Our Big, Fancy Night Out…

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(Sorry for the terrible pictures, these were all taken with my phone)

This weekend, Joel and I were invited to our city’s annual Black and White Gala, which is a black tie fund raiser for charity. It’s held at the lovely Omni Hotel in Fort Worth, there’s live music, good food, dancing, and a boisterous live auction. We mostly wanted to go just for the opportunity to get dressed up and have a night out. I was super lucky and snagged my little black dress from modcloth.com for a steal!

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Cassidy was fascinated while I was doing my hair, putting my makeup on, and picking out jewelry; she didn’t leave my side until it was time for us to go (honestly, she probably just wasn’t used to seeing her mommy in pretty makeup and nice clothes…she may not have even been sure it was ME!) ;) You can see in the picture how she’s playing with my bracelet- this girl loves jewelry!

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Although we didn’t win any bids (thank goodness- the item Joel was bidding on was a helmet and football signed by Johnny Football and it went for 10 grand! I can think of a LOT $10,000 will buy and none of it involves a football helmet…), we had a really good time. Joel got to mingle and exchange info with the congressman, which was exciting for us small town folks! ;)

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…a couple of nerds. ;)

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    What’s New…

    Hi there! Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I wish I could say it’s because we’ve been busy with this or that, but honestly, I’ve been enjoying way too much time out by the pool to blog! ;) Here’s a little of what’s been going on in our lives lately:

    My birthday was Sunday (same as Father’s Day!), and with it began the last year I’ll spend in my 20′s. I’m pretty sure 29 needs to be an epic year for me. Let’s make it happen, self! Per my request, my birthday was pretty low-key. All I really wanted was an evening out with Joel (…and a slice of chocolate cake as big as my face), so he took my to my favorite steakhouse for dinner, then we went to the Apple store and picked out a new laptop. Also, my in-laws gave me an iPad Mini! I have to say- I love it so much more than the standard iPad!

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    Ah, there’s the big-as-my-face cake….isn’t it a beaut?

    We spent Sunday swimming, eating, and relaxing. That’s all Joel really wanted for Father’s Day, and really, how could you want more than that?

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    World’s best Daddy!

    We’re still in the middle of making tornado repairs. My parents and Joel and I are all having some issues with our crappy insurance companies (thanks for nothing, State Farm…), so we still have tarps on our roofs and tree stumps in our yards. It’s getting ridiculous, but I imagine we’ll get moving soon. Hopefully. My grandparents will begin rebuilding their house this week and I know we’re all anxious to see it finished as soon as possible. Really, we’re all just anxious to forget about all this and never look back.

    As usual, Cassidy is the brightest ray of sunshine in all of our lives. She brings so much joy wherever she goes! Even the grocery store! She waves to everyone (and I mean everyone- it’s amazing to see my little baby wave to a dude you definitely would NOT want to meet in a dark alley and see him smile and wave back to her!). We love taking her to Mexican restaurants and watching her eat her weight in guacamole. I’m telling you- pure sunshine, this kid!

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    We’ve been toying with the idea of taking a short trip to the Texas coast later in the summer. I love the thought of Cassidy playing on the beach! I think it needs to happen…

    Well, that’s really all there is to tell. We’re very boring people, but I like it that way. :)

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      I Will Praise You In This Storm…

      “I will praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands; for you are who you are, no matter where I am. And every tear I’ve cried, you hold in your hand. You never left my side and though my heart is torn, I will praise you in this storm.”

      Before I talk about what we witnessed 2 weeks ago, I’d like to let the people of Moore, OK know that my heart is absolutely broken for them, and we are all praying for them. What we went through pales in comparison to the devastation they’ve suffered.

      The day after the May 15th tornado in Cleburne (that’s where I live, by the way. Now you know.), I wrote down my account of what happened, but since we had no internet for a week, then my blog was hacked (isn’t that lovely?), I haven’t been able to share it with you until now. Here’s the story of how the Cleburne tornado affected my family. All pictures were taken with my iphone and are unedited.

      Wednesday, May 15, 2013.  I sat on my bed that morning, thinking about the weekend, and how we would spend it. Out in the backyard, probably. Maybe have the family over. I made spaghetti for dinner, then Joel and I went to church choir practice. While we were there, they said a hail storm was expected, so we all rushed home to put our cars in the garage.  Somehow, before I knew it, Joel, Cassidy, Izzy, Joel’s parents, and I were all huddled together in the bathroom. A tornado might be coming. I had hunkered in a bathroom or closet many times before and wasn’t too worried. In all honesty, I was a little annoyed at having to get Cassidy out of bed.

