Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Our Story, Part XV: "Never Been Done Before"

Picking back up where we left off with the Our Story series. 

Note: I must confess, this has very little to do with "our story" and more to do with me rehashing how we planned the best day ever!

By the time 2005 came to a close I had finished my degree, moved back into my parents' house and was engaged to a man who was now deployed until a few weeks before our wedding.  I had 4 months to pull off the biggest event of my life.  But time wasn't my only budget.  I was flat-broke and jobless after graduation.  I had just enough money to buy a wedding band for my future-husband and a few odds and ends for my honeymoon and new life as a wife.  My parents were gracious enough to give us a wedding fund.  It wasn't too much, about one-fourth of the average cost of a wedding in 2006, but let's be honest, weddings have gotten a bit out of control over the past 30 years!  I was grateful for any little bit and totally up to the challenge of planning my dream day on a shoestring budget.

So the first thing I did was hire my decorator friend Megan to do all the hard work for me.  Best. decision.ever.  Not only does Meg have amazing talent and an eye for design but she can be frugal with a capital "F."  That girl was cutting corners that I didn't even know existed.  By the start of 2006 I was exhausted, stressed and ready to move on with my new life.  So it was easy to turn things over to someone else and let her deal with all the details.  Oh the details, I think they're what makes a wedding so special!
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I have a little shadowbox where I display all my wedding things.  Correction, I have a little shadowbox where I plan to display all my wedding things, but after 6 years have not gotten very far...
We decided the unofficial theme of this wedding would be "Never Been Done Before" (NBDB).  Now this may sound strange to many of you, but Jon and I grew up in the same church.  We're very close to our church family, even though it's a fairly large congregation (at least by Central PA standards).  And when you're part of a large, close church family, you have a lot of weddings (and subsquently babies)... I think there were five weddings within one year of ours.  And when you have that many young couples getting married in the same location - the same rural location, all trying to save money, well things can get a bit repetitive.  And not that all those other brides didn't have their own special touches, because they certainly did and I have such fond memories of the gazillion weddings I've attended back home.  But our goal was to try and do as many unique things as possible.  Not only for myself, but also for the large majority of our guests who would be attending five other weddings in the same location as ours that year.

Of course, one look at my budget and I'm sure Meg was thinking that was the first "never been done before"!  But we made it work!  She made all my "paper stuff" herself.  The invitations, RSVP cards, menus, placecards, "Meet the Wedding Party" books (okay, this was one thing that had been done before, I stole this idea from my friend Jenn!), programs, favor tags, etc.  But not only did she make them herself, she also waited until all the materials went on sale and then bought them with a coupon.  La!, a girl after my own heart!

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The invitations


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Monograms were "done before."  Megan made up this little design and we lovingly dubbed it "the duogram." NBDB.

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Ceremony program

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Meet the Wedding Party booklet - We put one of these at each table.  It had a picture and short paragraph about each person in the wedding party.
I actually got my dress before my budget.  Which was probably a good thing, because it did not fit within "The Knot's" suggested percentage of total budget.  Oops.  It wouldn't have made a difference, this was the dress for me.  I saw it in a magazine and, a story you rarely hear, I actually liked it even more after I tried it on. It was the first one I picked out and my dress search did not last very long after that.  It was also on sale. Oh, and it was huge.

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Photo Credit:  David Miller Photography
Something new ... or something huge!
After much going back and forth I finally decided on a champagne, mauve and taupe color palette.  It seemed to fit well with our early-spring date and the candlelit evening setting we were planning on.  I thought I was being all unique and out-of-the box with champagne dresses.  Well, no.  Two other people I know that year did the same thing.  I tried.  And just in case you think I'm all about saving money just for myself, the bridesmaid dresses were plain strapless A-line gown on clearance, to which we added halter straps (using materials from the included shawls) and a sash.  And the best part was you could shorten it and wear it again!  Okay, just kidding about that last part.  (Best, most relatable movie line ever!!). I even ran around to every Payless shoe store in a 50 mile radius and got them all matching shoes on clearance.  I don't think they were comfortable, but they all matched!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Now there was one thing about the venue that could not be changed regardless of how often it had been done before, and that was the church itself. 

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Our beloved church is actually a converted movie theater.  It's very pretty, but not very wedding-chapelesque.  One issue is that there is no center aisle. (This bugs some people more than me, but personally, I kind of like the idea of twice as many people getting up-close looks at the dress as you walk down and up the aisles!)  Plus it's where we hold church on a weekly basis.  So there are intruments, speakers, and cords lying around.   And huge flags representing all the many missionaries and countries we support.  And no windows.  And a set-in-stone color scheme. 

