Box of Leaves: 10 Years

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Our box of Michigan leaves arrived yesterday.

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My cousin Joann has been sending them to us every fall for ten years now. She waits for the perfect conditions–peak colors and dry weather–and always texts me on the day she gathers: “Today’s the day.” Every leaf is hand-picked and vacuum-packed into a box that she pays a pretty penny to ship…just to make us smile. We were expecting the box to arrive Saturday, but it didn’t make it which sent my cousin in a tizzy because she was afraid with the extra day of sitting at the post office, the leaves might lose their color or dry up or get moldy, but they were as perfect as ever.

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What began as a thoughtful gesture to give my kids a taste of a northern fall has turned into a deep-rooted ritual that connects us to home, each other and reminds us how happy something as simple as a box of leaves can make us.

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One of my favorite books I often return to is Simple Abundance, a collection of essays for every day that foster a gratitude practice and celebrate finding sacred in the ordinary from Autumn leaves to an afternoon cup of tea. That book is the foundation of my “Enjoying the Small Things” celebrations, and ever since my sister and I toted copies of it in the 90’s like the dorks we were and consequently started “comfort boxes” to stash our favorite little things that made us happy, I refer back to it often and think of it in moments like geeking out over our box of leaves. I recently bought a follow-up children’s book by the same author, Sara ban Breathnach, called The Best Part of the Day and love this quote in the author’s introduction: “Gratitude is often thought of as an intellectual concept, when really Gratitude is a small seed planted in the heart that is nurtured and nourished through acknowledging all the good that surrounds us. Good that can be discovered through the reassuring comfort of family customs, rituals, and traditions and restoring a sense of rhythm in our daily round and through the changing seasons.”

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This tradition, these leaves, the way we run to the woods to do the same thing we do every year with them–toss them into the air and drink up their earthy scent and pile them up to make little pillows where we lay for pictures…

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The way my kids all look at me while we do this, anticipating my happiness…following my lead…
The way they’ve come to look forward to them and enjoy them as much as I do…

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It’s a small seed of gratitude that has grown into a sturdy ritual that grounds us and reminds us that no matter how challenging life gets, there is an abundance of little pleasures around us that can bring us back home.

My kids may not know a Northern Autumn, but they know the joy that comes from its treasures.

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(Dash copied Lainey in the above picture, said “Look!” and we all lost it.)

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(I didn’t notice until I was editing that Lainey is clutching the Sophie necklace my niece sent her)

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We melted a pan of beeswax and dipped a good 30 leaves or so in it last night so we can enjoy our leaves a little longer and make a garland that will get us through Thanksgiving.

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Until next year’s box…sending vibrant Autumn happies your way today.

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Dash & Isaac

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Earlier this year, I shared the Nella and Maude book I made Nella, based on the adventures she shared with her little doe friend and modeled after her favorite book, Kiki & Coco in Paris. It has since become her favorite book treasure, read and reread at bedtime, and definitely one we’ll save forever. I knew I’d eventually make one for each kid and am currently piecing together Dash & Isaac, a story of a boy and his dinosaur who comes to life one summer.

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When it’s done, we’ll save it for Christmas (got an e-mail that yesterday marked the 100 day countdown–WHAT?), but I realized I never shared some of our favorite shots for the book. We took Isaac everywhere we went this summer, and over time I collected enough good shots to create a good story line for his book.

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(
Cleveland, GA)

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(
somewhere outside of Louisville, KY)

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Herbivores need to eat, like, all the time.

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Ferry ride to Mackinac Island…

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Isaac pulls some night shifts as an Uber driver for amphibians.

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He also volunteers for the prison ministry.

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…and makes a mean batch of spiked lemonade.

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Tellin’ jokes. Brontosauruses are so funny.

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See, there’s a lot of ways I can incorporate this next one into the story. I mean, is Isaac a preacher? Perhaps a B.C. messenger sent to A.D. times in a prehistoric time machine to study religions in the future? Is this a death scene? Does he give his heart to Jesus in a chapel in the woods? So many possibilities.

