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When childhood photos remind us of our most precious relationships
Gretchen Kelly (left), Annie Reneau (right)
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When I was a kid, we had an entire living room shelf full of photo albums to pore through when we wanted to relive family memories. Now, several decades later, we flip through digital albums, instead. But the feelings that family photographs invoke are still the same. Every photo tells a story, and some photos hold tales and truths that are particularly dear to our hearts.

I was visiting with my friend Paula recently when she pulled up a sweet old photo of our sons together.


Paula Fitzgibbons

Paula and I met in a parenting group 15 years ago. Our oldest daughters were nearly identical in age and we both had newborn babies, so we started planning regular play dates together.

Soon those play dates became a lifeline to our own sanity, and our friendship blossomed. We got together several times a week for years, essentially raising our kids together. Paula didn't have any family living nearby — no grandparents to gush over her children, no cousins to bond with — so our family became their extended family.

"I entered parenting without having been parented well myself," says Paula, adding that our marathon playdates gave us a chance to parent in a community. "Sometimes I'd even call and say, 'I can't parent today. How about if I do all the cooking and you do all the parenting?' So we did. In that way, I learned how to be the parent I never had."

While our girls were same-aged peers, our sons were seven years apart. Paula says that her son Sevvy had always wanted a brother, and when my Isaac was born, it was like Sevvy's wish was fulfilled. Indeed, our boys grew an incredibly sweet bond, less like friendship and more like brotherhood. Isaac followed Sevvy around like a puppy, and Sevvy doted on Isaac with a mixture of mentorship and protectiveness.

Life happened and we eventually ended up moving to different parts of the country. Our boys are now 18 and 11, but we still get together and reminisce about how those formative years meant so much to both of our families. This photo encapsulates the joy and care that defined our families' relationship.

Annie Reneau

Gretchen Kelly also has a precious sibling photo, but hers holds beautiful, bittersweet memories of her beloved baby brother, Todd.

At 16, Todd was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare type of bone tumor that generally hits people at a young age. He was eight years younger than Gretchen and 11 years younger than their older sister. "He was the baby of the family and spoiled rotten by all of us," Gretchen says. He passed away in 1999 at age 18.

"There's a photo of he and I that tugs at my heart because he has his arm casually draped over my shoulder and it perfectly captures our relationship and dynamic," says Gretchen.

Gretchen Kelly

"I don't remember what he said when we took this picture, but I know he said something to make me laugh while he stayed casual and cool for the photo. That was his way. He could keep a straight face and make you laugh in spite of yourself. And he could ALWAYS make you laugh."

"This is the picture that always leaves a lump in my throat," she adds. "It makes me smile—it is exactly how we were together. He was the baby brother who I adored, but at times, as he matured, it was as if he was the older sibling. Protective and wise beyond his years. But mischievous. Always mischievous."

Gretchen keeps another photo of Todd on her "inspiration wall" in her office, this one during his cancer journey.

Gretchen Kelly

"Obviously cancer was already taking something from him at this point," she Gretchen. "But not his smile. He somehow made all of us laugh and smile even when we were terrified of everything he was going through. I keep this picture on the wall in my office. His smile is what I will always cling to, his determination to not let cancer steal his joy or his humor. This serves as a reminder of determination and grit. When things get hard, as they tend to do, I look at this picture and he reminds me we can do hard things, and sometimes we can smile through it."

Photos aren't just snippets of our lives — they are images of joy and love, of family and community that can move us and inspire us. But these days our photos frequently get lost in the digital deluge of modern life. They end up archived on a hard drive somewhere or buried deep in social media.

Google Nest is trying to make it easier to keep treasured photos front and center with the Google Nest Hub — a device that serves as a digital photo frame and personal assistant. You can choose any album from Google Photos, such as "Family" or "Favorites," and the Nest Hub will display them on rotation. The Live Albums feature takes the work out of updating the photos by letting you create an album that automatically adds photos of the people who matter to you most. You can share a Live Album with anyone you want, just like any other album in Google Photos. The Nest Hub even adjusts to the lighting in the room so your photos look less like images on a screen and more like real photos.

Here's to the snapshots that remind us of our loved ones at all stages of life. They truly are among our most precious belongings.

Google is providing Nest Hubs to USO families to help them feel closer this holiday season. Join us in supporting the USO at uso.org/googlenest.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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