Cupdate… as in update on the Cups

So you can always wear white… or light colors, or any colors, or workout pants, or a dance leotard…

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Hey girlfriends, because if you’re a boy, you have no needs to reads the rest.  See you next time guys!

Cups:  Still love the Diva.  Purchased the #2, post childbirth and do feel it suits me better on the heavy days.  My go-to on the rest is the Lunette.  Love this one.  Has become by far, my favorite.  The Lunette wins.  Amazon has it Here.  Easy and quick in it’s application.  Easy to rinse.  And most importantly, I can’t tell it’s there.  This is why it wins.  Some of my besties have also chimed in after jumping on the cup wagon and found the Pixie is also a gem and cheaper as well.  So far on the cup conversion rate, of the friends who’ve tried, they’ve become believers and stuck with it – saving money and making the planet more beautiful along with it:-)

Wash:  I love soap and all things clean, so of course I purchased cup wash.  I only bought this one and have barely gone through it, hence no need to try another at this point.  I love that literally the tiniest drop is needed and it smells like eucalyptus.  Be sure to always fully dry your cup to avoid infection (so says the gals on Amazon reviews;-)

AND NOW… Big NEWS – I tried period underwear and you should too!  I think facebook must have decided I was into a more natural approach to menstruation because Thinx was pretty much the only advertisement all the time.  Although it looked like a decent product, I started researching and found some others as well and gave a few a try.  Here are my findings and why I’ll keep a few pairs in my life.

In all the pairs I’ve tried, the inside is black, so any color will do and they look kinda adorable actually.

Thinx review:  The website is different in it’s approach, it appears to not just be selling a product, but so much more.  They blog on many different topics and share opinions that I may or may not agree with.  So I feel it’s tricky to endorse them fully because I never fully agree with anyone when it comes to opinions!  So I kinda don’t like it when products do that but anyway.  That being said, I’ll review JUST the product, not the brand.  I emailed them for a pair to test out and they asked me for a media kit.  Since I lack the time to make one, I just bought one pair with a coupon.

The underwear is legit, the thinnest by a small margin of the three I’ve tried.  I purchased one black pair of the cheeky in medium.  I don’t recommend the cheeky as they tended to wander a bit more than I’d like… cheeky = wedgie.  That being said, they do what they say they’ll do and it’s impressive.  I felt safe wearing them and never worried that if I got in a pinch and couldn’t dump and rinse my cup in time that there would be an embarrassing situation.

Vv SkiVvys review: I emailed the company and they sent me a pair to try out.  The founders are adorable.  I sampled  the Rochelle Sporty in tan.  These are basically waterproof.  I feel like even if I peed my pants, no one would know.  They ran a bit warmer than the other two I tested and it may be because they provide the most protection as far as leaks go.  I see a lot of ads at my gym for undergarment leak protection.  I feel like this would be a much preferred alternative to undergarment leak protection.  Appear bulletproof as far as any type of leaks go.

Dear Kate Review: They provide so many options – coverage: full or mini.  Type: thong, hipster or brief.  Workout pants…  Bright colors for days!  I purchased a few Ada thongs  and they fit great!  I also like the Ada hipster mini, one of my other faves.  Mini means less leak coverage and less thicker material on the garment itself.  Since I was only looking for occasional leak protection, not to replace a cup, the mini hipster and thong have proven to be my go-to’s.  The full ada hipster also works great, provides a ton of coverage and I would never worry that a leak would happen and I could probably ditch the cup and just wear a pair.  I like Dear Kate because of the colors and so many options – apparently I’m an options girl.  They also have great customer service.  I ordered a thong and didn’t love it and they took care of me right away with a replacement.

Now, if I love the cup, why the period underwear?

  1. Never ruin another cute pair of undies.  Ever.
  2. Never fear… is my cup leaking?  Did I get it in right?  Case and point.  When my car broke down in front of a Costco (busiest intersection ever around here) and I was stuck waiting for a tow, with two kids, I didn’t have time to go dump and rinse.  It was my heaviest day and fortunately for me I was test running a pair of Dear Kates and even though my cup started leaking… it was FINE.  NO worries at all.  It was like insurance.  I was SO HAPPY about it.
  3. Even though I chart my period, my body is not a clock and it loves to surprise me at times.  If I feel like it’s up to something sneaky, a day or two before it’s arrival, I can toss on a pair and not worry for even a second.  Oh haaay period… I was ready.
  4. Am I the only one with 7th grade pad trauma?  I was ALWAYS afraid someone would see a leak or hear my diaper pad.  All I remember about math class was worrying that if I stood up there would be blood on my pants.  THE WORST.  Please tell me I am not alone in this memory?  I hate pads, but I digress.  This has changed me from period fears to no fears.  I just never have to worry.
  5. Light days.  You know when your period is over… but it’s not quite over?  I can just toss on a pair and go on with my day be like, “you can be over whenever because I have no cares whatsoever.”

So in the end – period underwear removed one more layer of stress from my life.

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Please appreciate my lack of ironed clothing.  These shorts say, “I’m a mom, I was on the ground with my kids, I’m gonna live my life.”
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100% have yet to master that adorable kissing child photo.  Attempt #152…fail.  #whataremylipsevendoing #Eveswillhavenoneofit #illkeeptrying

I have four little kids and I can’t always run to the bathroom right when I want to and towards the end of of a cycle I can just toss on a pair and be done with it.  I never have to see a pad again if I don’t want to and washing them is a breeze.

So besides yourself, who would benefit from these?  Your pre-teen daughter, niece, friend.  ANY woman who’s about to deliver a baby.  No matching diapers!  These would be a great gift for any of the above:-)

Let me know what you think ladies!

As always, thanks for reading 🙂

Fear

“This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Within context, the Lord is commanding Joshua, and the people of Israel to be courageous. Not because there was nothing that would normally cause fear or discouragement for someone facing such opposition, but because GOD WAS WITH THEM, they had nothing to fear.  That’s the key.  God was with them.  God already knew the outcome and he wasn’t going to abandon them.  He had it.

When God is with us, we have nothing to fear.

There will be circumstances in this world, every single day where we could have good reason to fear.  Good reason to be afraid, anxious, worried.  And yet, God’s word says, we have nothing to fear but God himself.

I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?  Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.  And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Luke 12:4-7

With all the damage and potential for harm, injustice and pain, God’s answer is, “do not be afraid, you are with more than many sparrows.”  We are his kids.  Now this is in the context of the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, Jesus warns them that they will be flogged, thrown in jail and some even martyred, however I believe it applies to us as believers.  We have God with us, of whom or what do we have to be afraid?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7

Self-discipline.  For me, I think fear can be a drug.  It’s not even a nice one.  The irony is I literally hate real drugs because they can make my body feel out of my control.  And yet fear is a drug in itself that can cause us to loose our grip of control.  It distorts reality, and then starts everything spinning so much that then what is true and what is a lie are no longer distinguishable.  And it takes discipline and prayer to not give into it.

Once I felt God say to me, “do not take counsel from fear.”

I say all this because I feel like recently the Lord has spoken to me regarding my fears.  I am planning on getting lasik eye surgery towards the end of next week for my birthday.  The outcome sounds fantastic, and I really believe it will be.  When I prayed about it, I felt like the Lord showed me that I’d say, “I wish I would have done this sooner.”  So that’s a good end in my book.  The thing is… I haven’t gotten it yet.  Screeeeech!!!!

To get the surgery I have to have lazers shoot at my eyeballs while a vacuum holds them in place.  There are a lot of people who are not bothered by this in a bit, however when I think through having to take the drugs to numb my eyes, (something that is not my favorite feeling) and then not pass out from the loss of control over my body (which I’ve done in the past!) it freaks me out a little bit!  My eyeballs!!!  The smell of burning flesh!!!

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So naturally, I talked to the Lord about it.

He gave me an awesome word picture.  He showed me two different pictures.

In the first one, I’m waiting in a dark, cave-like hallway set up to be a fun waiting zone, like a cave or hallway at Disneyland.  It’s a bit dark, but has lights and is completely safe and a little boring.

The other picture is of a fun house, but it’s not really fun.  Mirrors are warped, tons of neon colors, music that is way too loud, stuff spinning, florescent lights, it reminds me of a cheap fair ride.  Inside, it is difficult to get anywhere and very disruptive and the fun is more for the maker and less the patron, almost to mock those who enter.  As though the creator could watch and laugh at those who enter.  And yet, outside, it’s a cool night, still, quiet and calm.  That is reality.

I feel like the fun house word picture is fear.  It seems like fun, but inside everything is warped and disorienting.  Outside, reality, is calm, cool and still.  Reality doesn’t change because you step into a fun house, but stay long enough and it will begin to mess with your mind.  It doesn’t make any of it true.  Outside remains a perfect calm night.

The darkness in both word pictures may represent that there will be instances where we wont see all the details, and yet there is no danger in it because God can see all of it.

