact for me was, while this book did have some useful comments on love and marriage, I found the book horrendously slow, and the mix of novel and philosophy to be a good idea in theory, but a terrible idea in practice. I also was SO ANGRY about the section of this book on adultery (and the accompanying thoughts on it in the "philosophy sections") that I almost didn't even finish this one, period.  Overall, this was just slow, slow, slow, and perhaps because it didn't seem to speak much to how I personally have experienced marriage, this book didn't particularly speak to me.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

This story begins in a school of sorts, where the children are each kept in their own individual cells and then wheeled in chairs to school every day, where their arms and legs are strapped in and they are unable to do much more than raise a finger. Not too far into the book, you find out what this "school" is all about, and the book's action quickly picks up from there.

Without giving away too much, this book had such a fast-paced plot and was a super original idea, but I personally had a hard time enjoying it due to the gross amount of gore and strong language and just flat-out violence throughout this. I will always prefer books not to use strong language, but there are a few times I can overlook it if I can at least see why the author made that choice. In this book, the profanity was so liberal and so unnecessary, it just made me think that the author didn't know enough other words to use in their place. I know some people really loved this one, but it was far too violent and bloody and disturbing for my taste.

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

I am so laughably in the minority on these books that I almost found myself second-guessing whether I had read the same book as everyone else, but I'm going to stand by my opinion, even if it is not one shared by most. This book is the second in Ferrante's Neopolitan series, which has become increasingly popular over the past several years. The series is based on the friendship of two women and follows them throughout the course of their life.

While I grant that the characters are definitely memorable and that the plot line, at times, is interesting and well-paced, I personally found almost all the characters in this book to be so absolutely unlikable that it made me not care what happened to any of them by the end. The "friendship" between the two girls is so fraught with constant tension and jealousies and one-upmanship that it hardly deserves the title of friendship, and there was so much adult content in this (violence towards women, strong language, rape, sexual scenes, abuse) that I found this book (and the one before it) to just be overall pretty depressing. Although I originally said last December that although I didn't love the first book, I planned to still finish the series (because the characters were so memorable), I think I might be calling it quits after this one.

Okay, now it's your turn! What have you been reading lately that's worth recommending (and what's not)? PLEEEEEEASE tell me what to read next so I can get out of this slump!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Photo Dump of the Rest of Easter & Raven's B-day (aka, the last 2 weekends)

Back when I was still a regular journaler, there would be stretches of time where so much would happen in a small space of time that I felt too overwhelmed to write about it, so I would put it off...and keep putting it off and off and off, until finally, sometimes weeks or even months later, I would sit down and just dump a general summary of the main bullet points so I could move on with my life. Sure, it meant that those events might not have gotten the attention they deserved, but at least they got some attention at all in the end, so there it was.

"Don't let the fine pursuit of perfection get in the way of the perfectly fine."

Or something like that.

Because I saw myself go through this pattern so many times, I've learned to sense when it's upon me now that I blog about my days rather than write them down on paper. While Easter and Raven's birthday have kind of already gotten posts of their own, there were still TONS of pictures I never went through, and several details that were never mentioned.

Originally, I wanted to split each of these things into its own post (complete with some attempt at trying to make it more interesting than just a journal entry), but I'm still sick and feel like I'm coming down with something akin to bronchitis or pneumonia or some horrendous chest-heavy, cough-happy sickness, so this is all you get.

(And in the end, I learned a long time ago that since I make no money from blogging, it's okay to do posts occasionally that really aren't for anyone's benefit but my own.)

Event #1: Raven's birthday with Matt's family.

Since my family has started doing a monthly birthday to celebrate everyone's birthday within that month, and since we live a bit far away to expect everyone in Matt's family to come out and celebrate, we decided to do a little party at Matt's parents' house the day before my family was doing the family party for all the birthdays that month. That way, Matt's family could celebrate her birthday in some way, and we could do all the birthday festivities in the same weekend (and in roughly the same geographic location, since Matt and I grew up basically in the same city).

We had a taco bar and made sure people knew that gifts were optional, but Raven was still spoiled with several pretty new outfits, new books to add to her personal library, and some toys that she just latched onto immediately.

More than anything, we loved seeing how Raven lit up when she saw her birthday cake for the first time, and how she was confused yet clearly excited and happy when everyone started singing Happy Birthday to her. 

Event #2: Family Birthday with Other April Birthdays with My Family (+ Easter Egg Hunt and Egg Dyeing)

Raven adores spending time with other kids, especially her cousins, so she was a bit beside herself that she got to skip her nap two days in a row AND play with other kids to her heart's content.

This was her first taste of an Easter egg hunt, and I've got to say, I was pretty impressed with how quickly she got the hang of it---in fact, she even found all her eggs before some of  her older cousins did! (Of course, that might be because she had a bit more help from Daddy and from some of her other cousins...)

And it did not take her long at all to figure out that the eggs could open and that there was candy inside. She actually found one of the eggs before the hunt started and cracked it open all by herself, so she must have her mama's sixth sense for chocolate lurking about...

When it came time for presents and cake, she was an old hand at it (having experienced it all just the night before), and dived right in. I absolutely love the picture of her trying to blow out the candles with her aunt and cousin.

Event #3: Easter Egg Hunt in Syracuse with Cousins

Although I knew there was a community egg hunt that was more local to us, I knew that Raven would have WAY more fun if she was around her cousins rather than just us, so we drove down to Syracuse last Saturday morning to meet my sister and her kids for the big community egg event they have down there.

Thank goodness the fields were divided by age because basically all the other fields except the one Raven was on were cleared out in about 30 seconds, but in our field (for ages 0-2), we had plenty of time to watch Raven fill up her bucket and have fun "cleaning up" the field (in fact, she was singing our "clean up" song half the time the hunt was going on).

She easily could have gotten even more eggs, but her bucket was full, and we thought it better to leave some for the kids whose buckets weren't full yet. We even got lucky and got a ticket for a "special prize" (which turned out to be a bubble wand---perfect for Raven!), and a nice father who had been collecting eggs with his son right next to us gifted us the four special tickets his son had gotten (because they didn't want to wait in line), so we were able to share those treats with her cousins, who hadn't gotten any tickets of their own.

All in all, a pretty great way to spend the morning, and a fun way to spend the holiday.

I was impressed with how patiently Raven waited until the horn went off to start collecting---all in all, she waited over 20 minutes without even trying to get the eggs! It was pretty amazing.

And, at the end, we had some fun watching Raven and her cousins chase bubbles through the field. Apparently, bubble-popping never gets old.

And thus concludes my photo dump! On Friday, I'm planning to be back to my regular programming, hopefully with an update to what I've been reading lately (which---I'll give you a hint---is a LOT).

See you then!
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