Life in a Flash » capturing life one moment at a time.

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  • HELLO.

    I'm Jenn. I'm a full time mom to five. I love photography, Africa, crafts, thrifting, classical music, and this crazy good life God has given me. I spend my days dreaming up decorating solutions while picking Goldfish crackers out of my hair. I like my camera , guacamole, and old stuff. We've got three home grown littles and two who came to us through the miracle of adoption. We are loud and busy. I take lots of photos because I'm fully aware that life happens in a flash...and I don't want to miss it.

  • let’s be friends.

little big girls.

First off…thank you for the many sweet comments about this space.  I am a very lucky girl to have friends and family who care so much about our family.  I was really blown away that so many of you stopped to leave a comment and tell me why you read or how long you’ve been coming to this space.  And now I know it’s not just my Dad (Hi again Dad!) who reads these words.  So THANK YOU!

I have always thought of myself as a mom to little girls.  I had girls first…two of them.  And I was always “the mom with two little girls”.  Then Super Sam came along and he was such a novelty.  I really embraced the whole little girl thing from the moment I found out The Brainiac would enter the world.  I decorated her nursery rhyme bedroom and filled her closet full of pink.  We did the big hair bows and twirly skirts and My Little Ponies.  We have every Barbie movie created, baskets of crazy tights, and more hair do-dads than I care to admit.  I sewed up their clothes or decked them out in Matilda Jane.  They had pink bedrooms and mary janes.  I was the mom with little girls.

I was so very excited to add another little girl to our mix.  And she came to me LITTLE.  She was just a wisp of a thing.  I could grab her up on my hip in an instant when she was scared (which was a lot) and spent the first month carrying her nearly everywhere.  But she didn’t stay little long and I have found that there is a level of grief that comes when you adopt a child this age.  I missed her babyhood.  I missed her toddlerhood.  And although we are experiencing her love of all things girly….those days are slipping by with an alarming rate.  I’m the mom to big girls.  Big girls are pretty rad too.  It’s just different…and it is taking this Mama a bit to adjust.

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When Sunshine came home we threw together a shared space for two little girls.  It was soft and sweet and very girly.  This year they have outgrown the space.  They needed STORAGE in a bad way because…let me tell you…girls have STUFF.  I pinned and dreamed and ultimately decided to keep things in their space on the down low.  I didn’t want to break the bank on this living arrangement as our space is flexible and it won’t be too long before I’m guessing a few girls will want bedrooms on another level.

So we opted for a MINI MAKEOVER.  One that did not require a complete paint job or new furniture.

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I let the girls choose new comforters from Target.  I gave them two choices (both matched their current wall color and were on clearance for under $30).  We added some little dotted sheets and their favorite collection of pillows (gifts from friends and the infamous owl pillows made by The Librarian).  I added homemade memo boards above their beds to corral their special bits and pieces.   And a $9 clip light from Walmart looks almost built in with the chord running behind the memo board.    Add in the tissue poms and they each have a little spot to get away, get cozy,  and read a good book.

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I knew we needed some added storage.  I have had the bookshelves since I was a little girl myself….made by Baboo for my childhood bedroom.  I have been wanting to paint them white for years (shocking I know) and there never seemed to be time to get it done.  It was as time consuming as I assumed it would be….but the end result was perfect!!   He is so ahead of his time.  Those fabric cubes fit PERFECTLY in those bookshelves 30 years after they were made!  I added four bins so the girls have a place to stash some of their junk  treasures.  And then we loaded up the bookcases with a few special books and memorabilia.

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I edited their collection of wall frames to just include the basics (and to tie in the orange in the comforter).

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Their dresser is on the opposite wall and holds all their essentials like pajamas, tights and leggings.  I was able to move a smaller dresser into their walk in closet to contain even more of the clutter.   Also…this is the very important home of their fish!  This side of the room is very simple and uncluttered.  I may hang a few prints on the sides of the mirror…but for now I am enjoying the more minimalist look.  We also added some basic white curtain panels (from Walmart) to the windows with some hot pink pom pom trim that I sewed to the edges!

