Monday, April 29

Washington & Old Dominion Railroad

After we went to the train museum on Braden's birthday, we decided to go spend some more time with a train... in Vienna.  The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad has been turned into a fabulous running/biking trail and they have this train car out for kids to climb and play on.

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Braden obviously had a hoot. The curls.

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(The shoe shot is for Jenn.)

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Finley enjoyed it too--boys and trains. And cars. And trucks. I mean, boys. What am I going to do with all these boys?

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Friday, April 26

Trains for Braden's Birthday

Braden's birthday fell while the boys and I were living in Virginia and Sol was working in NJ. Luckily, he was working second shift that week, so we met in the middle to go to the Baltimore Train Museum.  I know Braden loved it because he screamed and cried most of the time because he was so overwhelmed by excitement and love. I know it.

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The museum has a few train cars filled with exhibits and model trains--in the first picture Braden is saying CHOO-CHOO! He loved watching the trains--meaning he cried when we left the train to do something new.

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There's a huge roundhouse filled with a bunch of different engines--not many of them are open to climb on, but they are so fun to look at.

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Obviously, the one thing I wanted was to get a picture of the boys together. And also for them to be somewhat happy. And also obviously, that did not pan out. But we were close.

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The best part is a little area filled with toy trains, train books, train hats and all sorts of awesome train things. The boys could have spent hours right there playing. So obviously Braden cried when we made him go somewhere else.

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It really is a great museum--and a great meeting point for any friends who want to meet us from Virginia! We will always be happy to go. Hint hint.

Wednesday, April 24

Cherry Blossoms

The boys and I made a run into DC (even though my allergies begged me not to) to see the cherry blossoms. Finley was a much more willing participant in my photoshoot than his brother--and I got a few sweet ones of him, which you saw in the post for his birthday. (In case you are interested, here's a vintage 2009 post about Cherry Blossoms...)

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We went out on a Wednesday morning--one of maybe five good days of blossoms. We made it early enough there weren't many people out. The boys got to run free and enjoy the blooming trees--and I got quite a few good shots with no people. I had some anxiety about taking the boys into DC alone--but they did great. Traffic was moderate, I parked easily and the boys happily rode in the stroller as we moved around the tidal basin. It was a lovely day.

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Braden was too busy exploring and asking for snacks to participate in the pictures.  This really was about as good as it got! I mean, he's cute even when he's not smiling.

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All my favorite smiley pictures of Finley are in his birthday post--but I this is one of my favorites, even though he's making a goofy face.

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A nice lady was kind enough to take our picture--I'm so grateful she did! A very sweet memory to wrap up our Virginia time. (Sidenote: the first time I typed that sentence I typed BOSTON instead of Virginia. I still slip up and tell people that's where I love when people ask... And I majorly have Boston on the brain after the bomber was captured a mile south of our old house in Watertown!)

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On the way back to the car, we stopped at the Jefferson Memorial and the boys climbed around and I took some pictures.

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Here's some pictures of us at the Jefferson two years ago... I can't believe how LITTLE Finley looks! Tiny peanut. After we left, we stopped and picked up We The Pizza as the culmination of my DC Gastro-Tour. I hit just about every restaurant on my list!

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Monday, April 22

Lovely Light in our Hotel

We spent a few nights in a hotel while we were homeless in VA--and lucky for us, there were huge windows that let in tons of lovely light.  The boys were playing sweetly together and continued to be adorable while I moved around them and took sweet pictures. I downloaded a bunch of new Duck Duck Moose apps and the boys were SO entertained.

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Braden snuggled close to Finley and put his head on big brother's shoulder. And he just giggled at whatever Finley did. It was precious.

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Of course all three monkeys and one giraffe were in attendance. When are they not?

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I was so proud of both boys--how Finley let Braden sit close to him and always made sure Braden could see. And how Braden kept his hands off and didn't try to touch the screen (since he has zero iPad skills currently).

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I mean, I was obsessed obviously. This is a fraction of the pictures I managed to take of two kids playing a game. Silly. It's just so precious to watch them be closer to being on the same level and be able to do things together. A few days after these pictures they figured out wrestling and spent a good fifteen minutes tackling each other and giggling. I imagine it won't be quite as cute in twelve years when they are middle schoolers... and there are three of them... and they are actually causing each other pain. But for now, it's sweet.

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Sunday, April 21

Finley is FOUR!

Against my best efforts, Finley is FOUR.

