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Holiday Heart and Soul

Happy Holidays from “Off the Merry-Go-Round!”

As we countdown to Christmas, our writers took time to share their photos and reflections of their most treasured holiday keepsakes, decorations and more. We invite you into our homes this holiday season, to share our memories, tips and inspiration!

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This has always been my favorite ornament. It was my mother’s, and it was always the last ornament to be put on our tree when I was growing up. I was so happy when she gave it to me. And now I continue the tradition… it’s always the last ornament I place on my tree as well. -Jen Ashenfelter

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I feel very blessed to have a large collection of antique glass ornaments from my grandmother and mother-in-law. Since our living room is painted light blue, I struggle with holiday decorating. Traditional reds and greens look out of place. But placing a mixture of green and blue balls into several big, old brandy snifters brings holiday sparkle to the room. I especially enjoy the nostalgic 1950’s era aqua tones! -Karen Hendricks

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My oldest daughter, a dance major, is coming home from college this week! To welcome her home and add fun holiday decor to her room, my younger daughter and I made ballerina snowflakes and strung them on a garland atop her window. We used oragami paper for the snowflake skirts. -Karen Hendricks

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These are some of my favorite decorations–carved wood angels and trees. Simple! -Chris Little

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My mom, who passed away on December 6, 2006, started my collection of Possible Dream Santas many years ago. She would search for just the right Santa that might reflect “our” interests. We continue to cherish these Santas year after year. Interestingly enough, she even purchased one for me the year she passed away. -Mary Ann Filler

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This is the Santa that my mom chose for my Christmas gift, the year she passed away. It takes center stage on my mantle. It’s still emotional for me to think about how she picked this out despite how sick she was. -Mary Ann Filler

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Our family’s Christmas tradition focuses on three main concepts: One – Preparation for Jesus’ birth, marking the Advent season using an Advent Wreath and an Advent Calendar–which this year is in the form of a beautiful wooden house. Behind every window or door being a treat or small toy…

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Two – Anticipation of news of His coming, having the 3 Wise Men “travel” through our house, a little distance each day (my son loves to move them!), until they reach the Crèche (Nativity scene)…

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Three – Celebration of Jesus’ birth! Baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas. In our home, Christmas tradition also revolves around the story of the life of Saint Nicholas. We are very deliberate in our teaching and celebration with our son. On the first Sunday in Advent our priest responded to the commercialism and secularism that has taken over Christmas by saying, “You never want your children to think that they don’t need God (because they received so many presents Christmas Day).” -Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

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The stockings were hung by the chimney with care… My grandmother started the tradition of knitting personalized stockings for everyone in our family, complete with our name at the top and birth year towards the middle. My mom continued this tradition by knitting my husband and children their own personalized stockings too. Atop our fireplace is a special painting–artist Dean Morrissey’s whimsical Santa, “Preparing for the Journey.” I splurged on this painting after working with the artist during several festivals. I admired it for several years before treating myself, including a gorgeous framing job by a local gallery & a special inscription and signature from the artist. (My cat Jingles even posed for this photo!) -Karen Hendricks

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Dean Morrissey – Preparing for the Journey

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New fireplace decor for 2013! I adore our two-sided fireplace, situated between our living and dining rooms but it’s not very efficient so we rarely use it. So this year, I stacked white birch logs saved from our beloved tree struck by an ice storm several years back, along with evergreen boughs trimmed from the bottom of our tree, and a string of Christmas lights. It gives the illusion of warmth and fire once again! (Jingles is looking quite annoyed at all these changes occurring in “his” house. HA!) -Karen Hendricks

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Does everyone have one of these handprint wall hangings left over from preschool? This one is from 1997. I saw one from 2010 in a friend’s house (with much younger kids of course) last week. Treasure! -Chris Little

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For our family, this crèche is a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. -Mary Ann Filler

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While this ornament is also a reflection of the true meaning of Christmas, it has caused some strife in our household. For reasons I don’t totally understand as a mom, every year my 3 sons fight over who gets to place this ornament on the tree. Last year, we wised up and wrote down a schedule of who will get to put this ornament on the tree from now until the year 2020! Problem solved! -Mary Ann Filler

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This is a new Christmas treasure! A print of chalkboard art from local artist Valerie McKeehan. -Chris Little

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Our angel tree topper has witnessed all of our Christmases as a married couple, as it was purchased during our first year of marriage over 21 years ago! -Mary Ann Filler

Holiday Links:

To learn more about the chalkboard art of Valerie McKeehan, click here for her Lily&Val website.

