What I Read, What I am Reading and What I will Read Next. (And, as a bonus, What I am Listening To)

By Katie


I was planning on doing this post mid month, but the mid of the mid to the end of the month is close enough, right?

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This is a totally natural pose for my books.  This is my life. 
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The 100th book.

If you follow us on instagram, you will have seen that I recently have read my 100th book.   That puts me on track to finish about 135 books this year, which is on par for last year.  I thought I would read less this year because I  read some behemoths this year, like City on Fire (I rated it a 4, it was a depressing 900 page read with no hope until everything worked out for everybody on the last 3 pages) (but it was  well-written), The Dovekeepers (a gorgeous book, I rated it a 10), and The Golem and the Jinni (loved it, rated it a 8, though I feel, looking back, it should be at least a 9).   I guess the bigger books were balanced shorter books like the  Narnia Series (I read this series to Atticus), a Judy Blume novel, and 2 Newberry Medal winners, The One and Only Ivan (highly recommend this book!) and Moon over Manifest (I loved, loved, loved it!).

I don’t do book challenges as a rule.  I love reading, I don’t want to make it a chore or something I need to cross off my list.  But, looking forward to being a mom of 4 4 and under, I am thinking of challenging myself to read through the Newberry Medal winners and honour list next year.  I am not sure how much brain power I will have for reading once the twins are here so these shorter reads may be just what I need to get through 2018!

Anyways.

I should get down to business.  I know that is what you are here for……..

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What I read:

51I7LCRhT6L._SL160_I just finished The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda.  It a psychological thriller that is a quick read and has a compelling story line.

Moving to the middle of nowhere after her journalism careers blows up, Leah Stevens rooms with an old friend from 8 years previous.   Shortly after she arrives, 2 bodies are found in the local lake and her roommate goes missing.  Only there is no proof the roommate ever existed.   Narrated from Leah’s perspective, her story seems completely plausible.  But is it?

This is not my favourite type of read.  My true love is literary fiction: great writing, and prose you want to sink in to.   But I do need quick, compelling books to break up the literary fiction books which can be heavier and more thought-provoking.

61ldE5ZNZ2L._SL160_I am currently reading The History of Bees by  Maja Lunde .  This is the book I received from PageHabit, which is a subscription box service that sends annotated copies of new releases.  You can pick from 8 different of genres, including historical fiction, sci fi, mystery, and, my choice, literary fiction.   I also got a pair of socks, book page markers and a short story that was very disappointing.   I am loving the annotations in The Life of Bees!  It adds so much to the story to get the background on the research done by the author, the way the book changed as it was written and edited, and the general musings of the author.    PageHabit also donates money to different literary charities around the world that serve under-read communities.  So its a win-win.

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This is what my reading life looks like: flowers and sun.

The History of Bees takes place in 3 time periods: mid 19th century, modern day, and the end of the 21st century.   Telling the story of 3 different people at different times in the history of bees, with the bees all gone by 2093, disappearing in 2007 and totally fine in 1852, Lunde is weaving a masterful, beautifully written story.   With the death of bees on the news recently and new measures being pushed in to try stop the bee population decline, it seems like a poignant read right now!

51aLxQqr2IL._SL160_I am going to pick up Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout next because I waited forever for it from the library and I can’t renew it because there are still holds on it.  (I find the library holding system often dictates what I read next.)  I read My Name is Lucy Barton by Strout earlier this year in because AiP was coming out.  (I was told you don’t need to read them in order, but I prefer to.  I feel that, even in non-linear series, the author tends to write like you have the knowledge the previous books imparted about reoccurring characters.)   Lucy Barton was a quick read (I started and finished it on the car ride to one of the Tea’s house this summer) and Anything is Possible seems similar in length so I should knock it off in a day or so.  I rated Lucy Barton a 10, so I have high hopes for this one!

And, of course, what am I listening to:

(If you don’t think that audio books count as reading, see what I have to say about that here.)

512b908vxPL._SL160_My current audio book is Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  I had no idea what this book was about when I chose it (except that it was labelled as the next A Thousand Splendid Suns   by Khaled Hosseini).  Little Bee is about a teen aged refugee in Britain who reconnected with a British couple who saved her life 5 years earlier, but had failed to save the life of her sister.  It is a heart breaking look into the refugee life, what drives a person to leave their home country, what awaits them in developed countries, and what could happen if they are deported.