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My new trick for making him smile? Telling him jokes. He doesn't understand jokes at all, but he fake laughs and smiles every time. And then tells me nonsensical jokes in return. Yesterday, he made a legitimate pouty face with the bottom lip sticking out. It cracked me up.

Finley is a pretty avid learner--he loves asking us how to spell things so he can write them and having us make up addition problems for him to do. I'm constantly impressed by what he can do. He really is good at adding and can add numbers up to about 6 in his head. When he's in the mood, of course. He loves to do puzzles and read.  He'll be going to preschool five days a week next year and then the next year... kindergarten. How is that even possible? It can't be.  We're working on some independence things--he's all too content to let me get him dressed and do all sorts of things I'm realizing he's big enough to do on his own. That's trickster.

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He's always saying things that crack me up.  He often says, "Excuse me..." which is super polite, but he only uses it appropriately 50% of the time. He also says, "I realized..." and when something isn't working, he says it's disobeying him. He's getting tricky about blaming things on other things--like Pete from Mickey Mouse. Other sweet phrases are "Oh nevermind" said very dramatically, and "wait a minute wait a minute." It just always makes me smile when he uses little adult phrases.

He's pretty good at being kind to his brother and somewhat sharing--I'm lucky I don't have to mediate too many battles yet. He's very content to play on his own and make up games and stories by himself. It's also sweet when he'll ask for someone to play with--"Does anyone want to play with marbles/blocks/read a book?" I just love his sweet personality.

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It's so hard to even try to write a post summarizing what Finley is like these days--he's just such a big little personality and we really cherish every minute with him.

We're celebrating today in Little Rock with my parents and grandparents by going to the zoo and the train restaurant--all that's missing is Sol. We're bummed he couldn't make it out this weekend, but are looking forward to a fun time with him next weekend!

Friday, April 19

Last Outings in Virginia

Our last few weeks in Virginia were hectic--we moved out of our house about two weeks before we actually left the area, so we stayed under many different roofs and kept ourselves busy with many different activities.

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Our last Monday was WARM--so my friends and I packed up our kiddos and headed to the zoo. We were vastly outnumbered--four mamas and eight little ones. The kids had a lot of fun--I think the meerkats might have been the biggest hit.

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These kids are the cutest. I always hope that I can get a good picture of the boys together--and it pretty much never works out. Can you feel the love here? Braden did not like Finley putting his arm around him.

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And here's the whole crew minus the little bitty baby who really slept the whole time and didn't make a peep. We lost zero children on the outing! Well, I lost Finley for a few minutes, but I'm not counting that.

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The next day we went to Clemyjontri--the coolest park in NOVA. It was very sunny and I had to chase the boys A LOT--but I really wanted to get a picture of Finley with his best pals (Finley and Margaret) and of Braden with Oliver, who would be his best pal if we weren't ripping them apart.

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What can I say about my Virginia friends? I can't believe I found such lovely ladies with kids the same age to learn how to be mothers with. I'm so grateful for this time with them and for their friendship, and for the friendship between our children. I'm so sad to leave them--and I can barely stand to think about Finley losing his two closest pals. Luckily, we're only two hours away...

Tuesday, April 16

Yesterday in Boston

Part of me feels like I have no right to weigh in about Boston at all, after all I wasn't even there--but as someone who has a serious love affair with Boston, marathons and more specifically, the Boston marathon--I have a few thoughts. Probably not well put together thoughts, but thoughts all the same.

First, it's really scary. Like really scary. Scary that there are people that would attack something as noble as marathon (or as innocent as an elementary school). And it's hard to feel safe anywhere when you know that pretty much everywhere has the potential to be unsafe.  But after watching hours of the live coverage--much of it being the video of the actual explosions on loop--my faith in humanity is a little restored.  Because while many people ran away--many people ran straight towards the smoke to help.  I love this quote that's popped up around the internet in times of tragedy...

And as the mother of small children (who are mercifully still too young to understand) this is the message I want them to remember. That there are people who are not helpers--but there are always more people who are crushed by tragedy and run to check in on their loved ones and do anything they can do to help. And more and more, as the mother of boys, I feel convicted to raise them in a way where they know that no matter what, hurting another person is not ok. Ever. As Finley starts to talk about "shooting bad guys" or making gun sounds, I have to think long and hard about how to gently raise him in a way where he knows that it's not something to be taken lightly. I love this Ted talk my friend Carrie sent me (ironically, shot in Boston). Every Ted talk is great, but this one has a unique perspective on raising boys. It's worth your time.