To see more examples of Dean Morrissey’s gorgeous Santa paintings and other works, click here for his artist page on Greenwich Workshop.

To make snowflake ballerinas, click here for the pattern and instructions (also pinned to our Off the Merry-Go-Round Pinterest board, “Holidays.”)

Do our photos and stories stir up your memories as well? We welcome your holiday ideas, memories and thoughts!

Being Content: In the Midst of Typhoons, Tornadoes, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales

By Karen Hendricks

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Debris lines the streets of Tacloban, Leyte island. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Today, as I write this, there are horrific scenes coming out of the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan: complete devastation, bodies in makeshift graves, debris everywhere. The scenes out of America’s mid-west are also disturbing. Tornadoes ravaged Illinois and Indiana last weekend, however, thankfully the death toll was extremely low. Natural disasters are especially hard to comprehend during the holiday season.

Turn on the TV or radio (even the :15 ads on Pandora Radio), check your mailbox, pick up a newspaper, and you’ll be bombarded by ads promoting Black Friday specials. The Christmas holiday season however, doesn’t seem to be kicking off on Black Friday. Instead, it’s invading the turkey-induced peacefulness of Thanksgiving evening. Lots of stores are opening their doors Thursday night so that shoppers can allegedly get the best bargains. What happened to the meaning behind Thanksgiving, the thankfulness that we’re supposed to be honoring?

So in the wake of natural disasters, death, devastation and the pure greed of Black Thursday/Friday shopping… I am offering a solution: being content.

Last spring, I wrote about “the margins” in our lives (click here)—the need for unstructured time in which to breathe, reconnect with friends and family and simply “be.” I have since finished reading the book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. My women’s group had some awesome discussions that are still rattling around in my brain!

One of the lasting impressions from this book is the idea of being “content.” What does it truly mean to be content? I thought I knew… but the book helped me to see contentedness in a new light.

From the chapter “Health Through Contentment,” under the subtitle “Inextinguishable Discontent,” Swenson writes, “Discontent as a driving force for a society might make that society rich, but it will bankrupt it in the end. As the coffer fills, the soul empties.”

I always thought of “contentment” as “happiness,” being satisfied with what I had, what I earned, where I was in life. However since the book Margin is written from a Christian perspective, Swenson defines contentment as a two-step process: not only accepting whatever comes from God’s hand, but also putting our faith and trust in God. It’s having a peaceful, secure feeling that God has our back. It’s “a joy that exists in spite of circumstances and looks to the God who never varies.”

Swenson writes that contentment is not:

  • “the comfortable feeling of well-being when all our needs and desires are met”
  • Pursuit of the American dream
  • Keeping our circumstances under control
  • Pretending that things are right when they’re not

Consulting another source… Being content is defined as “An internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”—Holman Bible Dictionary

I know it’s a lot to absorb! But more and more, given the headlines, I am trying to be content, at peace, and thankful.

One other area of my life has me examining this feeling of contentment. So many friends of mine are returning to work, driven by a desperate feeling that they need to earn money towards their children’s college fund(s). Let me tell you, as a parent of a college freshman, I can testify that the cost of college can indeed send you into a tailspin. And I don’t blame them for feeling this sense of desperation.

However, I realize more and more that I am not living out “the norm” by stepping off the merry-go-round of crazy-paced, full-time employment while many of my friends are jumping back on that same carousel. Working for myself, enjoying a handful of clients and the work they send my way, has given me wonderful fulfillment, more time for my family and finally—some margin in my life. A combination of factors helps us afford the cost of college: yes, both of our jobs for which we are thankful, but also an examination of our family spending and our efforts to reduce those costs where we can—trimming our phone/cable bills, trimming grocery bills, cutting out extravagances, etc. This helps separate needs from wants. It’s a challenge, in our society, to be content with life and put complete faith in God.