      Then we heard a noise. Almost like the humming of an AC unit, but louder. Then it got louder and louder until it became a ferocious roar. Our ears popped and the air was sucked out of the room. It all happened so quickly, but it seemed as if everything was in slow motion. My mother-in-law held Cassidy. I had my arms around Joel’s neck and my cheek against his, frantically whispering prayers. The roar got louder and there were terrifying bangs on our roof. Cassidy got scared and cried so we sang ‘if you’re happy and you know it’ to distract her. I knew it was especially bad when Joel quietly whispered, “I love you” in my ear. He thought we would die that night. Then, silence. I mean, absolute quiet. No wind, no rain. Not. One. Sound. We wondered if it was over, and then the roar came again. More banging and howling. If possible, this time was even more terrifying than the last. Cassidy screamed as our ears kept popping. I prayed for God to protect us until at last, it was all over.

      We grabbed lanterns and walked into the front yard. I couldn’t see anything except for my neighbors’ lanterns dancing in the darkness. I heard frantic voices, “everyone ok?!”.  I ran through the yard in bare feet looking for Joel. There were limbs and roof shingles and pieces of metal everywhere.  As I walked and took in all the damage, I thanked God for the miracle He worked in that tiny bathroom. We were all safe. My family was ok.  Praise God. We were missing some parts of our roof, our trees were ripped apart, and there was an enormous tree in our pool (along with our patio furniture), but all things considered, our damage was minimal.

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      [our street]

      My parents and grandparents were not so lucky. My parents’ living room ceiling collapsed, dumping insulation all over everything. Water seeped into every wall. My grandparents’ house of 41 years collapsed around them. They stood in a tiny hallway along with my parents as the ceilings fell in, windows shattered, and trees were ripped from the ground. By the grace of God, all four of them walked away without so much as a scratch.  The house was absolutely ruined. 41 years of memories gone in an instant. The playhouse my Grandaddy built for my sister and me was smashed against a tree. The carport was completely blown away. The tornado dumped sludge and murky water into their den, ruining treasured pictures, books, and keepsakes. All pictures below are of my grandparents’ house.

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      [Doesn't look too bad from the outside, right?]

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      [after my cousins had gotten all the soggy insulation shoveled away]

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      The next day, as my sister, mother, and I walked over to my grandparents’ house, my sister warned me to brace myself. I could handle it, I said. But one look at the battered shell of a house that was once my most treasured retreat, and I knew I couldn’t handle it. I hugged my grandparents, cried, and spoke to a few news reporters (they were hovering like flies), then walked to a secluded part of the front yard. I looked down and saw a bird wrapped around a tree branch and in that moment, something snapped and I came completely unhinged. I stood in the front yard and sobbed like a little girl. This was without a doubt, the worst thing my family has experienced.

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      [the backyard. That's my playhouse.]

      My cousins, aunt and uncle, sister, and mother and I all worked frantically to get Nana and Grandaddy’s belongings out of the house before any more roof caved in and more damage was done. A crew of volunteers from Home Depot (God bless them!) showed up in the front yard with water, gloves, shovels, and chainsaws and began sawing the fallen trees apart and moving them. Church groups drove around with food and water. The way the community came together during all this was truly touching. I’ve never been more proud of my town.

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      Hundreds of others in Cleburne lost their homes. Over 600 homes were damaged and so many, like Nana and Grandaddy’s, were destroyed. Joel’s close friend lost his childhood home. Half of the people on my parents’ street were told their homes weren’t safe to live in. Even with destruction and despair all around us, all we could do was thank The Lord for keeping us safe. There were no fatalities that night.

      Since the tornado, we’ve had several more storms (when will they stop?!) and I’d be lying if I said we haven’t been scared to death every time we see a little rain cloud. There are still tarps on every roof and small twigs, leaves, and debris line the streets. Every time we go outside, we’re reminded of that awful night. My grandparents have found a duplex to rent until their house can be rebuilt. Everyone is doing their best to move on. Every day I hug my husband and my baby girl tighter and remember that I could’ve lost them.  All there is left to do now is be thankful for family and the gift of life and “praise the God who gives and takes away.”

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        Making a Boxed Cake Mix Taste Homemade…

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        Last weekend, we all had to bring a dish to my parents’ house for Easter. I had seen a gorgeous looking coconut cake on another blog and immediately volunteered to bring dessert just so I could have an excuse to make this cake. I felt it had to be fate because I just happened to have the exact amount of ingredients I needed to make the cake. It was a little involved and time-consuming, but it sounded so good I knew it would be worth it. After all that hard work, I pulled the cakes out of the oven only to discover they hadn’t risen AT ALL and tasted almost like dense cornbread. What???

