Fall Photos

Fall photos has a nice alliterative ring to it. Fall in New England is one of my favorite times of year! Here is a set of fallish photos for you to use as writing prompts or inspiration. Enjoy! 

 

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There is something about the fall sky.  

 

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Monarch caterpillars get nice and fat here in the fall.  

 

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Fall hikes are the best!  

 

 Slight rainbow in the sky.  

Slight rainbow in the sky.  

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No caption needed. 

 

 

 

#pb10for10

I’ve been away from daily classroom life for awhile now. But in the fall, all that changes as I slowly dip my toes back into teaching through a maternity leave sub position. I can’t tell you how excited I am. Every time I entered into a bookstore and browse, I thought about how I could use these books in a classroom with kids. I have bought many a title with the disclaimer “when I go back, I’ll use this.” So without further ado, my picture book ten for ten are the 10 books I am bringing into the classroom with me to use the first week of school! My first ten read alouds! 

 

#1

 

 

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I want to use this book by Stacy Mcanulty to have students start to write about themselves! 

 

#2

 

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This book, aside from being funny and delightful, will be used to start thinking about what kind of classroom community we want to create. 

#3

 

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Piggybacking off of my number 2 book, this title will help continue the conversation about community and empathy.  

 

#4

 I love this quiet simple book, it will help us to learn about each other and our names and where they come from with this story. 

I love this quiet simple book, it will help us to learn about each other and our names and where they come from with this story. 

 #5

 

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I believe in reading out loud every day. I also believe in writing every day. This mentor text will help supper both of those beliefs!  

#6

 

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I like students to think about themselves and all the different roles they take on during the school day, scientists being an important one!

#7

 

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So much we could do with this book. Inflection, punctuation, how to read pictures, how pictures affect how we read a book. I read this to my pre-reading son over vacation and immediately he took it and started to read it out loud on his own, trying out different ways to read the word DUDE!

#8

 

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We all need quiet sometimes. I was able to pick this up early at our local art museum as they have a display of dePaola’s work. It won’t be released until October!! 

#9

 

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I love this book to start exploring other places besides the one we live in. Books connect us to others and this one is an excellent example of how to do that. 

#10

 

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I read this one to the class already when they had a Move Up day in the spring. They’ve already heard it. But the power of rereading is magical. I can’t wait to see what they notice about this text this time around.  

 

 

Thanks for checking out my first ten read alouds! Counting down to the first day of school.  

Lazy Hazy Days

It’s been a awhile since I’ve done one of these! Here is some summer photo inspiration for you! Maybe it will help kickstart your WIP. 

 

 

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Something to keep you afloat.  

 

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Ancient animal with stories to tell. 

 

 Potential.  

Potential.  

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Ocean vibes.  

 

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Washed ashore.  

 

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Mournful calls. 

 

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Magical wings. 

 

 

As always, happy writing! And if you use any of these photos to help your writing process let me know!  

Early Summer Photos

The weather here has finally turned and is starting to make this past winter fade into a pleasant memory so that when snow falls again in November we will be excited.  

 

As summer rolls in, it’s important for me to stay focused on my writing. Here are some picture prompts to get you going if you need a kickstart! 

 

 

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No Diving!

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Busy working. 

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Possibly my favorite picture I’ve taken recently. So many caption options... 

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Farmers’ Market. 

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Beached canoe.  

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Capturing sunlight.  

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Peck. Peck. Peck. 

 

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Balloons!

 

Happy writing!!!  

Spring Photo Prompts

A little bit of spring for you to use as writing prompts or inspiration! On our spring break I was finally able to enjoy a little sunshine and warm weather, something we’ve been lacking here in New Hampshire. 

 

 

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Cherry tree flowers #1

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Cherry tree flowers #2

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And #3...I had to edit down the number of white flower tree pictures I shared...they were just so beautiful! 

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Creeping vines with potential. 

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Window and sky.  

 

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Fence openings. 

 

As always, if you use any of these, let me know in the comments! Sometimes when I am stuck, using images can help me jumpstart my writing. 

 

 

 

 

Packing

I’m in the process of getting ready and packing for NESCBWI. I always stress out about make sure I have the right clothes in my suitcase, my writing stuff and my business cards all ready to go. 

 

The New England weather does not seem to be cooperating at all this year as we are on  what seems like our 45th snow day of the year even though it’s the middle of April.  

 

As I pack and repack my suitcase to make sure I have the stuff to navigate the weekend, I think about my first conference and my second conference and my third conference and how with each one, I brought more and more with me. Not just scarves and layers to deal with the ever changing hotel climate, but knowledge and confidence and experience and a community.  I am packing my bags with a lot more than just clothes and shoes. 

