this week.

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You guys are truly the best. Thanks so much for checking in to see how we’re coping with our house craziness. Here’s a few things we’ve been up to this week:

– Gabe turned six years old on Saturday! We celebrated with a walk at the Farmer’s Market in the morning, and then met cousins and birth family at a splash pad in the afternoon. He got some fun gifts and felt very special. Six is when you start getting a weekly allowance at our house so he’s pretty excited about that too.

– David and I celebrated 13 years of marriage on Monday. Guess what our totally awesome anniversary gift was: we got to move into our new bedroom! That’s right, it’s pretty much completely finished. We even postponed the anniversary date night Steve and Linda gave us in order to hunker down and hang blinds and move furniture. It was amazing.

Like I said, it’s not finished and my temptation is to wait to show you photos until it matches the Pinterest-worthy image in my head, but you know what? That’s silly. When is anything in real life truly Pinterest-worthy? You’ve been cheering us on the whole time. So I’ll be posting some photos this week.

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– David’s anniversary gift to me was to buy a CSA share with a local farm. It lasts for 18 weeks and we pick up our produce on Saturday mornings at the Soda City Market downtown. We joined a CSA years ago in PA when Judah was just a baby and I’ve always wanted to try it again.

There have been many years in between where it was simply not a priority for our family, but I’ve been day-dreaming about reconnecting with this passion. There’s something magical about casting your lot with one farm, for better or for worse, and getting to know the people who grow your food. Happy Earth Farm is about 45 minutes away and we plan to take the kids out soon. They even have an Airbnb glamping tent if we want to stay for a night!

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In the meantime, I met Steve and Karen on Saturday and instantly liked them. Who wouldn’t melt at the sight of those cute cloth bags? And I’m not kidding, the food is just plain delicious. Suddenly our salads have sparkle and verve again. My favorite part of our first produce share was the recipes Karen included. I feel like David didn’t just give me food, but a hobby.

– Speaking of hobbies, Amie started a six-week sewing class on Friday that a neighbor is putting on for a few girls. She came bounding home with great enthusiasm, and a notebook syllabus full of homework and a fun schedule for the summer. If you’re wondering whether I’m the sewing type, I’m desperately not. But I love that my girl is excited about this and vow to do all I can to help her practice this summer. Thankfully I get to sit in on the class with her. And there’s always YouTube to help us out in a pinch, right?

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– You may be wondering whether I’ve given David his anniversary gift yet: our backpacking trip, and the answer is “no.” We’re going Thursday and Friday of this week. As you can see, we practiced setting up our (adorable! new!) two-person backpacking tent this weekend and wearing our packs. Don’t I look like I know what I’m doing!?

If you’re also wondering how a not-so-rugged girl like me is gonna do for two days in the sticks with no running water (and, um, no restroom), the answer is “Who knows!?” But I’m game to try something new! And no matter what, two days of just the two of us is going to be fun. It’s like a sort of marital team-building exercise, right?

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– Guys, I love summer, but I don’t love being out of our regular routine. Wait: I say this every.single.year don’t I? So now that things are slowing down with the renovation, I’m going to sit down tomorrow and write out a little schedule for us. Hear me out: I don’t do it to be rigid and over-bearing.

I just realized that what I want from summer is to spend unhurried time with my children. But somehow, when we don’t have a routine, I don’t slow down and spend time with them, I just find new, non-homeschooling things to busy myself with.  I start thinking that what my kids need is to be entertained, but what if they just need me?

I’m fairly good at being a chauffeur yet terrible about just relaxing and really connecting with each of them. So that’s what our routine will consist of. Also, remember chores? Remember baking projects? Yeah. That’s not really happening either. So this week is about getting us organized to make good use of our summer. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them.

– Finally, I’m trying to be very selective about internet time these days, but one of my favorite bloggers and her family are spending a couple of months in China, working with kids in a foster home. It makes me so happy to follow along with their adventures. You should check them out.