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The girls were thrilled with their room spruce up.  I miss the vintage sheet quilts.  And I miss the little girls who are growing up so fast right before my eyes.  But I also love the big girls they are becoming.  Girls who are funny and confident and who giggle at night about silly jokes.  Girls who love hot pink and zebra print and peace signs.  Girls who collect little scraps of paper and doodle on everything with sharpie pens.  My little big girls.

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{Most of the new items for this room came from Target:  comforter and sham set, sheets, fabric bins, and floor baskets.  Many of the other items were originally from Target including the turquoise rug and butterfly lamps}

February 4, 2014 - 3:27 pm

Lisa Malizzi - We see your blog all the time. It was bookmarked at the top of the screen–so the boys clicked on it all the time trying to get on ABCmouse.com. 🙂 We love to see your decorating ideas–your house is beautiful. Your children are growing so fast. Kayla misses your family. May the Lord continue to bless your family.

Super sam gets a big boy room.

Someone has been itching for a big boy room.  His room is one of the few rooms in the house that had not been painted since we moved in.  He reminded me of this almost daily.

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It started with a couple of super hero signs and a can of paint and quickly grew into a complete overhaul.   Who me?

The first order of business was paint and bead board.  The walls were a light brown/dark tan originally and I was NOT sad about seeing that color go.   I trimmed and rolled up 2 coats of Sherwin William’s Granite Grey down past the line for the bead board.  Then Mr. P cut the bead board and trim, installed it, caulked it…and handed me back my brush.  I rolled on another coat of SW’s Creamy White (I rolled with a roller brush and then laid off each plank by hand with a paintbrush which is essential if you want a nice smooth finish).

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So let’s get down to some of the details.  The big request by the resident Super Hero of the house was a super hero big boy room.  My mission was to keep it classic and “un-themed” enough to grow with him for the foreseeable future.   We started by collecting the furniture we wanted to use.  We had purchased this twin sized platform for Danny Boy before we realized he was not twin bed material.  Since changing his bed we have been using it down in the play room for guests.  The white bookshelf (Pottery Barn knock off made by my Father in Law) and the pine bookshelf (garage sale) were already in the room.  My mom gave me the two metal lockers (leftover from decorating her cabin) which have been hanging out in our store room for the past year.  By cutting down and staining a large pine board we were able to put together a cheapo little desk for my little man!

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I had my sight set on THIS COMFORTER cover from IKEA.  And I had several people graciously offer to send it to me.  But without seeing it in person I just couldn’t make up my mind.  I’m a touch and feel kind of shopper.  I happened across this Nautica duvet cover at Bed Bath and Beyond on clearance (purchased for $24  marked down from $99).  When I ran into the clearanced yellow/grey pillows at Target I knew I had a winner!  (The yellow body pillow came in a two pack for $8.  The color blocked pillow and chevron pillow were on clearance for $7.88)
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I had the grey curtains hung in Danny’s room (he inherited the transportation bedding/curtains that came out of this room as they coordinated well with his furniture).  The curtains just required a quick hem.  Then I had some fun ransacking my house looking for some fun accessories to fill in the gaps.

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The little desk area is probably my favorite spot in the room.  I like the mix of metals and woods with a few pops of colors.  We had the yellow chair hanging out in the store room leftover from my photography business (raise your hand if you have a photo of your munchkin on this chair?  Oooh me! me!)   The lamp is from Gordmans.  The little white shelf is curtesy of my Papa and has always hung in some room of my house since we lost him right before The Brainiac was born.  I used an old 7up crate to coral some art supplies, a chalkboard, some old books, and Super Sam’s first lovie made by The Librarian to round out the space.

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On the other side of the room is a simple pine bookcase loaded up with a few favorite toys and books.  I’m sure this will never stay this tidy.  And I’ve already been reprimanded for putting a few BAD GUYS in with the wrong crowd.  I love containers.  End of story.

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I think Super Sam’s favorite space in his new room is his super comfy bed and his metal wall organizer where he can display all his “guys”.

