posts tagged with 'beach'

who says we never do anything?!

Yesterday we at a picnic lunch and a picnic dinner, in two separate state parks. That wasn’t the plan for the day; I had thought to have a pretty quiet day at home, working and playing here like we’ve been doing a lot of the time lately. We did have an early-morning trip to to the grocery store planned, and I expected that that would be all the excitement I could handle. Only then friends invited us to join them for a walk at Great Brook Farm state park. On such a beautiful day, how could we resist?!

Harvey and Zion playing by a pond

out and enjoying life

It was indeed lovely; we played around the pond, looked at the livestock, and took a walk through the woods and fields. Then to top it all off we got ice cream—one small dish per family, to share. Hey, we're not made of money! Everyone was worn out and satisfied as we headed home.

But we didn't stay there for long. Harvey just got new swim goggles the other day, and he's been trying to arrange our first summertime trip to Walden Pond. I mentioned in passing that we might be able to head that way at dinner time—some day, when we hadn’t already spent nearly four hours exploring the great outdoors. But no, he was determined. So not much more than an hour after getting home from Great Brook we’d packed another meal and took to the road again. I was worried, with everyone but Harvey—me very much included—showing signs of dangerous tiredness, but the nearly empty beach was just what we needed and the boys ran, swam, and played for a solid hour and a half. Me, I lay on the beach and tried not to fall all the way asleep when they were in the water.

the three boys playing in the water

peaceful evening swim

Besides all the fresh air and exercise over the two excursions, we also got to see all kinds of amazing wildlife. At Great Brook the pond was full of tiny frogs, bullfrogs, and fish—including a catfish that came up to strike a cheerio one of the kids through in. We also saw lots of chipmunks and observed ants and dragonflies; Zion found a snakeskin to bring home. Walden Pond had less variety, but more excitement when a bald eagle flew across the pond to land in a pine tree down the beach. (“I didn’t see it!” Lijah tells me. He has a hard time seeing his shoes when I point them out to him, never mind a bird moving fast several hundred yards away.)

a frog in the pond

ribbet

It was all super fun. And exhausting. It took til this evening to finish washing all the tupperwares. But as we loaded the things into the car in the beautiful cool of the evening, I reflected that, some days at least, following the moment wherever it leads can be pretty nice too.

Harvey, Zion, and Havana walking in the woods

getting away from it all

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maiden voyage

As I mentioned, we bought a canoe. Then we had to wait while we procured paddles, life jackets, and some means of carrying the canoe to the water (in the meantime we played with it on land). All those objectives were achieved by this morning, so in the middle of the day we took a trip out to Walden Pond to see if it floats. It does!

the boys in the canoe on Walden Pond

out on the water

We've been to the pond hundreds of times, but none of those trips were as exciting as this one. From the dangerously steep, rutted lane down to the boat launch and the violent rocking of the boat as Zion and Lijah stepped aboard for the first time it was clear that this was a new level of adventure. The smaller boys, who didn't have paddling to distract them, were pretty nervous at first; Lijah especially looked like he wanted to kiss the sand at our first stop, on the other side of the pond. There, the boys explored for a few minutes and we had a picnic lunch. After about half an hour of paddling all around the pond, though, even Lijah was starting to get used to the motion. Then, as the sun broke through the clouds, we completed our circumnavigation and approached the old familiar beach—but so different, seen for the first time from the sea! Also there was nobody else there.

towels drying on the canoe pulled up on the beach

relaxation

The boys ran around a lot and swam a little, while I lay in the sun and thought about how lovely it is to be alive (and also some about Pokemon). Then they put the boat back in the water and experimented to see how tippy it really is. It's pretty stable, actually, but if you really want it to go over it sure will! I think it made them feel a little bit better about this whole boating business. Harvey, certainly, was emboldened enough to try a short solo voyage of his own!

Harvey out in the canoe by himself

practicing boldness

Harvey tells me it was a the best adventure we've ever done. Here's to lots more—even better!—in the months to come.