The first word picture is safe.  And it’s designed with the purpose of making it fun for the patron.  Every detail was thought of (just like in Disneyland) and it was safe.  For the record, I REALLY like Disneyland, and I’m always impressed how even the tunnels and waiting areas are set up for the amusement of the patrons, they take every effort and energy and pour it into the finished product all for the amusement of the patron.

And that’s the difference.  In the one instance, the joke is on the patron and the maker gets to enjoy the foolishness and make fun of the one inside the “fun house” and it’s not really fun for those who enter.  In the other, the maker goes over every single detail, with the patron in mind, all for the patron’s pleasure.  The maker does all the work, just so we can enjoy it, and even if it’s just a waiting area for a fun ride, the details are all there, everything thought of in advance.  He did all the work for us to just enjoy it.

Isn’t that how God is?  He even has the details of the waiting set up to be perfect for us.  And that’s God’s grace.  He cares more about us than himself.  Jesus died for our sins, so we might enjoy life everlasting.  He gave of himself, for us.

The Lord spoke to me a few times just today about the upcoming lazer eye surgery.  Because it’s been keeping me up at night.  This morning, I was going through old photos and I found this one.  It’s of my dad holding Ellie because Davin was acting like a sleeping monster, and she was legitimately scared.  The older two were having so much fun with the “sleeping monster”, however Ellie really did become afraid.  So my dad held her.  He didn’t stop the game, he picked her up and held her.

When I saw the picture, the Lord prompted my heart reminding me that he holds me in this way.  That he loves me with that same compassion and that he’d hold me while having lazers shoot at my eyeballs.  That I didn’t have to be in control, but just to trust him.  That he would be with me.  I’d have nothing to fear even though I would be in the dark about so much of it.

Tonight as I walked to my car alone, leaving my dad and Davin with the kids, I felt the Lord walk with me, arm around my shoulder, “I’ve got you.”

Later this evening, I held my youngest before bed.  Just rocking her in her chair, savoring her beautiful hair, and soaking up the sweet cuddle moments.  I felt the Spirit remind me, “I love you just as you love her.  I made you, I adore you, I’ve got you.”

I say all this not because I am special or that lazer eye surgery is terrifically terrifying – it’s not.  I say this to tell you, God CARES, SOOOO much even when we are afraid of stupid things.  He feels the same way about you.

But we have to believe him.  We have to walk in that truth and reality, otherwise things can get distorted.  We have to have the self-control to not let our mind go to a fun house.

In all reality, when I’m not psyched out, I’m actually excited for lazers to shoot at my eyeballs and make my vision clear for the rest of my life.  That’s going to be SO crazy to wake up and be able to see in the morning.  I’ve never known that.  I can snorkel and swim without having to worry about loosing a contact, or travel without having to bring extra glasses and solution. That’s the Disneyland ride I’m waiting for in the hallway word picture.  But I have to go through the somewhat boring hallway (the surgery) to get to the fun part.

God loves me so much, that even when I am unable to calm myself down, when I am so afraid I can hardly think straight, when I feel like I might pass out in fear – God cares enough to wrap his arms around me and ease my fears.  My silly fears.  All in SUCH love.  He doesn’t mock me or tell me to get over it, or even minimize the concerns, he simply reminds me of who he is and who I am to him.

You’re his kid that he loves, and that just like with Joshua and the Israelites, “ God is with you wherever you go”.

You have nothing to fear.

Last minute 3 Ingredient Present

Hey guys!

I’ve been making random videos for a few years now – I’ve just never actually put any on on my blog.  They are always spur of the moment and when I happen to be wearing zero percent makeup – so not necessarily made for tv, but I had fun:-)  Once I have a filming crew, I’m sure they’ll be 100% better and include lots of light and white and music and shots that pan in and out and have clips of people rowing early morning on our local rivers.

If you’re not the video type, directions are below:0


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/203951279″>3 Ingredient Present</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user6657366″>Rebekah Anthony</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Valentine’s Day (or any day for that matter) Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Ingredients:

  • Strawberries (or other fruit, totally made this with blueberries and grapes for the kids, pineapple is delicious)
  • 1/2 cup Chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup Butter (sliced into quarters)

Directions:

Wash and fully dry your fruit of choice.  Set on a small pan or tray with either a non-stick sheet or parchment paper.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt a little less than 1/4 cup of butter and about a 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, space the butter out among the chips.  Melt for 20 seconds or so, remove and stir with fork. Repeat.

If you feel like it needs more melting time, add a few more seconds.  I leave mine with chunks and mix it for 30 seconds or so and it all smoothes out.  Also feel free to mess with the chocolate chip to butter ratio.  Occasionally I’ll add more butter to get a more liquid form.

Dip fruit into chocolate until it is covered.  Set gingerly on tray.  Once all fruit has been dipped, set in fridge for 15 minuets or 3 days:-)

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Very Random Yet Helpful Discoveries: Mostly Women’s Health

Hi Friends!

Now that Carly has helped us organize our homes – I thought I’d throw in some recent discoveries to perhaps better our lives as women in general.

First things first, Davin and I were watching Jimmy Fallon last night and we saw a guy who wrote a book called, Tools of Titans.  He talked about all the interesting things that highly successful people do.  One of the things he mentioned was that many of these individuals are serious about sleep.  I super want to buy the book, however I have like ten books I am still in the middle of, so I might just subscribe to Tim Ferriss’ podcast for now – we’ll see if it’s any good, at least it’s free:-)

Here is ONE thing he highlighted from his book on the show that I thought was very interesting and Davin and I might give it a try next time it’s present giving time:

Keep your Bed COLD

All the time.  He said this product has revolutionized his sleep.  It keeps your bed the same temperature all night long.  (The best Amazon review was from a guy who bought it for his wife who was experiencing hot flashes from menopause and now she sleeps thought the night.  How sweet is that guy?!)   I’ll let you know if we get one, but I was fascinated by the idea because sometimes we wake up because it’s too hot.

VITAMINS & Insomnia.  I just posted an Amazon review on Rainbow Light Women’s Mulitvitamins.  Here it is below:

I read TONS of reviews on many, many vitamins and settled on Rainbow Light because of the excellent manufacturing practices and other highly rated Amazon reviews. I’ve been taking these and the pre-natal version (when I was pregnant with our fourth) for the last two and a half years. I recently read some negative, 1 star reviews. I noticed that other women were getting migraines and suffering what seemed like hormonal imbalance. I have been suffering with migraines for the last ten years, so this was not a red flag to me, and they’ve drastically improved after taking Natural Vitality Natural Calm Magnesium Anti Stress, Organic, Raspberry Lemon, 16 oz each night before bed. However, since taking these vitamins, I have been sleeping though the night only three or so nights a week. The other four nights I wake in the middle of the night, am up for two hours and then fall back asleep. I just figured I was a stressed mom of four and to get used to it.

However, after recently reading negative reviews before ordering a new bottle, I noticed that other women said these vitamins contain the herbs, red clover and dong quai which mimic estrogen. I thought I’d do a test, and stop taking them for a few weeks, since I don’t want anything to do with mimicking or altering my estrogen levels. I switched to my kids vitamins, Freeda Vitalets-Children’s Chewable Raspberry Flavor – 250 CHW. Literally 24 hours after NOT taking a Rainbow Light Women’s Multivitamin, I have slept through the night EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since then and it’s been two weeks. I AM SHOCKED, and find it a little ironic that the small pill I was taking each morning to improve my health was actually decreasing it.

I am glad these work for so many women, this is just for those of you who may perhaps have a sensitivity to estrogen mimicking herbs, to keep an eye out for anything unusual, because it may be as simple as switching out the vitamin you take each morning to eliminate negative symptoms.

This would go for any women’s vitamin with the herbs red clover or dong quai in them, which most of the women’s vitamins contain some sort of herbal mixture.  What the heck?!   Who ever thinks that their multivitamin would cause hormonal imbalance, migraines or insomnia?   If this is true, then I am taking kid vitamins until further notice.

Lastly: Menstrual Cups: It’s like your period never happened.

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I first learned about this concept from Maskcara, a beauty blogger here.  That was over a year ago, and since I was breastfeeding our fourth, I didn’t have to concern myself with periods (yay!).  Since Evelyn stopped breastfeeding my periods have returned and I tried them out.  I read a ton of Amazon reviews (I should just dedicate this post to Amazon reviewers all around the world – thank you Amazon reviewers, you make the world a better and more informed place!) and went with three cups.  I didn’t want to get one, fail and give up. I wanted options!  I will say, everyone’s body is different, and what works for one may not work well for another.  One of my besties even picked up some cheaper, off-brands at Target and she loves them, so there is not a one-size-fits-all in this type of situation.