Happy Memorial Day, my friends!



all about the chickens.

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Are you tired of chicken pictures yet?

I just can’t resist. What’s cuter than kids and chickens!?

Our flock of eight is 4 months old now, which is hard to believe (the chickens are a week older than our master bedroom addition project). A pullet is a female chicken that’s less than a year old; we call ours “teenagers” right now. They typically start laying at around 6 months. And if you can believe it, we won’t know until close to then for sure that they’re all females, so we use the term “pullet” in faith.

We’ve had some friends say they were certain they had all girls until they suddenly started hearing a distinct “cock-a-doodle-doo,” and had to go searching to find its source.

But we couldn’t resist naming them all, and Amelie continues to pray against roosters.

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Everyone in the family got to name one, and Amie got to name three because, after all, she’s their mother. So here’s the line-up and the breeds, we’ve got two of each:

Wyandotte (pronounced Wine-dot). They’re the strikingly pretty black and white chickens Amie is holding in the photo, and are our largest and feistiest birds. They’re a bit aggressive for my taste, but Amie is very devoted, despite receiving several nasty scratches. She named them Eleanor and Scarlett. They’re strong women.

Black Star. These are black-and-copper-colored. Noah named one Goose almost immediately after we got the chicks and it stuck. I called the other Penny.

Minorca.  The Minorcas are all-black. Gabe chose the name Flowie (short for “Flower”), and Amie named the other, our smallest bird, Lola. Flowie and Lola are the speediest girls of the bunch.

Maran: These two ladies are black and white speckled. Judah’s is called Bellatrix, which you understand if you know Harry Potter (and I suppose reveals what he really thinks about chickens as pets), and David named his bird Annie, after his two favorite authors, Annie Proulx and Annie Dillard.

We’ll keep you posted about which breeds turn out to be the best layers. In the meantime, we love their funny little personalities, and Amelie is definitely the only only of us who can keep all the names straight.

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Thus far, owning chickens has proved to as delightful as it sounds. We read that they’re the easiest pets to care for, and have found it to be true. Amie takes care of all their food and water, and David changes the straw in their coop once a week. We can compost both straw and poop.

Feed for eight chickens costs about $30 a month. I’m not sure how much the straw costs exactly, but it’s quite inexpensive. Don’t ask how much materials and time for the coop cost. Think of it more as a work of art.

Now, like I mentioned, chickens do produce a lot of poop. Though their coop is larger than standard for eight chickens, for awhile we let them free range in our backyard all day. However, we soon became a bit overwhelmed with clean-up (I feel like they deliberately poop on our patio and picnic table), so now we let them out for a couple hours a day. It’s sure hard to resist their longing clucks when we walk outside in the morning. They just love to be free to roam (kind of like our children).

They walk saucily through the garden beds whenever they can get away with it, but haven’t tried to eat anything. Our favorite is when they roost on the playhouse ladder.

We haven’t had trouble with predators yet. Our backyard is securely enclosed, and since we’re in the middle of our neighborhood, rather than bordering the woods, we haven’t seen raccoons. We do have a hawks that like to circle over our yard from time to time, so we keep an eye on them. It’s pretty amazing how chickens instinctively seek cover and are able to blend in with their surroundings, but so many friends have lost chickens to other animals that we don’t want to get lazy.

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The larger the chickens grow, the more difficult it is for Gabe and Noah to catch and hold them, which makes me so happy that we got them as newborns. Holding chickens often supposedly makes them more mild-mannered, although this has not exactly proven to be the case with Scarlett and Eleanor. Come to think of it, maybe it has. How much worse would they behave if they were left to their own devices!? So the kids still play with them lots.

And it’s about the most charming thing in the world to be pulling weeds or reading a book in the pavilion and have a little flock of chickens rooting around for bugs in the pine straw. There’s something about having a happy animal nearby that just makes life better.

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Yes, four months in, we’re very happy chicken owners.