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social studies on site

Never mind that we're meant to be studying Lowell... when we heard of a class in pencil-making offered at Walden Pond on Monday afternoon there was no way we could miss it! It turns out that the folks there put on all sorts of awesome programs—if we had been paying attention we could have been enjoying interesting classes every day of the week. As it was, we were just in time to catch the last Monday offering of the month.

the boys sitting with other kids listening to a park ranger

pencil school

A lesson about pencil-making totally makes sense at the park: Thoreau's family were in the graphite business, and Henry was apparently an innovator in pencil manufacturing (as well as so many other things). The class was a little oversold—we didn't really get to make pencils, but we learned a whole lot about historical pencil-making, the Thoreau family, and life in the 19th century generally. And to be fair, the kids did get to make a pencil... by dropping a lead into a pre-drilled hole in a pre-sharpened bit of stick. Then they got to take their pencils home, which I guess is the important thing.

Harvey with the Thoreau statue, the pencil in Henry's hand

with the master

Of course, since it was a Walden Pond on a desperately warm early fall day, we also made sure to leave plenty of time for swimming with friends. Now that's how you do a school day!

Lijah at the beach sticking out his tongue

happy at the pond

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kicking off the homeschool year

Harvey holding up his

third grader

We enjoy following the Bedford Public School schedule when it suits us. The buses came for the kids this morning, so we figured we could get going too.

Zion holding up his

first grader

With two big kids to get educated we need to be more focused than ever before. In the hopes of getting off to a good start we spent the last couple weeks building systems and previewing expectations. For day one, at least, it seems to be working.

the boys working at their desk

so far so good

Of course, we're flexible too. We squeezed in the morning's work around a visit to the doctor to get physicals for the two school kids, and then in the afternoon when it warmed up we took off for the pond.

Zion and Lijah swimming in shallow water

the place to be on a hot school day

Hey, all the work was done by then anyway! All but phys-ed, that is; some vigorous swimming was just the thing after all that mental effort. (Harvey showed us all how it's done by treading water for 66 seconds!)

Harvey swimming a little ways away from the beach

3rd grade swimming

We also went to the farmers market, picked my parents up from the train station, visited a library, and went out to dinner with friends. That's a homeschool day!

We're using Jonathan Bean's wonderful book This Is My Home, This Is My School to focus our thoughts a little bit these first couple weeks. We read it twice today and thought about the roles each of characters played in the homeschooling life of their family, as we talked about what homeschooling means to us. Then Harvey and I looked at the art, and tried our hand at our own version of Jonathan Bean's messy-on-purpose ink, watercolor, and pencil art. I'm pretty happy with how mine came out... Zion liked it too, so he took a picture.

my painting of our house

truth

You can ask Harvey if you want to see his. Suffice it to say, we all agree with the sentiments. Homeschooling 2017-2018 is off to a fine start.

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back to our Cape house

The end of last week we were on vacation on Cape Cod. That's the sort of thing you can get away with when you have a house to visit there. We had two lovely summery days and one foggy rainy one, and we attacked all three with vacation energy.

Mama and Lijah walking on the beach

vacation

We got to Truro after lunch on Thursday, and spent most of the afternoon on the beach. Unlike last time, the water in Cape Cod Bay was plenty warm enough for swimming.

Harvey and Mama waving from the ocean

ocean wave

Besides spending lots of time in the water, Harvey also got to practice keeping the acrobatic kite aloft. Grandpa appreciated having someone else interested in it.

Ira helping Harvey fly the kite

grandfather-grandson bonding

Zion's role was to launch the thing again when it crashed, which he enjoyed. He and Lijah also made sure to take plenty of time to just sit and relax.

Zion lying on the beach, Lijah sitting wrapped in a  towel

comfortable

The next day was cloudy and drizzly, with serious rain in the forecast. Harvey and I brought our bikes; thinking we wouldn't want to miss better weather with the family later we figured a damp morning would be the perfect time for a ride and headed out. Our first big stop was Welfleet center, where of course we visited the toy store.

Harvey with the bikes outside of a toy store in Welfleet

we got somewhere

Then we explored a woodsy path that led us just about to Rt 6; seeing it we figured we might as well try the other side of the Cape and see if we could make it to the Atlantic Ocean. We did—not that we could really see much when we got there.

Harvey playing in the ocean waves on the foggy beach

who needs sky?