I think that in a society where so much of our discussions on refugees and our responsibilities to them deals with refugees a mass group (which is a daunting and impossible issue), it is good to look at individual stories.  It is good to remember that every refugee is an individual human being.  Reading stories about refugees helps to build empathy in a world that is so focused ‘on my worldview, my opinion, my interpretation.’

What are some good books you have picked up lately?  What is on your TBR pile?

Update on the Twins! (Please insert your own clever title. I am not on my naming A-game.)

By Katie



I am 26 weeks which means I have about 10 weeks left.

Yay!

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If you came here for the stellar photography, you are in luck!

We found out at my last ultrasound that we have 2 girls!

(Atticus was disappointed.  He told me that he asked God for at least one boy.  I told him that I asked God for only one baby per pregnancy.  God tests us all.)

We have named baby A Louisa which means Fights with Honour.  So our new daughters’ names are Beatrix and Louisa.

I am so excited to meet them! (Especially since I found this baby carrier by MiniMonkey that is coming out in November.  Just in time!)

But I am also so apprehensive. (And now its on to the complaining – feel free to skip the next few paragraphs if you have a plethora of complaining in your life.  I’m looking at you, mom of littles!)

This has been my toughest pregnancy yet.   I don’t know if it’s the fact that its twins, or that I have a 2 year old and a 3 year old or that I am in my thirties.

Regardless, I am so tired.

Like so tired that I think 6:30pm is a perfectly reasonable bed time.

Like so tired that after breakfast and morning routines, I think 9 am would be a perfectly good nap time.  (My littles disagree.)

Like so tired that my every day tasks seem just oh-so-daunting.

It’s been tough.  I like being productive and having projects on the go.  But I am not productive.  And my projects take forever.   I don’t even have energy to crochet, which is ridiculous.

It didn’t help that a twin mama friend of mine told me on Sunday, “Oh you think you are tired now, wait until they are here!”  Oh, goody!

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Honestly, I would act the same way if someone interrupted my reading time to take pictures.

My last OB appointment was not encouraging.   Things like immediate skin-on-skin are really important to me.  Not so much to my OB.  She was not encouraging at all with the likelihood of me holding my babies while my surgery is finishing.   Both Atticus and Vivien were placed on me and held there by my midwives.  I don’t think I realized at the time how much of a blessing it is to have midwives in the surgical room.    My OB said that it was unlikely I could have immediate skin-on-skin.

I am the one who carried these souls next to my heart for 9 months.  I am who is getting cut open like an offering to deliver them.  I am the one who will be feeding them from my own body for the first part of their lives.  I think I am the one who should snuggle them.  They should be on me.

I cried the whole way home.   I am already very nervous about being able to bond with two babies at the same time.  It seems rather overwhelming.  There is only so much time in a day:  how do I make sure they get enough snuggles and hugs and kisses from their momma?  What if I snuggle one more than the other without realizing it ?

Then there is breastfeeding.   Eiieee.  I read that to exclusively breast feed a baby requires 35 hours a week.   And I am having 2.  That is 70 hours a week of breastfeeding.   I hope that I can feed tandem!

Logically, I know these fears are baseless and short-term problems.  I will adapt.  The surgery will only be 45 minutes and then I will have my babies.  My babies will be loved, and kissed, and snuggled.  If breastfeeding doesn’t work, I live in a wonderful time in history where I can go 2 minutes down the road and buy healthful food for them.

But psychologically…..I am a bit of a mess.

At church on Sunday, a friend saw me waddle up and said, “gah, I was trying to think of a pregnancy joke and I came up with nothing.”  My response was “good, because chances are I would have cried.”

That’s my life now.  Random tears.   They do not indicate grief, or sadness, or happiness.  They indicate myriad of hormones coursing through my body.   My littles think I am all the way to crazy.  (Will probably does too, but he is smart enough not to say anything.)

I have some cravings, fake cheese being the top of the list.   You know, cheese slices, cheese Whiz, that kind of healthy stuff.

