Tag Archives: family

Mother’s Day Weekend

Everything lined up to make for a darn nice Mother’s Day weekend in our little house. The weather was absolutely perfect – the icing on the cake!

Ben and I kicked off the weekend with a day just the two of us on Friday. We had a date at the garden store and he alternated between riding in the wagon, running around the store and being slightly helpful {the most helpful was when he was riding in the wagon}.

He was adorable, though, and we picked out some cherry tomato plants, strawberry plants and some herbs. I managed to grab some blooming flowers when he was confined to the wagon. Needless to say, a second trip to the garden store was in order! Since the weather forecast was calling to be perfect Alex and I had grand plans of spending some quality time in our yard over the weekend.

One of my proudest moments as a parent soon followed our trip to the garden store. We went to the Arboretum park and were sitting on the sidewalk having a snack and a little girl took a very big tumble. I think Ben might have seen it happen {my attention was focused elsewhere} and then when she started crying Ben said “go give her a hug!” and got up and started walking towards her. Alex shared he had a similar encounter last weekend when he got a scratch on his arm and Ben kissed it, told him “it’s okay!” and rubbed his back. My heart melted. I’m not sure how he’s already learned empathy – we sure are trying! – and above anything and everything else, I want him to be empathetic and a nice kid. Smarts only get you so far, but being nice and empathizing with others, that’s the makings of a good person.

Alex had a similar moment on Sunday when we returned to the garden store. It had nothing to do with empathy, more just a proud parent moment. He and Ben were sitting down together and Alex took a moment to explain the importance of listening and following directions and holding mama and dada’s hand instead of running off. Immediately after their conversation Ben calmed down and held onto Alex’s hand and responded so sweetly to the directions. Moments like this validate that we’re doing something right!

In addition to the sweet moments, we had some downright adorable moments and firsts on Saturday at our neighborhood block party. The neighborhood association puts on this huge festival and parade, primarily for the kids, and it was so much fun to go to with Ben.

We bumped into other kids in our neighborhood, some of Ben’s classmates, one of the babies from the PEPS group I led and some random friends and acquaintances. It’s moments like these that remind us just how much we love our darling neighborhood – we feel so, so fortunate to live here.

Ben got to see his first parade, which was led by a firetruck {!}, he got to ride a pony, see a reptile show and read some books from the library. We all enjoyed a treat from the coffee shop – “warm milk” is apparently the best thing ever. We’ve spoiled him by getting him a little “steamer” {lightly steamed milk} when we go to the coffee shop now. It’s too cute and he loves it too much to stop!

Somehow we managed to sprinkle in some time with friends into the weekend – we had a really nice dinner over at Ryan and Anne’s on Saturday night, then my cousin, Chris, and his wife and their two kids came over for a backyard barbecue on Sunday evening.

It was a very lovely, special Mother’s Day weekend, indeed. I adored the time I got to spend with the two guys who made me a mama. We had lots of cuddles and giggles and enjoyed our time together.

The Hole

In the midst of a crazy week last week we got some unexpected news from our builder that he was breaking ground on our lot out in the mountains! We knew it was bound to happen sometime in the next month or two and were anxiously awaiting the news – it still caught us off guard and seemed to happen really fast!

In any case – Alex and I drove out to our property just outside the town of Leavenworth, about two hours east of Seattle, over the weekend to check out the “hole” in the ground and make sure the excavator put it in the right spot.

It is darn perfect. The house will be nestled in the evergreens, facing out on a bluff atop a river overlooking the valley. I’m not sure how it all came together so smoothly but seeing that hole made it feel all the more real to me. If everything comes together as expected we should be in the house before Christmas, which was what we were really hoping for.

{The view from our future deck – even on a rainy spring day it sure is nice to look at!}

This mountain home will be life changing for us and our little, growing family as well as our extended family and we are so grateful that things are coming together as well as they are. We can’t wait for Ben and his little sister to be able to grow up spending so much time in the mountains.