At least it wasn't pouring rain, though the drizzle that had started up as we approached the beach led us to change into our swimsuits a little early, to save our clothes from a soaking. We had the beach to ourselves, and we played in the waves and watched a seal swim just a few yards away, but we didn't stay long—I was a little worried the skies would open. Naturally, soon after we left the beach the rain dried up and started to get hot as we picked our way towards home. It ended up being a 14 mile ride—here's an approximation of our course—and Harvey did great, even with all the hills he had to walk up.

After lunch at home the torrential rain showed up, but by dinner time it was clearing up again. How about another walk on the beach! Rascal swam and swam, then decided he was done.

wet Rascal relaxing on the misty beach

he got all his exercise already

Saturday we started to get bored with playing in the house and going to the beach, so we went out for a hike. Unfortunately even the hikes on the Outer Cape are pretty beachy.

Harvey and Zion walking on a path by a dune

a new kind of hiking

Great Island in Welfleet is a lovely place, but it wasn't quite what our tired kids were looking for—especially when the flies started biting. So we beat a retreat, a little acrimoniously. Never mind, on the way back to the car we got to see two tortoises and five hundred fiddler crabs, and watch the tide race in, which cheered us all up immensely. Well, almost all of us; Lijah actually fell asleep in the carrier.

We had planned to meet Grandma and Grandpa in Welfleet for lunch—with our hike ending early we had some extra time, and while Leah relaxed with the sleeping boy and an audiobook the bigger boys and I set out to explore Welfleet Harbor. Only we didn't get very far, because we had to build a sandcastle strong enough to stand up the incoming tide.

Harvey and Zion working on a sandcastle

it's working!

(We actually did it, too; on the way back to the car later we saw we had built it right exactly on the high tide line. Beat that!)

After a lovely lunch we did explore the harbor, and Zion decided he was in love with the waterfront. I know the feeling. He and I at least felt pretty relaxed and vacationed at that moment.

Zion sitting on the rocks by the harbor watching the sea

he likes it

(Unfortunately then we had to go back to the house and pack up, which didn't go as well as we could have wished. But we made it home, and we learned some lessons for next time! Which might not be for a while... right?)

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proper June outings

Lijah working on a sand castle

down at the pond

Last week was bookended by two lovely summery outings. On Monday we took advantage of the fact that school was still in session to take a homeschool swimming trip to Walden Pond with the Stevenses. After dominating the group ride together two days previously, Harvey and Ollie were excited to demonstrate that they weren't one-sport wonders—they can swim too!

Harvey and Ollie playing in the water

friends in the water as well as on land

(Or at least, not drown—which is the important thing to parents with smaller kids to worry about too.)

After plenty of time in the almost-midsummer sun (we Archibalds all came away a little red) we stopped by "Henry's house"—the replica of Thoreau's Walden cabin—for a visit. Zion loves it there.

Zion making a silly face in the Thoreau house replica

what would Henry think?

Besides mugging for the camera and scaring away tourists, Zion also demonstrated a more interesting way to leave the cabin. Maybe he was thinking of what Henry would have done if a tax-collector had turned up at the front door?

Zion leaping out the window of the house

very good form

As a parent I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or proud when all three of the kids from another family had to follow him out the window, to the dismay of their mom. A little bit of both.

Then on Friday we went strawberry picking at Parlee Farm. For the first time, Lijah was determined to be a helper.

the boys walking to the strawberry fields holding their baskets

field workers

Of course, that lasted about four berries in, but I appreciated the thought. Harvey was a helper, picking almost four quarts by himself. I should have a picture of him hard at work here; instead I just have these two jokers.

Zion and Lijah being silly in the strawberry field

NOT picking

(We also spent some time feeding the goats and taking a hayride, pictured previously.)

Zion and Lijah redeemed themselves a little bit when it came to helping Leah process the berries that afternoon. At least I think they did; you'll have to ask Leah how much they actually helped. Zion may have done some useful work. And today Lijah helped pour the sugar as I made some of the berries into jam. It isn't all fun and play around here, you can see—though in June it's more fun than not.