        Well crap. Easter was tomorrow. What was I going to do?? I was out of flour and butter since I had used the last of it on the disaster cakes. I looked in the pantry- there was a box of white cake mix. Dare I? Yep, I dared. But I tweaked it a little to add a more homemade taste and look to it- no one ever even suspected it was from a box. It was really good and looked gorgeous! Success! Here’s how I did it:

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        The instructions on the back of the box called for:

        3 egg whites
        1 1/4 cups water
        1/3 cup vegetable oil

        I used instead:

        2 egg whites and 1 whole egg (at room temperature)
        1 1/4 cups buttermilk
        1/3 cup oil
        1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract (that’s all I use and I think it makes all the difference)
        1/2 teaspoon almond extract

        Divide the batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans and bake for 20 minutes. Using 3 cake pans instead of 2 will make the finished cake look taller and more professional. Plus, you get an extra layer of frosting that way! Use your favorite homemade buttercream (I’m sorry, but there really is no substitute for homemade buttercream. The stuff from the can doesn’t even come close).

        Here’s my go-to buttercream recipe:

        3 sticks butter, at room temperature
        1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar
        splash milk
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
        1/2 teaspoon almond extract (this adds so much!)

        Mix together in a stand mixer until you get a nice, thick, spreadable consistency. If you feel it’s too thick, add more milk. Makes enough to frost a 3 layered cake (it makes a lot!). To decorate the cake, sprinkle with flaked coconut.

        Coconut Cake

        No one will ever know it came from a box! Enjoy your new-found knowledge! ;)

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          Easter…

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          Hope everyone’s Easter was great! Ours was very happy. Cassidy loved getting her Easter basket this year- the Easter Bunny brought her some Teddy Grahams, fruit pouches, a couple of cute little books, and a giant flower headband (too cute to resist!). She was so excited Easter morning!

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          My whole family gathered at my parents’ house after church for a big meal and we all had a great time- I really love Easter! I don’t know if everyone watched this or not, but if you didn’t you really NEED to watch the History Channel’s The Bible series. The final two episodes were especially good- really, really moving.

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          I had so much fun picking out Cassidy’s outfit this year! I thought she looked so stinkin adorable! My precious girl!

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            DIY Stovetop Potpourri…

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            Everybody loves a fresh-smelling house! Me especially. I have about a billion candles and Scentsy smells stashed away in a cabinet. However, there are some smells that just don’t translate well when it comes to candles. Lemon, lavendar, blueberry, most flowers (it ends up smelling sickeningly sweet! Bleh!), and orange. I think I’ve tried just about every kind of orange scent and they all smell too…fake. I don’t know why the candle companies just can’t seem to get orange right!

            Recently, I had some leftover oranges that were on their last leg and I just couldn’t resist making myself a little potpourri to make the house smell beautifully orangey! I threw in a couple of sprigs of rosemary from the backyard, a splash of vanilla and voila! Instant aroma therapy! It’s so easy to make your own stovetop scents! Just throw it all in and let it simmer!

            DIY Stovetop Potpourri

            2 oranges, cut into thin slices
            2 sprigs fresh rosemary
            1 teaspoon vanilla extract
            3 cups water

            In a medium saucepan, mix all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer. Enjoy for hours!

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              How to be a ‘Monday Mom’ on a Thursday…

              I recently read an article written by a fellow blogger and mother, Erin, called “I’m a Better Mom on Mondays”. All I had to do was read the title before I realized the very same was true of me. Erin is spot-on; she talks about how we, as moms, are better rested and overall happier and more energized come Monday morning thanks to the weekend.

              It’s true, isn’t it? Think about it- you’re a better mom on Mondays, aren’t you? Hubby’s off work for two glorious days to help you with bottles and breakfast in the morning, diaper changing, naps, and you’ve got a second man on your team when it comes to tackling temper tantrums. Heck, you may even squeeze in a nap for YOURSELF somewhere in there! By the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, you’ll have had a good dose of The Holy Spirit and all is well. Better than well- you feel like yourself again! And when Monday morning rolls around, you’re ready to tackle whatever life throws at you.