Food for thought, as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wishing all of our readers a joyful, blessed Thanksgiving—filled with a renewed sense of contentment. 

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Philippine civilians walk out of what remains of the Guiuan East Central Elementary School in Guiuan, Philippines, Nov. 17, 2013. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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A Guiuan woman stands outside of her makeshift shack in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

 

A Gift from My Father

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

On Thursday, October 3, my father passed away. He was not only an accomplished individual, yet he was a wonderful dad. A hole has been left in my heart and a special part of my life is now missing because he was a dedicated follower (and fan!) of Off the Merry-Go-Round. In my life, he was the biggest supporter of all my writing pursuits and professional accomplishments. He was also the person who supported me most as an adoptive parent.

That now sometimes makes it hard for me in both these areas of my life because they are the two most important things to me, and I am missing his words of encouragement. On a positive note, though, as he knew he was becoming weaker he began writing me more letters than usual with encouragement in those areas – all of which I saved. When I feel ready to re-read them, I think it will be then that I fully realize that I still and always will, have his love and support with me.

Dad was my biggest supporter as an adoptive parent.

Dad was my biggest supporter as an adoptive parent.

In the end, my family and I were blessed to have Dad with us for as long as we did – he was 94 years old and fully cognizant until his last breath. His heart basically just gave out that morning as my mother sat down beside him on the bed to ask how he was feeling that day. So, he left this world with my mother by his side and, though he was transported to the hospital, for the most part his last moments were in the beautiful farmhouse they lived in for 49 years, and which he treasured so much.

As my Dad got older, I used to think that although of course I would be sad when he passed away I would feel more matter-of-fact about his death because he had lived so long and, well, “that’s life.” Now, however, I realize that no matter how old your parents are, it hurts to lose them and though of course that raw pain will soften over time, it will never completely go away.

Despite my father passing away when my son was 4 years old, his memory will live on in the every day little things my son and I do together - which are similar to what Dad did for me.

Despite my father passing away when my son was 4 years old, his memory will live on in the every day little things my son and I do together – which are similar to what Dad did with me.

For awhile, it was a little difficult to get back to life – especially to my writing, and I basically cancelled writing, and life, for October. My OTMG colleagues were wonderful to fill in for me, and I am so appreciative of all they did for me and for my family to honor my father’s memory.

I dedicate this blog piece, and the rest of my writing (and living!) career, to my beloved father, R. Winfield Smith. Below is a piece I had published in the Summer 2006 edition of Faith & Family magazine in their Summer Lights section which was titled, “Daddy’s Girl Still.” The poem that accompanies it I had written shortly after I received the necklace mentioned.

I love you, Daddy – always.

“Daddy’s Girl Still”

For a little girl, a father is a very special person. He can be her light in a world of darkness. He can be the rock she clings to when she is battered about in life’s storms. He can be a constant presence in the changing seasons of life.

On my 12th birthday, my father gave me a garnet necklace accompanied by a note explaining that the garnet is my birthstone. This year, I am 38 years old, and my beloved dad turned 87. After all of this time, he still has a handwritten note I scrawled in pencil as a “thank you” for that gift. Although the writing has faded noticeably over the years, it is still legible.

Dad still has my thank-you note, and I still have his necklace.

A Gift From My Father

The Reluctant Family Historian

Ethel’s wedding portrait, c. 1908

By Chris Little

You know how sometimes you get an idea that won’t let go? That keeps you up at night and leaves you daydreaming at a green traffic light? Well, I’ve been trying to shake this one for awhile, with little success.

I hesitate even to write it down, but in the interest of courage and accountability, I’m going to tell you that I’ve been thinking for some time about writing a biography of my great-grandmother, Ethel. I’ve mentioned her here before: born in 1882, a portrait artist, mother of three, survivor of the Depression, she was also an occasional journal-keeper, a devoted letter-writer, and a scrapbook-constructing family historian in her own right. I’m fascinated by her, and part of me would love to gather all the yellowing bits of paper I have of hers and knit them together into her story.