Big Changes for the Allens

We’ve had kiiiiind of a lot going on since I last posted about our early-March trip to Arizona! Not only has spring come to Seattle, but it feels like we’re in a new season in our family, too.

Just after we returned from our vacation, Alex began his new job. He’s now three weeks in and is working at a very large tech company that is based here in Seattle. So far, he loves it. He really likes the autonomy, the increase in responsibility, and definitely the commute. His office is close to downtown Seattle and he has loved riding his bike almost every day {3 mile commute – hard to beat!} and he is enjoying being in a more vibrant environment.

The transition to his new job has been fairly easy so far in terms of its impact on our family. We’ve adjusted our morning routine a bit, and Alex is getting home only slightly later in the evening. So far, he’s been home almost every night for dinner, which is a goal we both have. Navigating a new benefits system and insurance policy has been pretty straightforward. I expected to feel the change a lot more. Ultimately, all that matters is that Alex is happy, and that definitely seems to be the case.

At the beginning of Alex’s second week of his new job we came to the realization that our childcare situation was not working out as well as we had hoped. Ultimately, we decided that we needed to move on from our au pair and find a replacement for her.

For about a minute we toyed with some alternate ideas that strayed from having an au pair. Then we realized the cost of having to pay for two separate childcare arrangements for our kiddos {once the baby is born this summer} and realized that an au pair fits very well with our family’s desires, as well as our budget.

Things happened very fast once we made the decision to enter the re-match process. We ended up finding Stacey, a lovely British au pair awaiting a re-match in New York. Stacey was available to begin almost immediately and we were able to work out the logistics so she arrived five days after our re-match process began.

We had a few days, though, where we had childcare gaps, so Alex’s mom “Grammy” came out to watch Ben last week. The two of them had such a special time. Grammy has unlimited energy, it seems, and kept Ben entertained and taught him new things all week long. We were so grateful for the time that they had together.

{Decorating cupcakes with Grammy!}

In the background while all this has been going on has been the final pre-construction process we’re managing to get our mountain house ready for building! A huge high five goes to Alex for navigating that. We’re SO SO close to breaking ground.

Now we’re about to start our first full week with Stacey as Ben’s solo caregiver. We’ve had several days of training and getting acclimated to our family and the city and I think she is ready. So far she is fitting in extremely well with our family and she and Ben bonded right away. Stacey is very sweet, comes with a ton of tot experience {baby too!} and is very conscientious and intuitive. I think we are in good hands!

We are very, very happy to be into a new month and a new season here in our little house. I have a feeling this season will be a great one and we are looking forward to it!

Arizona Family Vacation

We’ve had an unusually crazy winter this year – typical winters for us are filled with trips to the mountains, ski vacations and chasing the next snow storm. This winter threw us off with a difficult childcare transition, Alex’s job search and the intense preparations that went into getting ready for interviews, and me being pregnant. So! We made an impromptu decision to head to Arizona for what will probably be our last vacation as a family of three.

We packed our bags and headed to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area for four nights and five days to enjoy some time together just the three of us. We have been to Arizona several times before and we stayed at the same resort as we went to last winter with Alex’s family.

I put quite a lot of thought into airplane activities for our very active toddler. I found some awesome “things that go” gel stickers, washi tape, new Water Wow coloring books, fun new snacks and a couple new books. Turns out I really didn’t need to bring much to hold his attention. He snoozed for half of the flight down to Arizona, snacked for a bit, watched the people and then requested to watch his favorite Elmo video – “ABCs in Espanol” a few times, and then we were there!

We opted to buy Ben his own seat, which was a smart move, since he’s so active {you don’t have to buy a seat for a kid under age 2}. It was really nice to have the whole row to ourselves and allow him to spread out a bit. Just after takeoff Alex asked if Ben wanted to put his head down in Alex’s lap and take a nap and Ben said yes, laid his head down and fell asleep. It was a really precious moment, especially given that Ben is on-the-go about 93% of the time.