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first vacation of the (not-quite) summer

Harvey and Zion dipping their toes in the Atlantic

greeting the big ocean

We had a tough week last week, so it was wonderful to be able to get away to the outer Cape, courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa Bernstein and their new house in Truro.

They bought it in early spring, and as summer neared they'd been working ever-harder at bringing it up to their standards and getting it ready to rent out come the high season in July and August. They invited us up for a trial run. It's a great place—plenty large but still cozy, with three separate clusters of bedrooms to make space for multiple families, and a wonderful series of decks and patios on all sides.

Zion and Lijah eating appetizers at the deck table

snacks with a view

Of course, as much as we loved spending time in and around the house the real draw was the beach. The closest one was on the bay side, about a four-minute walk away. We all headed down there pretty soon after arrival, and spent a delightful couple hours running on the beach, playing in the sand, and very occasionally dipping into the water (it's still kind of wintery, even in the bay). The sand there is too coarse for building up, so instead I dug holes. I got pretty deep!

Zion buried up to his waist in sand, Lijah looking on

he could get himself out

Grandma and Grandpa have a new puppy, as seen earlier, and we had fun playing with him and watching him romp and run (and lie in the shade of anyone sitting still). Rascal came along, and spent more time in the water than anyone else—and most of the rest of the time lying comfortably in the sand.

Rascal on the beach

he still loves a beach

He did give into the puppy's entreaties to play with him for maybe 45 seconds over the course of the afternoon, but that was it.

The air was turning chilly as we ate our hamburgers and hotdogs on the deck so we went inside for desert, but we couldn't resist heading out through the big sliding doors one more time in the fading light. The boys played chase with the dogs up and down the sandy dirt roads around the house before we all settled down to watch the sunset.

the sunset as seen from the house

day is done

We're not so good at sleeping when we're not in our house—and I guess not so much even when we are!—but we made it through the night and were restored to full energy with a pancake breakfast courtesy of chef Grandpa (with no baking powder in the house he just beat the egg whites extra hard). Breakfast was over by 7:30, but nobody had any trouble finding something to do as the morning inched on.

Zion and Harvey reading on the couch

content

Of course, we can read at home! So even though the boys would have been happy to sit around until the mini-golf place opened at 10:00 I galvanized (forced) them into taking off early for a look at Atlantic Ocean over on the other side of the Cape. We stopped first at Marconi beach, where the stairs down to the water were closed. But we could still see and hear the power of the waves down below the bluff, and the boys were energized by seeing them as we explored the site of the first trans-oceanic wireless transmission.

Harvey and Zion running down a path through the dunes

energetic explorers

Once we exhausted the possibilities there we headed a mile down the road to a town beach, where we experienced the waves directly (that's the picture at the top of this post). Harvey, Zion, and I were beside ourselves with excitement. But because of our golf date we couldn't stay more than a couple minutes, so we managed to drag ourselves away—not before making plans to come back soon! When we got to the golf place we found that, despite the published material, they actually opened at 11:00; never mind, the National Seashore visitor center was just down the street, and easily good for 45 minutes of entertainment. We visited the history museum, learned about shells, used the bathrooms, and generally enjoyed being tourists among other tourists. A pair of Asian tourists taking pictures with a selfie stick paused to watch me tell the boys to pose for a photo, and they fully approved of how the young Americans responded.

the boys showing off their silly poses in front of a salt pond

yes they're silly

Then we went and played golf. I took a turn to wrangle the kids so Leah could devote her attention to the game, and I got them through 18 holes in record time (I was worried we'd hold up other groups, but I shouldn't have—we even managed to play some of the holes twice through!). They all had fun, even though Harvey was a little frustrated with his level of play and Lijah only hit the ball maybe three times. The appeal for him is apparently carrying it and the club around as he climbed on rocks and waded in the streams; well worth the $8 we paid for him to "play".

We went home for lunch—so nice to have a fully appointed house as a convenient home base!—before the bigger boys and I got into swimsuits for a second attempt at the real ocean. Never mind the hazy overcast moving in as the wind picked up: we were going to do this! And so we did.