              But by the time Thursday hits…you’ve had to fish baby poo out of the bathtub with a kitchen ladle, clean up spilled cereal and hot chocolate mix off the kitchen floor, give comfort and kisses after what seems like the 40th bruised bottom, bonked head, and scratched knee, read the same book a hundred times and oink like a pig over and over again, and deal with the kind of temper tantrums that would put Mel Gibson to shame. All you want is for Friday evening to get here so you can finally get some PEACE! Where’s “Mighty Monday Mom” now, huh?

              This article really hit home for me because it’s been one of those weeks. A couple of weeks, actually. Because Joel worked so hard outside on the yard, I had zero help this past weekend. I was grateful to have some work done on the house and in the yard, but unfortunately, that meant 2 extra days of ‘Thursdays’ for me. By the time Sunday morning came around, I sat zoned out in the church pew and barely heard a word our preacher said. By Sunday night, I was no better off than I was last Thursday. Help.

              But I was determined to suck it up and get over myself (“alright, walk it off, Beskow! You got this!”). So when Monday morning arrived, the FIRST thing I did upon waking up was talk to God.

              “Lord, help me to be a better mother today. Give me patience. Give me wisdom. Give me compassion. Help this week to be a GOOD week. Amen.”

              Now, every single morning, before even taking two steps, I say this prayer. Maybe I’ll even write it on my bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker. Whatever it takes to remind me to give my weaknesses over to God and let Him take control. Because when I do that, it’s SO much easier to see His blessings. A beautiful, healthy, growing baby that makes me laugh and cry and thank God I’m a mother. I’m not saying every single day is perfect, but they’re certainly off to a better start than they were before. Now, I don’t fear Thursdays anymore. I just take each day as it comes. Each night I shake off the day; whatever happened- maybe an argument with Joel or no naptime for Cassidy- I wash it away and start fresh the next day. With this mindset, every day is a Monday.

              When hardworking parents put their faith in God, they can tackle each day with a fresh, clean start and a clear mind. Once you’ve done that, keep a few helpful pointers in mind:

              1.) If a tantrum arises, ignore it. Don’t lose your temper. You’ll only feel like absolute crap afterwards. Losing your temper with your baby will only make matters worse. (Thanks to my mom for this good advice!)

              2.) Baby doesn’t want to nap today? Just chillax, mom. It’s not the end of the world. My days used to revolve around naptime. So when Cassidy decided she just wasn’t going to nap for more than 10 minutes one day, I was pretty bummed (“omg, I had x, y, and z to get done and now I’ll never get to it!”). But then one day I just decided to use the lost naptime for extra cuddles and giggles and the world was a better place. Like I said, just chillax.

              3.) Stop what you’re doing right now and recite this to yourself: “I am a good mother. I AM A GOOD MOTHER.” And continue to recite it to yourself 10 times a day if you have to. Whatever it takes for you to actually believe it. Because- you ARE a good mother! Tell that little voice in your head to shut up! (And while you’re at it, could you tell the little voice in MY head, too?? Kthanks.)

              Now, go out there and enjoy your new Monday mentality! :)

               

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                Filling Your Baby’s Easter Basket…

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                Last Easter was relatively easy for us because Cassidy was still SO little and didn’t require much. We dressed her up all cute and cuddly (complete with a giant, pink bow), took her into church with us (which she slept right through), and took her to my in-laws for lunch (which she also slept through).

                This Easter, I’m thinking, will go just a touch differently. In a good way! This Easter, we get to dye eggs and do Cassidy’s very first Easter basket! Yay! The Easter Bunny always visited our house when my sister and I were growing up. He’d usually bring us a chocolate bunny, Cadbury Eggs, Peeps, and those awful, sugary, marshmallowy, candy eggs (you know the ones I mean- they were oblong, white, chewy eggs coated in a sugary shell. Bleh! I never liked them, but somehow, my Easter basket would never have been the same without them). We’d also always get a cute little outfit or a book or crayons or some other fun little toy. The Easter Bunny always left awesome goodies for us! And now he’ll visit my house!

                I’m sure when Cassidy’s older, she’ll get her fair share of candy and sweets, but this year will be a bit of a challenge for us. I’m not letting my 14 month-old anywhere near candy, so…..what do we give her?? Are you in this same conundrum? What exactly do you put in a baby’s Easter basket?? Here’s a simple list I’ve come up with that might give you a few helpful ideas:

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                Peter Rabbit Organics fruit and vegetable pouches. I love these because they provide the essential fruits and veggies baby needs, they’re chock full of vitamins, they’re all natural and organic, and they’re fun for the little one. Plus, I just love Peter Rabbit…reminds me of my great-grandmother’s stories.