The timing of our flights allowed us to optimize the travel days quite a bit. We were checked into our room by 1:30 and I think we arrived at the pool by 1:45. We knew right away that Ben was going to love spending the next four days swimming.

The middle of most of our days were spent swimming. The resort we stayed at has a main pool with poolside dining and is perfectly heated. They also have a fantastic kiddie pool that is so perfect for toddlers – it’s a zero depth entry with a max water depth of 18 inches. The kiddie pool is the sole reason we selected this resort and our decision held strong when we saw how ideal it is for Ben right now.

Another thing we hadn’t considered is the stairs and ledge around the big pool offered Ben a great deal of independence, which is key for him right now. He loved walking around the edge of the pool and practicing going up and down the stairs. The first day he was content cruising around in his floatie but then he realized he could be more independent and the floatie was a thing of the past.

Later in the trip Ben discovered the joys of jumping in the pool. I’m positive if we would have let him he would have jumped to Alex a thousand times. He absolutely loved it and continued to request “more” jumping.

Somehow I forgot how chilly it can get in Arizona in the evenings/mornings. Our little toddler is an early riser – especially in an earlier time zone – so our days started before the sun rose. This meant we had several hours to fill in a hotel room with limited activities while we waited for it to warm up enough to head to the pool.

Much to Alex’s and my surprise, Ben entertained himself really well. He loved pushing the stroller around our unit, opening the kitchen drawers and putting things in his stroller, pushing the luggage rack through the room and watching out the window for golf carts.

We managed to remain pretty consistent with Ben’s nap times and keep to a regular meal schedule, too. Our first full day we enjoyed lounging by the pool while Ben napped next to us. After the first day, though, we decided he would get a better nap back in our room.

One new thing Ben got to experience was television. We had 2 TVs in our room – one in the living room and one in the bedroom. In our actual house our TV is down in the basement in my office and Ben almost never goes down there so he really hadn’t been exposed to TV before, and the few times he had, he was not interested. We randomly turned on the TV and he watched a cartoon about puppies and seemed to love it. I don’t anticipate him watching much TV at home, but it was sweet to see him engaged in the show for the first time.

Ben does get the occasional privilege of watching videos on the Sesame Street app on his iPad at home and he loved playing “ABCs in Espanol” over and over again. He’s starting to learn the ABCs in English and in Spanish.

While this was a very different trip than it would have been if just Alex and I traveled to Arizona together, we absolutely loved the dynamic that Ben added. We all had to be a little flexible and work with his early morning wake-ups {and the sweet, sweet snuggles that followed}, the need for a mid-day nap, the inability to have the patience to sit in a chair and eat at a restaurant three meals a day for five days, and the need to run around a LOT. It’s all a part of parenthood and we were happy to make accommodations for our little guy.

The memories we made on this trip will undoubtedly last a lifetime for Alex and me. It brought us so much joy to see our little boy so in his element and be exposed to so many fun childhood milestones. The best part, though, was the time we spent. For me, seeing Ben and his “dada” have five days together was priceless. We could have been hunkered down in an igloo for all we cared – the time we spent together was so special and I hope to remember the sweet little moments forever.

An {Extra}Ordinary Saturday

Saturday morning was coolddddd and wet and just plain dreary. Ben started the day by making us some coffee in the kitchen with his new coffee maker. This has been such a hit. He loves coffee and can feel helpful and included when we involve him in our coffee adventures. Adorable.

We planned a fun outing that could accommodate a damp Seattle day and included a trip to MyGym, Ben’s tumbling class, and a stop at a cool park on the way home.

Alex and I had so much fun watching how much confidence and coordination Ben had during his gym class. It was really neat to see him climbing so thoughtfully and also to see how comfortable he was in the class. {Photos are courtesy of my friend Ali from a different day’s class.}

After MyGym the clouds cleared and the sun was out!? We were expecting a rainy morning, which is why we picked a “rainy day” park to stop at on our way home. Alex had heard about the Dragon Park in Mercer Island a while ago and we thought it would be a perfect rainy Saturday stop.

