Happy Birthday Bella!

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My sweet Bella –

This summer you and I have been having so much fun! Happy Birthday, my love – I can’t believe you are already six. I still remember when you were just a teensy tiny babe, with a huge smile for your head and the warmest snuggles in my sling. I remember the challenges you gave me as I was learning to be a mom, and the love that I felt in my heart for you that just made it feel like it might burst right out of my chest it was so big. What is amazing, my sweets, is that that love has grown bigger and bigger and bigger each and every year. I had no idea I was capable of loving so much! Thank you for giving that to me.

You are growing so nicely. I am so proud of your efforts learning to read, learning to be cooperative and gaining social skills. You have made some lovely friends this Kindergarten year (Maya and Delilah). And beyond that, everyday, I am amazed at what a kind and loving sister you are. I imagine that my sister was much like you are to Audrey. She loves you just as dearly as your dad and I do. I hope as you grow, you will continue to be best of friends.

This year, Dad and I gave you a swing set for your birthday. This morning when you were pumping back and forth Рa huge smile was just plastered on your face. You told me you love it Рand said you have had a great birthday. That just made my day.  I love seeing you happy.

We’ve had a lovely summer together – I sure am going to miss having you with me all day when you have to start back school.

I love you so much,

Mommy


I love summer.

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I haven’t posted in Faaaaaaa—evaaaaaaa!! We have just been having too much fun. But just a quickie.

I absolutely LOVE summer. It has always been my favorite season even as a kid… I didn’t know how I would feel about it since school would be out and I would have two kiddos for most of my days and the added pressure of having them both not kill each other and not wreck the entire house…oh yea…and work!

BUT. I. ABSOLUTELY. LOVE. IT. Please, please, please – summer never end…I love that we don’t have to rush around getting to school in the morning. I love that I don’t have to time out naps to match up school pick up. I love that I get to see Bella when she is in a good mood – and give her positive attention because we have so much time together. I love that evenings are not rushed, that dinners are outside, and that we can stay up later and it isn’t going to ruin the next day. Beyond that, I love all the swimming, playing outside, quiet reading time that is treasured instead of dreaded. I love the visitors, unusual excursions, the desire to help with chores from my older kid (surprised me too!) because they are not rushed. I love the impromptu dance parties with my kids – and the silliness they have with each other. I love that I don’t mind doing a little work in the evenings, because my days have been so much more fun with my kids.

I’m not saying every moment has been perfect…but I sure have been enjoying the last few weeks. We did cousin camp with my sissy and kids, had a great visit with the Kennedy’s going to the fair and doing July 4…and I feel like it is already going by soooooo fast.

Okay..enough…must get back to work..

I’ll post pictures of Hawaii, cousin camp, Independence day, maybe…one of these days. I hope.

Also, I have the most amazing photo of Connor, Audrey and Caden…but I promised Connor I wouldn’t post his photos online…him being a teenager and all and not wanting that and such…so just so you know…he was actually there, just not available for the publicity ūüôā


Hello again.

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It has been a long time since I have posted.

We were really hit hard this year by all the sickness…and up until this point, I really was just trying to barely stay caught up with work and the kids and etc… I am well now (I’m hoping for a while) so I thought I would recount some of our last few months so that I will have a record to remember.

Hmmm…lets start with Christmas. We went to Texas as usual. This year we started off at the Lairds, then moved to my mom’s, then to the Neill house. As always it was great to visit with everyone, and the kids had a blast playing with their cousins and relatives. Unfortunately, half way through the trip, everyone got sick. Bella actually tested positive for the flu and strep at the same time, and then proceeded to have an allergic reaction to the Tamiflu that evening. Jeremy had strep, and me and Audrey just had some kind of virus. As much as we love seeing everyone over the holidays. Jeremy and I have decided traveling with kids may not be the smartest thing during that time of year. It is hard to care for little ones who are sick when they are not sleeping in their own beds and (understandibly) want to play with all the people they don’t normally get to see. We would also like to allow them to play with their Christmas gifts after they open them, instead of immediately packing up a bunch of boxes. So we have decided next year, we will see what it is like to stay home. I have mixed feelings about this, because to me, Christmas is a time to celebrate being with your family…but I also really look forward to skipping all the work that comes with traveling during that time of the year. Maybe we will figure out a way to do it every few years or something. Or maybe some of our family will want to come spend some time by the beach during the holidays.