Here are the things you need to be okay with:

  1. Seeing blood.  You will dump out blood in the toilet.  If this is too much for you, abandon ship.  I have given birth three times now, so this is nothing to me.
  2. Washing your cup after you use it and then drying it completely.
  3. Give it a week to get it right.  I recommend wearing a panty-liner the first week in case of use error. At one point, I ended up in a Walmart walking down some isles, meanwhile the baby Luna was literally trying to wiggle itself out of me.  Improper placement indeed!  Baby Luna was unsuccessful, but a close call.  All I could think of was, “Well, at least I’m in Walmart,”  Walmart is literally the most distracting place in the universe, 1,000’s of things to look at… I don’t even notice other humans in there.  Davin was there as my moral support.  He let me share all of my menstrual cup thoughts the first go around – THAT is a true friend.
  4. Don’t trim the stem immediately like I did in haste.  Give it a few hours.  I know it’s annoying, but things may shift – give it a second before you take the scissors to it.  Learn from my mistakes.

Perks:

  1. There is no, “period smell”.  Not sure why, it’s just eliminated.  Major perk.
  2. If placed correctly, you will feel nothing.
  3. It feels WAY cleaner.  Dump, wash, insert, done, no waste – it’s like your period never happened.  I should copyright that phrase;-)
  4. They come in cute bags!
  5. 12 hours my friends – 12 HOURS
  6. Sleep through the night, uninterrupted.

Before the cup, at the beginning of my period, I’d have to switch out a tampon in the middle of the night to prevent leakage.  Not anymore!  (TMI for dayz! Your welcome).

Here are my reviews on the three I’ve tried:

Lena Cup: Came with two sizes, made in California, FDA Registered.  Pros: Came with two sizes, thought this would be a great place to start because it gave me two options from the same manufacturer.  Con: Small Lena tried to wiggle out in Walmart, quite possibly user error but I can’t be too sure.

Lunette (Light to Medium Flow): This one worked perfectly.

Diva Cup (pre-childbirth): But you’ve had children you say.  I know, but I ordered it on accident and it might just be my favorite one of the bunch!

Lunette Menstrual Cup Wash: Smells clean, like eucalyptus, only need the tiniest amount.

Check them out on Amazon and read the thousands of reviews from women all around the world, and then give your own feedback in the comments section:-)

Thanks for reading!

Organization Part 3 – Good ideas are meant to be shared – By: Carly Pray

This week’s post is the icing on the cake. You have thought through all the mental and emotional challenges of what to keep and what to part with. You are familiar with the basic laws of organizing your stuff and have given everything a home. You have an accurate view of where you fall on the personality spectrum when it comes to what you and your family need in terms of organization. Now I assume you just need some fresh and practical ideas for things that you keep.

More or less I will just be walking you through my house and showing you my favorite products and systems that have helped me to stay organized. There will be a lot of photos and some links. Although I have plenty of thoughts on how to decorate your home in beautiful and personal ways (hmm… maybe another blog opportunity if you all want an encore), this post is not dedicated to beauty; it is only aiming for organizational points.

MY CAR

Tips & Tricks

-You can reset your car just like you reset your house (see Part 1 of this post series). When you pull up to a gas station or when you pull into your driveway, have everyone scan their areas and grab any trash. Remember, be specific with your kiddos and have them do their part. Point out specific things to pick up and tell them specifically where to put those things.

-Don’t do the work for them and do not let them leave stuff that belongs in the house or in the trash in your car. Hold yourself to this too.

-I keep a couple gallon ziploc or disposable grocery bags under the shotgun seat so that I can use them as trash bags as needed.

Fave products

Thirty-One Large Utility Tote

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http://www.thirtyonegifts.com/catalog/product/28/catid/22/swid/597a/large-utility-tote-in-playful-pinwheel/

I love this bag so much that I have two. This is my old one and it lives permanently in the van. It holds a blanket for each kid, a picnic blanket for sports days & park visits, bug spray for baseball season, and a little box of stuff to do if the kids get bored. I also keep any other small car accessories in the bottom of this under the blankets (baby wipes, dash wipes, car seat accessories, etc). With all of this essential stuff corralled into a bag I can easily move it when needed (i.e. the car wash, loading the back area). I use my other utility tote as my swim bag. It’s sturdy and big and cute too!

MUDROOM / LAUNDRY ROOM / GARAGE

Ha. I don’t actually have these rooms, but I dream of them from the garage where these things happen for me. It’s the home of our current sports equipment and where we put laundry. There are nails in the wall for hanging gear bags and a place for umbrellas & outside boots.

Tips & Tricks

-Only kids who have current season sports use the hooks. Off-season stuff is put away in another area away from the door.

-Big 5-gallon buckets work really well for umbrellas & baseball bats

-When kids get home from practice they take off their gear and put everything back in the bag before they even enter the house. That way it’s all there and ready to grab when you walk out the door next time, and nothing gets lost.

Fave products

-Laundry basket caddy. My handy husband made this for me, and you can find the plans here: http://www.ana-white.com/2010/11/laundry-basket-dresser. (I never got around to painting it a solid color, which of course I regret now that I am posting it for the whole internet to see… Organizational points, not beauty, right?)

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-Rubbermaid storage bins for the garage. They hold everything from seasonal decor to car wash supplies to snow clothes. Walmart has a killer deal on these. You can even go the extra mile and label them with fancy painter’s tape like us (jk). They keep anything you can’t keep in the house stored in a way that’s easy to find, easy to access, stackable and safe from dust.

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THE LAUNCHING PAD

This is what I call the area where everything lives that you need to grab as you walk out the door. Backpacks for kids, your purse, shoes, etc. This could also be in the mud room if you have that luxury. I chose to work with the little corner spot right by the door to our garage.

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Tips & Tricks

-Each person gets a hook. I hang my gym bag and my reusable market bags here too, so I get extra hooks. I’m the mom and I will hog the hooks if I have to 😉

-When the kids get home they hang their backpacks and put their lunch boxes away before doing anything else.

-When kids finish their homework, its gets put all the way away which means in the backpack.

-If I need to take something with me the next time I leave (library books, mail, stuff for work) I set it on this counter by my purse so that I don’t forget it.

-Cheap wood and pretty knobs make life better. This is a cheap painted piece of wood (Home Depot for the wood + $1 cheap acrylic craft paint) with pretty knobs (Target) attached before screwing the wood into a stud in the wall.

Fave Products

Ikea Shoe Compartments. There are several styles to check out in this link. They hold shoes and they are shallow to the wall so they don’t gobble up too much space. My friend bought the standing white ones and put a stained piece of wood on top for an instant classy upgrade. I chose this deeper style because it fit more shoes. In our family each person gets a compartment. No smelly shoes stinking up their closets! No overfull shoe basket that takes forever to dig through. Love.

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http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/departments/hallway/10456/

KITCHEN

Organized people put everything into categories. Everything. Their stuff, their lists, and even their time. Like-things should be together. So organized kitchens have categories. I should be able to tell when I see a cupboard/drawer/shelf which category I am looking at (i.e. all the serving bowls, all the cups, all the canned goods, all the baking goods, all the lunchbox items, all the pitchers). The amount of items on a shelf should not be overwhelming; the items should have space around them unless they are stackable/nesting sets. If you have to crowd the shelves and I can’t see clearly see what my options are in a cupboard, you have too much stuff in that cupboard.

Tips & Tricks

-Slim your plastic/kid dishes way down. Use your organizational math here: you really only need one plastic plate/bowl/cup per kid and a couple extras for when friends come over. Same goes with plastic water bottles. 

-Have your kid stuff in a low cupboard that is easy for the kids to access.  This way kids can get their own stuff without needing your help. We have one set of plastic bowls, a bin of plastic plates, and a basket of plastic cups. I also have a basket of mom-approved kid snacks there that the kids know they can choose from. The rest of my dishes are grown-up (aka made of nicer glass and ceramic materials).

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-I have one water cup per kid (I bought these on amazon:https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B0142LP1CY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1 and have a different colored straw for each kid). These cups always stay on the counter by the fridge and they are for water only. They do not need a new cup every time they want water, and no one has time for that many dishes.

Fave products

A cute charging station. Organized cords for electronic devices, a home for a few other essentials like my blue tooth speaker (I love me some happy jams in kitchen) and that little drawer has stamps and gift cards and little things like that. I found this one years ago on Amazon.

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HALL CLOSET

The priority for your hallway closets should be useful stuff. Of course if you have extra empty closets you can use those for {organized} storage of things you use less often. If you have only a few closets, they should be categorical (like the kitchen cupboards) and I recommend extra storage items be kept in the garage in Rubbermaid bins. One thing I love in my house is the use of small bins for the top shelf of the coat closet. I can reach the bins to pull them down and put them away, so I don’t have to climb on a stool and sort through loose items. All the items inside the bins stay dust-free when they’re not loosely on the shelf. My categories of “useful stuff” here are Cleaning Supplies, Touch Up Paint, Batteries and Hardware, and back up Rags & Scrubbers for cleaning.