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These prints were the inspiration for the room.  I loved the colors and details and the fact that they are mounted on wood and look very vintage in person.  {Does anyone else want to climb through the computer screen and fix that left picture…OH MY WORD…my OCD is in full swing here!}

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I’ve debated adding a bit of scrapbook paper to the backs of some of these cubbies so “his guys” stand out a bit more.  I’m sure there will be much tweaking of the room to come in the coming weeks.  I’m still looking for/debating a rug.  I think adding some color on that big expanse of light carpeting would be nice.  I originally purchased THIS RUG but it did not play nicely with the bedding so it went back to the store.  {Although I did adore the rug and think some of you should definitely purchase it for your home….it is really an amazing little find!}

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I’ve already added several chalkboard metal hooks to the left of the window for hanging up his clothes when there is a call of distress.  For now…his ulterior persona costumes are stored in a wire basked near the window for easy flying access.

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Kids rooms are really fun.  Especially for little boys who still give lots of hugs and tell you that you are the “best mommy in the whole wide world”.   Hope my little super hero has many afternoons of life saving adventures here!

February 3, 2014 - 2:11 pm

Julie - I love that space, so colorful and fun (and I love the mixed materials). The desk is inspiring me to do something like that for my boys. I am sure your super heroes will have a wonderful time here 🙂

February 3, 2014 - 5:20 pm

Paige - My big guys would tell you it is not always easy to separate the good guys from the bad guys, although I also had bins with those names on them. Think about Hulk, I mean sure he’s a good guy because he helps people, but to do that he must get angry, turn green, get muscles and rip his clothes. Seriously love the room and love, love, love that the supersam lovie found a home there!

February 5, 2014 - 9:48 pm

Kathryn - Your sense of style just *amazes* me. You have such a knack for pulling things together and making it all look fabulous!! Love the 2 room makeovers!

I quit blogging.

So this month I quit blogging.  I’ve blogged every few days since January of 2008.  Maybe I ran out of things to say.  Maybe it was the flu that hit hard and then a thousand other things that piled up.  Maybe I just got lazy.

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As the days wore on and turned into a few weeks I really started to think about this space and whether I wanted to continue to pour out my thoughts here.  I don’t have thousands and thousands of readers.  I’m not doing amazing giveaways or giving profound advice or life changing gluten free recipes.  I’m not a professional decorator, an adoption expert, or a child rearing guru.  I began to feel like I didn’t really have anything worth giving.  I am three years behind on printing my blog books.  My kids are getting bigger.  I’m no longer advertising for a thriving photography business.

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But I just couldn’t throw in the towel.  As I sat down to read through those early posts, I realized that I was blogging for me and my family.  Not for my readers (however few they are…Hi Dad!)  I was blogging to carve out a few memories.  I was blogging to show my kids how much they mean to me and how fleeting are the days of their childhood.

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So I’m moving forward.  I hope you’ll stick around and read on occasion.  We are working on a lot of projects in our house right now…some big…some small.  I’m contemplating a business endeavor.  We are making important decisions regarding Danny’s care.  I’m still hunting down deals at Target and getting my craft on from time to time.  My kids are still funny, and weird, and unruly.  And I’ve promised myself that I will document it all.

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See you soon!

January 30, 2014 - 12:20 pm

Ann - Jenn I love your blog. One of the few I still read actually. 🙂 I’m glad you’re continuing and excited to hear about your new endeavor!

January 30, 2014 - 12:28 pm

Ann B - Jenn, I love your blog! I love reading about how Sunshine is adjusting to life. I love hearing about what is going on with Danny, because you never know when something like that could be diagnosed for someone elses child. It is nice to see how a real family deals. I love reading about how all your violin players are progressing. I love the real stories about being a mom. I am overwhelmed by all the things you do, when I am struggling trying to work and find energy to be mom when I get home. And my child is only 2 months old, and he is only one child!