It turned out, Ben seemed to have wished the rain had continued. All he wanted to do was jump in the puddles! We had the whole playground to ourselves and he had zero interest in it – just climbing the dragon and seeking out puddles. Too funny. Side note: Hunter rainboots for tots are AMAZING. They go on so easily and they stay on!!

{Naturally, jumping in puddles of mud results in falling in a puddle of mud…Thankfully we have a washing machine}

Ben took a very early nap, courtesy of the car ride home. When he woke up he became my little baking assistant and we whipped up some banana muffins. Yum!

Our family days tend to look pretty much like this – we love planning an outing in the morning, having some cozy time together at home, getting outside and doing things together, whether it’s sitting on the floor drinking “coffee” out of Ben’s wooden coffee mug or reading his “choo choo” book 17 times over and over in front of the fire, family time is the highlight of our weekends.

Wintertime

This winter has been rather different than I expected. When I pictured the winter I imagined we’d be heading up to the mountains most weekends and spending a lot of time in the snow. I expected the winter to fly by, as it always seems to do for us. Oftentimes the winter months are the busiest of the whole year for Alex and me.

Winter is nearing the end and we’ve hardly been up to the mountains. We’ve gone cross country skiing twice {both times in the rain} and every other time we’ve wanted to go it was raining so we made other plans. It has been an exceptionally rainy January in Seattle so we have been a little cooped up. Thankfully now that we’re into February, the weather has started to turn.

We have been creative this season with getting out and doing things with friends, going to the pool, the zoo or the aquarium, or even embracing the rain and putting Ben’s rain boots on so he can go jump in the puddles. Puddle jumping brings Ben so much joy – and sadly, I don’t have any pictures to memorialize it! We’ve even been creative with our activities at home – Alex filled up the sink with water, bubbles and silicone muffin cup liners and Ben was entertained for quite a while. We’ve been doing art projects, baking and teaching Ben how to vacuum…

Most of our toddler parent friends are also going a little stir crazy, but we all enjoyed some reprieve from the rain this weekend when the sun finally came out! Alex and Ben spent Saturday with three other tots and their dads and enjoyed a tour of a fire station. We met my cousin and his family up at the playground this morning and camped out there, watching the three kids eat sand, play with trucks and giggle their way down the slide.

We are about to start week six with our au pair. It took us quite a while to get into a good rhythm amidst the childcare transition, but I think we’re about there. There ended up being a lot more hands-on training than we had anticipated, and the language barrier is quite prevalent. But! The other day, Ben was counting in Spanish. It was one of the coolest parenting experiences I’ve had yet – he was counting in Spanish. All by himself. I was floored. I still am floored!

All in all, we are having a very memorable winter and we are making the most of these rainy Seattle days with our rambunctious toddler {and looking forward to sunshine in the forecast this week!}.

Extended Family Photo Shoot

Rewind a month to the height of the holidays and enjoy some photos of our extended family enjoying each other’s time together, just before Christmas…… A huge thanks to our family photographer, Kim Hildebrand, for beautifully capturing a few special moments between Ben, Nico and their grandparents, as well as Nico and his parents. Oh, and please excuse Ben’s frowny face. He was awaken just before Kim arrived and thrown into a photo shoot. And he is his father’s son, after all.

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Transitions

These last few weeks have been filled with transitions for our little family. It’s been a very busy time filled with “hellos” and “goodbyes” and lots of fun in between. Just before Christmas we said “see you later” to our beloved nanny, Edina, who moved across the country to the Big Apple.

{Edina became well-known in our group of friends and quickly got to know all of Ben's buddies in town.}

{Edina became well-known in our group of friends and quickly got to know all of Ben’s buddies in town.}

Edina had been Ben’s nanny since he was about 12 weeks old and was essentially his third parent. We were all devastated when she left. The same day that Edina moved, Alex’s family arrived for Christmas. That proved to be a very welcome distraction for us all! Since then, it’s been great to be able to keep in touch and we’ve loved FaceTime so that we can all still talk with Edina. We are all still adjusting to life after Edina.