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Tips & Tricks

-Keep a mason jar full of each room’s paint. Then you can toss the giant can and you have easy access to the touch up paint when you need it. I have lived in my house for 5 years and haven’t even gone through a third of a mason jar of touch up paint. You only need to hang on to a little.

Favorite Products

-Giant Ziploc bags. I store off-season comforters in these. It makes them easier & smaller to stack on the shelves. https://smile.amazon.com/ZIPLOC-BIG-BAG-XXL-Bags/dp/B000V9N1WO/ref=sr_1_2_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1485368301&sr=8-2&keywords=GIANT+ZIPLOC+BAGS

BATHROOM

The only things you truly need on a bathroom counter are hand soap, a towel for drying hands, and tissues. Everything else can be put away.

Tips & Tricks

-Because this is a classic place where there a bunch of tiny things to keep, I use bins inside of my drawers to corral the little things.

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-Don’t forget vertical space where you can store stuff! I store my yoga headbands on the inside of the vanity cupboard doors with command hooks. I  have 2 pretty hooks on the back of the bathroom door for 2 guest towels. I have a hanging rack behind my bedroom door for all my sandals. There are vertical spaces in your rooms that you may not realize you can utilize.

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BEDROOMS

The biggest problem I see in bedrooms was already addressed in Part 1 of this series: You need to put your stuff all the way away. Avoid the temptation to just leave things thrown on the bed or dresser. But there are a few ways to help make putting things away easier, and most of your organization here happens in the closet.

Tips & Tricks

-Fold less, hang more. It’s easier to hang up your clothes than to fold them neatly and keep your piles neat in your drawers.

-Felt hangers not only feel classy, but they are thinner than the plastic ones and you can fit more clothing if you have a tiny closet.

-Bins on the top shelf of the closet (instead of loose piles) are easier to access.

-For kids, consider having big bins instead of folded dresser drawers. My son does not have a dresser. He could never seem to care enough to fold anything or maintain folded piles. So under his hanging clothes and under his loft bed we use cube shelving (Kallax line @ Ikea http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/series/27534/). In one cube he has a bin with socks & undies. In bin 2 he has all his hats. Open cube 3 has his slippers. Open cube 4 has his shorts & pants. In another cube under his loft bed he has all his PJs thrown into a big bin. This way it’s easy for him to find his things and it’s easy for him to put away his laundry. The categories are simple and obvious and the bins are large enough to hold his things with room to spare.

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-Sports clothes are in separate bags. Above his cube unit in the closet, my son has one bag with his karate stuff in it. All the karate clothes live in there: the gi, the belt, and even his soccer sandals that he wears for off the mat. When he gets home from karate he puts everything back in that bag. That way when it’s time to go he can just grab the bag and we don’t waste time running around looking for stuff. He also has his baseball clothing in another bag. All of it: pants, belt, cup undies, cup, and socks. If I’m in a hurry I grab that bag and his gear bag and I know I have everything he needs.

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-If you want to hear the ultimate organized wardrobe system, look no further than my husband’s closet. My husband is not into style/fashion, and he got sick of trying to remember what he wore on previous days so that he didn’t accidentally repeat outfits often. So he created this system: He has all of his work shirts in a row in his closet. Every morning he chooses the shirt that is first in the line. When he rehangs that shirt he puts it at the back of the line. If a shirt just got washed it has a it’s hanger facing the wall. After he wears it once he rehangs it with the hanger facing the room. After the shirt is worn twice he puts it in the laundry. This way his clothes wear out evenly, he knows he’s wearing all his clothes, and he knows he is not at risk of repeating an outfit too often. On a funny note, I asked him if he has favorite shirts and ever breaks the system to wear a favorite. His response: “I don’t break the system. But I do get excited when I see my favorites coming down the line to the front.” I don’t do this system because I have style moods, but it truly is the epitome of clothes organization.

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-Again, don’t forget your vertical space. Jon has 2 hanging rods and vertical shoe storage to maximize his space. His belts hang on nails on the inside wall of his closet. Nails or command hooks for hanging hats on an inside wall work well too.

-Speaking of vertical space, we LOVE loft beds. Two of my three kids have loft beds. They keep stuffed animals out of sight (for the love, stuffies look just like clutter but my kids adore them), they free up floor space underneath, and kids think they are cool and “teenager-ish”. For my older girl this gave her her own space in a shared room. For my son this afforded him a cozy reading area and play space.

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-I made a simple cinder blocks + cheap wood shelving unit for my son’s Lego display area (see photo above). Style points: You can paint the front of the cinder blocks to make them look cooler. (Haven’t done that on this set shown, but I have on his other shelving unit and I love it).

Favorite Products

-Ikea Kallax unit & bins: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/categories/series/27534/. This line has larger cubes & bins than other stores’ versions.

-Ikea wire drawers. Jon I both have these in our closet under our hanging clothes. They are cheap and work well. http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S69183931/

KIDS

Kids naturally end up with more stuff to organize than adults do because they grow and change interests all the time. This is why teaching your kids to part with things they no longer love or no longer use is so useful (See Part 2 of this post series). There are more ideas than I have written here (hint: Pinterest), but here are the ones I use and love most. 

Tips & Tricks

-Organize your morning routine. This little tiny sign I made 4 years ago has been the simplest solution to our morning routine. This is the list of everything my kids MUST DO to be all the way ready for school in the morning. It’s on the counter in their bathroom. After I wake them up in the morning they have to do all of these things before they do anything else. No playing with toys, no electronics or TV (even for me – it was just too distracting), no reading. They don’t have to do these tasks in a rush, but they may not do anything else until these things are done. Once they are all the way ready, they can do whatever they please. If I see them playing I say “Hey, are you all the way ready?” and they go check the list or I verbally ask them each point on the list. (Here “check your backpack” means check for HW, library book, and pack your lunch/snack). I don’t get mad. I explained to them before I started this that I don’t want to yell at them and I want a peaceful morning (which they wanted too), and that if we agree to simply do the list before we do anything else I think its attainable. I has worked and we are all happier for it.

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-Kid art can be a clutter struggle. A simple way to display it is to only hang one art item at a time. That way they can feel special about something and you don’t end up feeling cluttered. To do this you need a way to change out art easily. I have these clipboards hanging on the wall in the hallway. I also love this openable art frame sold at Target for the ease of changing it up: http://www.target.com/p/loft-by-umbra-kids-art-display-storage-black/-/A-51067191?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&CPNG=PLA_Home+Decor+Shopping_Brand&adgroup=SC_Home+Decor&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9032515&gclid=Cj0KEQiAtqHEBRCNrdC6rYq9_oYBEiQAejvRl3YyUvtDvjVGTz5wTkeeFI-uqlY6OU0jf-ekk624eXEaAvb88P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds If the kids make something awesome I tell them to go put it on the art wall on their clipboard. Every couple months I take off everything on the clipboard and keep my favorites in a file area.

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-DVDs can be stored in CD a wallet case. We have a separate case for grown-up movies, one for animated movies, and one for live-action kid movies. It’s compact, makes movies easy enough to find, and the cases are portable for road trips. https://smile.amazon.com/Case-Logic-CSW-72-Capacity-Wallet/dp/B000FL9S98/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1485368919&sr=8-17&keywords=CD+WALLET+CASE

-Kid toys and books can be stashed away in your everyday adult space. I have a bunch of kid Legos in the pretty baskets under my coffee table. Our current library books are in a pretty basket on my shelving unit. The play food & kitchen toys live in a handsome vintage suitcase under the other coffee table. After successful purging I had empty drawers in my kitchen, so I use those for kid craft & art supplies that are often used at the kitchen island. You don’t always need special large storage units just for kid items because you can give those items a home in your existing areas. As long as you make sure to put things away from your first activity before you start the next activity, you will not become overwhelmed by your kid stuff.

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These posts are aiming at the end goal of increased sanity, pleasure, and peace in your home. If you are happy with the way you run your home and keep your things, then you are in a good place and don’t need my help. If your possessions are bringing you stress and/or becoming a burden, it’s time to reconsider the ways that you have things organized and try a new system. Hopefully this last post sparked some new ideas. If you feel stuck, one of the best things to do is to get fresh eyes on the area. Ask a friend to come over to look at the area that’s bothering you and see if they have any ideas for how to change it up. Don’t expect anyone to do it for you (unless you want to pay them of course). Remember: you control your possessions, you are in charge, you are capable. I truly hope that these posts were helpful to you. Happy organizing!

Guest Blog Part 2: The Art of Purging: Only keep things you use and love – By: Carly Pray

Hi again! Thank you to those of you who gave me positive feedback on Part 1, I really appreciate it. As I said before, I hope it was truly helpful. 

Now to Part 2, the most difficult part for most people: THE PURGE. Getting rid of the stuff you don’t use or want. 

