DOUBLE DIGITS in July…. Davey is TEN





How in the world did we get to this point?!

How is my sweet, baby boy…

my first born…


This oldest boy of mine…

he’s pretty amazing.

He’s ridiculously smart.

(Principal’s list x4 last year?!)

And he’s funny.

And a little bit crazy.

He loves to read,

play board games,

play video games,

watch movies,

watch tv,

and spend time at home.

He’s more of an introvert than an extrovert.

He prefers to be at home.

He hates running errands.

Even if it’s to pick out legos for himself.

He prefers smaller groups of friends to large crowds.

He’s fun-loving and energetic.

He loves basketball.

But he chose soccer camp over basketball camp this summer.

He still loves to swim and dive for toys.

And he’s light enough that Daddy can still throw him pretty well.

He’s still on the smaller side of average.

He weighs in at 52.8 pounds (2.68%).

He’s 49.75 inches tall (2.87%).

His growth spurt will come.


He’s grown into a size 1 or 2 shoe.

He’s in a size 7 bottom and a 7/8 top.

This amazing kid of mine is about to be a FIFTH GRADER.


He’s going to play the clarinet in band.

(We’ll see how that goes – he seems to have my musical ability.)

This silly,










oldest Munchkin of mine LOVES being a big brother to a little brother.

Sometimes he loves being a big brother to his sisters.

He loves being part of our family.

This kid of mine,
he’s a thinker.
He doesn’t make decisions or choices easily.
He weighs all sides of every choice.
He takes his time.

He thinks things through.

And then he second guesses himself.
And he finally makes a choice.

But sometimes he changes his mind.

This kid of mine wears flip flops or lace-up sneakers.
There’s no in between.

He prefers to wear “Saturday clothes” (sports shorts)

but I’m the mom and won’t let him wear them to school daily.

He thinks all shirts that don’t have something on them are church shirts.
He won’t wear collared button-downs anymore.
I can’t reallly get him into a polo shirt anymore, either.

Just “nicer” t-shirts.

He wears shorts year-round.
There’s usually about a week of cold weather in January or February that requires pants,

but otherwise, it’s shorts ALL. THE. TIME.

This great kid loves to think.

He drive me crazy with his attention to detail.

And his memory.

He’d be an amazing lawyer –

he’d never forget a detail of a case and he’d catch the opposing witnesses in any lie.

He started doing some programming/coding this summer.

Not much, but a little.

This kid loves sugar.

Soda (favorites: Pepsi and Dr. Pepper).

Candy (favorites: Snickers, Twix, Kit Kat).

Treats and sweets (like: cookies, RK treats, ice cream).

But he’s a pretty good eater.

I think we fought the food battles when he was younger and it’s paid off….

he doesn’t complain about meals (unless he’s sick)

and he knows he needs to eat all of his dinner to get a treat.

He likes Thai food and Vietnamese food and Asian cuisine….

plus burgers and mac-n-cheese and PB&J.

This kid,

he made me a mom.

And I couldn’t be more thankful for him.

He came into this world a month earlier than expected

and he’s been a joy and a delight to our family ever since!

Happy 10th birthday,

my first-born son!

I am so thankful for you!

Love you bunches, Davey!

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Only a little late…. Alex is SEVEN….


She’s SEVEN.

For real.

This baby girl of mine -

almost eight years ago, they told us that this baby girl

MIGHT not be born alive…

or might be born alive but wasn’t likely to live long,

or who might live awhile but have serious issues….

this PERFECT little girl of mine is SEVEN YEARS OLD.

Take THAT, science!


Every year I can’t resist the digs at science.

And I wish I could go back to that doctor in seattle and show them this sweet and loving girl.
This precious LIFE that they offered me the opportunity to end.

Stupid doctor.

But really,

this girl is amazing.

Every year she grows by leaps and bounds.

She still knows NO strangers.

Everyone is her friend.

Her best friend.

She LOVES people.

She fully embraces them.

Every age.

Every sex.

Every color.

Every personality.

She loves them all.



She still loves to cuddle and snuggle.

She wants to sit on EVERYONE’s lap.

And if that person chooses to read a book to her?

Or multiple books?


You’ll be BFFs forever.


She’s reading like a mad fiend.

She’s comprehending math and is getting the answers right.

She’s adding and subtracting.

Despite this, she’ll be repeating 1st grade this school year.

She just needs the extra time.

And it’ll be good for her to be “ahead” of the other kids in some areas.

Especially since she’s so far behind in her writing ability.

She loves to laugh.

Especially at the sound of burps and toots.


She’s like a junior high boy sometimes.

She still likes to tell jokes.

Jokes that she makes up.

Jokes that she makes up that don’t make any sense.

She loves to play games.

Especially go fish,



“family” (in my day we called it “house”),

and anything with sand or rocks.

Or anything with her big brother and sister.

Or anything with her baby brother.

Basically, she just likes to play.

And always with friends.

She tried soccer camp this summer and did pretty well.

She’s still petite.

Very, very petite.

She’s wearing a size 5 bottom

(and many of those are way too big on her waist)

and a size 6 top.

She weighed in at 34 pounds (0.14%).

She stands 40.25” tall (0.28%).

Her shoe size is 9.5 (again, sooooo tiny)!

This amazing little girl brings so much joy, sunshine, and laughter into our home.