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We’ll stick with the childhood basics–a boy who has a great big imagination and an infinite thirst for adventure. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll throw in a poop reference and make this his favorite book.  Either way, I can’t wait to finish it.

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For more on these books and how we make them, check out the Nella & Maude post.

And Happy, Happy FRIDAY! Here’s to weekending strong.

Enjoying: A Summer Friday

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Happy Friday!

Enjoying lately…

Summer Cherries.
Fresh and local  from a roadside stand, they are the sweetest nuggets I’ve ever tasted. It wouldn’t be summer without fingers stained with cherry juice and a good Google search for cherry recipes. We’ve been spreading tart cherry preserves from Cherry Republic on our toast in the morning, and I’m damn near addiction status. Help.

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The Colors of a Michigan Summer.
Red barns against cerulean skies, ripe fruit, lush greens, yellow dandelions, scarlet chicken combs, stretches of lavender fields and ferns in the woods, roadside sweet peas, vibrant beach balls and bathing suits–it’s a feast for the eyes, and it all makes me so happy.

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Beach Party.
The little town where we stay hosted a beach party by the lake last weekend. There were games and contests, and we embarrassed ourselves over-cheering for Ivy in the sand shoveling contest (she WON!). I love the small town vibe here, and the way everyone comes together to make things so special.

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Two Worlds Colliding.
When you’ve been telling your best friend for ages how much you love this  happy little place, and you beg her to someday drive up and share it with you, and she actually does? Magic, I tell you. A euphoric weekend for the kids, spinning summer memory webs from dock jumps, wildflower walks and campfire s’mores.

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We collected an entire basket of wildflowers on our walk the other day with only three fights over who gets to cut the stem. I had to King Solomon that situation real quick. Whoever gets to cut the stem doesn’t get to hold the basket.

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Dash with scissors–Sweet Jesus, look away.

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Pizza Party on the Dock.
Pizza never tasted so good. It’s on our bucket list every summer, and it never gets old.

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Mornings here.
I love them so much. No hurry to be anywhere. Cup after delicious cup of coffee. Kids waking up one by one, taking turns to sit in the sunlight for their breakfast of choice–toast with jam, summer splurge cereals like Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms, cinnamon toast like Poppa makes, fresh scrambled eggs from Poppa’s chickens, or Malto Meal with butter and brown sugar. Or, if they’re really smart, they run down to Poppa’s cabin and ask him to make French toast with bacon because he never says no.

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Pontoon Gymnastics.
Perhaps it’s the upcoming Summer Olympics, but Girlfriend’s gymnastics game is strong on that boat. Every time we go out, we catch her doing her floor routine across the length of the boat, always ending with this seat move. A 9.3, at the very least.

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The Joy of Ritual.
There are several quiet ones we repeat here–same time of day, same walks, same places, same stories. It’s all so calming, safe, replenishing. I know when we go back home, return to schedules and school and make our way back to some of the craziness real life demands, we’ll be ready and excited to tackle it and get back in the game. But putting these quiet days and all this nature love in our pockets helps reset the tone and inspire us for the mom’s version of a New Year.

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A Boy in His Element.
The boy couldn’t be happier here–dirt to dig, walking sticks to find (and swing), toads to catch, water to wade in, critters to chase, stones to skip, trees to climb…and so many people to pick you up and carry you piggy-back when too much exploring has run you weary.

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He has properly Tom Sawyer’d this summer, and it’s been a joy to watch.

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Grandparents.
I knew this summer would be granting us some really meaningful time to make memories with grandparents (we have more to come with Brett’s family on the way home), and it’s been so special. When Christmas and birthdays roll around, I dig through photo folders to find some precious grandparent moments to print and turn into gifts and always wish I had more, so I’ve vowed to capture as much grandparent love as I can this summer. So far, so good.

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Have a wonderful weekend! There’s still so much more summer to be enjoyed.