PERSONALITY, AGAIN

“Stuff” is an interesting thing and if we are going think on it for a moment, this once again ties back to personality. There is another spectrum here, and it is the spectrum of how emotionally attached you are to your possessions. I see this so clearly in my kids. I have one kid who just said to me yesterday, “Mom, can we purge my bookshelf soon? There are books on there that I don’t even care about and I am never going to read.” This kid loves being able to find toys easily when needed, likes a neat room, and enjoys knowing that the purged things will go to another person who will use them. This kid is practical and not emotionally attached to most stuff (notice the word most – if we were to try and purge the stuffed animals in that room there would be strong feelings flying all over the place). Then I have another kid who is very good at expressing feelings and does a full self-lecture through a purge. “I love this, but I know I don’t use it. But I love it. I remember buying it. I want to keep it, but I really never use it. URGHHHHH!” Luckily this kid is old enough and logical enough to get through it. Obviously I have guided her through it and forced her to prevent hoarding. I used to purge kid stuff during naps or school so that she would never even know anything left the house. She told me once that she was glad I hid my purges from her; it was just easier for everyone and she did not even notice what was missing. This kid attaches high value and emotion to everything she owns. Like I said in Part 1, a lot of things come down to this: Know yourself and adapt accordingly.

Here’s the extreme end of the stuff-attachment spectrum: One time I was purging kid toys while my kids were napping. A friend of mine was hanging out with me while I did it. When I told her what I was doing she said, “Awwww, don’t get rid of her stuff! That’s sad!” The practical part of me just about snapped. I do not think it’s healthy for someone else to attach unnecessary emotion to my stuff that I know is unneeded and/or unwanted. That friend of mine has kind of personality that will have the hardest time with purging. It is smart for this kind of person to ask a friend on the other side of the personality spectrum to come over and help her purge. 

That little memory leads me of an important point: If you are an adult, you should be the only one assessing the value of your things. If you hear your mom’s voice or your friend’s voice in the back of your head saying “Don’t get rid of that!” Shake it off. Do not keep something because you fear what someone else will think if you part with it. You are in charge of your things and it is your prerogative to decide what to do with your things. I give you permission to move yourself toward a healthy relationship with your possessions. This healthy relationship results in feelings of usefulness and/or pleasure. No one else can feel those things for you or tell you what to do. Do not allow anyone to burden you in an unhealthy way. Saying goodbye to some of your stuff does not mean you are a mean person.

HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?

If giving everything a home (that is not on the counter) was difficult for you, you probably have too much stuff. How much stuff you are allowed to keep is directly related to how much space you have. I live in more or less 1500 sq feet. For where I live this is on the smaller side of homes. If I lived in a mansion or in a tiny little San Francisco apartment, I would obviously change the amount of stuff I chose to keep. 

Regardless of how big your space is, the big question is this: 

Can you truthfully say about every single thing in your house one of the following statements? 

I USE THIS. I LOVE THIS. 

As you go through your house, I recommend that you purge in small bites. It almost always takes you longer than you expect and it can quickly get overwhelming. I recommend only doing one room at a time – even if you really want to declare a purge on the entire house. Finish purging one room completely (meaning everything you are getting rid of is in a bag or box and in your vehicle and everything you are keeping is put away in it’s home) before you move on to the next room. When you start to go through an area you should already have one bag or box where you are going to put everything that you are donating, and one bag/box for trash. Don’t make a pile that you will bag later – that’s double work. If you decide you are done with something you put it directly in the bag/box. 

Here’s how it looks:

1. Take everything out of the area you are working on. Just one drawer/cupboard/shelf at a time.

2. Set aside the items you use frequently. Only the favorite items that you love or use regularly.

3. Put any items that you immediately know you will not be keeping in the trash or donation bags.

4. Now you should have your “Maybe” items remaining. Pick up each item and ask yourself, “Do I actually use this?” “Do I really love this?” “If I got rid of this, would I even notice that it’s gone?” If the answer is “No” to more than one of those questions, you need to be done with it.

5. Put everything back in its home in an organized manner: like things together, frequent use items toward the front, small things corralled into containers.

The Maybe pile is the hardest part. If it feels impossible for you to get rid of Maybe items, you can do this test: have a storage bin to put those items in. Instead of taking that bin to the donation center, hide it in your garage. If you end up desiring one of those items in the next couple months then you can go and dig it out. If you go a few months and items are still in that box, it’s time to say goodbye. 

ROOM-SPECIFIC TIPS

Kitchen

This is a classic clutter place because you got stuff as wedding gifts and then realized a few years into your marriage that you don’t even ever use the trinket that someone else thought you would love. Once again, this should not be a guilt game. If you don’t use it, you don’t use it. Set yourself free. One person can only use so many decorative serving bowls. Your bowls do not have feelings. You are allowed to have favorites 😉 Keep your favorites and donate the others to someone who will be excited to have them and actually use them. For example, I only need a small and a medium sized sauce pan, a big fat soup pot, and a skillet. I chose to part with all the others to save space and I don’t even miss them. If something is of high value, take the steps needed to sell it and enjoy the money you get from it. Your pantry should only have foods in it that you eat regularly, you only need a minimal stockpile of items unless you live in an area where you won’t be able to get to the store for several days in case of an emergency. 

Clothing

One idea I’ve tried is to put all of my hanging items with the hanger facing backwards. Once you wear an item, you flip the hanger back to normal. At the end of the season you part with the clothes that are still on backwards-facing hangers. It’s good to see what you are actually wearing or not wearing, even if you thought it was adorable in the store or during a different season in life.

Unless you are not done having children and you have a bin of maternity clothes, Do not keep clothes that don’t fit you. Just don’t. Those poorly-fitting items will look great on someone else and you do not need them to distract or depress you. Be honest with yourself about why you are keeping those clothes and say goodbye. A shirt that fits you well and flatters your figure is worth 10 shirts that make you self-conscious. If you have shopping habits that are hard to break, consider going on a clothing fast where you do not buy any new clothes fro 6-12 months. I have done this twice and it really helped me to stop browsing items just because they were a good deal. 

For non-hanging clothes you can use some pretty basic math to help you know how much to keep. You do not need 20 pairs of underwear. Unless you go 20 days between laundry sessions. I never go more than 10 days without doing laundry. Just in case I get really behind, my husband has 12 undershirts and 12 pairs of undies. I wear my PJ pants a few times before I wash them, so I only need 2-3 pairs. I only let myself have 2-3 pants and 2-3 shorts for sleeping. I workout 4 times a week, so I have 6 workout tops. If you have a big closet and a generous budget, you can afford to have and keep more. But if you are trying to pare down, use this kind of easy math to give yourself a number and stick to it. When you pull everything out of the drawer, put the keepers back in priority order of how much you love them and stop when you get to your set number. 

Linens

Again, there is math here. You technically only need one set of sheets per bed in your house. I only have one set of summer sheets and one set of winter sheets for my bed. When they need to be washed, I wash them that day and put them back on before I go to bed that same night. For the kids I have the set of sheets currently on their bed and one extra set per bed. That’s it. For towels I have one towel per person in the house. For extra towels I imagine that I will never host more than 6 people overnight at a time, so I have 6 additional towels. For snuggly blankets I have one per person in the house and a handful of extras for when guests are here. 

Cleaning supplies

You do not need a ton of cleaning supplies. You really only need a multi-purpose cleaner, a toilet cleaner, and one way to disinfect (wipes, bleach spray, etc). You also only need a few tools – a few rags, a scrub brush, a toothbrush for little tricky places, a magic eraser and a duster. Many of you can really scale down in these areas. 

Beauty Products

If you don’t love a product, you don’t love it. Do not put a bottle in under your sink or in the drawer simply because it’s not empty and you feel guilty. Throw it away and move on to a product you like. Again, under your sink and in your bathroom cupboards there should only be cosmetics and products you USE or LOVE.

A FINAL THOUGHT: DON’T RUIN YOUR PURGE

Once you purge, you need to be very careful to avoid ruining your hard work. If you go out and buy a bunch of things that you do not need or love, you will just reclutter your space. As you put things in your cart at the store, you should be imagining where you will put it at home. Imagine exactly when you will be using it. Ask yourself if the item is worth storing. Wait until you completely run out of something before you buy it’s replacement. Do not buy craft supplies for yourself or your children unless you can imagine exactly when you will complete that craft project and know that you will actually do it. Trust me, I know that everything in the Target Threshold line is adorable and I want all of it. But I have to put the breaks on and remind myself that I have limited space. I am committed to only bring things into my house that I know I will use or love.  The 3 questions mentioned above really work to help guide you. Once you have your purged items in your vehicle, head to the donation center as soon as you can – your purge is now complete and you can work on the fun part of organization: Smart and Practical ways to store your stuff. See you next week for Part 3!  – Carly

And since I had the chance to read this yesterday, I took her advice and went after my kitchen pantry.  Let me tell you she’s right when she says it may take longer than you’d expect.  Bonus of my hard work?  Discovering a lost bottle of champaign that was on the verge of expiration, so of course I had to drink some while making dinner last night.  I toasted to a (mostly – the kids will purge their own boxes) purged pantry!img_9670

Christmas Card

 

Davin won quite a few mountain bike races and has become an expert in home construction.