Also smoking.   That one is a bit weird I tell you, since I have never been a smoker.

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Don’t worry, while I imbibe on fake cheese once in a while, I haven’t with the smoking.

Zoe – at 6 Months (plus 2 weeks)

by Kara


 

Zoe turned 6 months old while we were camping. It’s been a while since I wrote a post;  I’m not as good at ‘recovering’ from camping as my sisters are. I spent a little over a week cleaning camping gear, catching up on laundry, and trying to get warm. Zoe has been adjusting to not having her cousins around. The days have flown by, and the 6 month post never got written.

Its hard to believe that my beautiful girl is already 6 months old. It seems like she was born just yesterday, and yet, I can’t remember life before her. She growing so big, and learning so much.

Growing: The last time Zoe was weighed was at 4 months, when she was 19lbs 7oz. Her next appointment is on Monday, and I’m sure she’s well over 20lbs now! She got her first tooth a bit before she was 6 months, but she hasn’t cut any new teeth since then. She is starting to drool a lot again though, so there may be another coming soon!

Eating: I began giving Zoe purees when she was 5 months old. By that time, she was sitting well in her high chair, and she would watch our food intently while smacking her lips. She was so eager, and she loved (and still loves) eating. Not all of her food is pureed. She occasionally gets to chew on some vegetables, and she loves exploring new tastes and textures.

On the Move: Zoe rolls around all over our house. She also is able to scoot – backwards. This causes some frustration when she is aiming for a specific toy, but keeps moving further away from it. She also gets up on her hands and knees and lunges, preparing to learn how to crawl. Its only a matter of time! I’m very excited to watch her develop these new skills!

Sitting: Zoe has been doing ‘sit ups’ when lying on her back since she was about 2 weeks old. I think this has really strengthened her stomach muscles, and she learned to sit very quickly! She sits very straight, and easily moves from a sitting position to her stomach so that she can roll around.

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Playtime: Zoe is typically good at playing on her own. She spends at least one straight hour in the play pen, playing with all her toys and rolling/rotating around her play space. Its important to me that she is happy in the play pen so that when she does learn to crawl, I can keep her contained and happy for short periods of time. Zoe also loves to sit on the floor in whatever room I am working, and will happily play for a couple hours. Her favourite toy right now is the stacking rings that she got from Aunt Vicki as a ‘birth day present’. She pulls them all off and chews on the rings, then giggles when I stack them back up. She also tries to put them back on the pole herself. I love watching the amount of concentration that goes into her play. She is clearly learning so much every day.

Sleeping: Zoe is typically a good sleeper. She started sleeping through the night around 2 weeks old – which was a huge blessing! Especially since I have recently learned that I am not good at getting up multiple times in a night. Zoe has entered a phase when she wakes up throughout the night, and I go to give her her soother. I know, I should technically leave her to try get back to sleep on her own so that she can sort out her sleep cycles, but this usually causes her to become wide awake, and then its very difficult to get her back to sleep. Zoe typically naps twice in a day, but the length of the nap varies from 15 minutes to 3 hours.

Personality: Zoe is such a happy and social baby! She watches people eagerly, and cracks a big smile whenever somebody looks her way. She is also a mommy-suck. Although she can handle being babysat for a while when she is well-rested, I hear it often ends in tears before bedtime. She is stubborn and independent. She will often refuse food that I am feeding her, and insist on feeding herself (a very messy business). Zoe is an eager learner, always observing, playing, and exploring. She reveals more of her personality every day, and we love getting to know our little girl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Never Lets Go.

by Vicki

A couple of years ago I went through a very hard time. Things I had thought were truths were revealed to be lies. Supports I thought I had, disappeared. Control I craved, was taken away. All coping strategies I had learned in my 20+ years of life, failed.

I felt lost. I felt broken. I felt betrayed. I felt alone. And I felt angry….at God.

It was a dark time. A dark time that was no worse or better than the dark times that every person has faced, is facing, or is going to face. But it was my dark time. And it was hard.

During that time I struggled with understanding where God was in all of the pain. Someone (a dear someone) told me it was okay to question God about my pain, my struggles, my disappointments. They told me that I could go to Him and tell Him that I was upset and angry. They told me it was okay to tell God all of my feelings, not just the good ones. So I did. I told Him. Repeatedly. In anger and in sorrow. And through His word, a devotional I was reading, and some words from those around me, He answered.