But I have to admit another part of me is repelled by the idea—and I can get a little whiny about it: “You had your chance, Ethel,” I sometimes catch myself thinking. “You lived your life, you wrote your stories. Now it’s my turn. Why should I spend my life writing about yours?” That part of me really doesn’t want to spend hours and weeks and months in the basement sifting through dusty letters and journals, trying to decipher her atrocious handwriting and make a history out of what it says.

Still, the idea won’t let go, and my whining is increasingly drowned out by my interest. I’ve been transcribing her journals—like the one she kept as a 16-year-old schoolgirl in 1898. And the one she kept as a 25-year-old working artist in 1907, as she was being courted by my great-grandfather. And the one she kept on her honeymoon trip to Europe in 1909. In each of them she’s slightly different—sentimental and romantic in 1898, curt and businesslike in 1907, entranced by the colors of Italy and Switzerland in 1909. But her handwriting is such a mess even her relatives complain about it in letters to each other—I know: I’ve transcribed them too! Sometimes I have to retrace the track of her pencil with my finger on the table, over and over, to try to guess what she wrote. I’m getting a little better at it, the more of her writing I read, and it’s funny the sense of triumph I feel when I suddenly recognize just what it was she was writing.

With her children, c. 1920

I was thinking the other day that the deeper I get into this project, the more it seems to me that Ethel’s life, her joys and sorrows and pleasures and disappointments, are echoed in mine—not the same circumstances, to be sure, but the feelings animating them. Like when she walks back down her driveway after waving goodbye to her youngest son as he leaves for the Navy, and she remarks on how quiet and empty the house feels? Oh yes, I’ve been there! And when she comments about her daughter growing into a perfect companion, kind and tolerant and wise, I find myself nodding my head. Yes, I get that too. So I wonder if that’s part of the reason people like to look into their family histories, to find out that their ancestors were a lot like them—to connect with them somehow. This is as close as Ethel and I will get to sharing a pot of tea, and it’s pretty fun. Anyway, my whining is beginning to feel displaced—because in a way, learning and writing about Ethel’s story is a way of living, and understanding, my own. Does that make sense?

In her garden, c. 1950

Still, sometimes it gets to be too much, all that reading about the little things that were exciting or upsetting to people who’ve been dead for decades. When I start to feel weighed down by it all,  I take myself for a walk, or start dinner, or do some work on a freelance project. There’s only so much time I can put into this project in any given day, and that’s going to have to be okay.

Anyway, I’d like to revisit this topic from time to time as I slowly sink deeper into the Ethel Project, as I’ve come to call it. In the meantime I’d love to hear whether you’ve ever had any interest in learning more about your ancestors, or even just a relative a generation or two back. Why do you think you’ve wanted to do that? What do you think you’ve gained from it?

Books that Help Nurture Your Child’s Faith

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

A Bible you can sleep with!

A Bible you can sleep with!

No matter what your religious beliefs, practices or denomination, if you are looking to nurture your child’s faith there are some wonderful children’s books that can help. You may also find that one or more of these books would make a nice christening or baptism gift, or would be welcomed by family and friends and their little ones on any occasion!

Below is a list of books which retell familiar Bible stories and set Biblical themes in accurate historical contexts as far as the culture and people of those times. Likely, Jesus was not as fair skinned as some artwork and pictures in books portray, nor were all the people of the region He lived in! Babies, young children, and families from different cultures and countries are represented in these beautiful, true-to-life books. Additionally, many of these books retell a prayer or Psalm against the backdrop of various cultures, or within a particular situation. Through uplifting and inspirational language, imagery and pictures, these books will delight and comfort children while developing their knowledge of the Bible and promoting their religious growth.

 

There are wonderful books that can help you nurture your child's faith.

There are wonderful books that can help you nurture your child’s faith.

1) Baby’s Hug-a-Bible

Copyright 2010 by Sally Lloyd Jones

Yes, a Bible you can snuggle withThis board book with begging-to-be-cuddled cover shortens and retells familiar Bible stories in a rhyming format for babies to enjoy too!

2) The Beginner’s Bible

Copyright 2005 by Mission City Press

Timeless Bible stories are shortened for your toddler to enjoy with lots of colorful illustrations – complete with dictionary in the back.