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The holidays were filled with wonderful memories from Alex’s family’s trip, then my dad’s visit around New Years, a round of the stomach flu for Ben {ughhhhhh} and some time in the mountains. We had such a nice time with our family, though it was hard to say goodbye when their trips came to an end. More transitions!

{Sorry dad, I know you were not happy I took a picture with Ben using the iPad with you, but I think it's adorable!}

{Sorry dad, I know you were not happy I took a picture with Ben using the iPad with you, but I think it’s adorable!}

After everyone said their goodbyes we welcomed a babysitter to our house for our “in between” week. She had watched Ben before, so she was a familiar face, but another transition nonetheless.

{My dad with my cousin, Chris, and his son, Henry, who is 2 1/2.}

{My dad with my cousin, Chris, and his son, Henry, who is 2 1/2.}

Finally, at the end of last week we were preparing for the arrival of our new au pair, Gelys {it’s pronounced like “yell-ous”}, who was coming to live with us for at least a year from Panama.

Maybe you heard about the big snow storm on the east coast last week – well, the timing of Gelys’s arrival perfectly coincided with the mess out there. Gelys had to fly into New York for an au pair training through the agency. The problem was that she couldn’t get there! Her arrival was delayed, and then the day she was scheduled to leave New York, JFK flooded and her flight was delayed significantly. She was supposed to arrive in Seattle on Saturday but didn’t make it until 3 a.m. on Monday!

This week has been very, very hectic, exhausting and filled with new experiences for all of us as Gelys is learning about our family, about Ben, practicing English and figuring out how we do things both in our house but also in America, not to mention getting her bearings and learning what in the world there is to do with Ben around town {and how to get around town!}.

The challenges have been significant. Ben was/still is sick {he had a horrible cough and was a disaster for the first three days}, and Alex and I had to balance working and bringing Gelys up to speed at the same time, Ben is in a suuuper mama’s boy phase right now and it’s just plain difficult training a new caregiver.

There have been several logistical details we’ve been navigating, too. We are still working through our to do list – a new SIM card was in order so that her phone worked, as was a rain coat {!}, we’re working to add her to our car insurance, get her a bank account and social security number and make sure she has all of the personal items and clothing that she needs to be comfortable. We’re planning a little “touristy” Saturday to show her some of the hot spots in Seattle and practice taking the bus.

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Finally, on Thursday, Gelys had her first official day with Ben {Alex or I was with her all the time for her first three days, per the guidelines of the agency} and it went really well! They navigated the bus, went to Ben’s new music class, which he apparently loved, and had a fun time playing together. She’s doing great with him – he warmed up to her right away and she’s super sweet with him and is trying very, very hard. I love hearing her speak in Spanish with Ben {and Alex has been loving the practice, too!}. Whew!

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We chose to fill our childcare needs with an au pair because we loved the idea of learning about another culture and having Ben exposed not only to culture, but to a native Spanish-speaker from such an early age. We loved having Edina live with us and that made it very exciting to us to have an au pair.

Christmas 2017

Christmas this year was spent at our little home alongside Alex’s family. They all made the trek out to Seattle a few days before Christmas to celebrate the holiday, as well as Nico, our nephew’s, first birthday. We had a wonderful holiday season and were so glad to have had the company.

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The start of their trip was marked with some illnesses, which thankfully Alberto and Nico made a quick recovery from just in time to celebrate Nico’s birthday. We rearranged our plans a bit and spent our first full day together out in the mountains. We visited our lot and got to see it covered in snow, then we ended the very chilly day at Stevens Pass where Alex and Stan took a few runs.

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Santa came early to our house and brought Ben a pair of his very own skis! Alex and I couldn’t resist strapping them on his little Sorels and letting him test them out. We’re convinced he loved it because after we stopped moving he said “more” – a surefire sign he’s going to be a skier.

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Christmas Eve was extra special this year because we were celebrating Nico’s first birthday! As a bonus, the snow gods were on our sides again and we got a very unexpected surprise that afternoon – snow! It snowed and snowed, all through the night and we had ourselves a white Christmas.