I was broken in order that My God could be revealed to me. I was brought low so I could learn to trust and hope in Him.

Mark just introduced me to Ghost Ship. They are a Christian band that I have fallen in love with. One of their songs reminded me of that time of questioning and of learning to trust and hope in the God who holds the heavens and earth in His hands. If I’m being honest, I am still learning to do this and probably will be for the rest of my life. But the song was a happy reminder of who our God is, what He is capable of, that He is holding each of us in His hands and that (even in our darkest times) He never lets go.

The song is called Orion. Click on the link to take a listen. The lyrics are below.  I also love their songs called ‘Lion Man’, ‘Where Were You’, ‘Mediator’…really all of them!

‘Orion’ by Ghost Ship

I asked God, “What have You done?
Everything I love is gone.
Why must I endure this pain,
won’t You come and save me?

Tell me are You listening,
do You hear my shouted pleas?
Will You answer me this day,
won’t You come and save me?”

I was answered by my Lord,
“Can You bind Orion’s form
or guide his path?”
I looked up and answered, “No,
but You can, so I will hold
in Your strong hands.”

The hands that own the stars above,
will never let me go.
The one who holds the heavens up,
in Him I put my hope.

Yeah, who am I that You should love,
and bind in Your embrace?
Well, God is this who holds the stars
and guides me in His grace

I look at the deep dark sky,
mighty throne of the Most High.
I’m aware of my true place,
won’t You come and save me?

Still I know that You are near,
speaking comfort in my ear.
God, I long to see Your face,
won’t You come and save me?

I was answered by my Lord,
“Can You bind Orion’s form
or guide his path?”
I looked up and answered, “No,
but You can, so I will hold
in Your strong hands.”

The hands that own the stars above,
will never let me go.
The one who holds the heavens up,
in Him I put my hope.

Yeah, who am I that You should love,
and bind in Your embrace.
Well, God is this who holds the stars
and guides me in His grace

You bind me to Your ways
and guide me in Your grace.

You never let me go,
the grip of God will hold.

(taken from http://www.songlyrics.com/ghost-ship/orion-lyrics/)

My Camping Essentials.

by Vicki


This Summer my family and I went camping three different times. We visited Restoule Provincial Park, Point Farms Provincial Park, and Bon Echo Provincial Park. All three of these parks are absolutely beautiful and well worth the drives to visit.

IMG_0019Even though these parks are beautiful and our camping trips were fun/great/enjoyable…I have come to realize something: I am not a natural camper. If it wasn’t for the fact that I grew up camping and that I have amazing childhood memories of camping….I’m not sure I would be a camper now in adulthood. I honestly feel that camping, especially in this stage of life with three littles, is like my normal SAHM life but dirtier and all around more difficult (bed time is more difficult, showering and bathing kids is more difficult, cooking is more difficult, storing food is more difficult, going to the bathroom at night is more difficult (and colder and scarier!), staying dry in the rain is more difficult, etc. etc. etc. You get the picture. There are many reasons not to camp. Many.

That said, we, as a family, do camp. A lot.

For all of its faults, camping does have some positives. It is an affordable get away for our family. Its an excellent way to enjoy and experience nature. It created many fond memories for my husband and I as we were growing up, and its doing the same for our kids now. Its great family time away from the distractions of technology. It allows us to discover different parts of our beautiful province and country. It gives us a reason to melt marshmellows, smush them between two chocolate cookies, and call it dessert. IMG_0161Peyton remembered camping from last year and sporadically asked all Winter about going camping again. She loved it then and she loved it again this year. She learned to bike without training wheels, became more confident in the water, enjoyed showering at the comfort stations, and loved being with cousins (two of the three trips were with our extended families).

Chase did not remember camping and, I have to admit, was not too fond of it at first. Our first trip started with torrential downpours (not fun for setting up a tent and tarp!!). He took one look around, asked to go home, and, when denied, started sucking his thumb (something he had never done before). After the initial shock, he grew quite comfortable and now loves camping (although he’s still sucking his thumb). He became an expert at his balance bike, took to the water like a fish, and loved exploring the woods around the campsites.