3) Children of Color Storybook Bible

Copyright 2001 by Children of Color / Illustrated by Victor Hogan

For the older child, this is the first translation of the Holy Scriptures for children. It relates their current heritage and history to the events and stories in the Bible, helping them to understand that these stories are a part of that heritage. A wonderfully written introduction helps parents and religious instructors with suggestions for how to best use the book.

4) Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Copyright 1994 by Debbie Trafton O’Neal

With large, bright illustrations, this is a truly fun book to enjoy with action prayers, poems, and songs for bedtime.

5) My First Prayers and Psalms

Copyright 1999 by Random House Lap Library / Illustrated by Anna Curti

A sturdy board book for little ones to enjoy prayers and Psalms throughout all times of the day.

6) The Lord’s Prayer

Copyright 2000 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers / Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

A beautiful book illustrated in watercolor using a glazing technique, The Lord’s Prayer is based on the true life of an African American man and highlights the way he gives back to God’s Kingdom. A positive role model for us all!

7) Psalm Twenty-Three

Copyright 1993 by African American Family Press / Illustrated by Tim Ladwig

This amazing book, by the same illustrator as The Lord’s Prayer, is set against the dramatic backdrop of the inner city and features an extended family raising two children in a safe home filled with an abundance of love. These powerful images bring this prayer to life for us all, no matter what our race or background.

8) A Child’s Prayer

Copyright 1989 by Jeanne Titherington

Featuring a beautiful little boy, this book takes a familiar prayer and turns it into an exciting bedtime adventure that will uplift your spirits and lift up your faith!

9) My Spiritual Alphabet Book

Copyright 2000 by Holly Bea

This book is a wonderful way to introduce and teach the alphabet to young children within a biblical and multi-cultural context.

10) 5-Minute Bible Stories

Copyright 2006 by Publications International, Ltd. / Adapted by Brian Conway and Illustrated by Claudine Gevry

This book contains familiar Bible stories, appropriately shortened and accompanied by illustrations which feature multiple cultures and skin colors.

11) God’s Dream

Copyright 2008 by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams / Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

What is God’s dream for us – children and adults alike – and the world in which we live? Read this moving, poetic book and find out! A must-read for us all!

Please feel free to add other books to this list, and share with us any that particularly stand out for you. Perhaps that will be a book that nurtured your faith as you were growing up!

The Cure for Anything is Salt Water…

IMG_5549webBy Karen Hendricks

I’m convinced that scrapbooking is a disease.

I absolutely love to scrapbook, but I never seem to have enough time to keep up with it. That guilty feeling of always being “behind” is awful. (I’m currently about 5-7 years behind, trying to maintain albums for all three of my children, in addition to a family vacation-themed album.) Nevertheless, I keep plugging away. Someday, I’ll catch up, right? The eternal optimist…

And I know I’m not alone. I think every one of my scrapbook-addicted friends is in the same boat. We’re all in this madness together. Part of the struggle is staying organized… downloading pictures, labeling/tagging them, having them printed, finding the right supplies–whether you’re using scissors and paper in hand or going online to “virtually scrapbook”–it all takes time.

However, once I get over all of those speedbumps, finding the time to scrapbook, magically turning my dining room into scrapbook heaven… it truly is a special time to re-live wonderful family memories. Now that we’ve turned the page to fall, I’m trying to organize my summer photos so that when I am finally caught up to present day scrapbooking, I’ve clearly labeled and saved all the photos that I need.

I go for long stretches without doing any scrapbooking, so when I do get back into it, I sometimes need a little inspiration to get me started. Ideas for layouts as well as theme-related quotes or titles give me a jump-start.  So my friend and fellow blogger Ruth kindly loaned me some of her gorgeous scrapbooks. I’ve snapped a few pictures of some of her layouts, combined with mine, for a little summer scrapbook inspiration (both digital and traditional).  I also compiled a list of some of my favorite beach-themed titles and sayings. I hope you enjoy both!