In short, please keep blogging!
Ann

January 30, 2014 - 12:31 pm

Rebekah McGee - Whew… at first I thought you were going to stop, I’m so glad you are going to keep at it! Your blog is encouraging to me, as my little boy is very like Danny and I love to “look ahead” and see what life can look like one day. You don’t have to be an expert for your posts to be meaningful! I have been encouraged by your faithfulness and in the way you remind me that the daily accomplishments are worth celebrating. Keep writing! 🙂

January 30, 2014 - 1:03 pm

Bobi Bobbitt - Whew!! You scared me there for a second. Thought you were throwing in the towel! I love keeping up with you and your sweet family through the blog. Glad you are going to keep it up! And by the way…. See you next week!!!!!

January 30, 2014 - 1:06 pm

Charlotte - So happy you will not stop blogging! You have no idea how often I check in to read updates all the way from Toronto, Canada. I feel like you guys are almost part of our family!

January 30, 2014 - 1:47 pm

Sheri C - I’m glad you are not quiting! I love your blog. It is so real, real life, real kids. As a mom with a non-perfect life and non-perfect kids I can relate. Plus I enjoy watching you fix up your house, it inspires me with mine! I agree with what everyone else has said – you are inspiring. 🙂 I will read as long as you care to share your world with us. Be blessed!

January 30, 2014 - 1:59 pm

Melissa C - So glad you are not quitting. Even though we don’t know each other in real life, your family is an inspiration to mine. Your children playing the violin encouraged me to start my daughter in violin lessons. Your decorating style to me is timeless and the smiles that light up in the pictures that you take, show how genuine of a family that you are. I agree with Sheri C, I will read as long as you care to share.

January 30, 2014 - 2:04 pm

Kate - I read your blog all the way from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I love it because you are real – no ads, giveaways, and fluff.

January 30, 2014 - 2:50 pm

Audrey - Jenn, I’ve been enjoying your blog, I believe, since you brought Danny home. I’m a silent reader and haven’t commented in a long time. As someone who has always toyed with wanting to adopt, I love reading about your family. And I love your projects! It sometimes inspires me to get off my butt and do something new to my house. I’m glad you’re not throwing in the towel just yet. And perhaps my favorite thing is that you don’t advertise and don’t do many giveaways. It’s just real and from the heart.

January 30, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Coy - I’m so glad. I have a very special place in my heart for Danny boy! And I love watching him grow in your blog.

January 30, 2014 - 4:30 pm

Amy - You are one of my few “check every day” blogs. I’ve been bummed this whole month that you haven’t blogged as much as usual! I am so glad that you will continue to blog.!

January 30, 2014 - 5:34 pm

Wendy - I would be so sad if you quit 🙁 I love to read your blog – I wish I had your talent on how you write and express yourself. I get excited when I am on FB and see you have posted something and cannot wait to rush over and read it. I often wish I had the ability to write like you and chronicle my families lives – I tend to forget those special moments and you have this incredible diary/blog of your littles life events.

January 30, 2014 - 5:43 pm

Kim - If you stop blogging I would just sit down and cry big fat ugly tears. Please keep going!!!

January 30, 2014 - 8:10 pm

magaret - I was so glad to see your post today. I was worried something had happened to you or one of your children. I don’t comment often, but I’ve been reading your blog for almost five years; I think since Sam was born. I love reading about your kids and your decorating and your projects. There are a few blogs I check everyday, and yours is one of them. So glad you decided to keep blogging!

January 31, 2014 - 6:57 am

Keshia - I echo the same sentiment. I come to your blog weekly all the way from sunny (though presently raining) Florida. I love that you’ve adopted 2 little ones and that you have a large family like mine. I like your decorating shares too! Keep blogging; more than just your Dad reads your post

January 31, 2014 - 9:03 am

Gretchen - I love seeing all that you and your family is up to. I live in the cornfields as well and adoption is part of our family also. Adoption is such a beautiful thing and yet such a minor part of our family but I still feel a connection to other families who share an adoption connection. Thank you for sharing. Your family is beautiful.

January 31, 2014 - 9:40 am

Jessica - I absolutely love your blog! I’m just a random fan from MS and somehow stumbled upon it. Love when you redo or update something in your house! Love your style! Your kids are adorable. Keep blogging 🙂

January 31, 2014 - 10:37 am

Julie B - Welcome back to blogging! I for one (and I’m not a family member LOL) miss you when you don’t blog. But I totally get it, sometimes it seems like pushing too hard when you can’t come up with a post, I have the same issues on my blog, so it’s better just to let it go. However I appreciate your randomness and updates on the kids. You are the best “dabbler” so wear that badge with pride and know that there are many who enjoy reading your thoughts and seeing your phonography as well as your “big girl” camera pics!
Blessings!