Harvey and Zion looking small wading in front of big waves

the Atlantic at its finest

We went to a beach in Truro this time, to save on travel time and avoid traffic, and the waves were even better there. Almost overwhelming, in fact! We did a lot of squealing. The cold was kind of overwhelming too, though the fun and delight carried us through for a while. There's something wonderful about splashing in the waves while the scant few other beach-goers huddle in winter coats with hoods drawn tight around their faces. It was very windy. Zion was the first to run out of internal warmth, and even two towels around him couldn't do much to bring his core temperature back up!

the boys sheltering in towels in the lee of a branch

some slight protection

But it was worth it, we all felt. As we got in the car and turned the heat up full blast, Zion announced: "that was the best ever!" It sure was.

As I write these words on Monday evening it's crazy to think that was all just yesterday and the day before. After all that excitement—and there's lots I didn't write about, like playing ball, putting together a hammock chair, playing eight games of Uno, more reading (Harvey and I each finished two books)—and a full day with friends here at home today, it feels like about a week's worth of activities in the last two days. We're all tired. We left Truro after dinner Sunday so the boys could sleep in the car. They did, but none quicker than Lijah: he was out within a minute of getting into his seat, before we could even buckle him up.

Lijah sleeping in his car seat with the doors open

like a light

And he slept the whole way home, and then all the way through the night (well, with one easy tuck-in around midnight). That's what a great vacation will do to you!

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that moment

the boys sitting on the beach with puppy Tovi

the beach with dogs

That's what we were up to yesterday.

work-beach balance

Our outing on Monday was wonderful and educational and great exercise. And it was productive for the work of our household, because Leah was home using her bigger computer to do hours of work and appreciated not being interrupted. That's why, after exhausting the possibilities of the pond, we finished up the trip with a stop at Whole Foods and the play space. Yesterday the weather was even hotter, so we needed—really needed!—to go to the swimming pond. But Leah was away at the office, and there were things that needed doing at home. So how was I to justify spending three hours at the beach?! (besides, of course, the fact that the beach is really awesome).

the boys at the edge of the pond, Zion jumping

jump right in!

We sure enjoyed it. The water was super cold, but with the air hitting hot-for-summer levels there were lots of people there in swimsuits, even if it was only preschoolers and college kids that showed any real interest in playing in it for long. After about two hours in the sun I finally got hot enough to brave full immersion, and it almost stopped my heart. Sure made the air feel a whole lot nicer afterwards, though!

Lijah smiling with this towel over him

warm and happy

With no ropes and no lifeguards, the boys were free to roam and play to their heart's content, and they did. Harvey and Zion headed off right away; Lijah was a little slower to get started, but after a bit of sand-piling with me he too was off to join the fun.

three boys playing far away along the beach

independent play

So I read a book. It was delightful, but I couldn't help thinking of all the other things I could be doing while my children were playing independently, if I could be somewhere else. One problem of modern parenting is the need to constantly provide our kids with entertainment. When I read the Little House books I don't see Pa trying desperately to interest his girls in one thing or another so that he can have ten minutes together to plow the field!

Still, if I had been off cutting wood or whatever I wouldn't have been there to help when Zion tripped and fell headlong into the deep water. As it was I was right where I needed to be to yell at Harvey to go bring him a towel (delegation is the best parenting).

Zion holding his towel to his face

cuddle towel

I was also there to hear Zion's pride, which he was ready to share as soon as he got the water out of his eyes. "I swam!!" he exclaimed (he can't properly swim yet). "I flapped my hands like this and I flapped my head out of the water! Like a fish! Maybe my totem animal is a fish!"

"Great!" I told him. "You'll have lots more chances to swim this summer." Too bad there's no swimming holes they can walk to by themselves. Oh well, the work will all get done somehow...

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beach retreat

Just like last year, we had an October church retreat to the seaside. This time it wasn't on an island, but the ocean was bigger.

Zion walking towards the gray stormy ocean

almost-november sea

The event was in Falmouth on Cape Cod, and since we're shiftless layabouts we were able to leave early on Friday to beat the traffic. That meant we had plenty of time to sight-see, so we met friends in Woods Hole to see some sights.

Zion, Harvey, Matthew and Sam looking at the research ships in the harbor at Woods Hole

young men and ships

I had no idea, but Woods Hole is full of free attractions, including an aquarium and a museum of oceanography. The latter featured a very realistic mockup of the cockpit of Alvin, a famous submersible that sails out of the port.