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And what makes it harder is that the people running at that point in the race likely weren't running because they were fast and qualified--they were running because they were passionate about running and about a charity and raised thousands of dollars to be there. And the people hurt the most were the spectators--they were there because they were cheering for someone they loved. There's really no better people than marathoners or their supporters--this article speaks to it well. We felt it after the cancellation of the NYC Marathon--the runners coming together to take care of each other and their community.  And I keep finding more heartwarming things--the lovely people of Boston putting together this spreadsheet to help people who need a place to stay. And one last article that I loved--from the husband of Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston after trying to be forcibly removed from the course. The marathon is special.

So if you haven't already, hug someone you love. Thanks to everyone who checked on me--I suppose it was also by the grace of God that I didn't qualify for Boston this year and went the path of having baby boy #3 instead of running the race. I'm just so glad that the boys weren't there waiting at the finish for me--and that everyone I love in Boston is safe. Praying for the victims and that those responsible are quickly identified.

Friday, April 12

Braden is TWO!

My baby is two today!  When Finley turned two, I already had Braden--it's crazy to think that Braden will be a big brother soon too. (And here's when he turned one--it's so fun to see how he's changed and how he's stayed the same!)

The day we brought B-town home from the hospital.

There's a lot of things I love about this boy, but my favorite is that he is a snuggler. He's affectionate. He likes to hold my hand when we walk places and sometimes he'll lay his head on my shoulder when I carry him.  He'll occasionally give me hugs and kisses without being prompted. Or honk my nose. And if I'm ever laying down (which, lets be honest, is as often as possible) he immediately scoots over to curl up next to me. And suck his thumb, naturally. And he still lets me hold him like a baby.

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Getting so brave on the playground.

He's such a talker. He'll regularly speak in four or five word sentences and is great about communicating what he needs. I want a drink of water, I want to get down... or maybe he is just good at saying I WANT. I would say roughly 80% of his vocabulary is MAMA. Somehow he works a good MAMA into about every second. He's always saying, Hi mama, hey mama or hi mom. He's said "I so sorry" for quite awhile now--and he definitely doesn't understand what it means. Some of his other sweet phrases are saying, "Hi guys!" to a group of people, or saying "See you soon" when we have to put toys (or toothbrushes) away. And most of the time when I ask him something, his response is, "Yes Mom." He's just a sweet (verbose) little guy.

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Struggling a bit to get the 3d glasses to work.

He loves to brush his teeth and read books. He loves Tucker the giraffe and trains. And he loves to sleep--we're so lucky he's a great sleeper. I think I can count on two hands how many times he's resisted going to bed. He kind of loves it. When I lay him down he'll normally pray (Dear Jesus, Amen.) and then says, Sweet Dreams! and Bye Mama.  He's starting wiggling a little more, but for a long time I'd lay him in his bed and tuck him in and he'd be in the exact same spot when I go to get him after his nap. He doesn't wiggle all over like his big brother. And sometimes he says, "Hi pumpkin!" when I go to get him after his nap--because that's what I say to him.

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Lest you think he's always sweet... I apparently don't swing him the right way and he doesn't think me taking pictures of his tantrum is as funny as I do.

On his last night of being one, we hit a new milestone. WRESTLING. The boys wrestled for a good fifteen minutes--each of them instigating the other and grabbing each other and rolling around. It's probably the first time they've actually played TOGETHER. It was really cute and quite indicative of what my life will be like for the next... 20 years? Who knows. God help me. Please.

I'm so grateful for these two sweet boys. Whenever Braden is acting like a two year old and driving me crazy, I try to hold him real close and kiss those curls and feel the blessing that is a crazy two year old. And Braden, don't think that just because you are getting a new baby brother doesn't mean you aren't my baby anymore. Because you are.

Tuesday, April 9

Boys at the Park

Last week, it was cold. We had to wear jackets and I was grouchy because there's nothing worse than being cold while your head is dying from allergies. It's unfair is what it is.  The boys and I went to play at the park while we were staying at my friend Kate's house and they managed to have fun, despite the April chill.

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Braden was sure he could climb this rope if he just held on tight enough. He was wrong.

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Luckily, this week has been unseasonably warm. It's been a great way to bid farewell to Virginia--with trips to the zoo, Clemyjontri Park and tomorrow--to see the Cherry Blossoms! I got to break out my maternity shorts, which is not as exciting as it sounds. We list our house Thursday and I fly to my parents Sunday--hopefully we'll have had an offer for like double our asking price by then. Dream big, right?