We were all really sick for New Years, so we pretty much just stayed in bed. I think I was asleep by 9pm…I let Bella snuggle in bed with me and watch some of the NYE TV programming. She loved the music (as always – she is such a musical child).

Now we are getting back into the swing of things with school, etc…and I’m hoping that we are starting to get over all the germs. Audrey is still fighting it this week – but I am really hopeful once she is over it, we will get some well-time for a while.

Bella – I think developmentally, Bella has been taking some huge steps lately. She is starting to get the idea of sounding out words, has started really reading some very simple ones, is memorizing a bunch of sight words, her handwriting is becoming less of a daunting task for her, she is able to truly count higher by herself – schoolwork in general, is becoming less of a power struggle, and I think alot of that has to do with being finally developmentally ready to tackle the job. She has been working really hard, and her efforts are showing in the classroom and her homework and just in general with her attitude towards the idea of learning. Bella really responds to encouragement – and I’ve really been trying to focus on what she is doing right in her homework and learning and just how hard she is trying, rather that saying she is getting “good” at anything. If you ask her, she will still tell you she hates school…but I am hoping as she becomes more successful with learning and figuring out how to learn (school-type) stuff, her attitude towards it will change. She is also more into being social with other kids lately. She has made a close friend at school (Delilah) and she is also playing very nicely with our neighbor, Maya. She craves the time with her friends now (in short spurts), and it is nice to see her learning social skills and enjoying other kids company. She seems to be really taking an interest in trying to “do” things that she previously just had no interest in “doing” – ie, learning to pump on the swings.¬† Her attitude towards helping at home has become much more cooperative as well – she feeds the dog, clears her plate, brings her laundry down…all by herself, and when she forgets and is reminded she doesn’t try to push back and get out of doing it anymore. She also recently started Hip Hop class – she loves it. I love to see her enjoying something new. She loves her little sister, and is very helpful with her as well. They play really nicely together (most of the time). I feel like Bella is really coming into her own little happy place lately. It makes me very happy to see it. And our house has a more harmonious atmosphere as a result as well.

Audrey – Where did the last two years go? My baby is really starting to be more of a “kid” everyday. She is very independent, and wants to try to do everything herself. She is starting to dress herself, put on her own shoes, and wants to keep up with Bella in every way imaginable. She loves to play with Bella. They love to dance to One Direction or other pop CD’s in the living room and Bella will pick her up and swing her around. She also loves to take care of her babydolls and the doll house Bella handed down to her. She seems ready to potty train (recognizes that she is going, and wants to wear underwear), but has lost interest in actually going to the potty. I’m hoping that she gets into that soon. Would be so nice to have less diaper time in our house. She is growing up too fast. I feel like if I blink she will be in Kindergarten. I am debating when to put her in preschool right now. Luckily, she is still into snuggling with me…for the time being I still get that at least…


Happy Birthday to Audrey!!

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We are celebrating Audrey’s birthday a little early this year since I am having surgery on Friday. So we decorated, made cupcakes and are ordering pizza tonight and opening presents.

My sweet Audrey –

I just can’t believe how fast the past two years have flown by. You are TWO! (Although, whenever anyone asks, you say THREE.) You bring so much joy and light into our lives. You are a happy, happy girl who twirls and jumps and climbs with the best of them. You are determined, independent, but most of all sweet and kind. I am certain you will charm anyone who meets you as you grow. I know you have charmed us all! I love you, my darling.

Mommy


Ms. Independent

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This weekend Bella and Daddy are camping with the Adventure Princesses. So Audrey and I are spending some major quality time together.

Every time someone new meets Audrey and spends a little time with her, they always comment on how independent she is. She is VERY into doing things herself right now, and if the older kids are doing it…well, then she thinks she should be doing it, too.