If you’ve got kids and are thinking of getting chickens, as several of our friends are, I’d definitely wait until the kids are old enough to help with the chores. It will make your life easier, and as with any pets, it’s a great way for them to learn responsibility.

We’ve decided we aren’t indoor pet people, but now I’m wondering . . . should we get a rabbit??

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rim of the gap.

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By David

A few weeks ago I grabbed Judah and Amie and headed to one of my favorite places, Jones Gap State Park, a stone’s throw from the North Carolina border and a million miles from distracted days in Columbia.

Weighted down with snacks, books, stuffed animals, and a thermos of coffee, we chatted on and off on during the two-hour drive.  At one point I asked Judah to read aloud from Romans 10.  Amie had asked the night before how someone could be sure they were a Christian.  And so we talked about what it means to confess and believe.

I think that both our older kids are born again, both with very different expressions – Amie loud, confessional, eager; Judah quiet, steady, willing.  I’ve seen Amie sob over sin.  I’ve heard Judah say very simply, “I know God is real because he’s helped me in hard places.”  I have learned so much from both of them.

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Our first stop was Tandem Creperie in Traveler’s Rest, my favorite breakfast in the universe.  If I ever land on death row, I’ll be choosing my last supper between a pimento cheese burger from the Whig bar in Columbia and a Tandem lumberjack crepe.  We loaded up on carbs and more coffee and basked in a glutinous stupor.

Thirty minutes later, we pulled into the park and headed to the ranger’s station.  I’d hiked most of the trails there on my own or with friends but somehow missed the Rim of the Gap trail, touted as one of the top five hardest hikes in South Carolina.  The ranger took one look at Judah and Amie and said, “You know, I don’t see too many kids that age do this trail.  Actually any.  Why don’t you try the waterfall?”

Judah and Amie must have smelled the condescending tone.  Or else they misheard him.  We came for Rim of the Gap and we were going to do Rim of the Gap.  Or bleed trying.  Which we did.

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The weather was overcast and cool, the river water high.  We saw all kinds of animals: turkey, chipmunk, butterflies, salmon, snakes, salamanders.  We walked, jogged, scrambled up and over eight miles of rugged terrain.  I held Amie a few times.  We stopped every thirty minutes or so for a breather.  From parking lot to parking lot we were on the trail for five hours.

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My general rule of thumb is that I like to be hiking slightly longer than I spent driving to get there and back.  We did that and then some.  I couldn’t be more proud.

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There’s something to be said about quantity time over quality time, long hours in each other’s company, with nature unfurling before us one step at a time.  Breathing hard, single file, without a word between us is it’s own kind of intimacy.  I cherish these memories and can’t wait to share them with Gabe and Noah.

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our additions.

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Notice I said additions, not addition. I don’t have house addition news quite yet, but we got a few other additions in the meantime.

Eight, to be exact.

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David has been wanting chickens literally since the summer we moved back from India. That’s when he developed an enthusiasm for having a backyard homestead. He decided bee-keeping may be a bit ambitious, but built our garden the month we bought our house (number one priority). The time hasn’t been quite right for chickens (number two priority).

Thankfully David’s parents, Steve and Linda, moved from Pennsylvania into our neighborhood two years ago and got chickens soon after. We lived vicariously through them for awhile, got to help out with the chores, and loved being out in their “living back yard.”

The chickens provided a source of endless entertainment for our three youngest, animal-loving kids, especially Amie. The chickens were Mum-Mum’s girls, but I think they were also her girls.

Last and best of all, we got free eggs, and they were delicious.

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Steve and Linda decided to give away their chickens for a few reasons this winter, and we were all disappointed, but Amie cried and cried.

In the weeks since, we’ve been surprised by how much we really miss having them around, and we miss their eggs.

It seems the time is finally right.

And so here we are, today, with eight two-day old chicks, who will live in our basement for a few weeks until they’re old enough to move to a coop (which David will build). We are all enamored.