Monday, April 8

What Does a Giraffe Say?

In the evenings, I like to trick the boys into playing in my bed. Braden loves to pretend to sleep and hide under the covers and Finley likes to either play the iPad or have a "tickle party." And I like to lay down. I snapped some shots of them while they played and were being sweet.

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I always want to write posts of what Braden is saying these days--his vocabulary is just so extensive, even if I'm the only one who knows what he's saying. It was much easier to keep track of what he was saying in bed and report... he wouldn't stop playing with the fork and spoon and kept showing me them and saying, "Fork. Spoon."  He played with his trains and laid them all on their sides and told them, "Night night, sweet dreams." And he would let me know when he wanted me to "tuck you in" and when he wanted to crawl under the covers and "hiding." He also would pretend to jump on the bed and say "Jump! Jump!" So cute.

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Finley was oblivious and did puzzles on the iPad. Also he got marker on his face very early in the day and I thought it was so funny he didn't know it was there that I didn't wash it off until bedtime. Jokes on him!

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I tried to interview him and got a few cute moments. This is our second take because he did something super cute in the first one that I actually didn't record very well... When quizzing him on animal sounds I always like to ask him what Tucker (who is his giraffe) says since giraffes don't really say much... and for the first time he gave me an answer: Tucker says, I love you! Such a sweet answer that he then gave for all the other important people in his life. It was adorable.

If you watch carefully you can see one of his eyes wander out--we're in between doctors currently, but the treatment has actually been going well because it's made the both eyes wander out more equally, which means that his good eye is less dominant. I think. I'm anxious to see our new doctor and continue his treatment.

Thursday, April 4

On Friendship and Love and Providing

As we begin to wrap up our time in Virginia--spending time with friends, packing boxes and readying the house to sell--it's natural to look back and reflect on the past moves that brought me here.

Twelve years ago... I was graduating from high school and I think my friends and I were all sure there was no way we could go on. We were the rare girls who LOVED high school. And we still love each other to this day--traipsing across the country to go to weddings and snuggle babies and sit in each other's kitchens and eat queso.

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The BSC at my wedding

Four years later... I was leaving Kansas State and another group of girls. I didn't think I'd ever make as great of friends as I had in high school--and somehow I did. I was lucky to be an Alpha Chi and find such lovely friends so quickly. Clearly, it was by the grace of God.

The Alpha Chis at my first marathon

Three years after... Sol and I were leaving Boston and the best friends we could ask for. We were so so blessed to fall in with such lovely and perfect people--all at the same point in our lives and looking for the same sort of friends.  (And as a sidenote: thank you Jesus for the internet. The great enabler--if not for Facebook and Instagram, I wouldn't get to interact with these sweet friends, from any stage, near as easily. I'd have to mail stuff. Or talk on the phone. Yikes.)

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Our Boston bible study being typical

And here we are leaving Virginia--surprised again at how greatly God has provided people to support and encourage us in our time here. I'm not sure how I would have made it through four years of raising these boys without the sweet women I've been doing it alongside.

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Clearly, I need to embrace the fact that God is delighted to provide for us and exceeds my expectations with every move. We are blessed to be able to look back down a long trail of friends who are still near to our hearts. The words to the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness came to mind:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
Which is a convoluted way to bring me to the actual point of this post--that our God provides. One of our dear friends from Boston is bringing a little girl, Paulina, home from the Ukraine and they have the amazing opportunity to be working with a sponsor that will match donations up to $2500.  Andrew and Ashley have three sweet kids already, two darling girls and an adorable boy that Finley loves, who they adopted a few years ago from Ethiopia.

Paulina will be five in September. Five--she's seven months older than Finley. She's been without her parents for five years--that alone makes me want to cry and jump on a plane to hold her now. She's facing some struggles when she finally makes it home--she's been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other mental disabilities. Andrew and Ashley are two of our dearest friends and I'm so excited to be able to lend a small hand to them on this journey.

While every person isn't able to adopt a sweet kiddo today--part of the wonder of adoption is that even if you aren't in a place where you can adopt, you can still help give Paulina a home with a family who already loves her desperately. Because that's what this whole thing is about--celebrating love. The love that we've had from a hundred friendships along the road, the love our parents have for us and that we'll have for our children. You can help share that love, even in a small way, to give Andrew and Ashley their daughter to love, and help Paulina experience the love they are ready to give her.