I probably hear the phrase, “I DO IT!!!” a hundred times in a day. And if I ever step into help…oh Lordy! We have a major tantrum on our hands. Since it is just the two of us this weekend, I’ve been able to move real slow and let her really try to do whatever she wants (that is safe of course). She has tried to climb in and out or things, put on/take off her own clothes, buckle herself in the car seat, open food packages, pour things, change the music in the dvd player and much, much, much more. While she doesn’t always succeed (often meaning a tantrum of some sort and then finally asking for help) – I love seeing the determination on that little face of hers and the excitement when she does get something (she screams YAY!!! I DID IT!!! And her chest swells a little…)

Today, we visited with some friends in Dana Point and went swimming. The older kids (6 yr olds) were jumping into the pool to their Dad – and Audrey of course wanted to do the same. The kid still doesn’t get the concept of jumping on two feet – but she certainly gave it her all – and the determination and joy on that little face as I would catch her in the pool is something I don’t think I will ever forget.

I love you my little Ms. Independent.

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October

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October always flies by for us. Jeremy normally has to be out of town a bunch for work, football season is in full swing, our school routine is down.

This October was especially exciting for me because I took my first girls trip away from the kids in a looooooong time. I went to Napa with great girls and my sister and had a wonderful time, sleeping, reading, catching up with everyone, eating, drinking wine (of course), and just generally enjoying not having any responsibilities. Getting away for a few days gives me a fresher, calmer perspective and approach with my children…I think I need to start doing it more often. ūüôā

Bella –

She is really starting to learn all of her letter sounds, and is working really hard to learn to write them. We have been practicing ALOT. She has a hard time with her fine motor skills, but I feel like all the practice is really starting to pay off. Earlier this month, she went on a cleaning spree in her room and gave Audrey her doll house as well as quite a few other toys she felt she had grown out of. (She is VERY into organizing and sorting things right now.) To fill the empty space in her room, we got her a desk. It is very simple, and just her size. I am hoping its presence will encourage her to independently work on her writing as well. ¬†She also took back her little chair and created a reading nook. I’m flabbergasted daily by how much she has grown, just in the past 6 months. She looks taller right now, like she just had a growth spurt. She’s got these long bird legs – and her hair has thickened and she seems to have lost any of the “babyish, toddler” chub. She’s no longer a cutesy pie – she is beautiful.

As usual, she is SUPER excited about Halloween. We’ve been working on making the house “scary”. She has a whole plan for her costume this year. She is going to be a witch (“the scary kind”) and her costume is quite simple as a black dress, but we are planning to paint her face all kinds of scary. And she helped a ton with the “planning” for our annual pumpkin carving. She made mummie pizzas, peeled tons of clementine “pumpkins” and cleaned up the whole patio in anticipation of her guests. ¬†As a kid, I don’t remember being so much into Halloween, but I’m glad she is – it makes the whole month pretty exciting.

Bella has also gotten back into swimming. She excels in it – and she really loves being in the water. Her teacher says she is a little mermaid…I hope we can stay healthy enough to keep her in it for the whole year. I would love to start her in a swim team this summer.

Audrey –

Audrey is full on talking in sentences! It is crazy. She is super sweet, very independent and just brings loads of joy into our house. She is LOVING gymnastics. She is SO strong, and hangs and climbs on everything. <She is also very tough – doesn’t normally cry unless it is a pretty big bump or blood.> She loves her baby dolls. She almost always has one with her. She also loves little tiny figurine toys. She carries around this little bunny – and she’ll say “look mommy, bunny yabbit is eating” and then she will share her food. I remember when Bella used Y’s for L’s – I am just relishing all this sweetness…I want to bottle it up somehow. Jeremy keeps saying I need to video more. I’m trying really hard to do that – he is right…I don’t want to forget how innocent and sweet she is at this age.

Tonight, I got a stain on my shirt, and I said “awwwwwww man” and pointed to it (for Jeremy’s benefit really – I am always telling him how my clothes are constantly stained). I think she thought it was a boo boo (it was red¬†pomegranate¬†juice from some seeds I was putting on Bella’s dinner plate). She leaned over, looked me in the eyes and said, “Mommy, can I kiss it?” It was just so sweet – I said sure (of course) and she leaned over and gave me the sweetest kisses. Moments like that make me want to laugh and cry at the same time. So perfect.