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Everyone will get to name one when they’re older and we figure out their gender (any roosters have to go away because of the city regulations). We will all learn how to help take care of them. I can’t wait to teach them to eat slugs, which are prolific in our yard in warm weather. Ugh.

Amie told us, “This is the best day in my whole universe. I’m begging God not to let any of them die. Can I sleep with them tonight?”

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P.S. I know I’m running late, but I’m just about finished with my children’s bookshelf post! Happy Friday!!



six things on friday.

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Happy Friday, dear friends!

Here are six things that are making my life a little happier these days:

1. We have a holiday and birthday cinnamon roll tradition. David’s birthday was October 7, but we had a few busy weekends in a row, so I finally made his cinnamon rolls this week. Homemade cinnamon rolls are something I was intimidated by until my friends in India showed me how very easy they are. Now I’m teaching Amie how to make them.

If you’re interested, here’s our tried-and-true recipe. I prepare them the night before and then bake them the next morning and whip up a quick glaze.

2. A monumental event happened in our house yesterday: at 11:45 AM I told my children I was going in my room to exercise for 30 minutes, and I’d make their lunch when I was finished. Well, they got hungry and decided to make their own lunch (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), and the big kids made one for Noah.

Of course they scampered in and out of the room asking questions, chatting with me, picking up free weights to follow along, but I did it! I did the entire work-out and when I was finished: my kids had eaten lunch, carried their dishes to the sink, and we could move on with our day!

This may just be the dawn of a new era, folks.

3. One more note on fitness. A few weeks ago, David and I started ROMWOD, which is the CrossFit daily stretching program. I am not a CrossFit person and doubt I ever will be, but I can carve out 15 minutes a night to stretch alongside my husband. We do it immediately after we put Gabe and Noah to bed, and the big kids often join in. It feels very restful (so much so that Amie has been known to fall asleep on the floor by the end of the routine).

This habit has been so, so good for us! I’m gaining some flexibility, my posture is improving, and my form is better when I exercise. Perhaps best of all is that my psychiatrist and doctor have been after me to do daily deep breathing exercises for my anxiety, and ROMWOD includes that.

Having said all of this, fitness and exercise still do not come naturally for me. I’m learning that, at the end of the day, taking care of my body doesn’t involve some grand game plan or even subscribing to an expensive program but small, daily choices to get up and move around.

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4. I’m cautiously optimistic that my anxiety is lessening. I don’t know if it’s the deep breathing, the medication, the therapist, prayer, boundaries, or all of the above, but David and I noticed this week that in some ways I seem to be much more like my old self.

Anxiety is a funny thing: I can now become obsessed with looking for these improvements and then spiral down if I have one bad day, so I’m trying to be very even-keel about these latest victories. We had a wonderful new members’ class at our house two weeks ago with 40 people here. I felt happy and calm and loved cooking chili for them all. And we’ve had a couple other social events this past week that I thought would send me into a tail-spin of panic, but turned out to be enjoyable.

Now the other temptation is to say, “I’m all better!” and start stacking back up commitments and obligations. So I’ll resist that. My life continues to be stream-lined to the barest of necessities. And when once in awhile we add something in and it goes well, I give thanks.

I know this probably deserves a blog post on its own, but I really can’t describe how good this time of my extreme limitations has been for my family. I’m home more. I’m not rushing around frantically trying to please a whole load of people and live up to an image I’ve given myself. I have more energy for homeschooling and for gardening and exercising.

I feel like I’m truly learning, in tiny fits and starts, to live out of a place of rest instead of a place of performance and striving.

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5. I’ve started my first bullet journal!

This is something I’ve had my eye on nearly this whole calendar year, through the blogs I follow. At its simplest, bullet journaling is just using a blank notebook to create your own day planner and organizer, tailor-made to your needs. I thoroughly read these two posts as I got started: one from the official Bullet Journal website, and this detailed one from the Lazy Genius Collective, and at their advice, practiced for a couple of weeks in a cheap notebook to make sure I like the method.