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
What it really comes down to is that having a wedding at the church is free, and having a wedding at some other church or place is not. Unless it's outside, and that was out of the question on March 25.  So we just tried to take the focus off the surroundings and things we couldn't change, and keep it front and center.  We also wanted to recreate "the little white chapel" look.  So "Mr. Megan" made these four wooden panels to use as a background on stage, and we hung a wreath on each one. 

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Something borrowed - the candle holders, from my dear friend Melody, who would have been in my wedding party had she not been on a mission trip in Ukraine.

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Our wedding opened up with sweet, little girl dancers.
Megan also got some pretty, iridescent champagny-like material and made some sort of swag thing.  And since it was March, and the dogwoods are blooming, and dogwoods have a touch of mauve, well they became our floral decor of choice throughout the church.

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
A long, loooooonnnnggg time ago someone in my church got married and had these pretty, tall wooden candlesticks made that could attach to the end of each row.  I have distinct memories of these candlesticks.  There was one particular wedding (way back in the 90's) in which a chunk of wax fell from one of the candles and caught a seat on fire. From then on brides had to go with battery-operated lights in the candlesticks. It didn't matter to me anyway because, you guessed it, these had been done before.  We decided to re-think the candlesticks.  Instead, we raised them up on bricks and used them to hang a swag across the aisle.  A bunch of dogwoods in each corner and some chandelier prisms that Megan found online and our aisle embellishments were complete. NBDB!

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My in-laws did the traditional thing and bought me my bouquet.  But for the rest of the wedding party and in the church we cut costs by ordering flowers in bulk from Wegman's (yes, the grocery store).  A friend of the family offered to do my arrangements as a gift.  Awesome!  We used mostly roses and alstroemeria (which is one of my favorites!) in the bouquets and around the church.  And just to do something a little different, we twisted pearls onto the end of wire and stuck them in each bouquet as well. 

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Something old - I wrapped my Grandma W.'s pearls around my bouquet.
Oh, and Meg picked up this sweet little butterfly to put in my bouquet for my "something blue." 
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Something blue - my little butterfly.
It actually "flew" out of my flowers at the end of the wedding during a moment of rejoicing.  I thought it had been lost for good but apparently my mom got it somehow and she just returned it to me a few weeks ago.

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"Fly away, sweet butterfly, be free!"
Of course, everyone knows the reception is the real dime-eater.   By the time you pay for all that food there's not much left for decorations.  But Megan pulled it off once again.  Since this was an evening wedding, I really wanted to take advantage of subdued lighting and candlelight.  We bought lots and lots of tea lights and cheap, glass candle holders at AC Moore.  We used these to line across the front of the wedding party table. 

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And then we threw a couple down on each table.  Megan also tossed handfuls of glitter onto the tables for a little added sparkle.  For the centerpieces, Meg glued circular mirrors (from IKEA) to a piece of styrofoam, and attached ribbon around the edge.  We borrowed vases leftover from a previous wedding to set in the middle with bouquets of tulips, which just so happened to be on sale at Wegman's that week! 

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The menus doubled as placecards (also made by Megan) and were slipped into each napkin. 

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And we topped it all off with our handmade favors - white chocolate covered pretzels sprinkled with non-pareils.  (I have vivid memories of making all of these with my mom, G'Ma and Aunt one snowy day in February!)  Each pretzel was in it's own circular container with a sticker on top (Megan-made) that said "We tied the knot! - March 25, 2006." 

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Jon and I grabbed a handful of these to snack on en route to our honeymoon, which is why this one is missing a pretzel.
And then there was the cake.  My mom's cousin made it, and the metal "T" cake topper was forged by another friend.  It was a white cake with raspberry filling and delicious!  I actually didn't get to eat more than the ceremonial one bite that evening (I didn't get to eat much of anything that evening!).  But we did eat the cake top a few years later when we remembered to dig it out of my parents' freezer, and it was still tasty!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Finally, we decided a fun way to bid adieu was with sparklers.  We set candles out around the door to the reception hall and everyone lined up, sparklers crackling, to send us off into our new life as newlyweds!