Harvey, Zion and Matthew in the mock-up Alvin cockpit

there's a 5 1/2 in floppy drive in there

There was also a movie to watch and lots of delicate displays that our energetic children needed to be warned away from occasionally. So when we got to the hotel where the retreat was being held the boys and I headed right down to the beach—with the gray sky, spitting rain, and whipping wind we knew we'd have the place to ourselves with plenty of room to run. Never mind the weather, the ocean is wonderful.

Zion running away from waves

don't let the waves catch you!

my feet, wading

feels nice

the boys playing in the waves

inevitably wet

As we settled into out luxurious hotel room a few minutes later—distracted only slightly from our unpacking by the littler boys dancing naked on the bed—the setting sun peeked from below the clouds, giving a promise of better weather tomorrow.

the setting sun peaking below storm clouds

promise for tomorrow

Of course, who needs good weather when you have a king-sized bed, a tv, and chicken fingers and fries served on fine china?

the boys and friends enjoying chicken fingers in 3-star surroundings

they better not get used to this

There were also cookies; a plate for each kid, adorned with a decorative flower. The adults had a Mexican buffet.

True to the promise of the previous evening, the morning dawned bright and fine. It turns out that tv is a wasteland—even the kids didn't find anything they thought was worth watching—but never mind, we had a balcony.

Harvey and Lijah on the hotel balcony watching the morning

watching the morning

At this point—maybe a little past 7:00—Leah was already out and about, on her way to running a half-marathon. Maybe she'll write something about it here... but probably not. So I was in sole charge of the kids for the morning. My own three were perfect angels at the delightfully complete breakfast buffet, although Lijah, with a waffle and chocolate chips on his plate (basically his favorite foods, and the latter not usually a breakfast choice), ate only a single packet of sugar. After breakfast I took charge of a group of 15 other kids (well, 12 others and my three), and about that the less said the better. It did not go so easily. But, as directed, I took them to the beach (not sunny any more—in fact, pretty chilly!) and, for variety, to a marsh behind the parking lot.

kids walking in a marsh

nature walk

They also acted crazy in a small ballroom for a while. In retrospect it wasn't so bad—they were all making the best of a tough situation, and we mostly had fun—but at the time it was pretty stressful. So I was glad to get outside for a picnic lunch with just a few close friends (including Mama with her fresh new medal!).

After lunch I couldn't dissuade the boys from swimming in the heated indoor pool, which was fun and all... but it didn't have waves. So after a bit I declared unilaterally that I was going out to swim in the ocean, and I got Harvey and Mama—and few other kids—to come along for the fun!

Leah and Harvey in the cold ocean

we're a hardy bunch

The water was only regular cold, but it was super windy, so we didn't last long. It was still lovely, though. Harvey and I made plans to try it another time with snow on the ground. Zion and Lijah are more sensible.

Lijah and Zion on beach chairs wrapped in towels

probably a wiser choice

Mid-afternoon it was back with the Kids Program, but less-programed: another volunteer and I just took everyone interested out to the beach. That was super fun. The wind was stronger than ever, so it was just the thing to play in a deep hole.

Harvey and Abby working in a deep hole

hole buddies

A little later I took a small group for a run down the beach. We found a breakwater and walked out along it, then turned around and walked the other way along an inlet and then under the beach-front road (we had to crawl!). On the other side we were all delighted to find a secret beach!

Harvey and friends walking on a secret beach

first footprints

It was out of the way and out of the wind, and we would have loved to stay to enjoy it fully... but sadly, our retreat time was drawing to an end and parents would soon be looking for their children. So we ran back—much easier with the wind!—so they could be delivered. It was hard to leave the beach.

pinkish afternoon light over the beach

some sun somewhere

At no point in the weekend did I or Leah get to participate in any of the many retreat activities planned for adults—well, except the spectacular meals! But that's ok, because I had a great time with some lovely people, which as far as I'm concerned is much more valuable.

Harvey, Zion, Elle, and Reed looking at a book together

comfortable together

Let's do it again next year! (with some minor changes, already being discussed among the church staff...).

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