 

Most weeks I’m just happy I get to drive the kids to school, hang with the baby, run errands and make dinner (well, Davin cooks half the time, so I should say, “eat dinner together as a family”).  Davin and I try to go out on a date once a week and look each other in the eyes:-)  I just feel so grateful for everyday life.

Eli can tie his shoes, ride mountain bike trails with his daddy and loves to make breakfast for himself and the girls most mornings.  He also built a rocket and started pastoring his own church in our pantry.  Everyone is welcome.

Dani knows all her sight words and has lost five teeth is tall enough to ride Screaming California and has become quite an artist and story teller.  She blessed us with a drawing of my Gramma Jo when she passed away at the beginning of the year.

Ellie has learned self control, loves to take care of her baby dolls, her baby sister and generally enjoy life to the fullest.  She is often found in a tutu, crown or jewelry of some sort.  We have discovered that there is nothing Ellie can’t make into a good time.

Evelyn learned to walk, say at least ten words and has mastered the tiger growl sound, which she now uses for ALL animal sounds.  She also spent 19 days in the hospital, grew 5 teeth WHILE IN the hospital, fought e. coli and overcame HUS.  She came out happier and more full of life, and we took her to Disneyland to celebrate!

There were a TON of visitors at the hospital and I can’t wait to write about Evelyn’s story and how so many people rallied around us and helped us in such miraculous ways.  Here are just a few photos from her time in the hospital.  Thank you EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU for praying for our sweet baby, Evelyn._DSC3813.JPG_DSC3808.JPG_DSC3806.JPG_DSC3805.JPG_DSC3875.JPG

Here’s a photo of me, probably getting e. coli.  I just couldn’t gown and glove anymore!  I needed to hold and touch my baby.  And then I got e. coli.  So there’s a lesson in there somewhere.   #stillworthit_DSC3877.JPG_DSC3880.JPG

These two.  Let’s just say our other three kids came out of this whole experience happy, healthy and perfectly normal – I can’t thank Davin’s parents, Ivan & Pam enough for putting their lives on hold, flying out here and basically running our home and parenting our three other kiddos for the length of Evelyn’s hospital stay.  They did it with a smile like old pros:-)  We love you Dad & Mom!_DSC3882.JPGSome of our MANY favorite nurses and doctors.  Seriously, I have only good things to say about this hospital.  What an INCREDIBLE facility with INCREDIBLE people._DSC3884.JPG

The photographer and chief, “cheer-er-up-er”,  Dad would stay with Evelyn to give Davin and I breaks, and he spent many of his days at the hospital with me so I wouldn’t be alone.  And he brought me chocolate milkshakes.  Love you dad!_DSC3886.JPG

This was our view most nights._DSC3896.JPG_DSC3914.JPG

Uncle Tom and Aunt Nancy:-)_DSC3949.JPG_DSC3953.JPG_DSC3955.JPG_DSC3967.JPG_DSC3982.JPG

Christmas on the Peds floor.  _DSC3983.JPGMom took a couple night shifts so Davin could actually get some rest at home, and we could see each other for more than a second when trading off at the hospital.  Mom loves Evelyn and mom loves our marriage.  I love you mom!Grandma Evelyn 2 .JPG

Thank you for your prayers.

In 2017 we are praying for a year of excellent health, that we sell our home, move into a perfect rental near the property and begin all the fun on our project of building our dream house on the little piece of property near the kids school.   This Christmas we are celebrating that we are all healthy and together as a family.  We feel incredibly blessed.

We love you all!  Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

 

Travels, Barfing and an Angel – Merry Christmas!

For Christmas, my family and I went to Colorado.  My husband’s  parents live there, on a beautiful five acre property in horse country.  We had a white Christmas, fresh snow on the ground and all.  IMG_1949

We went sledding, the kids made a snowman with their Papa. IMG_2041

We had a snowball fight
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sunroom hot tub-runs out into the snow and back into the warm water,
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hot chocolates from Starbucks and an hour spent in the indoor Chick-Fil-A play area (one of the kids highlights for sure).

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Most importantly, we were all together under one warm roof,

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snuggling under blankets by the fire with tasty food (including mom’s famous TV Mix), celebrating Jesus and his birth.
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We opened presents, Skyped Aunt Keeli & Uncle Jake and enjoyed being together as a family.

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Getting there was a different story.  We flew on an airplane.  These photos are from the way home, since I didn’t take any on the way there.

That’s Rosie, the class mascot.  We had the privilege of taking her to Colorado over Christmas Break!

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Such a happy girl on the plane!IMG_2198

Six people, four of them five and under.  Please understand the luggage situation alone involving FOUR carseats.  You know that TSA line was LOVING us.  They were actually crazy nice aside from a Desitin confiscation.  All that AND I was completely disabled by a serious flu.  Pardon me if I am too descriptive, but I feel like the details are imperative to this narrative, so bear with me.

It was Monday, December 21st and we were on our way to the airport when I started crying in the car.  Crying a rare occurrence for me, I was beginning to get delusional, for reals.  The kids had all just gone through a horrible flu.

Here is the day before, all Christmas smiles and celebrations for the special school performances they were about to be a part of.

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The flu started Friday night around three in the morning with Dani throwing up, six hours later Eli and then six hours later, Ellie.  And it wasn’t just barf.  It was the kind of flu that completely disables its victim for about 24 hours.

It had been a tough weekend of wiping up puke, holding kids, changing sheets, cleaning carpets and doing lots of laundry.  We had made it through just in time for our Christmas flight on Monday.

We call this photo, “trying to celebrate Christmas…”

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I woke Monday morning with a queazy stomach.  I decided to work out, believing that I could sweat out the virus.

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Since the worst of it looked to be about six hours with the kids, I totally thought I could still make it to Colorado.  I’m tough after all.  We’d booked our flights, and changing them would not only be expensive, but because it was Christmas maybe not even possible.  My choices were, keep the whole family home and try to find flights once I was better, stay home alone with the baby who’s nursing while my family flies to Colorado and try and catch a flight later, surviving the flu alone, or get on the plane and tough it out.

Being the ever optimistic enfp that I am, I really thought it would all just work out fine.  I also had been given a flu bomb of oils, worship music about healing and had friends and family praying for me.  None of that changed the fact that I was about to get crazy ill.  And for future reference, Davin has declared that he will never, ever take my word for it again when I say, “I’m okay, I think I can do this” if I’m sick and start crying in public ever again.  He said that he’s never, ever letting this happen again.

By the time Davin had unloaded all our luggage to the sidewalk, asked me five times if I wanted to go home and then went to find parking, I was shivering and crying while leaning up against the windows of the airport.  I couldn’t stop shaking but I was determined my friends, determined to get on that plane.  I had packed ALL the kids suitcases and stuff.  We HAD to get on that plane.  Dani was holding me and rubbing my back, Eli was telling me that it was going to be okay.  I just kept trying to do the next step.  It took us two hours to get through check-in and TSA because I was so violently ill.  At one point I was puking in the middle of the airport while Davin held a plastic grocery bag.  It was horrendous and is probably on YouTube.  I also still had to nurse the baby, so I was drinking water by the gallons so I could at least produce milk, since all the liquid was fast leaving my body.  When we finally made it on the plane, I told the male flight attendants that I was going to need a few bags.   Fortunately we were in the back a few rows from the bathroom.  Most of that flight is a blur.  Davin said I got up every fifteen minutes to puke and otherwise in the bathroom. One time I didn’t make it and was actually barfing IN THE ISLE into a bag.  Those poor people around me!  Everyone was so nice, they probably assumed I was airsick since all the kids were healthy and happy.  I tried not to touch anything and washed my hands a ton so others wouldn’t get sick.  I sat on the end by Eli while he watched Whinny the Pooh, Davin held the baby in the row next to us with the girls.  Davin said it was such a crazy contrast to hear the kids laughing and squealing with delight during take-off and landing while his wife was almost passed out from the flu.  I remember three different times, almost loosing consciousness.  My eyes wouldn’t even stay focused where I wanted to look, they kept drifting off.  When I had to nurse the baby, she felt like she weighed fifty pounds.  I remember wondering what happens when someone passes out on a plane, wondering where they would put me.  The entire flight I was shaking and vomiting and otherwise.  Every joint and muscle hurt.  All I wanted to do was lie down.  I just kept thinking all I have to do is make it to Colorado.  I wonder if this is what hell actually feels like?  Except Jesus felt close, so not that part.