So, because my husband and my kiddos do, I love camping. But, in order to help me love camping I do have some camping essentials that I can not do without (or at least that I don’t want to do without). If camping is something that you think you might like to try or if you already camp but wouldn’t mind it being just a bit better, perhaps some of these items are for you!

  1. A raised bed. We received our air mattress cot from my husband’s boss and it totally changed my view of camping. I love being able to easily get out of bed (multiple times a night) to nurse a baby or tuck in a waking child. It is totally my number one recommend! This one is similar to the one we have. Honestly, worth every penny. Best. Thing. Ever.
  2. A good lantern. Growing up my parents always had a propane lantern. It made that wooshing sound and it smelled like camping to me. My husband and I bought one when we were first married, but the silly thing kept needing a new net-bulb-thingy and it was more frustrating then useful. If you know how to properly use one of those – all the power to you! We now use a Broadstone lantern, similar to this one. Ours is battery powered instead of chargeable (but the chargeable one would be ah-mazing!). I love that its bright enough to play a game at night but also has a dim setting that can be used as a night light for a certain three year old boy who is slightly scared of the dark.
  3. A good mat (this one is cute!). This might seem a little ridiculous to you true campers – but there is something about having a clean mat outside my tent that makes me feel at home. It makes for a good catching ground for things that have to go in or out of the tent (without having to keep opening and closing the zipper). It helps keep the inside of the tent a bit cleaner and drier. It looks cute. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Coleman kids sleeping bags – these bags are super cute and my kids loved them! They also did a great job keeping the kids warm during the very cold nights we had on our last trip (one night it went down to zero degrees!). I only had one other blanket on them (their special blankets) and my kids didn’t wake up from the cold once! They also cut down on the amount of packing I had to do – I used to pack hampers full of random blankets for the kids’ beds.
  5. A good comfortable chair. I have a zero gravity chair which is super comfortable for afternoon naps (or so my husband tells me {*wink*wink*}), readIMG_0451ing a book, and nursing a baby. That said, two of my sisters took these monstrosities camping and (although lots of jokes were made about them being the size of small sofas) I love them! They are warm and cozy – perfect for a cold night around the campfire. They were from Costco but I can’t find them on the Costco website – they are similar to these, but better and cheaper!
  6. A LARGE tarp. My husband secretly loves putting up our tarp. Each trip he comes up with a new configuration, covers as much ground as possible, and creates a safe and dry(ish) space foIMG_9987r us in case of rain (which, lets be honest, every trip has some rain!). Our tarp is 20ft x 40ft. Its big. It gets us lots of “Wow! That’s a big tarp!” comments, and sometimes it even gets neighboring campers coming over and asking Mark to come and help them set up their tarp.

I asked Mark what his camping essentials were. His answer? A coffee percolator (ours is similar to this) and warm socks. It must be so nice to be a man.

We obviously also have our coleman stove, a Columbia tent (which is big and tall – I Love it!), and coolers. The typical essential camping things. But the list above are some of the items that helped me enjoy camping a bit more this past summer.

Do you camp? Do you do it because you grew up doing it or do you absolutely love it? What are some of your camping essentials? I would love to add to my list in preparation for next year! I’m always on the look-out for great products that change the way I do something!

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The Story of a Stump

By Katie


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A while ago I found this great stump.  I can’t remember where it was, but when I found it, I thought, “That’s a great stump.  I like that stump.  I will make something with that stump.”

So I took the stump home.

The stump was rather rough, so I took a palm sander to it.  I started with a 40 grit sandpaper and slowly moved up to a 200 grit to get a nice, smooth finish.  All said and done, it took me about 3 hours of sanding to get it smooth.  I had enough for the day so I put the stump in Will’s shop.

Some time passed.

Fall came.

Atticus was born.

Christmas, spring, summer, fall, Atticus’ first birthday, Christmas, spring.

Vivien was born.

We finished our house renos. Christmas again.

We listed our house.  We sold our house.  We bought a new house.

Will asked, “are we taking this stump with us?”

Of course we are!!  Thats my current work-in-progress, dude!

We moved.  We settled in.