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Photo Credit: David Miller Photography
Anyway, I'd like to say I was the model bride throughout all this planning, but as my husband often reminds us, I did have one meltdown 3 days before the wedding while we were all decorating the reception hall.  What he tends to leave out are the parts about how I hadn't seen him in several weeks and he was ignoring me, how I was busy doing last minute decorating and he was busy visiting, and how I had just cut my finger on the cake knife (because every bride wants to sport a band-aid on her ring finger during her wedding!).  At least I got it out of my system that night. 

The actual rehearsal went off without a hitch.  And we had so much fun at our rehearsal dinner, taking  a break from wedding "stuff" and just enjoying our closest friends and family that we don't get to see very often.  Every girl's wedding day is the best of her life, but personally I hold my night-before-the-wedding very close to my heart.  It was the last time I'd use my maiden name, my last day as a single woman, the last night I'd live with my parents, and the very last time I'd have to say goodbye to the love of my life at the end of the night. 

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Surprisingly I slept well on March 24, 2006.  And I woke up early the following morning ready to turn the page on another chapter - my marriage.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Big Planes and Big Boats

We had a special treat last weekend - Marmie, Poppa and (in Jack's words) "two friends" came to visit and have dinner.  I was a bit nervous because one half of the "two friends" has two sweet daughters and two equally sweet grandaughters... and she was about to spend a day with my two extremely excited little boys!  Eek! 

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Eagerly waiting for our guests' car to pull up.
It also slipped my mind that we were having our HVAC ducts cleaned that day.  The cleaners assured me that the process would not be dusty, but I don't think they were prepared for what our little, neglected house had to offer.  Because by the time my parents and "two friends" walked through the door, a layer of dust had covered all the rooms that I had just spent the morning cleaning.  And to add to our first impression, there were vents on the floor, trim ripped off the wall, a monsterous vacuum snaking it's way around the house, and two strange men walking in and out of every room.  Ah yes, welcome to our home!

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Thankfully it was a glorious day and Poppa took the boys on a refreshing walk.  And I'm relieved to finally cross "clean the ducts" off our homeowners to-do list!  Everything was put back to order in time for dinner.  Although the kiddos were just a wee bit excited to have guests, they were fairly well-behaved.  What we didn't know was that a few days earlier Jack and Jude had been "playing" in the guest room and somehow set the alarm clock to go off at 12:30am.  So the boys managed to cause a ruckus hours after they had gone to bed.   Never a moment's peace I tell you!

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It's amazing this loaf of bread turned out okay!


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Jon took our guests to the airport the following morning so they could fly out and catch their cruise. And then he left later in the week for the west coast.  Yes, that's right.  While Jon was enjoying sunny California and my parents were soaking up the gorgeous Caribbean weather... I was in Maryland, managing three children.

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We decided to make the best of this misfortune and learn a little geography lesson.  First, Jack and I pulled out his trusty Sesame Street Word Book (that's fallen apart and been taped together on several occasions!) to point out the "big plane" that Marmie and Poppa (and two friends!) got on to take them to the "big boat" that would sail out in the ocean.

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And then we put together his United States map puzzle and found California (where Daddy's plane flew), Florida (where Marmie and Poppa got on a boat), Virginia (where we used to live when Jack was a baby), Maryland (where we live now) and Pennsylvania (where Mommy was a princess).  Don't ask me where that last one came from, I tried to tell him Pennsylvania was where Nonnie and Poppie live, where his aunts, uncles and cousins are, where we go to visit all the time, where Mommy and Daddy grew up.  But for some reason he got it into his head that I used to be a princess in Pennsylvania and when Jack gets stuck on something that's the end of it. 
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We did make it through the week unscathed.  It certainly helped having a few warmer days, a fun playdate on the books and Jack's best day of school EVER.  (Phew, so glad to finally be gaining ground there!!) 

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Re-enacting the planting of the blackberry bush.
We're thankful to all be healthy this week (here's to saving money in tissues!), happy to have Marmie and Poppa only a phone call away (I can't tell you how many times I had to stop myself from calling one of them with a question last week), and glad to have Daddy home for dinner in the evenings (and not just because I hate throwing out leftovers!).  Now, I think it's my turn to go on a trip!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happiness and Head Control

If you're a parent, friend of a parent, or anytime reader of this blog, you are probably well aware - babies grow fast.  Too fast.

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Julia's Gap tunic - $1 at the kiddie consignment store.  (I'm jealous.)

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I'm jealous of her moccasins too.
It seems like I just gave birth.  I keep having to remind myself she's not a newborn any longer, she's so 5 months ago.  She's "filling out", "coming into her looks", and all those other cliches that people say.  And holding up her head.  It's obvious she's enjoying the new vantage point.  Then again, Julia is happy all the time.  It's easy to win her smile ... unless I'm behind the camera.