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The theme of Nico’s birthday was “Llama Llama Red Pajama” after a very popular kids book that Nico loves. Donna found us all matching “fa la llama” shirts to wear to celebrate and we enjoyed a fun dinner of fondue and some really delicious birthday cake from Madison Park Bakery near our house.

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We awoke on Christmas morning to the beautiful sight of snow. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine a white Christmas in Seattle. It was perfect. We had so much fun making new memories and enjoying watching Ben on Christmas morning. He was very excited to get a brand new slide, along with several other gifts. Alex and I used Christmas to get him some updated age-appropriate toys – we really hadn’t gotten him much since his first birthday and he has outgrown most of his other toys by now.

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Christmas Day was very low-key and relaxing. We had a fire, enjoyed cinnamon and orange rolls, the eggnog lovers sipped their eggnog, we played outside in the snow and had a prime rib dinner to finish out the day.

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Bright and early the next day, Alex, Alina, Alberto and I headed to Stevens Pass to get in some skiing while Ben and Nico stayed behind with their grandparents. It was a very chilly day on the mountain but we had a great time getting in some turns. It was too cold to take more photos…

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The boys seemed to have a great time with their grandparents and went on a fun outing to the playground. I can only imagine Donna and Stan are still exhausted from their big day with two toddlers!

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Our time together came to a quick end the following morning when everyone packed up and said their goodbyes. We are so grateful that our family came out to spend the holiday with us and that we had such a lovely time. Most wonderfully, though, was seeing how much Ben adored spending time with each of his family members. He is still talking about everyone a week later.

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Early December

This holiday season is shaping up to be quite a memorable one! Ben is at such a fun age to where he’s starting to understand so much that I think he’ll really get into things this year. We have a lot of holiday and seasonal activities planned – I can hardly wait to experience this holiday season with our family.

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Earlier this fall I bought a beautiful advent calendar. I received it in the mail and was floored at how gigantic it is. The advent calendars I grew up with were the cardboard kind where you open the window each day of advent and that was that. This new calendar had pockets for every day. I was completely thrown off by how to use this calendar and ended up deciding to fill each pocket with a holiday/seasonal activity for that day.

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It’s kind of nice because it forced me to sit down with my calendar and idea list and plot what I wanted to do when and really plan out the month of December. I came up with some really fun ideas and realized that there’s a lot we wanted to do and not that much time so it also brought me back to reality.

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One of our first advent activities was cutting down our Christmas tree, followed by decorating it the next day. We went to Trinity Tree Farm in Issaquah to cut down our tree this year. Last year we purchased a pre-cut tree from them. Last year’s tree was the most beautiful tree either one of us had ever had and this year’s blows last year’s out of the water. Our tree this year is stunning!

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We picked a very typical Pacific Northwest day to go get our tree. It was POURING. Thankfully we all had our rain boots and positive attitudes. Ben loved jumping in the puddles – right now he’s obsessed with water in all forms and couldn’t get over the act of puddle jumping.

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Alex was a true family hero when he tackled the acts of cutting down the tree and tying the tree on the car himself. It was a multi-person job managing Ben and it required both Edina and me to corral him and keep him from diving into a puddle headfirst. I saw photos of a friend of mine who has three kids under 5 and she and her husband brought their kids and their dog to cut down the tree {mind you, they didn’t also have an extra set of hands there like we did!} and they seemed to have managed just fine. I have no idea how.

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Decorating the Christmas tree was adorable. Ben really seemed to get the concept. While he didn’t really successfully hang any ornaments, he placed them on branches or he pointed out where he thought a good place for a pretty ornament would be. His favorite part, though, was climbing the step stool and being a little entertainer.

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I feel like we’re in pretty good shape for the holidays at this point. There’s a lot we need to do to prepare for the rest of the season and it is all so much fun!! This is by far our favorite time of year. We get so much joy in entertaining and spending time with family and friends, especially during the magical holiday season.

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