She learned how to swim this summer and she’s doing AMAZING.

She still loves to practice riding her skateboard.

But she still can’t balance well enough to actually ride it.

She loves to ride her balance bikes (she has BOTH hand-me-downs from D&S).

This girl is also frustrating on so many levels.

She doesn’t listen well.

She doesn’t obey right away.

She doesn’t grasp the concept of “personal bubble.”

She asks “what?” ALL. THE. TIME.

But then she gives you a hug.

Or a huge smile.

Or she laughs….

And she gets away with it all again.

She has an enthusiasm for life that I wish could be bottled.

She can frequently be found running and cheering (“woohoo!”).

She loves to encourage people.

She loves parties and celebrations.

She still loves to watch Daniel Tiger,

Super Why,



Frozen Fever,

Moana, and

Monster Math Squad.

She LOVES Thursdays when we go to Summer Movie Fun.

But she MIGHT be into the movie theater movies for the popcorn.

And the candy (we buy it at Dollar Tree).

She’s a little obsessed with Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems right now.

But Pete the Cat will forever be her first favorite(s).

And Biscuit. Never forget the Biscuit books.

Her favorite toys remain her dolls and stuffed animals.

She’ll play with them for minutes.

Sometimes for hours.

She’ll try to carry them ALL around the house.


Her favorite seems to still be her original Beanie Boos.

This 7-year old girl of mine is a medical marvel.

She’s sweet and cuddly and adorable and fun.

She’s loving and kind and gracious and caring.

She has a sensitive heart (especially when others are hurting).

She’s empathetic and sympathetic.

I’m so grateful for her life.

Happy 7th Birthday, my dear Alex.

Always know that you are LOVED beyond measure!

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Ten Months Overdue…. Sam is EIGHT


So 10 months ago, this girlie girl of mine turned EIGHT.



This amazing girl,

who is ridiculously smart,

wants so much to be even MORE grown up.

I still remember when she was born.

My labor was horrid.
(Can you say “back labor?”
Can you say “epidural that only worked on one half of my body?”

Can you say “came out sunny side UP instead of DOWN?”)

But despite all that pain….

and despite giving up SO. MANY. FOODS. while I was nursing her,

and despite the MONTHS she spent screaming,

I still remember her as a beautiful
(and bald)

baby girl.
A girl quick with a smile.
And a laugh.

A girl who LOVED life.

Correction, LOVES life.

This girl started Kindergarten almost three months before she turned 5.

(She’s the youngest kid in her entire grade).
This girl qualified for the academically gifted program by the end of Kindergarten.
This girl is loved by her teachers.
At school AND church.

This girl is loved by her friends.

This girl is loved by other adults.

This girl is VERY WELL LOVED by her parents.

And siblings.

And extended family.

When she turned 8,
she was EXCITEDLY anticipating being a big sister (again).

She’s not perfect.

She’s got the attitude of a teenager (and has since she was 5).

She hates being told to do things.

She loves helping – but on her own terms.

She wants so badly to be older. MUCH older.

She gets frustrated easily.

She gives up easily.

She doesn’t like to work hard for things.

She doesn’t think about the consequences of her actions.

She won’t brush her hair.

She always “forgets” to brush her teeth.

But despite those things, she’s amazing.

(Heck, none of us are perfect).

This girl loves school.

She loves her teachers.

She loves her friends.

All of her friends are her BEST friends.

This girl wants to be a teacher herself.

And an author.

She’s planning to write during the summer and teach during the school year.

This girl fiercely loves her family.

She loves family movie night.

She loves eating out at restaurants.

She usually asks for burgers or sub sandwiches.

(We never have the latter).

This girl wants to wear high heels all the time.

She wants to wear make-up (“for real” – um, no. you’re 8. barely.).

She desperately wants her ears pierced.

She wants “in” on all adult conversations.

She has ears that hear EVERYTHING.

This girl does cartwheels EVERYWHERE.


She loves gymnastics and dance but doesn’t want to take classes for either.

She’s not the sport-y type.

But she claims she loves to run.

And she enjoyed soccer and volleyball camps this summer.

And she’s playing volleyball (with her friends) this season.

She loves clothes.

LOVES clothes.

And shoes.

Oh, the shoes…..!

And shopping.

It’s seriously her favorite pastime. (i’ve taught her well).

She loves to make crafts.

And to write stories.

She wants to help in the kitchen more.

She wishes she were an amazing cook.

But she’s proud of the few dishes she can make
(grilled cheese, mac-n-cheese, scrambled eggs, toast…).

She’s still afraid of heights.

She wants to wear (real) glasses.

She’s adventurous.

She learned to ride a longboard this year.

She’s a great “little mommy” to her sister.

She loves to read. Even out loud.

She loves roller coasters and theme park rides….

as long as they don’t go up too high.

This girlie girl of mine…

Her smile lights up my days.

Her enthusiasm is infectious.

Her attention to detail is uncanny.

Her fashion sense is pretty on-pointe.

Her helpfulness is a gift to this tired mommy.

Her friendliness is a treasure to many.

Her life is a blessing to those who know her.

This girlie girl of mine… I can hardly believe she’s EIGHT.

I love you,

dear Samantha,

and pray that this is a fantastic year for you!