 

I can’t wait to learn and connect with other writers and creators this weekend, people who understand this journey.  People who know what it’s like to pack for a conference and know all the other baggage that comes with it. 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s Time

There comes a time in every New England winter where I decide I’m done with winter and don’t care anymore if it’s 30 degrees out. I will Spring to arrive by not wearing my boots and forgoing my coat even if it’s needed. I hunt for signs of spring, piles of snow that seem just a little smaller, listen to birds that appeared overnight and the smell of possibility that seems to permeate the air.

 

Spring in New Hampshire is such a time of newness and beginnings. It reminds me of the blank page. And this idea of starting something new even if the snow hasn’t melted yet and the thermometer is still saying it’s coat weather. Sometimes you just have to pull the ideas out even if they are still hiding in bulky sweaters and snow boots. 

 

 

 

 

 

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Patterns

I am drawn to patterns and repetition whether visually or in text. No wonder I like picture books so much. The subtle (or not so subtle) repeating of a phrase or an image that harkens an earlier use makes me excited every time I see it. Here is a photo prompt set made of repeating things or lots of the same thing in one space...you’ll get the idea!  As always, if any of my photos jumpstart your writing, let me know! 

 

 

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Bells.

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Farmers' Markets are a great place to take photos or to gather inspiration. 

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Carts for days. 

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Giant cookie tray. 

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Warmer Days

Today is one of those yucky days of winter when everything is coated in ice and slush and rain and yuck. It's a snow day, but not the kind where we can go sledding or build a snowman or go exploring in the woods. It's a day for hunkering in under blankets with coffee and tea and dreams of warmer days. Here are some photos that will help you start to dream of sunnier days. What stories do these photos inspire for you?

 

 Love this flower.  

Love this flower.  

 Driftwood

Driftwood

 Tree meets ocean.  

Tree meets ocean.  

 Rocky beach.  

Rocky beach.  

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 Potential.  

Potential.  

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Summer nights.  

When I'm Not Writing...

I feel guilty when I'm not writing or haven't written in a few days, when life's to-do list gets really long and my notebook sits unopened. I'd love to be one of the people who sits down and writes every day for an hour, but I know that somedays it simply can't happen. I have come to realize though, that even when I'm not writing, I am. Let me explain...

I write in my head constantly, trying out new first lines and ways to phrase things. When I think I have it, I'll scribble it down or more often, open up a new note on my phone.  Oftentimes it hits me when I'm driving that I finally got something the way I want it and I can use the voice commands in the car to keep track of my ideas. Right now, I'm laughing to myself if someone else ever looks at the notes in my phone as they might seem to be the ramblings of a crazy person. 

I listen to writing podcasts while driving or folding laundry or cooking dinner. If you're not already check out, Fuse 8 n' Kate's podcast or Matthew Winner's All the Wonders or Jennifer Laughran's Literaticast or the Yarn with Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker. Hearing authors and illustrators breakdown their process makes me better writer (and teacher). I can multitask and check the things off my to do list and make myself a better writer by learning from the experts. 

I observe. I watch my own children. I pay attention to kids when I'm out and about. When I get the chance to work in classrooms, I notice how kids process and explore. What are they doing? How are they interacting with their world? What phrases did they use that I can steal or that might inspire an idea or character or title? 

I read. I read out loud to my children, letting the words of other writers fill up my soul. I marvel at how others have found the perfect word, the perfect phrase, the perfect image for the emotion they are trying convey. While I focus on writing picture books and early readers, I read books that don't fit into that genre too. I always tell teachers and students that good writing is good writing, it doesn't matter where it's coming from. Reading helps me be a better writer.

I research. If there is a children's section or children's books in a store, I find them. And pause, even if it's just for a moment to see what's out there. I touch the covers of favorites and smile. I flip through a new title I've heard buzz about. I open up books I normally wouldn't be drawn to see what they've done and how they are pushing the boundaries of children's literature. What books is a place like Target carrying? What does my local bookstore have on display? 

I connect. I follow writers and illustrators on Twitter and Instagram. I follow their process and their little insights that are dropped like breadcrumbs through the digital woods. If I'm killing time on the Internet for a few minutes, there are the authors and illustrators in my feeds, subtly giving me things to chew on. 

So even though, when I am not actively writing, I am. And you are too. 

What ways have you found to write when you are not writing? 

 

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Word

A lot of writers and people are posting their words for 2018. I’ve been wearing a word around my wrist for the better part of a year, I also have it as a necklace. It was my word for 2017 and I think I still need it in 2018. Is it okay to have the same word for two years running? I’m going to say it is. Without further ado, here is my mantra as it applies to so many things.  