Per both of those websites (and a post here for all you Modern Mrs. Darcy lovers), my bullet journal is very plain and simple. No fancy drawings or artwork. I love looking through the elaborate journal spreads on Pinterest but I know that trying to keep up with that would stress me out. So I stick to the basics.

The biggest reason I like the bullet journal method: all the random thoughts and bits of paper scattered throughout the house and notes on my phone and craziness in my head are now consolidated into one place. It travels with me in my purse. It keeps me from staring at a screen. I even use my bullet journal for my grocery list.

David has seen how well this new system is working for me, and ordered his own notebook today. Actually Amie started her own bullet journal with a pretty notebook someone gave her, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that thus far her pages are as fancy and colorful as mine are plain. I love it. Soon I’ll give you a blog post with our favorite tips.

6. And finally, the things we see/hear on news are depressing, but there is so much good in the world, you guys. Let’s look for the good and also be apart of the good, in small, faithful ways. One story: our friends from church, Ben and Jeanette, are approved to adopt a five-year-old boy from China (see photos of him on Instagram @thewalkersadopt). They had an adoption fundraiser on Sunday night with live music, chili, and s’mores, similar to ours in 2014.

And they raised $10,000 in one night.

That is just one example of many I could tell in the life of our church and our community. The generosity and courage of the people around us is heartening. God is at work.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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the veggie box.

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One of our favorite things to do together, both as a couple and as a family, is to cook and bake.

For several years now, we’ve been trying to move in the direction of a healthy, whole-foods based diet. This doesn’t mean we’re health nuts, and it doesn’t even mean we buy everything organic. You’ll find cereal and store-bought bread in the pantry, and the kids have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch most days.

David’s good at helping me be inspired to make and eat healthy food but not let it take over my life. I had a friend once advise me, “Instead of obsessing about what to cut out of your diet to make it healthier, just focus on adding good, whole foods, bit by bit.” So thanks to her inspiration we now have green smoothies for breakfast and we make salads for lunch. We make the kids smoothies and they eat veggies or fruit as a side at most meals and often for snacks.

Of course it’s our job to see that they eat a relatively balanced diet, but what I really want to do is inspire my kids to enjoy good food. This is hard. Often I’m discouraged at the dinner table when I make a fresh, healthy meal and the kids labor through it (they don’t have to like it, but can’t make rude comments. so we hear a lot of, “I don’t really prefer quinoa”).

I’d say David and I are pretty healthy eaters, but it’s hard to man-handle our kids into being healthy eaters. We keep junk food out of the house for the most part and they have to eat some of everything we serve for dinner.

But I understand what it’s like to be a kid and want sandwiches and cereal and ice-cream. I don’t want to have anxiety over food, and I definitely don’t want my children to.

All of this to say, I hope that our kids see David and me buying and enjoying good food, and learning to be creative with eating it. I hope they see that we love to cook together. I hope they taste lots of different foods — multiple times. I understand that their taste buds will grow and change over time. I hope that as they help their grandparents with the chickens and help us grow a small amount of what we eat, they’ll develop an appreciation for where our food comes from and feel part of the process.

I hope to continue to grow on this journey myself.

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And so enter: the veggie box, which is quickly becoming a Soda City Farmer’s Market sensation. For 10 dollars you can fill a cardboard box with as many fruits and veggies as you’re able to — just look for the stand with the long line of people snaking around the block.

Not all the vegetables and fruit are local to South Carolina; I try to ask questions and keep my eye out for the obvious exceptions (pineapple, bananas). I still buy those things at the supermarket, but want as much as possible to save room for the local, in-season stuff in our box.

The above photo is two boxes’ worth of food. We found that one box wasn’t quite enough the week before for a family of six. I wanted to see if we actually ate all the contents of two boxes in one week, and for a couple of the things it was closer to two weeks. But they kept in the vegetable crisper, and we did it! We ate everything and didn’t throw any of it away. Now we buy one or two boxes depending on what our week looks like, what we’re getting from our own garden (not much in this 100-degree weather), and how many meals we will be eating at home.