(photo dump):

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so i know this pretty cool kid who is turning nine.
you know, the number that looks like an upside-down six?

and this kid,
he’s pretty special to me.
he’s the kid who gave me a new name:



this kid of MINE is turning NINE.
he was so wanted… so desperately wanted before we knew we were pregnant.
and then he was so very loved while i carried him.
even though we didn’t know if he was a he or a she.
his nickname was “Baby Seven”
(that’s a Seinfeld reference).

he was supposed to be born in mid-August.
the 18th, i think, was my due “date.”
but on Saturday, July 14th, 2007,
i was in PAIN.
and i couldn’t sit down.
so after hours and hours and hours,
i finally called the hospital.
with tears i explained my symptoms and they told me to come in.
that was around 3pm.

my son was born.
i was ill-prepared for the actual event.
and for all that goes along with being a selfish adult to becoming a mommy.
but i was in love.
and i had prayed for him for so long.

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this kid of mine,
he’s pretty amazing.
he’s ridiculously intelligent.
he’s funny,
has a memory like an elephant
(remember, an elephant “never forgets!”),
loves jokes,
is a bit of a dare-devil,
and is totally his OWN PERSON.

he wants what he wants.
he likes what he likes.
he is who he is.
for the most part, these are all good things currently.

this kid of mine,
he loves rollercoasters.
and zip lines.
and trying adventurous things.

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IMG_0394 IMG_0445

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he has fun just about anywhere we go.
if there’s nothing fun to do, he invents something.
or he reads.


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this kid reads like you wouldn’t believe.
he’ll read a 1000-page book in a day.
he is voracious.
his thirst for knowledge is unquenchable.


he loves school.
he loves his teacher(s).

he loves math.


he loves technology.


he really likes to play video games.
until a month ago, his favorite game would’ve been Madden on an old school X-Box.
about three months ago, his favorite would’ve been something on Wii.
but now he loves daddy’s X-Box One.
Minecraft, Halo (only with daddy), Plants v. Zombies (Garden Warfare) are his current favorites.


along with video games,
ANYTHING involving “screen time” is a huge plus for this kid.
he loves movies,
he loves to play on the chrome book (favorite sites are Friv4school, khanacademy, and
he likes playing Minecraft on the iPad, too.
if the TV is on, he’ll watch it. no matter what it is. seriously. he’ll watch alex’s “baby” shows (like Super Why and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) b/c it appears to be programmed in his brain that if the tv is on, he is required to watch it.
for his own TV time, he’s been choosing Scooby Doo, Phineas & Ferb, Animaniacs, though he’d rather watch any kind of movie (but Avenger movies or TMNT are even better)!

this kid of mine,
he is creative.
he took an art class after school this year.
he’s pretty adept at looking at an image and re-creating it.
this is a fox that was on our friend’s shirt:


and these are projects from school.
mostly Art Masterpiece projects.
you should ask him all about that rock sometime.

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he still loves to play games.
and to be silly.
and to tell jokes.
lots and LOTS of jokes.
when he smiles, he melts my heart.
his grin is infectious.


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this kid of mine,
he has a HUGE heart.
he has a very tender heart.
and he’s a very sensitive soul.
one day, this will serve him well.
right now, we’re working to “harness” the emotions.

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he’s had to say “good bye” to TWO of his BEST FRIENDS in the last 14 months.
on the flip side,
he’ll still hold our hands out in public.
and he’ll initiate it.
he also still loves it when i help in his class.
and when i show up to eat lunch with him.
he thinks it’s cool that his mom is at the school so much.

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i plan to continue to ride that wave for as long as it lasts.


(he still LOVES his uncle tom and can’t get enough of him.
i wish we didn’t live so far away from family).

he’s gentle.
and loving.
and patient.

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this kid of mine,
he loves to be active.
he’ll try just about anything.
but he doesn’t truly love anything.
except basketball.

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but he has fun trying new things.
he doesn’t mind if he’s not great at it right away.
he works hard.
he concentrates.
he listens.
he studies.
he tries his best.
all the time.

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this kid of mine,
he knows that some things are important.
and some things aren’t.
there were kids in his grade this past year who deemed themselves “too old” to dress up for halloween.
and they hated having to sing in the musical for their grade.
but my kid EMBRACES being a kid.
he seems to sense what’s coming…. and he’s trying to enjoy all that he can for as long as he can.

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this kid of mine,
he has a sweet tooth.
dessert is always very near and dear to his taste buds.
he loves ice cream (especially Rocky Road and Mint Chocolate Chip).
he loves chocolate candy (especially snickers bars),
but he won’t turn down a gummy worm or smarties if they’re offered to him!  IMG_0272

this kid of mine isn’t afraid to TRY HARD THINGS.
he signed up for an oratorical contest this past year.
and then some stuff happened (just family visiting that he wasn’t aware of) so he didn’t memorize his speech. and we had to talk him into sticking with the contest, even.
but in the end,
he delivered his speech.
and he did a great job!

IMG_1013 IMG_1018he also ran at these hurdles on field day as though they weren’t taller than he is!


he’s NOT fearless.
but he’s brave.

this kid,
he LOVES his family.
his immediate family.
AND his extended family.
he has a special bond with his grandpa and his uncle tom.
but he loves every grandparent/nana, every aunt, uncle, cousin, second cousin and all the rest.
he truly delights in his family.