Your donation goes twice as far with Lifesong's match--so even if you can only donate $5, it's really $10! Here's how you can help:

Click "Give to an Adoptive Family"
Family Account Number: 3486
Family Name: Andrew and Ashley Brill

Thanks for sharing the love.

Wednesday, April 3

Gallery Wall in the Boys' Room

A week ago, all our stuff moved into storage until we can close on our house in Pennsylvania.  Luckily, my pal Jenn requested a few pictures of the boys gallery wall to help put hers together--so before our stuff left, I took a few shots of the gallery wall in the boys' room that I missed in the tour of their room from awhile ago. I'm fairly proud of how it turned out and don't want to forget that little corner of our house!

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I used a variety of frames (almost all from IKEA!) and a few canvasses. I love the way it looks.  There's a zillion tutorials on Pinterest on how to make a gallery wall--this is not one of them. I'm pretty sure I made this by making a fake wall in Photoshop and arranging the frames until I was happy. Normal.

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There's a few photos from a beach trip last year and a photo of Braden the day he came home from the hospital. In case you want your own crayon canvas, that tutorial is here. The two photo canvasses are courtesy of Erica May--my favorite KC photographer. If you need an awesome photographer, you are going to have to wait because she's currently having a baby very very close to my baby!

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I also love these three prints. The giraffe print is from Etsy, and the UP quote is a gift from my thoughtful friend Carrie. The cross print was a wedding gift from one of Sol's groomsmen, Luke, who passed away in the years following our wedding, and is also Braden's namesake.

I'm excited for a new house with more walls to cover with stuff.

Monday, April 1

Easter 2013

Happy Easter! I hope yours was peaceful--ours was not.  After moving out of our house Friday, we took over our friends' home while they were out of town.  So these pictures are all in their backyard and house--since ours is currently getting new floors and paint!  And case you are interested, 75% of the last four years of Easter... 2009 2010 2012

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Things that I did not save from the movers: a jacket or cardigan and mascara. I was a bit cold. And the best way to get two little boys to smile? Hold a train cookie above the camera. They will smile and drool.

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Could you die over the matching tie and bowtie? They both wore them ALL DAY without making a fuss about it. All day.  Finley had been talking for weeks about wearing the bowtie, but made a last minute switch to the tie, which was perfect.

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He really does try to look at the camera and smile, he just can't figure out how to make his face do everything he wants it to. Life is tough.

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And Braden pretty much just needs to be danced around and sang to and he will make a sweet face.

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Unless you are not giving him the train cookie above your head--then he will make his DON'T MAKE THE HULK ANGRY FACE and scowl at you until he gets his way. photo Print-6019_zps202699f0.jpg

Their Easter baskets were a miracle in themselves--I managed to snag them as the movers were packing up our worldly goods. I grabbed a few marked down treats at Target and gave them the train party favors from Braden's birthday party the day before. Mom fail? Braden loved the trains and his big gift--some Lightning McQueen keys!

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I found a Jake camera at Target as well that I thought Finley might like--come to find out it only displays pictures of the Neverland characters on the back.  He doesn't seem to notice. Even though he has a real digital camera, he was loving this one--taking pictures of all of us and telling us he was taking pictures of his stuffed animals' bones. He's a little confused about x-ray technology.

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He seriously took a picture of every single egg before he put it in his basket. I spy a future food blogger!

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Are the collages getting ridiculous? My pal Jenn convinced me to get BlogStomp which is the COOLEST and easiest software for making collages ever. All I want to do is collage stuff for the rest of my days. Which is why you are getting like forty pictures here--even though they are all probably just average. :)

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Braden was only minorly interested in the eggs. Sol carried his basket and Braden tried to figure out how he could pick up eggs without relinquishing the trains in either hand.

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So a very happy Easter to all of you. I was seriously impressed with Finley's retention of Easter from last year--we did the little Resurrection Eggs that has a different part of the Easter story for the 12 days before Easter and he remembered a decent amount of it. And he told me all about the activity we did with baking marshmallows in crescent rolls to see how they were empty in side (like the tomb!) and remembered we rolled the marshmallows in spices when I forgot. Amazing. He has a decent grasp on the Easter story and my mediocre attempt an egg hunt and baskets hopefully helped to keep their hearts focused on the best part of Easter. That He is risen, indeed.
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