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                Books. You can never go wrong with books. Cassidy has books for every season and holiday (mostly thanks to her Aunt CiCi!)! I found a cute little baby-sized Easter puffy book at Target today that we’ll put in her basket.

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                A cuddly stuffed animal. I found these at Pottery Barn Kids and thought they looked so sweet and soft! Perfect for the Easter basket!

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                A colorful hair bow or bow tie. Every little boy needs a sweet lil’ bow tie and every little girl needs a big ol’ hair bow on Easter Sunday! That’s just how it is! These both are found on Etsy.

                Really, you don’t need a whole lot of things in their first Easter basket- just a few fun little items. I say you can’t go wrong with a book or two, some fruit pouches, and a stuffed animal. And maybe a cute little Springy outfit. And maaaaybe a pair of blue baby jellies. :)

                I hope all you parents out there have as much fun as I did finding sweet tidbits for your little one’s Easter basket!

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                  DIY Miracle Spot Remover…

                  DIY Miracle Spot Remover

                  Has this ever happened to you? Brand spanking new WHITE shirt; your first wear, and BAM! Spaghetti sauce/baby spit-up/grease. Right down the front. Yeah, me too. A lot, actually. It seems like I can’t ever wear a new shirt without getting it spattered in cooking grease. The old me would’ve either a.) learned to live with the stain, or b.) donated it to goodwill. But not now! Now (thanks to my sister), I have a new spot remover that works better than spray-n-wash or any other so-called stain remover. And it’s all made with things you probably already have lying around the house! AND it’s non-toxic and doesn’t have a bunch of nasty chemicals. Score.

                  And it passed the ultimate test. Aforementioned brand new white shirt + dog pee (ALL down the front- thanks, Izzy). On top of that, I forgot about it and let it sit for over 24 hours (whoops). I mixed up a little of the spot remover, brushed it on, let it sit for an hour or so before washing it, and whaddaya know- as perfect as the day I bought it. And don’t worry about using it on colors- it works great and doesn’t bleach!

                  I bought a few little summer outfits for Cassidy at a garage sale (no shame! They’re good as new after a good wash in hot water!) and one outfit (the one pictured above) had a couple of small stains on the front (I’m thinking grape juice), but after treating it with this stuff, it came out good as new. Sweet.

                  DIY Miracle Spot Remover

                  1 teaspoon Dawn dish soap (Original blue)
                  4 tablespoons Hydrogen Peroxide
                  2 tablespoons baking soda

                  Mix together in a small bowl. Spoon a little over the area and brush gently (I use a toothbrush) into the stain. Let sit for one hour. Machine wash and dry like normal. Enjoy your new stain-free life!

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                    A Christmas Recap…

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                    I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and spent lots of time with family and friends!! Our first Christmas with Cassidy was everything I hoped it would be- laid-back, yet exciting, fun-filled, and happy, happy, happy! Our little family of 3 (well, 4, counting Izzy! Can’t leave her out!) had such a magical Christmas morning and so many dear memories were made that Joel and I will always cherish.

                    Our Christmas Eve was spent with my family. I was asked to sing O Holy Night at our church’s candlelight service, and I’ll never forget looking out into the congregation and seeing my baby girl dance in her daddy’s arms as I sang. Joel and I were worried Cassidy would be super fussy on Christmas Eve staying up so late past her bedtime, but she was an absolute dream! She ate a huge dinner, played with her new toys on my parents’ living room floor, and didn’t fuss one bit.

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                    When we all got home (only 1 minute away, thanks to our recent move! Best idea ever!), Joel and I put Cassidy down and started our Christmas Eve tradition of opening our stockings. Joel is seriously amazing and always gets me cheese for my stocking! Best husband ever! This year he got me some from the famous Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor while he was on a recent business trip. OMG- BEST. CHEESE. EVER. Christmas=made!

                    Christmas morning was everything I had imagined. Cassidy slept all through the night (which she always does, but the last few nights had been very rough due to teething), so we all woke up refreshed and raring to go! She loved her baby doll and cupcake rattle from Santa, but I think she was most impressed with her mega blocks. We’ve already gotten quite a bit of play out of those. Santa brought Izzy a squeaky squirrel toy, which of course, didn’t last long. ;)

                    After we finished opening our presents at home, we drove over to Joel’s parents’ house and had Christmas brunch with them. More presents. More toys. More fun! Then we took our little family home and played and rested the rest of the day. I’m telling you- best Christmas ever. Seriously. I’ll never forget seeing the excitement on my baby’s face as she experienced her very first Christmas. Joel and I went to bed that night two very exhausted, but very, very happy and fulfilled parents.

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