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this kid of mine doesn’t wear pants.
well, maybe a couple of times a year.
i think he wore pants one day in january this year.
here’s the proof:


(ok, so he wore pants for his school immigration project, as you saw above. but he only wore those for an hour or two. and they were actually pajama pants. these are REAL pants. meant for daytime wear!)

this kid of mine,
he’s pretty amazing.
and special.
he’s one of the coolest kid i know, no matter his age.
if you don’t know him, you should.
he loves making new friends.
he’s shy and quiet at first.
but then he just gets crazy, goofy, and silly, the more you get to know him.
he truly finds joy in life.
it’s a skill i wish more of us had.

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i think EIGHT has been pretty great for this kid of mine.
i’m so excited to see what NINE will bring!


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God created you and gifted you to this family.
You have been such a tremendous blessing to your dad and I.
And to your sisters.
You have eased us into this “parenting” role and I am so thankful for your easy-going nature.
You are so very precious to us!
(I hope you know that in your head AND in your heart.)
Daddy and I are so excited to see what this next year brings to your life!
Keep dreaming big.
Keep reaching for the stars.
Keep trying hard.
We love you so much!
Mommy (for Daddy, Samantha, and Alexandra, too)


*Davey is EIGHT blog post is HERE
*Davey is SEVEN blog post here.
*Davey is FIVE blog post HERE!
*Davey is THREE blog post can be read here
*Davey at age ONE blog post is HERE.


Alex is SIX?!

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This sweet girl is SIX today (July 13, 2016).
She is full of energy,
and so much more.


she is a tiny thing.
she wears a size 8.5 shoe.
she wears a size 4 bottom.
she wears a size 5 top.
she doesn’t even weigh 30# yet.
she’s about 41″ tall.

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she is adventurous (when she wants to be).
she is courageous (when she wants to be).
she is stubborn.
she is determined.
she is persistent.

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she still LOVES to watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood (why, oh WHY did Netflix have to stop carrying this show?!?!?!).
her favorite characters in the movies are the various Minions.
she’s been drawing RAINBOWS a lot lately.

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she can make her own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. she makes a huge mess and she “contaminates” the peanut butter (with bread crumbs which means Dave can’t eat/use that peanut butter) but i’m happy to know she can fend for herself when necessary.


she LOVES music.
sometimes you’ll even catch her dancing to it.
or singing (favorite songs are “Let It Go!,” songs from this year’s VBS CD, and various praise songs from church).

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this girl, my friends, is READING.
she love to TRACE and likes to write.
she struggles with writing - like, PHYSICALLY writing letters, but she’s such a hard worker.
she knows all the sounds of the letters.
and she can tell you what ALL of them are.
but writing them is a big struggle for her.
her penmanship is A.W.F.U.L.
but she LOVES school.
her cutting skill has improved DRAMATICALLY.
she can follow multi-step directions better.
she’s adding single digit numbers. subtracting is still extra difficult.
she’s struggling to draw shapes but she can recognize them all.
she can spell quite a few colors (red, blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, black, brown, white, pink).
she knows a good number of sight words.
she’s working hard to write her numbers…. and she’s doing really well.
she can count up to 100.

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this girl worked SO HARD in school this year that she’s moving on to FIRST grade in three short weeks (school begins on August 3rd)!


even though she can read (words that are easy-to-sound-out),
she still LOVES to be read to.
it’s probably her favorite activity.
it’s not abnormal for her to climb in bed with Daddy & Mommy in the morning and to ask for either of us (who aren’t awake yet) to read at least one of the multiple books she has brought to bed!



(that white board reads: “Alex, Davey,
Momey, Dadey”)

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she still LOVES anything sweet.
and cold.
ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, or Rita’s Italian Ice are definitely favorites.
she’s been working REALLY hard this summer to learn how to swim.
she has ZERO fear of the water – which is good AND bad.

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she readily admits that she’s the BABY of this family.
she can often be heard making baby noises and sounds (to the point that it’s a problem and we have to remind her that she KNOWS HOW to use words).
she knows she’s adorable.
and cute.
but she also wants to be like the big kids.
she can frequently be found with a controller in hand so she can “play” whatever game big brother (or daddy) is playing.


she still crashes hard and fast.
she’ll be talking your ear off one minute.
and she’ll be sound asleep 2 seconds later.



the girl has no fear of strangers.
in fact, she’s never met a stranger.
they’re all her dear friends.
when she disappeared at the beach one day two weeks ago, I freaked out.
why, oh WHY didn’t i immediately think to look at the group next to us.
she made a friend (his name was Quinn).
sweet, sweet girl.

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she LOVES to swing (favorite playground/park activity).
when we go hiking, she can still be found in an ergo carrier on my back.
i guess her belief that she’s ACTUALLY a baby is somewhat true. ;)

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her curls are so adorable.
i’m eager to see what her hair will be like as she grows older.
many people say she has my hair.
but those are the people who don’t know that i didn’t have curly hair before i had kids.
for real.
i’m pretty sure she has her daddy’s hair.


she LOVES to build with blocks.
and put things in order.
she’ll say she’s making a pattern, but it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t fully have that concept down yet.

she still LOVES animals.
she was IN HEAVEN on our recent vacation with friends.
sweet Phoebe was SUPER tolerant of this crazy little Munchkin.
i looked for a German Shepard stuffed animal as a birthday present (the closest we’ll get to having a pet) but couldn’t find one I liked.
she would be ELATED to have a pet at home.
especially a dog.
even though she’s TERRIFIED of them.
she’s also SUPER CURIOUS.
and she really does LOVE them.
dogs, that is.
she has SO MANY stuffed animals that are dogs.
she LOVES Beanie Boos.
probably because they’re all animals AND they have HUGE eyes like she does.

she’d actually be SUPER happy if we had a baby in the house.
(not happening, unless we’re babysitting for friends).
she can most often be found carrying a baby doll around the house.
usually baby (princess) belle or baby maddie.
she dresses them.
she reads to them.
she puts them to bed.
she changes their diaper.
she spanks them.
she feeds them.
she really does love them.