When we landed, they had a wheelchair brought out for me.  Then we caught a ride on the golf cart thing that the cute old ladies get to ride on in the airport.  One sweet older woman looked at me and said, “you don’t look well.”  I was like, “yea, I’m not (eyes roll back into head, praying I don’t get her sick).”  It was all such a daze.  It’s funny how much we care about how we present ourselves in public most of the time, but when I was that ill, I couldn’t care less if every tv camera, the president and the entire internet saw me.  I couldn’t care stinkin’ less.  I probably looked like the walking dead and I certainly felt like death. Except my outfit.  I had a very cute outfit on, black leggings, black loose top with a cropped dark brown leather jacket and matching booties, and a topknot.  It was pre-flu planned, oh and I wore gold stud Tory Burch earrings that Keeli got me last Christmas, I live in them right now with a hands grabby baby in my arms all the time.  My outfit was super adorable, despite feeling super horrible.

And now, here’s the very best part of the entire dramatic, horrific photo-filled, miracle-ending story.

When we finally made it to the carport pickup area, Davin and Ellie went outside to find his parent’s cars.  I say cars because there are so many of us, they have to bring both their cars just to get us home.   The older two, the baby and I waited just inside on a bench, because I already couldn’t stop shaking, and the cold was just making it worse.  On the second bench next to me, sat an Old-World-Russian-looking woman possibly in her seventies.  I glanced at her and normally would have smiled or even started up a conversation with her (I have a strong affinity for Old-World Russian looking ladies) but this time I just sat there, looking down shivering and silently mouthing, “Jesus help me”.  After a moment, she walked over to me with this large, dark-green, decorative fleece jacket.  She spoke zero percent English and motioned to me to put on the jacket.  It was not a suggestion.  I was now a five-year old little girl and she was going to put that jacket on me.  She even zipped it up for me.  Then she wrapped her arms around me and just held me.  I started sobbing.  I have never felt grace like that before.  This woman didn’t know me.  She didn’t know if I was a nice person or a mean person.  She didn’t know anything about me and yet there she was taking care of me in the middle of the Denver airport.  She rocked me and held me for the next five minutes while I cried.  I think she was praying over me in Russian because she kept saying in almost a soft song what sounded like, “Do Papa, Do Papa” in her sweet Russian voice.  I just cried and cried because I was so sick, in so much pain, and so tired just trying to make it for my family and here she was holding me.  I hadn’t done anything to deserve this grace and yet I found myself in the very center of God’s grace.  I knew God hadn’t abandoned me, I didn’t know why I was so violently ill even after I and so many others were praying for me, but there in that moment, it was as though Jesus was right there holding me.

Here’s the most interesting part.  When Davin came in to get me, he just said, “They’re here, come on” and walked away.  I thought it was so strange that he didn’t come over and ask who the woman was holding his wife or ask why I was wearing a stranger’s jacket.  He just motioned for us to come outside.  So, the kids and I got up, I gave the jacket back even though I wanted to keep it in THE worst worst way to save and treasure it for the rest of my life.  I thanked her as best as I could in English and hand motions and we left.  When I glanced back at her she sat back down in her same spot, all alone.

When I was later retelling the story to our friends over a New Year’s dinner, they asked Davin if he saw the woman.  I thought that was such a strange question because I had just assumed he had, but was trying to hurry, although I had thought it peculiar he hadn’t acknowledge her.  And here’s the craziest part.

He never saw her.

How he never saw her I will not understand, because she was literally covering me.  I had to peek through her arms to even see him when he called us.  She was draped over me like a blanket.

He never saw the woman, or her coat.

The older two kids saw her.  I saw her and she certainly seemed like a real person.  She smelled like a real person, she looked like a real person.  But that experience was something very different.  I’ve never felt so clearly the grace of God as I did in that moment while she rocked me, prayed over me and I cried the tears of understood grace.  I’ll never forget it.  The contrast of feeling terrible, and yet feeling so absolutely and unconditionally loved and cared for by a complete stranger.  It was worth having norvirus on an airplane.

Months earlier, I had been praying about understanding unmerited grace.  Reading again and again of the prodigal son. I had been telling God that I am so much like the older grouchy son, who thinks’s she’s got it all together in so many ways and I longed to feel and accept the overwhelming grace of God like the younger son did, but without all the shenanigans.  To truly stand where I should not be able to stand in God’s presence, and recognize the absolute grace of Jesus Christ.

The thing about the older son is that he is just in denial.  He thinks he’s all great but really his heart is in a prideful state and he’s just as much a sinner as the younger son, the sad part is he doesn’t realize it.  So he misses out on the blessing.  He never even comes to the party.  I kept longing for the feeling of getting a coat, and a ring and feeling the full weight and grace of Jesus on my life.  Having been lost and then found.  I always thought growing up a christian would feel different than someone whose lived a wild life and then later comes to Christ.  At least, that’s what I thought.  I was always a little jealous of the believers who’d have amazing stories of meeting Jesus after all the years of crazy and really truly understanding his love and mercy.  However, the grace is just the same if we only look for it.

And that is where I found myself.

In the very center of God’s grace, with a coat put on me and all!

And Jesus used that terrible situation for good.  How sweet is Jesus to meet me there at the airport when I was having one of the worst experiences of my life?

It’s true that God uses all things for the good of those who love him.

Merry Christmas from 2015!

Napa, on the reals.

Back in July, Davin and I made a yearly family plan for July 2015-2016.  It was basically all the things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go and experiences we wanted to have.

One of our favorite decisions we made was that that twice a year, Davin and I would try and get away for a few nights to connect.  It’s never easy or inexpensive, but it is one of the few priorities we wanted to put time, energy and finances towards.

So the Napa area has been kind of a diamond hidden behind lots and lots of vineyards and sprawling hills for me.

There are SO many wineries, SO many restaurants, so many places to stay… and it’s not just Napa.  It’s St. Helena, Calistoga, Yountville, Sonoma, Heldsburg and then some.

Thomas Keller’s take-out, Addendum.

Thursday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

For $16.50, guests have a choice of either our famous buttermilk fried chicken or barbeque pork ribs or pulled pork sandwich, each accompanied by two house-made sides. (From website, click for more details)

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Seriously, look how gorgeous Yountville is in the fall.  Gorgeous.  The weather was perfect around 73 degrees, I love California.

About to open deliciousness and begin our vacation.IMG_1073

Oh my.  IMG_1075

Also, I had a fresh lemonade.  Possibly from this adorbs little lemon tree.  Davin had a St. Florian’s Flashover IPA.  Addendum was a perfect way to get into vacation mode.  1 – we didn’t make the food.  2 – it happened to be crazy delicious.  3 – we had a full meal without any interruptions.

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Yountville in the fall.

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Of course, the wine train.  I think they should have a running tally of how many engagements have happened aboard this historical gem.  They probably do.IMG_1079

The Carneros Inn.  IMG_1081

Free bikes to borrow and ride around the property.  We brought our own, because you know, we’re professionals;-)

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Because I love hotels and resorts and such, here is a detailed photo inventory of the Harvest Cottage King.  In case you were equally as curious about it.  We’ve always been interested in this place, it’s just the prices were a bit extremely high. Fortunately for us, they are remodeling the pool and apple orchard, so prices were significantly lower than usual.  Thank you remodel prices!
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Rocking chairs on the front porch.  Quiet times.

 

IMG_1181Cozy times.IMG_1090

Private back patio with outdoor bathtub, shower and dining table.IMG_1092

Heater over the lounge chairs.  Gas fire pit.IMG_1093

Fountain in the back.IMG_1094Succulents!IMG_1096 IMG_1099Heated floors in the bathroom.
IMG_1103 IMG_1105Doorway to the outdoor shower.

IMG_1106 IMG_1107Outside of Farm, bocce ball courts and a market.
IMG_1110The pool on the top of the hill.IMG_1088 IMG_1178Snacks from the market, tiding us over till dinner.IMG_1112 IMG_1113Dinner at Harvest Table in Saint Helena.  Chef Charlie Palmer’s is in the background in the pink shirt.  Celebrity sighting!IMG_1122Sat outside, they gave us gals blankets.  The chef in the background is Levi Mezick, he was so calm the entire time.  A bunch of us were watching him and were amazed at the peace he exuded.  The food and ambiance were incredible.  Highlights were the shrimp and grits, marinated calamari and the bone marrow crusted sirloin. Delish!

IMG_1123We tried guessing the ice creams in the sampler, but we only got two right!  They were yummy regardless.IMG_1126Bring your own s’mores.  The front desk informed us that they sell a s’mores kit for $25 or $35 bucks, but she hinted at the idea that we could easily grab our own from the grocery store for much less, so we did.  IMG_1119Brunch at Ad Hoc.  $34 per person, and you split it.  Totally worth it.  
IMG_1132 IMG_1133Ambrosia salad.  One of the best salad’s I’ve ever eaten.  IN. MY. LIFE.  Whaaaaat?  Think they might serve this up in heaven.IMG_1134The waffles were a B-.  Sorry waffles!
IMG_1138This steak and eggs with potatoes and ranchero sauce was CRAZY good.  I’ve never had steak for breakfast.  It made me happy I wasn’t a vegan anymore.  I wish I could eat this again.IMG_1141IMG_1136After all that food, we went on a ride.  I don’t think Davin’s heart rate went above 65.  Mine however… let’s just say I was outta’ breath.IMG_1158He’s a beast and this is his new way to take photos.  Then we came back for naps and champagne.  This was a very tasty and light champagne.  We were celebrating our anniversary after all.  Carneros surprised us with the bottle upon our arrival, and since we already had free glasses of wine, we saved it for the next day.IMG_1167I recommend it.

