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Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Welcome to August’s installment of my random thoughts. Also, Hello from Paris! Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

– Today we left Normandy. It was a teary goodbye. I think it might be my favorite place ever. We are spending a few days in Paris before we catch our flight home on Saturday morning. Except for me, Betty & June, no one else in our family has been to Paris this summer, so everyone is excited to get a little time here. We’ll do some school shopping, see a museum or two, and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night. I asked each kid to decide what their top priorities are for our few days here, and we’re working hard to see how many we can accommodate.

My pick is to visit Les Puces, the famed Paris Flea Market — which I’ve never done! But if I understand correctly it’s only held on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and we leave early Saturday, which means we’ll miss it. Bummer! Have you ever been?

– School starts on Monday. Which seems almost unfathomable to me because this summer has gone so fast. But happily, we have lots of new school experiences to look forward to. Maude is starting her senior year, Olive is starting high school, Oscar is starting middle school. And Betty and June will return to our elementary school as 5th and 1st graders. (And you can bet we’ve picked up a bunch of adorable French school supplies to put in their back packs.)

– As for Ralph, he’s also got a big new experience happening. Ralph is heading to Bogota, Colombia on a mission! He leaves in about 3 weeks. As you can imagine, he’s super excited. He can’t wait to learn Spanish and he’s already falling in love with Colombia — mostly because he’s reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Such an amazing book! Have you read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?)

When we get back to The States, we’ll be in serious mission prep mode, including a wisdom teeth appointment and tackling the packing list. Ralph will be giving a talk at church — it’s a missionary tradition — on Sunday the 11th, a couple of days before he heads out. (To our friends in the Bay Area, you are all invited! I’ll share details on Facebook.)

– Next week we have two birthdays. Olive on the 25th and Ralph on the 26th. We’re guessing that re-entry, and the new school year, may leave us feeling overwhelmed next week, so we’ll be keeping the celebrations simple, and pushing back friend gatherings by a week or two. Have you ever hosted a delayed birthday party?

– Remember the Treehouse master bedroom and bathroom renovation that has been happening while we’re in France? Well, it’s not all the way done yet, but we’re down to the finishing surfaces. So that’s awesome! As awesome as it is, I realize it still means we’re coming home to a not-wholly-useable house. Not ideal, but what can you do? These things happen.

I’m super excited to see the new spaces in person, and I’m over-the-moon-grateful that most of the work — and all the really dusty stuff — is already done. Woo hoo! Of course, I’ll be sharing lots of updates once I’m there and can take some photos.

– Related, we’ll be coming home to a little more added chaos, because it turns out our washing machine developed a leak while we’ve been gone, warping the wood floors it sits on. Dang! The washing machine and dryer came with the house, and they were already old when we moved in, so we knew they would need to be replaced eventually. And it looks like eventually has turned into now. : ) Has anyone reading researched washer and dryer sets recently? Is Consumer Reports the way to go? I’m thinking back, and I can’t remember the last time we had to buy a set. I welcome any and all advice about shopping for a new pair. Do you love your washer and dryer?

– Over the last couple of weeks, I was surprised to realize that I was slowing down and posting less on social media. I was thinking about why that might be and I’m not quite sure. But I think it’s something about this particular summer. It’s been really wonderful. Incredible and magical in so many ways, with a delicious concentrated dose of family time. There were dinner parties and old friends and gorgeous views and so many adventures, and yet I’m feeling hesitant about sharing it. It’s like I find myself almost hoarding the summer, or protecting it and wanting to keep it all for myself. Does that even make sense?

Maybe I’ll feel differently in a few weeks and write all about it. Or maybe I’ll end up just keeping some of these memories in my head. We’ll see. Have any of you ever felt like that?

– We’ve got a few big weeks ahead of us and I can feel myself mentally preparing. As I’ve mentioned, I really enjoy a full schedule, but I can always tell I’ve overdone it when I find myself looking at a future date on the calendar and thinking about how I just need to make it to that future date and then I can relax, instead of enjoying what’s actually happening. This morning, I realized I’m doing that now — looking ahead to sometime in September. So I’m trying to figure out what I can cut out or simplify or say no to. (I say that while being fully aware I’m not very good at saying no to things.)

– Even though I know the weeks ahead are going to be challenging, I can still say with ease and enthusiasm: I can’t wait to get home! Coming home is just the best. It feels so good. My own bed. My own dishes. My own desk. I’m really looking forward to getting on a good fall schedule. I really do enjoy back-to-school season. It’s such a great time for making a fresh start.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.