 

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Believe. Believe in the process. Believe in myself.  Believe in magic and light and love. Belive in words and stories. Believe that the impossible is possible.  

 

Here’s to believing in 2018. (And yes, I am a Journey fan...😊) 

Winter Writing Photos

If you need a jumpstart in the new year, here’s a set of winter photos to use as writing inspiration! As you can see, I’m enamored by snow and how it changes my surroundings. Talk to me in April though when it’s still here, I start to feel a little differently by then.  

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Snow and sunlight.  

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Well on a snowy hill.  

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Snow in the woods. 

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I love perfect flakes.  

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Tracks. 

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White on green.  

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First flakes of the year.  

 

Happy writing in 2018!  

I think in picture books...

I think in picture books, in page turns, thirty-two pages and around fifteen beats. I think in  rules of three and repetition. I pull snippets of dialogue from the air around me to save and hoard for a day when it will fit in just right into a place where I need it. I think in picture books, in wordless double page spreads and endpapers. I think in pacing and predictions and how everything sounds when read aloud.  I think in that final twist, that wink to the reader. I think in bedtime-under-the-cover, surrounded-by-stacks books kind of reading. I think in picture books.  

 

What about you? What do you think in?  

 

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Tidepool Photo Prompts

Today's writing photo prompt set is brought to you by a trip to the seacoast and some tide pooling.  Happy writing! 

 

 

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A sea of seaweed...

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Crab friend.  

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Circles and layers.  

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Rock or wood? 

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Shells for days... 

Hiking

I went for a hike (and when I say hike, others might consider it a stroll...) behind my house with my son yesterday. He had to pack a backpack full of snacks and water for our excursion. We had to be prepared. When we started, he kept asking for challenges to do and I made up little things, like skipping to the next pole on the path or trying to not step on any of the sunlight that filtered in through the trees.  

We reached the destination I had originally planned on and had our snack. Side note: he had packed an entire box of crackers that only had two crackers left and 1,000 crumbs (next time I should check the snack choices).

"Do you want to go farther?" I ask. "To the very top?"

"No," he emphatically answers.

"What if we we just try a little bit more and then we can turn around if we want?"

"Okay," he agrees.

And we continues into the woods. We noticed the trees and the pinecones and the rocks and the mushrooms. He collected a leaf because it was pink and he told me he had never seen a pink leaf before. We crossed a little bridge and I asked if he thought a troll might be underneath and then realized I had never told him the story of the Three Billy Goats Gruff. So I told it to him as we walked up the hill.

"Who's that tromping on my bridge?" I growl.

He started to predict the pattern of the story and joined in as I told it. 

"It's the biggest Billy Goat," He says.

We rounded the bend and he looked at me and says,

"I think this hike is too big for me."

"Buddy, you made it," I say. "We are at the top."

We came around the corner and there was the bench overlooking the forest. At that very moment, he fell, tripping over a tree root.

"It's okay," I assure him. We all fall sometimes when hiking. Tears dried we sit on the bench, eat some cracker crumbs and look at the view. 

"It's beautiful Mama," he tells me. "I want to live up here forever."

"Me too," I say.

And then we headed back down the way we came, which seemed shorter and easier and familiar.

All this to say, sometimes when I am writing I don't want to keep going. I want to stop at the first spot because I worked hard to get that first spot and it's good spot. But if you keep going, you might just get to the top and that beautiful view and the way back will be a piece of cake.  

 At the top.

At the top.

#pb10for10

This is my first year participating in Picture Book 10 for 10. Probably because it's my first year having a blog! Anyone who knows me knows how much I love picture books. Every one I read becomes a favorite. The books I picked for #pb10for10 are picture books that I think are perfect examples of the picture book format and structure, the ones I read and happy sigh when they are done because they just embody what a picture book is (to me!) And of course if I did this tomorrow, I'd have a completely different list! 

1. There's NO Such Thing as a Dragon by Jack Kent

 

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An oldie but a goodie. This one stands up to the test of time and is pretty much perfect.  

2. Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

 

 This book makes me cry every time I read it out loud. If that's not impact I don't know what is! 

This book makes me cry every time I read it out loud. If that's not impact I don't know what is! 

3. The Silver Button by Bob Graham

 

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Bob Graham really can't do wrong for me. He could write my to-do list and make it sound interesting. This book captures one minute of one day and it's brilliant!  

 

4. This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers  

 

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If I could only have one Oliver Jeffers book on my list, this is the one I would pick. When I teach my Writing Children's Literature course, this is one of the books I use every summer to illustrate what a picture can do. The voice, the plot, the twist at the end! All of it is spot on. 

5. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

 

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While I think The Curious Garden is my favorite Peter Brown book, Mr. Tiger pulls me in every time. The use of color in this one I think is particularly important.  