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Since she's doing so well with keeping her head from wobbling and has been sitting in the Bumbo for longer and longer, I decided this week would be a good time to test out the Jumper.  Actually, this had little to do with Julia and more to do with me desperate to find something to keep the boys entertained so I could make lunch.
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Can you just imagine the scene?
And were they entertained!  Jude couldn't stop laughing, and slapping his thighs, and jumping, and laughing again.  And Jack was more than proud to perfect his "gentle" bounce.  And the little girl we did this all for?  Well, she didn't seem to care either way and just basked in the extra attention.

When simply bouncing and twirling was no longer enough Jack decided to bring out the puppets.  All 5 of them.  And then he proceeded to introduce Julia to each of them by name.
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"Hi Jew-wee-uh, my name is Charlie the Horse!"
She withstood this "entertainment" just as well.
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"Hi 'Little Sweeite' want a kiss?"
I often say Julia is a happy and content baby, but I think I'll be adding a new word to her repertoire: TOLERANT.
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"Charlie gonna eat your hair!"
She takes an awful lot from these two fellas. 

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Can you spy Jack's fat lip and Jude's fat nose?  Weekend casualties.
Speaking of the boys, Jack told Jude he was his best friend the other day.  It touched my heart. ... A few hours later he told his toy rhino that he was his best friend, and the giraffe, and the lion ...  But really, he does love his "little buddy" Jude. 

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"Cheeee!"
While they're not so good at sharing toys or getting along inside the house, they seem to really hit it off once they're out of doors.  And we've had some great opportunities to spend time outside lately.  I'm all about snow and cozy winters, but I can't deny that I haven't appreciated these warmer temperatures.  I'll take huge winter storms a few years from now, when my boys can put on their own snowpants and keep their gloves on their hands.  For now, the less work it takes to get all three kids out the door the better! 


I took this video specifically to catpure, for all time, Jude's swagger.  I just love that swinging arm!

Lately, Jack's activity of choice is football.  He's actually quite good at catching the ball.  Much better than I was at his age, or any age really.  He also likes it when I chase after him and the ball.  But heaven forbid I actually catch him, or get the ball out of his hands.  He usually stamps his foot, screeches "You can't take the baaaaaallll, Mom!" and then is back to running again the moment he gets it back.

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And then at some point the ball ends up in an area of our landscaping that Jack refers to as "the volcano" and suddenly it's my responsibility to retrieve it before the the volcano explodes.  So far, I've made it in time, every time. Phew, this mommy business is so much more extensive than I originally thought!

All this football and volcanic activity can wear a mama out. I may have put the little guys to bed 30 minutes early this evening... because I needed a break. But now that I've mastered covert pigskin rescues, it's time to move on to other dilemmas. Like how to remove a loaf of bread from the oven while holding a sleeping baby. Oh motherhood, thy challenges never cease to exist!

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Balentimes" Day

I had such a sweet and precious Valentine's Day (or Balentimes as Jack would say) this year.  It's funny, Jon's been traveling so much lately, we're approaching our 6 year anniversary, and with three little ones running around I'd hardly call these the "honeymoon" years.  I wasn't expecting this Valentine's to be anything special.  But I'm learning to see things through my kids' eyes.  And especially now that Jack is in preschool and seemingly facing a holiday party every other week, I don't want to miss out on any "teachable" opportunities.  No, we don't have a lot of romance going on around here.  But I don't think that's what St. Valentine had in mind anyway.  His story is fairly hazy, but love abounds in so many forms.  And it's safe to say we have a WHOLE LOT of love in this house.  And I don't mind celebrating that a bit.

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Sadly, I didn't get to do much decorating this year.  I'm playing single mom many days, and Julia has finally hit her 4-month growth spurt.  I'm excited to see her flourishing and eager to eat, and after over 2 months of her sleeping through the night I can't really complain about our recent 3am trysts or eating-every-two-hours days.  It will be over soon, but for now it makes for an occupied, tired mama.  So we got one craft accomplished this year: crayon shaving hearts.

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Hubby got me tulips a few weeks ago for no apparent reason (which are now no longer blooming) so I was curious to see what he'd be getting me for Valentine's this year...