January 31, 2014 - 10:46 am

Kathryn - I’m glad you’re not giving up your blog. It’s one of the few that I regularly peek in on. I enjoy your writing style, your awesome sense of style and your adorable growing family. Most of all, I appreciate your heart to serve and love the Lord in the “everyday.” I’ll keep reading–even if you don’t even know me. It’s just proof that somebody besides “Dad” is reading. 🙂

January 31, 2014 - 3:21 pm

Ruth - I love your blog and probably mostly because of the reasons you blog…

”I realized that I was blogging for me and my family. Not for my readers (however few they are…Hi Dad!) I was blogging to carve out a few memories. I was blogging to show my kids how much they mean to me and how fleeting are the days of their childhood.”

you blog authentically and that is what makes it one of my favourites. You are positive and creative with beautiful photography and cute kids wearing colourful clothes and a stunning inspiring home. you have a wonderful family ethos and I love your creativity. I’ll keep reading! Ruth in NZ mom to 6 bios and one foster baby

January 31, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Jill Kort - I’m so glad you are going to keep blogging! I have been checking almost daily for an update on the Cooper family this month! I’ve been reading your blog since beginning our own adoption journey nearly 4 years ago. I don’t know if you remember, but we met in the Ethiopian airport when you were bringing home Danny and shared a flight back to DC. I’m afraid I might have appeared like a stalker when we met – I was a little star-struck!! Short of meeting my son – meeting you was a highlight of trip #1 to Ethiopia! HA!! We share Nebraska roots, similar family composition (you out number me by 1 now), and love of photography! Thanks for sharing your family (and decorating tricks). I will keep on reading for as long as you keep on sharing!

January 31, 2014 - 8:56 pm

Kym - Please, please don’t go! I’ve been following your blog here from Oz since Super Sam was born & have prayed, cried and laughed along through all the ups and downs since. Your blog is the first one I go to every few days. So please keep going, Instagram isn’t enough 😉

January 31, 2014 - 10:03 pm

Jen W - Glad you’re sticking around 🙂

January 31, 2014 - 10:15 pm

Cara Kapp - I’m so glad you’re back – I’m reading your blog all the way from South Africa. Was checking everyday a new post. Welcome back 🙂

January 31, 2014 - 11:50 pm

MarinaM - I too was going to be sad to see you go!! I’m constantly inspired by your crafts and projects! And more than that I am inspired to live for the Lord through all circumstances…especially the tough ones! Your blog is a ministry to me!

February 1, 2014 - 4:10 pm

Natalie - You now know of at least 26 people besides your dad that read. Keep on sharing! I appreciate the things you write and enjoy seeing your photos and decorating projects!

February 1, 2014 - 4:51 pm

JoyLenz - I read every post and I have never met you! (I found your blog because I was your nephews’ preschool teacher and followed your sister’s blog.) I’m an adoptive mom (my girls are from China) and I love following other families through the adoption process. And along the way, I often fall in love with a family. Yours is one! I think about and pray for you and your kiddos often.

February 3, 2014 - 1:05 pm

Sarah Wolfe - I’ve been your faithful reader since 2009! Please don’t stop… I would feel like I lost a far away friend even though I’ve never met you! I love reading about your family and you inspire me to get things done, because I so rarely do 🙂 Your pictures are amazing. Your sweet kiddos and your love for them and your husband shines through these pages!

February 20, 2014 - 9:28 am

Shawna - Sooo glad to see you are back! I’ve been checking and checking. Honestly there are two blogs I check when I have the time. {I used to check 15ish a day} There is something about your realness, honestly, adorable kids and faith. {Oh and the biggest… So I can stalk your house!} I have two girls {10 and 7} and I love to see how yours dress and the things you do with them. I used to blog so I know how time consuming it can be, but I’ll keep on reading and being inspired for as long as you are here 🙂

on 9 months home.