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this amazing little girl,
who has overcome so much already in her life,
she continues to amaze us with what she can do.
what she can accomplish.
what she can learn.
what she can master.
what she can tolerate.
what she can overcome.

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the sky’s the limit for this Littlest Munchkin.

Dear Alex,
We love you SO MUCH.
We are SO PROUD of you and
we are SO THANKFUL you are in our family.
You bring us all so much JOY… thank you for your infectious smile,
your constant hugs, your empathy, your energy, your enthusiasm,
your forgiving nature, your kindness, your love, your sweet spirit….
you are a blessing and we are so grateful you are in our family!


P.S. as much as we love you, i hate to tell you that now that you are SIX, you are STILL not yet old enough to DRIVE…. you have to be sixTEEN to enjoy that privilege. it’s not our rule. it’s the law.


p.s. if you want to go back in time, here’s the post about alex turning FIVE.
p.p.s.  and here’s the post of alex turning FOUR.
Where’s the post of her turning THREE? i honestly don’t know?!
p.p.p.s. and here’s the post about alex turning TWO.
p.p.p.p.s. and here’s the post of alex turning ONE!
p.p.p.p.p.s. and a post of her BIRTH!

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day 6 (hiking)

well, friends, the PLAN was HIKING on Friday.
but much like the Monday plan for hiking,
the plan got de-railed.
i woke up early in the morning with a killer headache and feeling really nauseous.
like so nauseated that i had to hug the toilet for awhile.
a few times.
it was not pleasant.
i needed headache meds but was afraid they wouldn’t stay down.
i had two sips of peppermint tea and felt worse.
i finally fell asleep for a nap around 12:00ish.
i woke up at 3 and felt like a new person.
in retrospect,
we’re guessing it was a migraine.
my second ever.
what a fantastic time to get one, right?!

but, apparently, i wasn’t the only one who didn’t sleep well.
so the hike was put on the back burner.
and in the end,
three of the guys (Dave, Tom, and S) went for a hike in the early afternoon.
they went hiking to the Wind Cave: a hike I’ve never done.
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(hiking photos courtesy of Dave).

everyone else relaxed around the house.
tv/movie time.
you get the idea.


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this is me with a pouty face b/c i had to stay in the shade and drinks lots of water.
i wanted to be IN the water.

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ultimately, this week was about being TOGETHER.
not about DOING everything on THE LIST.

and we definitely spent a lot of time together.
it was a huge blessing to be able to use this company retreat house
for a personal family reunion.
there aren’t many people who can do that.
we feel extremely blessed and extremely lucky that we got this opportunity.

we headed out around 5 to have a spoil-your-appetite
treat at Rita’s Italian Ice.
several family members had never experienced it before.
we were happy to introduce them!

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and once back at the house,
it was time to do stuff “one last time” before parting and going our separate ways.
there was some putt putt golf happening….

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a phone call with great grandpa and great grandma in Ohio.
he let us know that great Aunt Ibby made it through her hip replacement surgery
and was already hoping to go home!
take it easy, Ib!
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pretty much, just hanging out and relaxing at the house:

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the cousins enjoyed running and jumping and riding….

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davey found my blog (on grandpa’s phone) and read through DITD days 4 & 5:

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and while he was reading,
cousin A (who wants to marry davey),
came up and started giving him a shoulder rub.
don’t worry.
her parents have already talked with her to tell her she can’t marry her cousin.
we’re not that kind of family.

Samantha enjoyed final moments playing with cousin W.

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(they were pretending to scale/climb the wall).

then the girls climbed into the hammock:

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while Uncle S enjoyed a little frisbee golf:

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as usual,
this child was found inside,
watching something on the iPad:

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but then she got distracted with Uncle Tom.
and his audio recorder.
she gave him some good animal noises before too many people started watching!

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dinner was a do-it-yourself buffet of left overs.
and uncle tom provided some candy from Chinatown in Chicago!


and while the grown ups packed
(their flights were EARLY this morning),
we had a few movies going….
one downstairs for the littles:


and Men In Black upstairs in the theater for the
big kids.
(which includes the adults).

