It’s been unseasonably warm this past week, but the leaves are falling off the trees and our yard has a slick layer of pine needles. Fall, and really winter, is upon us. Am I ready? Nope. Spring – Summer was a delicious, busy blur, filled with moments I tried to savor. What follows is a recap of my favorite vignettes, lest I forget.

Martha Stewart doesn’t live here, but we did have an Easter egg hunt.

Bryce and I don’t typically host the family gatherings. It’s because we have small children, right? Right. However, this year, we had some family and friends over for an Easter brunch. It was delightful. Easter is a holiday I cherish for its meaning, and each year the victory of Christ seems to light the faces of those around me with extra clarity. The spring weather doesn’t hurt, either.

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Martha Stewart doesn’t live here, but one time it looked like she did.

In May we threw an engagement party for one of Bryce’s best friends. We really wanted to celebrate the couple. Between our work schedules and the attentiveness required to take care of Hyatt and Lincoln, we had moments of “Wow. How are we going to pull this off?” Because, we didn’t want to just order pizza and get some 2-liter sodas, ya know? We wanted the party to be nice.

So, we made a project plan weeks ahead with little check boxes–which is what you must do if you have two working parents and two very small boys–and bird by bird got it together. Eight week out: Get addresses. Check. Six weeks out: Send the invites. Check. Four weeks out: Take a lunch break on Monday and place the catering order. Check. Three weeks out: On Saturday, take the boys to Costco and price wine. Check. One week out: See if someone can play with the boys right before the party so you can try to look nice. Check. Etc. Etc. On the evening of the party, the weather could not have been more beautiful. The grass was green. Insects and bullfrogs creaked. We had peonies and tea lights. Knockout roses lined one side of the yard, blooming bright pink and fuchsia, right on time. Stevie Wonder and Van Morrison played through the speakers. We had fun and were thankful. There is no photo evidence of this event.

I found my favorite last line in literature. 

Writerly people often talk about best opening lines. Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities has the first that comes to mind. You know: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” Well, over the summer I had the pleasure of listening to the audiobooks Gilead, Home, and Lila by Marilynne Robinson during my commute. There were many days I walked into work crying, impressed by Robinson’s writing and concerned for the characters. Robinson’s depictions of the complexity of the human heart, the struggle for Christians to live up to what has already been attained, and the surprising nature and tenderness of grace (despite our typical resistance), is breathtaking. Even the good guys have blind spots and struggle with forgiveness. There’s an underlying plea the characters will understand their worth and be able to receive kindness. As I read Lila I could hear the river against the rocks and feel the misty summer air. Home has my favorite last line. You should read (or listen to) all three.

I enjoyed the literary work of my colleagues.

As described in the post Writers Are Weird, my team at work has a book club. One of our managers, David, suggested we do a summer series and take turns sharing our own creative writing. Over the course of May/June/July he facilitated readings that reminded us of our college or grad school days. We might have been sitting in a circle on the Quad at JMU, feeling the wind brush our cheeks and watching cherry blossoms dust the sidewalks. Our summer series had that sort of feeling. I read and listened to excellent pieces of fiction, nonfiction, and music–all written by the people I hop on conference calls with. The sessions reminded us of our lives beyond inboxes and deadlines, and they helped us respect each other on a deeper level.

There was soccer, glorious soccer.

Soccer days are happy days in my book. So of course I followed the 2015 Women’s World Cup. I’d like to thank Julie Johnston, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Abby Wambach, and the rest of the USA crew for the stellar showing and for reminding me of my favorite soccer memories. Playing the sport taught me hard work and how to have relationships with confident, tenacious women–some of whom were so different from me, many of which are still my dear friends. We can stay up late talking about our trials with different coaches, our heartaches over losing championships, and the anxiety of tryouts. Whenever I kick a ball around, I feel at home in my own skin.

Also, Bryce would like to thank Alex Morgan. For being Alex Morgan.

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We started an anniversary tradition. 

Bryce and I actually did something cool for our anniversary this year. We stayed at The Inn at Sugar Hollow, not far from the Moorman’s River Trail. On a beautiful sunny day, we left the boys with family, drove out of town, and got to hang out as a couple. We hiked, we went out to dinner, and we slept in. It was so much fun, we decided we could take turns picking a cool place to go each year.

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My family posed for professional photography in color-coordinated shirts.

My dad is one of seven kids. His sister and five brothers all have kids. So, I am one of many, many cousins, which is a beautiful thing. This summer we had a reunion in the Outer Banks, and it brought together as many of three generations as could get there.

My aunts and uncles can cook a mean spaghetti and tell some great stories, but just as Martha Stewart doesn’t live at my house, my family isn’t exactly the preppy, organized type that gets professional photos. Which is why it’s so awesome my Uncle Pat and Aunt Jessie got a professional photographer–and so endearing that people took the suggestion to wear blue.

We gathered at one of the houses for dinner Tuesday night and hung out on the beach afterward. The little ones played together, and the Barron brothers gave each other a hard time. That night as I fell asleep I fully understood the Nutcracker line “Visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.” I recalled image after image of people I loved, each with their unique quirks and personalities, in their humble, obedient shirts inspired by the colors of the ocean.

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Rockville got an ice cream place.

‘Nuff said.

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I got to see dear friends. 

I scheduled a work trip to Denver just weeks after my friend Becca had her second son and moved to Littleton. The timing worked out quite nicely. When Becca and her family lived in Pennsylvania, we’d meet halfway in Maryland and hike a bit of the Appalachian Trail each summer. One of us was always pregnant, so we got some good looks. We don’t have photo evidence of this, which is a shame. Now that Becca lives in Denver, I think I’ll just fly out there each summer. My mountain bike awaits.

unnamed-6We also got to spend time with Sarah, Danny, Tennyson, and Adelaide Crouch as they passed through Richmond on their way to the Outer Banks. One of my favorite summer memories is giving the kids a bath in our big inflatable pool in the backyard. I felt like Norman Rockwell was with us in spirit as the sun set, the kids splashed, and the fireflies flickered on and off. Sarah did the dishes, so that was cool.

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A few friends from my ESL group also reconnected. Many of us have known each other since 2010 or earlier, so it’s a gift to maintain the bonds and watch their children (and grandchildren) grow. Plus, they’re really good with my kids.

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Ultimately, the summer of 2015 was about learning to be a family, learning to love others when it’s hard, and learning to prioritize the most important things. I’m confident these themes will continue in the months ahead. We’ll just, ya know, be wearing wool hats and scarves.

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