Will organized his shop.  And asked, “Are you ever going to do anything with this stump?”

I told him to stop pressuring me.

We took a family trip to Habitat for Humanity.  I found 3 castors  (they didn’t have 4, boo!)  for $2.  I bought them for my stool.  Will laughed at me.

We found out we were expecting twins.

Summer came again.

20170824_092550Then one day, I was returning a pair of pliers to the shop and saw my stump.  And I thought to myself.  This is the day.  This is the day that my stump turns into something more than a stump.  This is the day that my stump achieves its destiny.  The sun shone through the window on my stump and I heard a choir singing.  (I did actually think of my stump achieving its destiny.  I have a rather melodramatic mind. However, it was overcast so there was no sun, and there was no choir either.  Though, if I win the lottery that I never play, maybe I will hire one to follow me around to sing in concert with my melodramatic thoughts.)

So my stump came inside to my work table.    I knew I had a bit of dark brown stain from a previous project that I thought would look good.    I used a piece of an old sheet to wipe the stain on because I didn’t have cheese cloth, or stain cloth on hand.  And we always use an old sheet for these sorts of things.  It works.

20170823_162923 I did 3 coats of Saman Colonial stain.  It’s a very watery stain.  Will hates using it but I don’t mind it, but I probably won’t choose this brand again.  Miniwax is a much nicer stain to work with.

Since I was planning on using my stump as a stool/side table, it needed to be wipable and stain-proof, so I did 3 coats of laquer as well.  I had a bit left of this left over from a previous project as well.  It dries nice and hard so I knew it would be perfect for my stump.

The last step was the castors.  It would be easy to balance it if I had 4, but I only had 3, which made it less easy.  It was even less easy to achieve balance because the stump was oval shaped, not circular.

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My well-placed castors

But I prevailed.  I marked out the centre point and drew a circle around it.  The theory is that in order to achieve balance, you have to have your castors on the 3 points of an equilateral triangle.  So I marked out those positions and screwed in my castors.  (I only did one screw in each, because I figured I would be moving them)  There was one side that was really tippy so I moved all the castors to try counter-balancing it.  There was still some serious tippage, but I didn’t think moving the castors equidistantly would help.  I moved one castor to try balance the tip and it worked!  So my castors do not form an equilateral triangle, but I have a tip-free stool, so a win for me and a lose for math!  (Just kidding,  I realize that if I did math equations that took into consideration the weight, height and shape of the stump, I would come up with the prime location for the castors.  But I didn’t want to, partially because I didn’t know how to, partially because it was getting late.)

I took my stool to our living room.  I set a cup of coffee on it.  I tried to take a picture, but they were fuzzy, so I waiting until daylight was coming in the windows.

 

That’s the story of my stool.  My project that took 4 years, 4 kids, 2 houses and numerous jabs from Will, but I got it done.

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If you have any small, easy projects that you want done with absolutely no time-line at all, let me know.  I’ll get it done for you.  Maybe.

August Favourites

By Katie


Its the end of August.

{ insert comment about where has August gone?}

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Was August good for you?  Bank would like to know.

But seriously, where has the summer gone?

Because I know you are dying to know, here are my favourites from August.

Because I am living the life of leisure and am camping right now, this will be a quick list of my favourites of August.

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1.  I have started to feel the twins moving on a daily basis. It is an incredible feeling!   I have 2 anterior placentas so I wasn’t feeling the twins as soon as I felt Atticus and Vivien, but they are making up for it now.    I am concerned about how I will be feeling in 10 weeks with the 2 of them in there, but for now its a gentle, blessed reminder of their presence.

 

2.  We spent time with a lot of family this month. We went to Safari Niagara with the Will’s family earlier in the month, visited Kara, and had visits from Danielle’s family, and Nana and Papa.  Now we are camping with the whole VanGrootheest clan.  September is going to be lonely!

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3. Our vegetable garden is giving us a lot of produce – more than we can handle! The kids love harvesting and eating the veggies on their way inside.  The chickens are getting their fair share as well – without permission.  I only have one pumpkin though.  I have not been a great pumpkin grower for some reason….

 

4.  Flowers.  ‘nough said.

I hope you had a wonderful August.  Get ready for September!