# facetime fun, version 2016

In all the excitement of the last few months, I’ve neglected to publish one of this blog’s most popular posts: Lily’s annual Back-to-School Facetime Fun.

It still happened the week that school started, when times were all things Olympics, so hit rewind and take yourself back to August for this smart and funny girl who is growing up too fast for this Aunt NoNo.

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Me: Hey, Lil!

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Lily: Hello.

Me: This is the first back-to-school facetime in your new room.

Lily: Yeah, hold on, here it is. I’m saving this wall for paintings.
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There’s one wall.

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Here’s my bed…

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…and my desk.

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Me: Looks great! I spy a Gappers’ Quilt!

Lily: Mmhmm. How’s Wyoming?

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Me: Eh, it’s okay. Are you ready to start school?
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Lily: Nervous, but excited to see my friends.

Me: What are you looking forward to most in third grade?

Lily: We get to do a land run and sing “Oklahoma!”

Me: So fun. Do you get to dress up?

Lily: Yeah, there’s a square dance and we can wear aprons and bonnets and gowns, but no headphones.

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Me: That’s a bummer. Are your eyes okay? You keep rubbing them.

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Lily: I’m seeing little dark spots from staring at the light too long. I’ve been staring at the sun a lot lately.

Me: Why’s that? Doesn’t sound like a good idea.

Lily: I don’t have a lot of places to stare.

Me: Hmm, well…have you been watching the Olympics?

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Lily: Yes! I like girl’s gymnastics. Have. you. seen. Simone??

Me: Ha! Yes, isn’t she awesome?

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Lily: Yeah, but my bedtime’s 8, so I haven’t seen too much.

Me: Remember how I said you needed to have paper and a marker for our chat? I’m going to have you judge the Olympics of your summer. Sound fun?

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Lily: Mmmhmm

Me: Awesome. So, write a 1, a 5 and a 10 on three pieces of paper. These are your scoring cards that you’ll hold up when I mention something you did during your summer.

Lily: Like this?

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Me: Yes, exactly! Start with the 1.

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Me: Perfect, now the 5.

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Me: One more — the perfect 10!

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Me: Here’s the first one: Your summer with Linc.

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Me: Okay, I won’t ask. Moving on…Star Wars Camp!

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Me: Tough crowd. How about Singing Lessons?

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Lily: My teacher calls me Laser Lungs because I can sing a B for 30 beats.

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Me: Whoa! That’s so impressive. Do you want to sing something for me now?

Lily: Not really.

Me: How about if I sing with you? What about “Oklahoma!”?

Lily: I don’t know any words.

Me: Okay, that’s cool. Next! Driving through mountains?

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Me: Reading new books?

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Lily: That’s a tough one. It might need to be a 5. I like reading The Goofballs about these goofy crime-solving kids Brian, Mara, Jeff and Kelly, but it’s like the same thing over and over and over again.

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Me: I haven’t read any of those. What about your trips to Texas and Colorado?

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Lily: *smacking lips fast* I like going to the restaurants. But, no green beans! I liked the parks we went to and the dance games.

Me: What about sleeping in Colorado?

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Me: Hahaha! (She slept with me.) What about making zoodles?

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Lily: No, it’s “oodles and oodles of zoodles!” They just tasted okay.

Me: Not a fan of zucchini noodles?

Lily: Not really my favorite. They were okay. More fun to make.

Me: Do you want me to tell you my favorite part about third grade?

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Lily: Sure.

Me: We got to learn our multiplication tables and my teacher had a bulletin board that had a bunch of paper cut-outs of ice cream cones with our names on them. Then for each table we learned, we got a paper “scoop” of ice cream on our cone, from 0 up. And if we got through all the numbers, we got to have an ice cream party!

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Lily: Wow! What flavor did you choose?

Me: I don’t remember, but if I had to guess it would have been cookie dough.

Lily: Really?

Me: Yeah, that not your favorite?

Lily: I don’t know.

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Linc: Hi, NoNo; hi, NoNo!

Me: Hey, bud!

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Lily: Eww, Lincoln!

Linc: I’m P.U, NoNo!

Me: Uh-oh.

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Lily: Are you about done? My battery is about to die.

Me: No problem. I hope you have a great first day. I love you very much.

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Lily: Love you, NoNo.

Me: Byyye, Molly! Sweet girl.

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Isn’t she the cutest?

A further rewind:

Facetime Fun – Age 7

Facetime Fun – Age 6

Facetime Fun – Age 5

Shelf Life: Fall 2016

ShelfLife

Guys, I’m alive! And under strict instructions from my grandmother to post ASAP. You listen when your Memaw tells you to do something. {Hi, Memaw! This one’s for you!}

Like this summer, fall has continued to be a doozy and I still don’t feel on solid ground yet. Among other things, as editor, copywriter and project manager of my company’s first-ever annual report, I found myself caught between its 70+ pages way more than the pages of any book I’d read for pleasure. My hobbies (and my sanity) really suffered while we struggled to push it to print, but I’m happy to report it’s being published now and I can {kinda} go back to normal. Whatever “normal” means in a state where it starts snowing in September.

Albeit short, fall in Wyoming was gorgeous. Not too much red, but the yellows were vibrant and plentiful. It helps that we have not only two Aspen trees in our yard, but also a gorgeous Japanese Maple. Of course now we have bags upon bags of leaves (and more to rake), but for a hot cold minute it was stunning. I managed to take these before we had a freak snow/ice storm that brought every leaf to the ground.