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and as everyone (minus the littles) said good bye,
uncle tom shared surprises for each of the kiddos.
samantha is ELATED with her lightbulb.
dave scored Men In Black sunglasses (in a case).
and alex got a princess peach (mario brothers character) toy.


despite the hiccups of R’s inner ear problems,
A’s seriously sunburned arm,
my migraine,
some bad dreams,
some poor nights of sleep for several….
despite all that,
this week was a HUGE success.
for the first time in…. ever?! we spent multiple nights under the same roof.
we enjoyed sunshine together
(a big deal for those from Washington),
a zoo adventure,
movies in the in-house theater,
eating great food,
good conversation,
the guys enjoyed top golf,
the ladies enjoyed shopping…
it was an incredible week’s vacation and
we’re already looking forward to trying it again someday.
i think the beach would be a fun location next time?!




the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Five (shopping)






it was another beautiful, sunny day here in AZ.

this is what i looked like in the pool yesterday (day 4):

there’s no reason i’m sharing it with you other than i like it and it’s from dave’s phone and i just saw it today for the first time.

i can be random.

the oldest Munchkin caught some “solo time” this morning.
i found him in alex’s bed,
reading a book.
apparently, he’d been reading a book to her earlier.
but she wasn’t there when i saw him.


i think the cousins built a “ship” here.
they INSISTED i take a picture:


shortly after the above photo was taken,
alex wanted to re-locate Mr Pickles
(sorry, Bob, but the kids named the House Bear “Mr. Pickles”)
from downstairs to upstairs.
thank goodness grandma was able to help!


while the boys and littles stayed home,
the grown up girls went shopping in Scottsdale.

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i hate to tell you this,
but the bodysuits from the 80s are BACK:


(no, i did NOT buy it.
or anything remotely similar to it.
but i DID own a few back in the 80s.)

i did, however, enjoy this for lunch:

Pita Jungle for my yummy lunch win!

while we shopped and enjoyed and relaxed,
there was plenty more swimming back at the house:

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and then when they were all done with the sun,
it was time for video games.
only the house game system is X-Box 360.
but all the games at the house are X-Box.
so there wasn’t much “gaming” happening.

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while we were gone,
my amazing husband also spent the day SMOKING a pork.
so dinner tonight was a much-anticipated event:

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RIGHT before dinner,
I remembered that I was supposed to make jalapeño poppers for dinner.
Mom to the rescue for cutting the jalapeños while I mixed the “popper” part and filled the jalapeño shells.

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it was all sooooo good.


even the cousins ate well tonight!

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and then there was a bedtime story from grandpa


while some of us enjoyed a FASHION SHOW
(my order arrived yesterday and i picked it up from home today!



this is a tank that i said “NO” to as soon as i pulled it out of the box.
a very emphatic “NO.
but the moment i put it on, my opinion changed.
as did the opinion of my SIL.
and even my friend Julie (who enjoyed some photos via text) agreed!

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these two are my favorite:


it’s that button back detail on the black & white one
and it’s this little detail on the gray & white one):


i ordered 14 tank tops, hoping to keep about 5 of them. is something i JUST found.
it’s a website, not an app.
it’s all used clothing.
the prices are great.
you can get free shipping for ordering a certain amount of product (price-wise).
and they have free returns.
for any reason.
and you get your money back….
not store credit.
so far, I’m impressed.
out of the 14 tops I received,
i’m keeping 6.
and it was a unanimous decision:


i know.
i have a problem.
black. white. gray. and stripes.
i’m addicted.
but at least i know what i like.
and i didn’t keep ALL the striped tank tops i received.
did you know,
when i ordered,
the inventory for small & medium sized tank tops was over 17,000?!
the 6 tanks I’m keeping come to $37.10 (i think that was the amount).
not too shabby!

but enough about that fashion show…..
after our fashion show was finished,
we found the boys like this:

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so again,
we ate well,
we played well,
and it was another successful Family Reunion day.
up tomorrow:

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Four (Zoo)

when you’re on vacation with littles in this area,
the zoo is always a winner!
but when you have to transport 11 people,
you take two vehicles.
and you kind of caravan….
this was my crew:

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but we had a special hook-up….
my neighbor is the event coordinator for the zoo.
and she was able to get us ALL in for free with her annual pass and some free passes she found on her desk.
AND she was able to get us into STING RAY BAY (again, for free)
so we could pet AND feed the sting rays!
i’m pretty sure a restaurant gift card is headed her way
(she doesn’t cook)!

but before your grand adventure of animal fun begins,
you ask your husband to adjust the camera settings.
and you pray you don’t mess them up throughout the day!


Samantha and i have fed and pet the sting rays once before
(on a class field trip to the zoo when, again, our wonderful neighbor got our group into this  area for free).
she had no desire to feed them again.
petting them was fine.
i’ll admit,
feeding the sting rays is a freaky feeling.
you put a piece of a fish or shrimp into your hand and hold it sticking up
(imagine you’re holding an ice cream cone – that’s how you hold the sting ray food).
then you put your hand as far down into the water as you can
(with the food sticking up, not out),
and you wait for a sting ray to glide OVER your hand.
it pulls the food out and continues to swim in a circle around the water tank.
sometimes you can feel them “nibbling.”
or some of them come so fast you really think they’re going to attack!

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this is me, showing you a fish head that the sting rays are going to eat.
my favorite thing about the photo, though,
is Uncle/BIL S’s face behind me:


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alex was NOT interested in petting or feeding a sting ray.
the feeding part is kinda scary,
though no one at the zoo has been seriously harmed from feeding the sting rays.
but petting them is easy.
you put your flat hand in the top part of the water and they come and glide under it…
so you’re flat hand just glides over the top of their spine.
it’s pretty cool.
they feel smooth there.
you’re not allowed to touch them on their side, underneath, or their tail.