We’ve been on fall break from school the past week and this week. We were supposed to go up to Pismo last week for a few days, but it didn’t happen because Audrey was sick and Jeremy was a bit busy with work. I was pretty disappointed about that at first, but now despite the fact that we haven’t done anything “vacationish?”, I’ve been having a great time just hanging out with the girls – not being so rushed to go to bed at night or wake up early and get breakfast going, not having big plans for our days, just playing together around the house and neighborhood. I think it makes me more relaxed for the weekends, too. We had a lovely day last Saturday heading up to Bruce’s house to pick oranges and then went to Bate’s Nut Farm to check out the pumpkin patch. Totally on the fly, but it was such a wonderful family day.

I feel so lucky sometimes when I think about what I have, how blessed my family is to get to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. I often think, what did I do to deserve this? How did I get so lucky? I like to think sometimes it is some of the luck my Dad always had rubbing off on me.

 

 


Getting into our Routine.

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The last month has literally flown by. There have been ups. There have been downs. There were vacations and new adventures! But I *think* we are finally getting into our routine.

Recap:

After the first week of school, I think Bella realized that she was actually going to have to keep going. The newness had worn off – and she was not happy about the prospect of going to school 5 days a week. She would sob at night about how sad she was at school and how she missed home and it was just too long of a day. She would cry as she walked into the school in the mornings. It was really sad, and really stressful – but we just kept trying to reassure her that it would get easier, while firmly letting her know she still had to go. This lasted about a week, and then, one day she put on a brave (but very solemn) face and we hugged and kissed (and kissing hand) and she walked in. The next day, a little girl was standing by her in the line and they got in a conversation, and then when it was time to go in, she cheerfully walked in the line. Since then, most days she complains about the fact that she has to go to school, but she walks in willingly and even cheerfully. (When I pick her up, she always seems happy – so I don’t really worry too much.) This morning, she ran laps around the play yard before school. There is a running club (starts tomorrow) and she wants to join – and I’m thrilled for her that she is excited about something having to do with school and that is healthy for her body.

We also went to Colorado and visited MiMi and Grandpa George over Labor Day. We had a WONDERFUL trip. So relaxing – but full of activity at the same time. I took Bella horseback riding one morning (she rode tandem with the guide). She loved that. I think next year she will be ready to ride by herself. We went out to some beautiful lakes and rivers and Jeremy fished and the girls played in the water. Grandpa George cooked us wonderful food everyday. Bella and Grandpa George made homemade peach icecream. And the last day we explored the hotsprings – and in the afternoon I explored them further (and had a massage!) while Jeremy and MiMi took the girls to the Animal Refuge Park. It was a really nice trip. I really like Colorado (Pegosa Springs in particular)…I think I could live there – so so pretty in that area.

The next weekend Bella started Adventure Princesses (ie-Indian Princesses) with Jeremy. They went on their first camp out and had a great time. Bella zip-lined, swam and came back sooooo dirty and full of stories. I think it is alot of work for Jeremy, but really great bonding time for the two of them.

Audrey and I had a nice time spending some one on one time together for a very relaxing weekend while they were gone. Audrey is going through that “every single thing she does” is SOOOOOOOO cute right now. She is exploring everything, into everything, repeating words and phrases… This week, she started using actual sentences. (She is still hard to understand sometimes, but she is definitely trying!) You have to keep a very good eye on her – but she is really sweet (so so lovey and snuggly) and actually getting good at following directions, too. Since she loves to climb everything (she can do almost all the climbers at the park by herself!) I thought she might like a mommy and me gymnastics class. We started last week – and she does absolutely love it. She is so outgoing – she loves going to the teacher and seeing the other kids. She is not thrilled about having to wait her turn – but there is always something else to climb or jump on in the gym while she waits. It is nice to see her do something that is “hers”. She is growing so fast, she is totally a toddler now – no longer my little baby ;( – I actually weaned her completely last week, which was bittersweet. It is nice to have the freedom, but I miss our snuggles already. Luckily, she loves to snuggle up on the couch or in bed to be read to! She lays right in the crook of my shoulder…I love that.

I feel like we are getting in the swing of things with school and our routine a bit this week. Even though it is really hot here, there are signs of Fall, and Halloween catalogs galore in our mail – and of course, Bella is already geared up for it. She wants to be something “scary” (of course) – her plan right now is to be a witch and have Audrey as her black cat…or to have me be a witch and Audrey be a black cat and she can be a bat…hmmmmmm…I’ll be interested to see what she actually picks at the costume shop. One thing is for sure, this kid LOVES Halloween.