6. Swirl by Swirl by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

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I have a soft spot for books that fit in well with classrrom curriculum and this is one that fits so well. Not to mention the stunning illustrations by Beth Krommes and Sidman's science writing is lovely. 

7. This House Once by Deborah Freedman

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I think this is Deborah Freedman's best book yet! It's simple, yet poignant. It's quiet, but its message is loud.  Love this one. 

 

8. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and illustrated by Lane Smith

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This might be my favorite book of all time. Maybe. It's that good. Funny and fun. Can I use the word brilliant again? Because it is.  

 

9. I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien

 

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This one is a relatively new title to me.  If a picture book's job is to connect us and to help us learn about others, then this one is top of the list for doing that. It's a very important book. Read it and share it.

10. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña illustrated by Christian Robinson

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This one may be obvious. Christian Robinson might be one of my favorite current illustrators. This one won a Newbury and a Caldecott and while awards shouldn't matter, a picture book is a marriage of text and pictures. This does that perfectly, so much so it won prestigious awards for both! I love it so much I have both a hard copy and a soft cover. :)

 

Thanks for checking out my Picture Book 10 for 10 list! There are so many amazing books, it was hard to narrow down to just ten titles. 

Summer Photos

More photos to use as story starters!  Using images can help writers become unstuck or at least play a little with words. Maybe the photo is a setting, or place your character in one of the pictures and see what happens.  Maybe you want to use one of the pictures as a way to connect to a memory or event. Let me know if you use one and if it helps you with your writing! 

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Inspiration

As I head down to Springfield for the New England SCBWI conference I thought I'd post some pictures that could be used as inspiration. Using photographs as prompts is one of my favorite activities to use with kids to help generate ideas and stories.  

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What stories do you see?  So many possibilities...

Syrup Season

I am always looking for ways that real life mirrors the writing process for me. I came across one the other day that is sticking (pun intended) with me. My son is doing a project for school on trees and as part of that project we attempted to make our own maple syrup. Throughout the process, I was reminded of writing over and over again.  

 

Before you even start you have to identify the right trees. It’s way easier to do this if you identified the trees when it’s summer or fall when you can go by the leaves. Then you tap the trees when the weather starts to shift, when the nights stay cold and the days get warmer so the sap starts to flow. You drill into the tree, deep enough to access the sap but not too deep to damage the tree. After the trees are tapped, you wait as the bucket fills, drip by drip by drip.  Once you’ve collected enough sap, you filter it to get out any large impurities, bugs, dirt etc..

 

And then you boil. It takes hours. You have to watch it make sure it’s not boiling over. You have to watch it to make sure it doesn’t evaporate completely away. You have to watch it to know when to combine 3 pots down to 2 and then finally down to one. As it boils, the sap changes to become darker, until it’s finally a deep amber. It thickens from the consistency of water to syrup. You have to watch it check the temperature to know the exact moment it changes from sap to syrup. When we were almost done boiling, we kept asking each other. Do you think it’s ready? How do we know it’s ready? Could it be ready? And ultimately, we had to take the risk that it was ready, filter one last time and put it into jars.

 

When I write, I have to pick the right idea off my list. I can’t just choose any idea, it’s got to be something special. Then I have to let the idea sit until it’s just the right time to start writing, if I start before the idea is formed it won’t work on the page.  My ideas have to be ready so the words can start dripping. Timing is everything.

 

And then I write word by word by word. It’s slow going. 

 

It takes a lot of patience.

 

Writing takes a lot of patience. Revising takes even more patience.  When writing picture books, you have to take a giant idea and distill it down to its essence. Boil down that story to the 400 sweetest most important words.

When I write, I have to filter and boil and boil and filter until I find my story.  My story changes from one big loose fragment of an idea to something where every word matters, it changes into something that has flavor and sweetness and warmth and color.

What was once 5 gallons of sap became a little less than 20 ounces of syrup. It may not look like much, but I bet it’s going to taste awesome on some waffles. 

 Filtering and funneling one last time. 

Filtering and funneling one last time. 

 5 gallons of sap turned into these 4 tiny jars of syrup. But they look so pretty! 

5 gallons of sap turned into these 4 tiny jars of syrup. But they look so pretty! 

 Choosing the tree and drilling the hole just deep enough.... 

Choosing the tree and drilling the hole just deep enough.... 

 Placing the smile to collect the sap. 

Placing the smile to collect the sap. 

 Collecting the drips and drops. 

Collecting the drips and drops. 

 Boiling and waiting. Waiting for the water to evaporate off....waiting for the sap to change. 

Boiling and waiting. Waiting for the water to evaporate off....waiting for the sap to change. 

 Getting closer.

Getting closer.