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with animals.
it ALMOST makes me wish we had a pet.

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davey won the award for getting the most wet in Sting Ray Bay!

next we visited the new Aviary and Reptile area
(despite all our trips to the zoo,
we hadn’t seen this space before!)
Lots of lizards and snakes….

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(“Mommy, even though you hate snakes,
we really want you to take a picture of all these snakes in this giant box,”
- Samantha, age 7).

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we found some prairie dogs
(they look cute but they’re not so cuddly).
that didn’t stop alex from trying to climb into their area to pet them.

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and creepy birds:


there were more creepy birds,
but you don’t want to see them.
well, maybe it’s just ME who doesn’t want to see them.
vultures, turkeys, turkey vultures….

and after spending an HOUR at the zoo,
we FINALLY meandered more than 100 feet from the entrance!
i love this photo of the guys watching the area that holds
giraffes and oryx and ostriches and emus and other wildlife:


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as we walked up the hill,
we took a peek at the Fennec Fox.
which is ALWAYS in hiding.
the most i’ve ever seen before is a partial bit of his face.
but guess what?
we saw THIS:


the WHOLE thing!
he’s another cute, cuddly looking thing!

and despite all the cool animals at the zoo,
the sight of a chipmunk (?) running across the pathway
is what caused everyone to stop and look!


alex has ALWAYS loved the mandrakes (mandrills?) and the baboons.
this time was no exception:

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right after we took these photos,
this guy wandered away.
the BIG one was sitting on a log to our left.
we watched him stand up,
remove an un-digested long leaf from the poop,
wipe it “clean” with his hand,
and eat it.
for real.

here’s a gerenuk:


we saw these in africa.
they’re a type of deer
with a LOOOOOOONG neck,
it can stand on it’s hind legs
while it reaches up to the higher leaves in a tree
(like a giraffe, but not nearly as tall as a giraffe – maybe up to their legs?!)
to get it’s meal.
they look so dainty.

you know that a day at the zoo with
7 adults and 5 kiddos who are ALL related
means there will be more than just animal photos…

let’s start with this one of papa and cousin A:


while we ate a light lunch,
we watched the howling monkeys sleep (no photos),
the GIANT pelicans chill (again, no photos),
and some turtles sun themselves on a rock:


(i know, i know,
a photo)!

flamingoes are kinda weird.
and creepy.
it’s their eyes.
and the way their legs fold backwards….
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zebras are always a winner….


(especially when you tell that cute little girl above that zebras have
purple and green stripes.
and she emphatically tells you they’re black and white.
a few times.
until she looks REALLY CLOSELY at the zebra
and sees the dirty areas underneath (on the belly)
where it was in the dirt.
and she says “oh, yeah Auntie Tam,
I think you’re right!
There IS a little bit of green and purple on the white!”
for real.
5 year olds are the best!
(don’t worry.
I did tell her i was just kidding and the zebra’s stripes
are black and white
AND i told her the dirty spot from the dirt was brown).


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there was more papa and cousin A love:


this girl got a kick out of reading the new map all day:


we stopped for a giant bag of kettle corn
(i’m not a fan of that stuff,
but for some reason,
at the zoo,
it always tastes good to me!)

and as we were working our way to our final loop,
some of the howling monkeys were awake and moving
but not howling:

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we found the new tiger exhibit,
which is really cool.
and it means there are now TWO tigers at the zoo instead of one:

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and the komodo dragon is always a hit with the Munchkins:

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we even got to see him on the move!

the orangutan habitat has always been fun.
when grandpa & grandma were here just over a year ago,
there was a brand new baby (like a day old).
and now,
that baby is still cute
but is a little bit bigger….

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Monkey Village is a winner for those who choose to enter
(grandma/nama, auntie Tam, Davey, Cousin A, and Uncle/BIL Tom).

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the spider monkeys are pretty fun to watch.

the Forest of Uco
was disappointing
since the Andean bears were off exhibit.
but i did get to capture this photo of Uncle Tom and Alex getting some good bonding time:


it cracks me up that the kiddos were all CLOSE
to the macaw but had ZERO interest in the beautiful bird:

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an obligatory COUSIN photo (minus one):


i love the barn owls.
niece/cousin A was SO EXCITED when she finally saw them!


this is another favorite from the day:
they’re checking out tarantulas
and cockroaches
and scorpions
other creepy, crawly things:


these two.
five-year olds can be quite adorable.
they can be exasperating, too.
but THIS is adorable:


my munchkins LOVE their uncle Tom.
with a fierce passion.
it’s hard to have him in chicago.
he’s just so far away.
and we don’t get to see him enough.
i think the last time we saw him was july 2014….
so almost two years ago.

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(i also want to note that i LOVE that my 8-year old will still GLADLY hold hands with his family members….. uncle tom, daddy, mommy…. i will treasure this for as long as it lasts)!

before our adventure was over,
we saw the galapagos turtles
and the elephants.
one elephant.
but that’s another story for another day at the zoo….


and then alex got some extra love from grandpa as we headed to the cars:


back at home,
we just relaxed.
we swam.
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we enjoyed.
we snacked.
we chilled.

grandma/nama visited the hair salon:
she had the CUTEST entourage of hair stylists.
they may only be 5 now,
but one day,
they’ll be AMAZING at what they do!

it was the perfect ending to the day.
dinner was even easy -
frozen burgers on the grill
and peanut butter truffle cookies:

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(i took the food photo AFTER we’d all eaten our fill of burgers
topped with cheese, bacon, onion, tomatoes….)

alex got some quality time in the big soaker bathtub in the master,
where grandpa&grandma are staying:


and then she and big brother fell asleep on the floor in the living room
while the grown ups talked….