He’s totally fake sleeping;-)IMG_1173We grabbed take-out tacos at Gotts Roadside in downtown Napa ad then watched Jurassic World, (insert raptor sounds and tapping clicks;-)IMG_1175The next morning, we had breakfast at the Boone Fly Cafe.  Mmmmmmmmm.IMG_1177These tiny doughnuts are a must.  World Famous Boon Fly Donuts Baker’s Dozen – 9.75.  A dozen sounds like too many, until you eat one are realize if you’re sharing you only have five left.  I think it’s very possible they are indeed world famous.  Best doughnuts I’ve ever had.  Please go eat some if you are ever in Napa.IMG_1214California Benedict with hash browns.  Love me some CA Benedict.
IMG_1215 We sat at the bar because there was no room in the dining area.  We met the bar tender who’s worked there for the last 12 years.  One of the most non-judgmental people I’ve ever met.  He and his wife both work on the property and they are rad.
IMG_1213Also, it was raining, my fave.IMG_1217They gave us umbrellas on our porch to stay dry.  So thoughtful.

IMG_1209In this photo, Davin is being nice, posing, but he’s really very hungry and probably wishes I would just stop taking photos.

IMG_1207 IMG_1212On our last night we ate at Farm.  This was their tasting menu.  IMG_1185 IMG_1192 This was a decomposed french onion and grilled cheese.  That white honeycomb looking piece is cheese.  It was crazy delicious.  I wish I could have you taste it by looking at the pictures.  IMG_1196 IMG_1197And dessert!IMG_1199Meanwhile back home… Frosty’s from Wendy’s!  Yay for Papa and MeeMaw!  It’s about to get real all up in here.IMG_1347On the last day we went wine tasting.  My favorite was Peju.  I liked the taste of Carnival and Provence.
IMG_1236I told you, he loves this pose.
IMG_1348Also had some R + D Kitchen for lunch.  Everyone there was so friendly and the food was yummy of course.  Can’t really go wrong in Saint Helena with the restaurants.IMG_1260 IMG_1258 IMG_1257We came home refreshed and relaxed.

Shout out to Papa and MeeMaw for holding down the fort with four littles!  We came home and the kids were better behaved than when we’d left, soooo that’s amazing.

This post was brought to you by the grandparents, who make all of our lives better by just being who they are.

Love you dad and mom!!

As always, thanks for reading!

Updates for days

I Think I’m coming down with a cold.  You know that miserable tired feeling like you have 1% battery left in your body and that soreness on the side of your throat?

Yep.  I’m feeling that.

It’s like always the worst part of a cold for me… the beginning.  Every part of me wants to be in denial, like, “No, I’m just tired, that soreness getting worse in my throat is because we slept with the windows open three days ago… right?”

nopeSo there’s that.

Annnnnd, I have an announcement… We had our BABY!  Evelyn Grace Anthony was born Thursday, June 11th around 6pm in the evening, wearing a super special hospital hat.  Someone made that in love, I just know it.

IMG_8697Here she is!  Her nails were crazy long and she scratched her precious baby face.IMG_8705“Our Baby!”  The kids all decided that her name should be Evelyn.IMG_8718

Davin brought these BEAUTIFUL flowers to the hospital.  I was so surprised.  Our wedding had floral arrangements that were very similar, so that made it even more special.

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Evelyn was born on my Gramma D’s birthday.  They are birthday girls in this picture, separated by a few years.

All my previous kiddos were born on Fridays, so Evie decided to break the mold with that one.  When she was born I cried.  I said, “Welcome to the world!” with tears in my eyes.  She’s the first baby I’ve cried over upon delivery.  I think it’s finally sunk in that these tiny brand new babies are going to turn into the little people I do life with.  It only took five years and three kids. The first three were just so shocking I was like, “Wait, I grew this tiny human in my body?  Howwwwww?”

Evelyn is pretty amazing.  In fact, she’s so amazing that I tried to write about her a few times on my blog, but every time I’d get distracted and didn’t have the heart to not stare at her as much as possible during awake times, hence the lack of blogging.  However she can’t be blamed entirely for my over three month absence, I also started freelancing!  I love it and here are some of the articles I’ve recently contributed to, click on them to read:

Ten Scriptures to Help Overcome: Loneliness

Ten Scriptures to Help Overcome: Depression

This one is particularly useful seeing as how school has already begun, but maybe it will come in handy anyway:

Back to School: Five Strategies for Busy Families

I liked it.

I also helped out on a really cool follow up guide for a program called, Dare to Dream.  K-Love’s Randy Rich is a former Bronco’s player that speaks at school assemblies about moving beyond the negative labels others place on us.  Our team worked on a three-week follow up guide for teachers, coaches and mentors to use to help navigate students through the process of dropping the negative labels, picking up their dreams and beginning to follow them.  In the process I got to meet some crazy rad people, and it kinda made my summer like even cooler.  I even got to, “go into work” for a couple of days, and wear FANCY SHOES!  And, my clothes did NOT smell like barf.  They did TODAY, but not those two special days, nope… I was a professional;-)

Let’s see… other things to update you on.

The kids started school and everything feels new, but we’re getting into a routine.  They LOVE their school, it’s amazing and one of my favorite parts is taking a nap in my car every day while I wait to pick them up, it’s the best.  That and Ellie gets to listen to WeeSing Bible Songs on repeat.  I’ve actually gone through a few stages of the WeeSing Bible Songs CD. At first it was sweet, then it was annoying, after that I was American Idol/X-Factor judging the children’s voices in my head (not good) and now I’ve come to what I hope is the last stage, neutral acceptance.  It’s become so familiar, it can almost be ignored by my ears, so we are at peace now, that CD and I.  I have no one to blame but myself seeing as how I sought it out, having such fond memories of Psalty the Singing Song Book as a kid, I jumped at the opportunity to bless my children with this gem on Amazon, but it’s just not the same when you’re an adult.

psalty

dissapoint

Ellie loves it, so that’s cool.

Time for some baby pictures.  I will tell you, she’s pretty stinkin’ adorable.  She’s also very chill for the most part. Yesterday she decided to start getting some teeth and now large sections of her gums are swollen and she’s not too thrilled about it come, oh say… five-o-clock.  At 5pm precisely, she’s unhappy, for a little bit.  However, it’s a well known fact that babies all around the world have a tendency for the grouchy around 5pm.  So all us Mama’s can just hang in there knowing we are not alone.  Yesterday I gave her a few Hylands teething tablets even though she’s only three months old and much to young for teeth, MUCH TOO YOUNG and is also wearing size nine pajamas.  Girl is going to be TALL.  I’m jealous, I used to want to be six-foot tall.  I didn’t quite make it.  There’s hope for my girls.  Except Ellie, she has no hope for that, she will never, ever be six-foot tall, but her personality will more than make up for that great loss in life.

Moving on.

We had an amazing photographer agree to take pictures of our family even though he lives super far away and is studying and in college.  Yay!  Thank you Danny Montemayor for being not only a great photographer, but for being a chill, kid-person in general.  Family photos have the potential to be stressful, and if the photographer is laid back and little kids like him, it really just makes things that much better.  Also, my badd for not realizing summer was taking an extra long stroll though our lives, I thought the END of September would be an acceptable time for fall digs, I was however wrong and it was a million degrees, but we rocked it anyway.

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Ellie who will follow her big brother anywhere.IMG_1257

This is actually a tribute pose to our Gramma Alta who went to be with Jesus in heaven a few weeks ago.  We love you Gramma Alta!IMG_1283And now there are four.  Yay!
IMG_1388Oh, I’m on a swing, swinging, and I look this beautiful without trying.  Gurrrrl is blessed.
IMG_1465 IMG_1490 IMG_1498He makes me sandwiches and asks, “Mom, what can I do for you?” And he clearly loves posing for photos with mom when he could still be playing on that tire swing.
IMG_1511This photo sums up my entire relationship with Ellie.IMG_1569Daddy’s girl.IMG_1605A boy with his Daddy.  This could totally be a greeting card.
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Yay US!

And now… the BABY!IMG_1709 IMG_1736 IMG_1761 IMG_1786One of my favorites.IMG_1794 IMG_1825 IMG_1843 IMG_1863 IMG_1867

I love my newest baby.

Thanks for reading!