 


Kindergarten

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first day of school

Months of worry (privately by us – not Bella). Months of wondering if she would get the teachers we were hoping for¬†(again just by us – not Bella) (And we did!). Months of anticipation (by us all). And FINALLY Kindergarten has begun…and so far…SO GOOD!

Our school shopping experience was not too pleasant. Turns out, Bella is not a big shopper. (I totally get it. Neither am I.) But she does like new clothes (she just doesn’t want to pick them out…). We went one day, and came back with almost nothing… SO, I decided to make a game of it, and get her some new clothes for the first week of school. I went to Target and bought a bunch of stuff ¬†I thought she might like, and set up a “shop” in her room one night and pretended to be the sales person. She LOVED this (she loves pretend games right now). She picked out everything she liked, even tried everything on – and was armed with a new wardrobe to start off the school year. (I always feel more confident when I have a new outfit, and I was hoping she would feel the same way.) I told her she could keep the things that fit/that she liked, on one condition – she was not allowed to wear any of it until school starts. She picked out the outfit that she would wear to school on the first day right then. (Hot pink skinny “jeans” with a navy shirt with a cat with sequin glasses.)

Monday was the big day. Bella was definitely nervous as we walked to school on the first day – but she was also excited to be going to the BIG kid school that Owen goes to. We all walked together. She got in line for her class on the black top – and to be honest, it was a bit of a pandemonium – nervous kids everywhere with double the parents. Luckily there wasn’t much time to stand there (we were “just” on time) – and the line started to move and we gave her a quick kiss and said follow your teacher – have a great day! We didn’t want to walk her all the way to the class (the teacher had asked us not to, plus, we wanted her to see that we were confident in the teachers to take care of her and that she could do it by herself). ¬†Unfortunately, lots of parents were right beside their kiddos – which makes it hard for the shorty kids to see their lines, and so it was a bit crazy. To her credit, Bella charged ahead with quite a bit of confidence, though (Jeremy and I snuck to the back to watch from where she couldn’t see us). She got lost from her line for just a second, but she saw her student teacher and quickly grabbed her hand and made her way to the classroom. Then we made our way home, and I proceeded to wonder what the heck I am going to do without my big girl on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to have some private time to spend with Audrey, but it just feels weird to not have Bella with us. (Audrey has been a little “off” all week too – I think she REALLY misses having Bella to play with…I realize I need to work on making some little friends for Audrey to play with, now…)

So after nail-biting my way through the day, wondering how Bella was doing – I finally go to pick her up from school. I get there – (again, a bit of pandemonium) – she smiles at me – “Bella, how was your day?”, her response…”IT WAS GREAT!! I got four smile faces! I got a poem! Chester left us a sugar cookie on our desks after recess!”

Relief! JOY! I am so excited to watch her start this journey. She has still been apprehensive in the mornings as we go to school – but each day, I see her confidence building – and she has come home with a smile and good feelings everyday so far. Man, the teachers really have a hard job on their hands (I think there are 24 kids in the class!) – but they are doing such an amazing job. I can’t believe we have a Kindergartener. I saw someone else write this on Facebook the other day in a comment, but I think it is SO true: The days go by slow, but the years go by SO fast.


Where did summer go?

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Wow. Summer is just really flying by. How does life move so fast?

First of all – Bella is FIVE. 5. Five, five, five. I just can’t believe I have a five year old. We had our first big birthday party (at Playwerx – Strawberry Shortcake theme). Mi Mi came – it was a big to-do and a great time! Bella really enjoyed it! YEA!

Here is what she said in her Birthday interview:

Favorite…

Breakfast: Pancakes

Vegetable: I don’t like any vegetables.