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it was a long,
adventure day.

the Dunkins in the Desert: Day Three


vacations with extended family can be fun.
this one most certainly is.
everyone is in shock at the house we’re using.
it’s about 7000 sq ft of amazingness.
it’s truly a blessing that we get to use it this week.
we are all so very, very thankful.

when i walked downstairs this morning for my breakfast,
i found Uncle S at the table with all the cousins.


and then i heard my son shout “GRANDPA!” and go racing across the room….
i just happened to be by my camera (for reals)
and was able to snap this photo of my littlest welcoming grandpa to our vacation:

right after i took this photo,
she jumped up and down and said “i’m so glad you came here!”

the morning was relaxing as we all breakfasted on whatever, whenever.
and we enjoyed the sunshine.
and the cousins played and laughed and giggled and ran….

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lunchtime with 5 kiddos and 7 adults can be a bit crazy.
this large kitchen makes it easier:


and then the men (plus davey) were off on a grand adventure…..

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it was a first time visit for everyone.
well, maybe not Uncle S.
he may have gone to one in atlanta one time.
but it was a first time for all the rest.

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(thanks for these photos, honey!)

while the men were off playing,
quite literally,
the girls (plus Cousin W who was too little to tag along) enjoyed some quiet time at the house before hitting the pool.
grandma & alex assembled all the puzzles that keep getting dumped out:


i found piles of shoes and toys everywhere,
alerting me to the reality that EVERYONE is having FUN:

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and then i spent the early afternoon reading a book by the pool.
it might be a family reunion,
but it’s vacation time, too!

and then the guys returned.
and the littlest woke from his nap.
and the dads and uncles and grandpas all got in the pool.

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and there was LOTS of jumping from above the cave/waterfall.

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uncle S used to be on a diving team, i think.
(did i tell you this already?
i’m so old i’ve already forgotten.
and i’m too lazy to go back and look).
so he pulled out some old moves….

the handstand dive:

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and the front pike flip
(yes, i’m making up the names):

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and a back flip:

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and another handstand dive:

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and a hand stand:

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he has other tricks….
i’m sure of it.
we may have even seen some of them today.
i can’t possibly photograph EVERYTHING.
can i?!

not to be outdone,
Cousin A wanted to jump in with her daddy:

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and my davey wanted to jump:

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uncle tom hit the slide:

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while these two were oblivious to most of the events happening over the waterfall:


this sweet little guy is Cousin W.
and he LOVES LOVEs LOVES his papa.
he pretty much wants nothing to do with anyone else when Papa is around.
(it melts my heart a bit).

and not to be outdone by his (younger) BIL,
my man got in on the fun jumping action.
dave did several jumps.
but he really surprised me when i went to take photos of him JUMPING and, instead, caught THIS:

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front flip.
full rotation.

uncle tom did an impressive spin jump:

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everyone kind of meandered their way out of the pool area and back into the house
as though we were all on the same schedule….
the cousins played and made messes (and cleaned some of them).
and then the cousins found themselves on the couch with grandpa & grandma,
enjoying some Faithlife TV
(until R and I discovered the show might be a little too realistic for the littles, at which point we caught the attention of the grandparents to change the show….. and it turns out the grandparents had been napping!)


S&R made us a DELICIOUS thai meal (3 dishes!)
that was so tasty i have zero photos to share with you.
for reals.
no photos.
but that food is all in my belly.
and it was goooooood!

tomorrow is the zoo.
and more swimming.
because when you have access to a heated pool,
you use it.

the Dunkins in the Desert: day TWO

monday was a low key day.
not all the guests had arrived.
my SIL is battling a gnarly head cold.
the plan was a very kid-friendly hike.
dave left his hiking shoes at home.
my SIL was finally ready to visit urgent care.

so the men and the kids stayed at home in the morning
while my SIL and i visited urgent care and walmart.
and we all spent the afternoon by the pool.
there’s not much better.


Nephew, say “CHEESE!”

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sweet Niece LOVES the water.
and jumping off the rocks:


i just like relaxing….


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and then, to get the kids and men out of the house for a bit,
we drove to our home to show the family our place (they’ve never seen it before).
and then we headed out for dinner at one of our favorite downtown restaurants.
the service wasn’t the greatest.
in fact, it was downright S L O W.
but the food was still tasty.

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and WHILE we were at the restaurant,
we kept getting texts from family members at various airports.
so while we enjoyed our meal,
family members were on airplanes.
tee hee.
the irony is not lost on me!

once we were home (later than intended),
it was bedtime for the Munchkins:

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and i may have fallen asleep on the couch waiting to make an airport run.
and then dave and i headed out to different airports to pick up family.
and he beat us home.
how did that happen?!
but shortly before midnight,
we were all under the same roof.
tom arrived from chicago.
dad & mom arrived from bellingham.
and our seattle family was already here.

now it is REALLY time for the Spring Break Wild Rumpus to begin!