I’m checking in on this fabulously fall Friday (the weather here is AWESOME; 70’s, breezy, perfect) with a Friday Thoughts post.

I hope I adequately express to you guys how much I LOVE, I mean really LOVE, your comments on these posts. They are my favorite.

You don’t know how many times I’ve scoured the comment threads of these Friday Thoughts posts over the months for a story, tip, piece of advice,  or feedback someone shared. Your comments have led me to at least one more amazing pair of jeans AND changed they way I teach my kids piano lessons, just to name a few. I love your guts (and your comments’ guts) so, so much.

Today, I have a lot to share since it’s been a few months! Read at your own risk. 🙂 But whatever you do, DON’T ignore my questions below, pretty please. I want to hear all about what YOU think!

School Year Thoughts: August 22 began a new phase for our family. All five of the kids in school…all day long. Over the years, depending on where we’ve lived, we’ve had half day kindergarteners, full day kindergarteners, and a stint where I homeschooled three of the kids. But this is the first year where the send off in the morning means everyone is gone all day.I have mixed feelings. The end of summer about killed me off, I’m not going to lie. The chaos in my house was at an all-time high and well-intentioned schedules were pretty much nonexistent (as were bedtimes and my patience). But then, when everyone left me mid-August, I kind of felt adrift and a little sad, and I wandered around aimless and confused. It reminded me of an older friend’s tongue-in-cheek advice when we lived in Wisconsin: “don’t get attached, they grow up and leave you.” 🙂 My melancholy lasted for about 3 1/2 minutes until I realized that the one thing I always, always crave more of was at my disposal: time.

Of course my well-laid plan to get four bedrooms painted, learn Portuguese, and finish the five quilts hiding under my computer room table all within the first five days of school  didn’t happen (or even get started, let’s be honest) like I thought they would (how does time go so dang fast during the day??), but I AM determined to make the most of my time at home during the day.

As you know, blogging takes up a great deal of my life. It is my “job” for lack of a better term, and I’m grateful to be able to work from home with a flexible schedule, but I’m also determined to have a better blog/life balance so that I really can focus on some other industrious projects, as well as spend time volunteering at the school and do more in my service at church/temple. And also, naps. I’m not opposed to them either…or hanging out with my chicks. Ok, talk to me, how is your school year shaping up (public schoolers AND homeschoolers)?

School Lunch Thoughts: Piggybacking on the school year thoughts above, we are still staying strong with the school lunch checklist I shared last year in this post (also included in that post are some free, downloadable menu plans to save your sanity during the busy startup of school). After almost 10 years of using them, we finally broke up with our long-loved Goodbyn lunch boxes in favor of these pack-it freezable lunch boxes {aff. link} to keep everything cold, and so far, the system of kids packing their own lunches each day is going pretty well (my 14-year old who is a freshman in high school graduated to a simple brown paper bag as his packing preference). I have to monitor Ms. First Grader’s lunch box to make sure it isn’t packed chock full of only chips and fruit leathers, but other than that, the other kids are pretty self-sufficient.

Book Thoughts: So many of you recommended A Gentleman in Moscow when I reached out for book recommendations a few months ago. It took me a while to download it to my Audible app and even longer to actually start listening to it. And if I’m being honest, the first few chapters (maybe even more than that) almost put me to sleep (not super awesome since I was utilizing it as a way to keep me entertained and awake on a long drive last month).

But I persevered after consulting some friends who promised it would be worth it, and I am officially a repentant book listener. I have about 1/4 of the book left, and I am enthralled, and dare I say, obsessed (think: listening to it whenever and wherever I can; Brian looked at me very strangely when I had it at max volume this morning while blowdrying my hair with my head bent upside down). It’s an insanely long audiobook (17 hours or something), but I’ve been listening at 1.25X speed and using it as my clean-the-house incentive, among other things. The brilliantly descriptive, almost magical, writing style makes up for the slow start. I highly recommend this book (maybe avoid the Audible version if you want to get through it more quickly?). Have you read it? What did you think? 

Alaska Cruise Thoughts: I shared in my newsletter and on Instagram that Brian and I took a first-ever cruise this summer to celebrate our anniversary in August. We went on an Alaska cruise, and I have so many thoughts to share about it. But since I don’t want to bore anyone with too many details, I’ll just share a couple:

-For first-time cruisers without anything to compare it to, our experience was pretty great in terms of service, hospitality, accommodations, etc. We went with Princess Cruise lines and booked everything through them including airfare, excursions, etc. (we took the easy way out on this one and I don’t regret it for an instant). We decided on an inside passage route (Anchorage to Vancouver) with ports at Ketchikan, Skagway and Juneau.

-So many people have asked me what I thought about the food. Um. Hmmm. Let’s see. What to say? It was ok. I mean, it was good! But not lifechanging. Maybe I had my expectations set too high (a very distinct possibility), but I was a little underwhelmed, particularly by the buffet. However, Brian wants me to mention that the 24-hour access to hot chocolate and ice cream was pretty amazing. One of my favorite parts of the cruise was taking a tour of the galley and meeting the head chef. The kitchen (we only saw one of the many on board) was absolutely amazing and kind of overwhelming – it’s hard to wrap my mind around how much food they make every day for so many people. Crazy.

-The weather, always unpredictable in Alaska, was pretty terrible during our 7-day cruise. There were a lot of experienced cruisers on our ship, and they all commented that this was the worst weather they’d had on any Alaska cruise. It was foggy almost the whole time so we didn’t see much scenery while on the ship, and it was pretty cold and rainy at all the ports.

The good news is that because the experience was so novel to us, we still loved it, and we really, really enjoyed the time we had to spend together – just the two of us. Would we go on an Alaska cruise again? I’m not sure about that. I’m not exactly a world-traveler (the gift of wanderlust is a bit lost on this homebody who gets a some anxiety traveling and leaving home), but the experience and majesty of Alaska was amazing and definitely a once in a lifetime experience even with the foggy conditions. I don’t know if we caught the “cruising bug” exactly, but it was a pretty awesome trip all things considered, especially getting off and exploring the seaside towns. Have you gone on a cruise? If so, WHERE? And what did you think?

-I took this petite gray backpack {aff. link} to Alaska and wore it everywhere. It was awesome. For being on the smaller side, it had so much functional space and so many helpful compartments; I loved it, and it was a lifesaver for a one-bag solution. It even fit my DSLR camera with a fairly big lens and an umbrella. I’m still using it as a purse-slash-backpack now that I’m home. I also wouldn’t have survived without my beanie {aff. link}, this waterproof windbreaker {aff. link} and these Sorel wedge boots that I wore straight out of the box (I know, not smart), but they ended up being surprisingly and incredibly comfortable. I wore them nonstop and consider them well worth the splurge (they were on a 50% off sale on sorel.com in August; they are certainly more spendy now in leadup to winter). I’ll wear them for many winters to come I’m sure.

Also, the picture below has nothing to do with anything except that our high school mascot is the Vikings and my sister made this Viking braid beanie for me and I love it and I will continue to embarrass my children by wearing it every day to pick them up from school as well as at the next high school football game. Go Vikes! 🙂

Ok, I think that’s it for today! A huge reward (cookies?) if you made it through that whole post! Let me know YOUR thoughts below! 

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