I’m always looking for healthy food ideas from my friends, so thought it might be fun/helpful to list out for you what we did with all of it.

1. 2 heads of kale – morning green smoothies (recipe below)

2. Spinach – mixed with lettuce for salads, green smoothies

3. Radishes – salads

4. Mushrooms – Frittata with mushrooms, bell pepper, grated Parmesan, and fresh parsley

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5. Corn on the cob – side dish for dinner

6. Cherries – gobbled up for snacks

7. Blueberries – snacks, smoothies, topping for granola

8. Carrots – side for lunch, snacks with hummus

9. Romaine lettuce – Lunchtime salads!

10. Sweet potatoes – baked , topped with butter and cinnamon and served as a side dish

11. Broccoli – side dish with dinner (and all the kids’ favorite vegetable)

12. Peaches – Peach cobbler! Also snacks

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13. Bell peppers – Frittata, pizza, salad toppings (we’re getting peppers from our garden now too)

14. Zucchini and squash – the amount you see above made a side for two dinners, sauteed with butter, salt and pepper, leftover corn cut from the cob, topped with chopped fresh basil (sadly all my kids’ least favorite veggie. and they really hate mushrooms. (although not a veggie))

15. Tomatoes – sliced on David’s homemade pizza

We’ve loved our weekly box of produce. I enjoy seeing the kids help choose it and discover new fruit, like cherries.

What I don’t like is the overwhelming crowds of people at the market (although I love how well it’s doing!), and was happy to find out through my MIL that our veggie stand opens at 7:00am. If we arrive between 8 and 8:30 the line isn’t too long yet, so we can zip in and zip out. Some mornings we linger and buy coffee at Indah and snow cones and an enormous cinnamon roll. There are so many delicious things to eat at Soda City that have nothing to do with our veggie box! 🙂

Here’s to everything in moderation!

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Smoothie recipe (adapted from Thrive, by Brendan Brazier)

Makes 2 large glasses (these are rough estimates, we eyeball the proportions):

– 2 cups ice and water
– 1 banana
– 1 apple
– big scoop raw hemp powder
– scoop raw cacao powder
– spoonful tahini
– 2 cups kale or spinach
– handful of berries if we have them
– splash of unsweetened almond milk
– if it’s not sweet enough or we need more volume we add a couple of pitted dates or another banana
– Blend well



Amie, Daddy, and Rover’s adventure.

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Dictated by Amie:

Last week we went in the car for our adventure and Dad told me that we are going to see some cats and dogs and pet them. And then Dad asked somebody if we could take a dog with us. She picked a dog, his name was Rover. I was happy and Rover jumped and licked me! He was light brown and black and he was very fun actually!

When we got to the woods, Daddy let me hold the leash. We walked and it was fun! It was so fun! We walked three miles in the woods: we went on some bridges and after all that stuff we took a break and had a snack. Dad tied Rover on a tree. We took some other rest stops, then we kept walking. The thing about Rover on our adventure is he was trying to keep up with Dad.

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I have lots of favorite parts, but one of my favorite parts was Rover coming with us. I let Dad hold the leash a little bit, because when we were walking to see the river, I walked but there was a tree and Rover jumped, so when we went out of the river I let Dad hold him.

When Dad and me stopped to use the bathroom and took turns holding the leash, Rover was trying to get us! He didn’t want either of us to leave.

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Finally we rested. Dad tied Rover up and slept on a picnic table. I laid right next to Rover until Dad woke up. He untied Rover, and I ran around in the free grass with Rover until we had to go.

When somebody opened the door to let us back in the shelter, Rover was pulling me back out. He did not want to leave me. Dad helped me pull him back inside and then we said bye. When we came home I took a bath, and then I pretended to be a dog!

That’s my whole blog post.

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