Nine months.  Long enough to have grown inside my own belly…that’s how long she’s been a Cooper.  And she has wiggled and scooched and squirmed her way deep into our hearts even though she came to us in a completely different way.

Month Nine was a good month.  I was geared up for trauma…felt it lurking right behind my shoulders like a little whisper full of all the “what ifs”.  What if she remembers all the anxiety of meeting us last year at this time.  What if the holidays with all the present giving and sugar eating are just too much.  What if she hates me when she realizes I just couldn’t buy the Lalaloopsy doll with the giant bobble head to put under the tree?

But in true Sunshine Style…she amazed us.  There was grumpiness.  Some sass.  A few choice words here and there.  But generally speaking…my girl rocked Month Nine.

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She is basically ALWAYS game for a good time.  The fact that nearly every day in December held a special something…was just right up her alley.  She adored the parties.  The cookies.  The carols.  All the hoopla that is Christmas in America was hers for the taking.

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This month we embraced her natural hair again.  This has been touch and go but was necessary and she is learning to enjoy her little afro.  It is spunky and a bit wild just like her.  She’s rocking the sparkly headbands and little puffs.  She’s still asking for the braids but we are going to hold out for a bit longer.

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She has a crazy, wild imagination.  This has been one thing that has shocked me.  So many children who come from hard places don’t know how to play.  Because they were forced to grow up too quickly…that skill was never learned.  But this girl just comes up with the most harebrained games and scenarios.   On Christmas Eve she climbed into some empty boxes and headed right out to outer space.  So thankful that God protected her childhood in this way.

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The sister bond is growing….especially between Sunshine and Miss Middle.   They are playing together more and more and really starting to appreciate each other!

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Month Nine was full of so many firsts.  And with every first comes a tiny breath of grief.  I see her face light up at the sight of her decorated gingerbread house and I wish I had known those chubby cheeks as a toddler.  When she pads down the hallway in her pajamas on Christmas Eve…I long for the memory of her tucked into her crib in her footie sleeper.  When I lay on the couch with her watching a movie…I regret not knowing the weight of rocking her to sleep.   When teeth poke through I wonder if she was a fussy baby.  When she sings on stage in front of the entire church dressed as an angel…my heart aches to see her wrapped in a blanket fresh at birth.  The grief of missing her babyhood shocks me.  So I focus on the first.  We make new memories and try to fill her life with experiences now that will carry her through.

06-IMG_1112She’s a special girl…this party animal.

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January 11, 2014 - 1:48 pm

Kristin W - My son also rocks the imaginative play world. Much more so than my USA kids. I often wonder if it is because he didn’t have toys, so had to play with rock, sticks, or discarded items. While that makes me sad to think about, I’m glad he developed that skill. Even my other kids are learning from him. And, where did you get those magnet letters?

Christmas recap.

A few more photos from our Christmas celebrations!

The kids on our way out the door for our Christmas Eve service…even Latte got into the photo!

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These two….had outfits laid out for them and they snuck off for a bit…and changed into last year’s Christmas dresses so they could match!

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My sweet tween that is growing up WAY TOO FAST!

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Christmas jammies and ready to get to bed and dream of sugar plums.

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Reading the story of Christ’s birth.

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Pretty lights!

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Stockings stuffed!

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Lots of little hands ready to help do some baking.

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I made a conscious effort to take a photo with each of the littles while we made our gingerbread houses.  This is one of the kids’ favorite traditions every year!

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Girly girls!

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The aftermath!!  YIKES!

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Does anyone else think they are looking more and more alike?

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Lots of family time playing games and watching movies!  You haven’t played Headbanz until you’ve played with an English language learner!!

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Me and My Gaga.

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Cousin time!

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We hosted my entire family (minus a few who couldn’t make it)…so fun to have everyone under one roof for at least one day!!

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Just hanging with her Mimi!

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It is safe to say it was an amazing holiday!   The trees are down and we’ve already started a bit of organizing and sorting and purging…looking forward to the New Year!