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Before we dig into what I read in book form, I want to share with you something I’ve been enjoying in blog form. I stumbled across the Becoming Minimalist facebook page and can’t get enough of what they share. (If you’re not a Facebooker, check out their blog.) Especially before the holidays, it’s a nice reminder that we typically have too much stuff; our possessions weigh us down; but letting go is a choice and it usually results in freedom. Joe has always had this mindset and, as someone who grapples with nostalgia, I’ve really learned so much by living with him, as well through Marie Kondo-ing our place. But it can always be better and I’d love to further release myself from the “stuff” in our life. Here are some surprising statistics I’ve found through this page/blog and some of my favorite posts:

* There are 300,000 items in the average American home.
* The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years.
* Americans spend $1.2 trillion annually on nonessential goods.
* 3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally
* One of my favorite posts: Don’t just declutter, De-own.
* One for parents: A Helpful Guide for Decluttering Toys
* One for the workaholics (ahem, *cough*): Our Love/Hate Relationship with Work

Interested? Check it out.

On to the books…

1. The Queen of the Night, Alexander Chee

As far as opera lovers go, I’m way up there. But Alexander Chee’s got me beat. This guy loves opera so much he reimagined Mozart’s The Magic Flute into a long, dramatic, tragic, did I say long? tale of a fictional famous opera singer and her quest for acceptance. It’s not as genius as Mozart, and I spent most of the book debating whether I should keep reading. Like some opera, though, it was just too long-winded. Since I read this on my kindle, I can tell you it wasn’t until I was 71% through the book that something changed. The pace picked up, some secrets revealed and I found myself eager to finish. I’m not sure I’d recommend this to anyone that doesn’t love the opera world, but if you do…good luck hitting that 71% mark!

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of this book until a few years ago when a friend mentioned that it was her (well-read) mom’s favorite book. Hmm. I needed to check it out, so I bought a used copy for a few dollars and it sat on my shelf while I went through a plethora of library due date deadlines. I am SO GLAD I finally picked it up. Written in 1943, this coming-of-age tale is brilliantly beautiful in every way. I adored the Nolan family, especially young Francie, and ran the emotional gamut reading about her trials and joys and heartbreak. After a series of reading duds in the last few months, this stood out as one of the few books—maybe the only—I’ve read this year that I’d want to revisit. Too good to ignore.

3. Joy for Beginners, Erica Bauermeister

Bauermeister’s writing is like a balm for my soul. She wrote so beautifully about food and love in The School of Essential Ingredients, but in this she writes just as beautifully about life and female friendships. Main character Kate has just survived breast cancer and is now doling out life challenges to the six friends who helped her survive. I was struggling when I read this and it made me so thankful for my own squad of friends who continue to offer such clarity and support.

4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: The Illustrated Edition, J.K. Rowling

You guys may have remembered I totally flipped out over Jim Kay’s version of the first Harry Potter book. Well, he certainly doesn’t disappoint with the second one either. I would have definitely given it its own post if I had a) the time, and b) wanted to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it! So to those who haven’t yet seen it, fear not. I won’t ruin it for you, but I stand by my first impression that these are gorgeous books and make me love digging back into the series anew.

5. The Hamilton Affair, Elizabeth Cobbs

I listen to Hamilton no less than five times a week. Usually it’s every day, but who’s counting? (me) I am 100% obsessed. My dad sent me this book after learning of my unabashed affection and I really enjoyed it. I knew that Lin-Manuel Miranda changed parts of the story to fit his production better, so it was interesting to have a more accurate telling of some of the events (Monroe v. Madison, for one), but I also love how Cobbs threw in some of the lyrics here and there. It was like my very own easter egg hunt going on within its pages. It doesn’t get much better than this in history, my friends. Read (or listen) up!

6. The Traitor’s Story, Kevin Wignall

My dad dropped this book in my hands when visiting last weekend and I’ve already finished it. That should tell you something. Very similar to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, this reminded me that while I love classic literature, historical fiction and non-fiction, I can totally devour a good mystery with glee. As I neared the end I was totally immersed in its pages, so much so that when I got to the last sentence I threw the book over to Joe (while he was sleep-watching Game 7) like it was a hot baton in the marathon of our marriage. “Your turn, go!” Mystery Novels: Keeping marriages on their toes one page-turner at a time! Definitely worth checking out Wignall’s work if you’re looking for a fresh face in the cliffhanger world.

Next up in the queue:

I keep a living list of all the books I’d like to read. Pulled from best-seller lists, blogs, friend’s recommendations, it’s usually quite long, and I’m never without 7-8 titles lined up through library requests. But I want to try something new.

After completing 90% of Marie Kondo’s decluttering steps (I haven’t found time to go through photos or personal keepsakes—or maybe I’m just avoiding it!), I realized I had so many books on my shelves that I’ve either never read or couldn’t remember reading. Marie would tell you to get rid of them—if you haven’t already read them, you probably won’t. Well, I didn’t get rid of them and I’d like to prove her wrong.

Here is a list of books that I’ve schlepped all over the country and that I will now read and either keep (if I love and know I’ll read again) or donate. No more new books or library books until I get through these—hold me to it!

Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl (reading now)
Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (reread before Everyone Behaves Badly)
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Blu’s Hanging
, Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child
, Bob Spitz
The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter
, Kim Edwards