Feel free to “comment” and share your strategies for scrapbooking organization and/or inspiration… scrapbook “addicts” need all the help we can get! 🙂

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Summertime / Beach Titles and Quotes:

  • A day in the sun
  • A day in paradise
  • Beach bums
  • Beach babes
  • Basking in the sun
  • Happy as a clam
  • You are my sunshine
  • Beating the heat
  • Sizzling fun
  • No school! School’s out!
  • Tank tops & flip flops
  • Time for bare feet
  • Sandy toes
  • Catch a wave
  • Lemonade and lazy days of summer
  • Hot days and cool ice-cream
  • Summer Breezes
  • Castles in the sand
  • Blue skies & sunshine
  • Sun, Sand, Sea
  • Surf’s up
  • The ocean heals the heart, mind, and soul. (unknown)
  • “The cure for anything is salt water–sweat, tears, or the sea.” (Isak Dinesen)
  • “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” (Mother Teresa)
  • “Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone.” (unknown)
  •  “The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” (Jacques Cousteau)
  • “Eternity begins and ends with the ocean’s tides.” (Unknown)
  • “The beach is not a place to work; to read, write or to think.” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
  • “If you want to know how much I love you, count the waves.” (unknown)
  • “One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach.” ( Anne Morrow Lindbergh)

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Related posts:

Vacation: Same Time, Same Place — Next Year!

Summer Memories

Dreaming of Summer: Vacation Tips

Priceless Treasure: Tips for Great Family Photos

Picture-Perfect Gift Ideas

Summer Memories

By Karen Hendricks

Ok, I know it’s officially fall on the calendar now. However, I feel as though fall was forced upon us this year. Candy corn started appearing in the grocery store in mid-August, before the summer’s salt water taffy supply had run out. Even Mother Nature was rushing into fall–most of August was unseasonably cool here in the mid-Atlantic. September (which IS still summer, through the 21st) has been a bit chilly. I feel cheated.

So, in an attempt to bring back some summertime warmth, I’ve put together a collection of favorite photos from our family beach vacation in Bethany Beach, Delaware. I snapped all of the photos below during an early-morning adventure. That morning, we all woke up (some of us easier than others) around 4:45, packed up a basket of goodies, and enjoyed breakfast on the beach as we watched the sun rise over the ocean. It’s one of my most treasured memories of the entire week and I’m glad we made the effort to roll everyone out of bed.

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5:18 am – The sky is brightening… Some of us are still sipping warm tea and relaxing on the picnic blanket, while some of us are exploring the beach

Beach Sunrise 01

I was intrigued by this children’s flip-flop, which someone had kindly stuck atop the beach fence, in hopes that the owner would easily spot it and reclaim it. There are indeed kind people in the world…

Beach Sunrise 03

5:25 am – Isn’t it incredible, that no two pictures of the ocean are the same? I love trying to capture the variety of rippling effects made by waves crashing on the beach

My husband always has an interesting relationship with the birds at any given beach... I'm not sure what that's all about...

My husband always has an interesting relationship with the birds at any given beach… I’m not sure what that’s all about…

Beach Sunrise 04

Fishermen try their luck in the pre-dawn hours…

Beach Sunrise 05

5:33 am – The warm glow of the sun is starting to break through the morning’s overcast skies…

Beach Sunrise 07

Don’t you love the birdie posing for a pic along the surf?

Beach Sunrise 08

5:38 am – My daughter captures the sparkle of sunshine we’re beginning to see across the ocean

Beach Sunrise 09

Gorgeous colors and the promise of a beautiful day at the beach

Beach Sunrise 10

5:40 am – I think this might be my favorite pic of the entire series

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Our three loves…

Beach Sunrise 11

The reflection of sunshine stretches across the sand… would that be called “sandshine?”

Beach Sunrise 13

5:45 am – Hurray! An hour into our adventure, we’ve successfully watched the sun rise over the Atlantic.

Although it’s something that happens every day, how often do we truly stop to watch the sun rise (or set)? This was our one day to see the entire process, to soak it all in, and tuck those memories away to warm us on cool fall and winter days. It was a simple, but beautiful way, to enjoy time “off the merry-go-round” as a family.

How do you keep vacation memories alive? What special moments stand out during your summer travels?