I was reminded of these on Pinterest but I must give the real credit to my mom, who used to do something similiar with my brothers and I when we were little.  While not exactly a "toddler-friendly" craft, Jack was a little help with shaving the crayons.  And he was right there next to me as I ironed each piece together.  They're perfect hanging in our sunny kitchen window.  And while these are the only holiday decor in the house, it doesn't really matter because truth be told, we all like to wear our hearts on our sleeves these days.  I swear this little lady has had more kisses in her 4.5 months than most girls get in a lifetime.

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In school, Valentine's Day was my favorite holiday.  I just loved getting my very own "mail" in that lovely foil-covered shoebox.  I guess I'm kinda a "words of affirmation" girl because I would proudly bring that box home each year, spread the Valentines out over a table, and read each of them over and over again.  More than likely over-analyzing each and every Hallmark cliche sentiment.  I thought really hard and long over the Valentines I handed out, and I was sure each of my fellow classmates did as well.  Surely, "be mine?" meant much more than one initially thought!  And then I carefully slid each Valentine into it's own baseball-card-sleeve that I stored in my awesome Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper.  I'm not sure where that Trapper Keeper is today, but I'm quite certain I never threw it out.

So yes, I was looking forward to Jack's Valentines much, much more than he was.  No store-bought sentiments for my guy, I wanted to go all out this year.  I found this cute idea on Pinterest and knew it was perfect for my Monkey-lovin' boy.  Remember "Monkey"?  Well he has multiplied this past year.  We've now added "Mr. Chimp" and "Monchichi" to Jack's bed pals bunch. 

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I'm not sure what you'd call this gang.  They're not exactly lovies.  Half the time we forget to put them in bed with Jack.  And while he sometimes uses a missing monkey as an excuse to not go to sleep right away, he'll also just as often refuse to have them in bed with him.  Regardless, we hold a special place in our hearts for monkeys.  We also try to keep things healthy when possible, so I decided to substitute banana runts for banana chips.  I dried them myself in our dehydrator.  Good thing we had plenty of leftovers after the project because they were a big hit with ALL my guys!

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Surprisingly, this project turned into a great lesson for my preschooler.  The craft is composted entirely of shapes - a big circle, a heart, an oval, and two little circles.  Jack got to practice identifying his shapes and counting how many we had completed, how many were left, how many had fallen on the floor, etc. 

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I would add a dab of glue and he would set the piece on top (and then I would discreetly adjust it when he wasn't looking).  Good times were had by all, and as most of Jack's school friends know, he really is BANANAS for them!

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Jack loves stickers ... all kinds.


And we had to squeeze in a project for our favorite Daddy!  The kids and I have never been to his office, but I have no doubt it's a bit drab.  So we wanted to make him something to help brighten up and give him an excuse to show off his beauitful babies. 

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I love daddy/office decor.  Up until his retirement this past summer my own dad still had, sitting on his desk at work, a construction paper Pirates baseball cap that I made for him in second grade.  After 15 years it was faded and close to crumbling, but he must have thought it was special!  We decided to make our daddy a handpainted picture frame that he can re-use for many more years to come.

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This frame is resting on my Valentine's "bouquet" this year - a blackberry bush!  I'm so excited to plant it!

The beginning of this week was a little tough.  I can't always pinpoint the reason, but some days are just more difficult than others.  But we did manage to have heart pancakes for breakfast (leftover from Jon's batch over the weekend), heart-shaped grilled cheese for lunch, and heart-shaped brownies for dessert at dinner. 

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The boys' plates...


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... and my plate of scraps.


We even got to take a special meal to some church friends that day.  Which was perfect, because all the talk about hearts gave me ample opportunity to discuss what it means to show love and be kind to others.  And while it's often easy to act loving to our friends and neighbors, sometimes it's a little more difficult to do so at home with, oh let's say, our brothers!!  So that's another thing we've been practicing.  But not just showing love to brothers and sisters, saying it too.  Especially when we may have hurt or upset them. 

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Cupcakes for our Small Group dessert.  I tried using a marble to make heart-shaped cupcakes but it didn't work out that well.
So yes, that was our Valentines holiday.  I'm a bit "hearted" out. The hubs is due back any minute and I am very relieved because this single parenting thing is no joke.  It will be nice to have someone else around to clean up the puddle of water on the floor when I forget to lock the refrigerator water dispenser, or another person to help keep food on plates at dinner time, or perhaps I'll even get a few quiet minutes to myself to start planning out the next holiday.  Any ideas on how to tie clovers and leprechauns into being kind to one another?  Because that's the theme we've kinda been stuck on these past few months.  Happy Belated Balentimes from our family to yours!
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