Toy: Meredith (Journey Doll)

TV Show: Magic School Bus

Game: Playing with Meredith

Book: Scary Stories

Restaurant: Chilli’s

Holiday: Christmas and My Birthday

Animal: Rabbit

Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla

Color: Rainbow – or Gold

Cake Flavor: all

Song: Suit & Tie by JT (I have edited the first part of the song out on my iPhone)

If you could change your name, what would you choose: As long as I got my Suit & Tie

What do you love about Mommy? That I buy Pirate’s Booty

Daddy? That he makes good pancakes

Audrey? I don’t know

Hazel? I don’t know

MiMi? Everything

Where would you like your next vacation to be? Mountains

What do you wish for this year? To get a kitty someday

What do you want to be when you grow up? A unicorn or a princess

Waht are you really good at? Jumping far

Who is your best friend? Owen, MiMi, Sadie or Eli

Then the Kennedy’s came, and we had a great time catching up with Aunt Christi and Uncle Jason – and of course, playing with Caitlin, too! ¬†Unfortunately, Bella got Croup toward the end of their trip here – and then we all got the bug, so we are all still just recovering from that sickness around here now. It seems impossible for our family to avoid germs. I hate germs. Croup and the throw ups are by far my least favorite of them all.

Bella starts Kindergarten next week. She is growing so much, I can barely believe it. She is going through a bit of a negative “phase” right now. She is convinced that she dislikes school right now (and she hasn’t even been yet), so I am hoping she gets an amazing teacher that she can bond with and finds a friend in her class. Despite her saying repeatedly how much she dislikes school, I actually think she is secretly excited about SOME of the new things Kindergarten has to offer her. She is really into practicing her “letters” right now – and actually is enjoying the worksheets that were sent home with her from Kinderboost at St. Andrews. (We’ve been doing them together – and it is fun to bond over the “homework”.) I think she will like the structured learning part. She also likes the idea of being at the neighborhood school with Owen and Jack – and the idea that she is 5 now and bigger (the other day, she told me that she really feels five). I’m hopeful we can get into a positive “phase” once the school year starts. I really think when she learns to read – she will really enjoy school. She loves a good story, and I think reading books will really captivate her. I’m so hopeful. I really want her to be happy.

We planted a garden outside the kitchen last week. Mostly just greens/herbs – but I am so excited about it! Last year, I tried to cut a lot of processed stuff out of our diets, and this year I read a few books that really inspired me to work on my health even more (Disease-proof your child / Engine2Diet), and I’ve been eating mostly Vegan. (I know…I’m from TX, it shocks me still sometimes…) Bella has not been super excited about the change in menu around our house. I’m trying to be patient I’m hoping that it will encourage Bella to eat more veggies. While I really do believe food is a major issue in our health today, I also realize that having a major battle with my kid at every meal is not good for our mental health, so I am trying to be patient and take it super slow. Little things like having a garden are my creative way of trying to push her in a healthier direction when eating. I am trying to figure out a healthy balanced way of explaining to a 5 year old that many of the “normal” things she eats (or sees being eaten) ¬†are “bad” for you (artificial colors, high sugar content, chemical preservatives), without freaking her out about food. ¬†I’m really having a hard time with it. If I ever figure it out, I promise to write it down. Fortunately, Audrey is not picky at all right now (Bella wasn’t at 1 1/2 either!) So at least she will eat almost anything I put in front of her.

Speaking of Audrey…she grows so fast. She is not going to be a baby anymore. I’m still nursing her, but I will probably stop next week when B starts school. She is starting to talk in SENTENCES. Small ones (I’m hungry, mommy. or Okay, I will…) She is a sweet hearted little angel who has me totally wrapped around her little finger. I’m enjoying her age a lot. I love the discovery – and the sweetness. I love the snuggles. She wants to do everything herself – and gets very mad if she doesn’t get to do it, but I am enjoying her fight for independence.

I have so much more I would love to write Рbut we have been putting the kids to bed early to try to get into the routine of it for school, so I will be woken at the crack of dawn  and need to get some sleep! I am certain I will have a big update next week after the start of school though Рjust wanted to write this stuff down before the craziness begins.


Checking things off my list.

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I recently made this long list of things I need to complete. It has been pretty satisfying to check things off of it – and tonight I FINALLY finished Audrey’s 1 year book! YEA – my goal was just to finish it before Bella’s birthday – and I’ve still got a few days to spare…feels good! Uh…now I guess I will start the family book for 2013 so I can finish it sometime before Christmas.

Click here to view this photo book larger

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