Thursday, February 11, 2016

Boy Talk

M: When I grow up, I'm going to have two jobs! I'm going to be an engineer and a fire fighter.
Ash: That sounds like a great idea, Michael.
L: And I'm goina be a engimeer and a train!

M: And when I grow up I'm going to live in a house close to the tracks. But far away from you.
Ash: Oh no! That would make me sad if you lived far away from me.
M: But I'll be a grown up!
Ash: But even when you're a grown up I will miss you if you are far way.
M: It's okay, because when I die I'll come to see you in heaven.

Alex: I'm going to have to call shenanigans here pretty soon.
M: Why? Is it a boy or a girl? Who is She-nan?

(looking at pictures in a book)
M: That's an ambulance!
L: That's not a ambiance!
M: It is an ambulance!
L: It is not a ambiance!
M: Oh, right. That's a tank.

M: Knock knock.
Ash: Who's there?
M: Interrupting banana.
Ash: Interrupting banan...

L: (watching me dip bread in batter) Oh no! Mama's fingers are all French toasted!

L: (wearing his new blue cape and his engineer hat) I'm a super conductor!

Alex: Liam, are you sad?
L: No, I'm not.
Alex: Are you happy?
L: No, I'm not.
Alex: Are you mad?
L: No, I'm not.
Alex: Are you...?
L: No, I'm not.
Alex: We need to work on your philosophical s.... (was going to say "stuff")
L: Do they taste good?

Ash: (commenting on our pork chops and sweet potato hash dinner) I think it's practically paleo.
M: What's paleo?
Alex: Paleo means really old.
M: But we always throw away paleo food!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

2015 Reading Accomplishments and Goals for 2016

Well, I didn't come any where close to completing my list from last January. I knew it was overly ambitious when I made it, but I didn't realize I would fall so spectacularly short. I read plenty of other books that weren't on the list to begin with, but mostly I slacked on all the nonfiction I had planned to read and (quite predictably) subbed in various kinds of fiction instead.

So here's what I read in 2015.

The Shadow of His Wings--Fr. Gereon Goldmann
This may win the award for best book I read all year. Talk about life not going according to your own plans. This is an incredible autobiographical account of a young German seminarian who was drafted into the SS at the beginning of WWII. I think I teared up at least once per chapter at the beautiful story of faith and sacrifice. Even beyond the amazing events of Fr. Goldmann’s experience in the war, it was fascinating to read about the war from the point of view of a German soldier who was utterly opposed to the Nazis. And then what he does with his life after the war left me even more amazed (but no spoilers…).  I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church--Benedict XVI
Compiled from homilies, so it is very accessible and short (for BXVI... put another way, it is only the second book of his I've ever actually finished, although I've started at least half a dozen).

Whole Body Barefoot--Katy Bowman
Humorous, accessible info about body mechanics and how to safely transition to minimal footwear. This book and all the amazing info on Katy's blog helped me through pregnancy with minimal back pain and fewer postpartum issues this time around than the last two!

(I accidentally went off on a serious British mystery kick last year... and it is most certainly continuing into 2016.)

Two For Sorrow--Nicola Upson
I was looking for Josephine Tey mysteries and found this. The ebook was available for checkout from our library so I read it while I was waiting for my hold on Daughter of Time to come up. It was an interesting mystery, but it seemed to be almost as much about same-sex relationships in London's 1920s/30s theatre scene as it was about a murder.

Daughter of Time--Josephine Tey
A unique take on a mystery novel--the detective is laid up in bed (broken leg? I don't remember) and passes his convalescence by attempting to investigate the alleged crimes of King Richard III. I found it very interesting and informative, but unfortunately I have forgotten all the history I gleaned from it.

Whose Body, Clouds of Witness, Gaudy Night--Dorothy Sayers
I read some of Sayers' essays in grad school, but I had no idea she wrote mysteries until Haley and Christy recommended Gaudy Night on the Fountains of Carrots podcast. I may have become slightly obsessed with reading every single Lord Peter Wimsey novel...

The Moonstone--Wilkie Collins
You know, just the usual book you decide you absolutely need to read because a character on one of your favorite TV shows mentioned in passing that one of your new favorite authors thought highly of it... or is that just me? Alex and I have been re-watching NCIS on Netflix, and in one episode McGee mentioned that Dorothy Sayers considered The Moonstone to be the finest detective story every written, and as I had recently fallen in love with her mysteries, well, obviously I had to read this one. It is conveniently old enough to be in the public domain, so thank you Project Gutenberg for providing instant gratification.

Lilith--George MacDonald
I thoroughly enjoyed Lilith. I'd never read anything from MacDonald before and definitely intend to read more. I'm not quite sure how to describe it... "Narnia for adults" certainly doesn't do it justice. If you want a book that tells you exactly what to think of it and explains everything as it goes along, stay away. I finished this one up late one night when I didn't particularly want to do any thinking for myself, and that was a mistake (I have since forgiven it).

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell--Susanna Clarke
I generally prefer my fantasy to take place somewhere else--but this book does a clever job of mixing fantasy and history; a “historical fantasy” rather than your usual historical fiction, if you will. Think Jane Austen meets Harry Potter… sort of. The story was a little slow to get moving, but it was so well-written and humorous that I didn’t mind. For the second half I could hardly put it down (much to my family’s dismay).  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and apparently there's a BBC miniseries in the works?

The Silmarillion--JRR Tolkien
It gets better every time--trust me!

The Elenium Trilogy--David Eddings
A favorite of my brother-in-law. I was excited for some new fantasy, but as I read I got this strange sense of deja vu. I finally realized I had read it before--probably five or six years ago--but it was almost as good as reading something for the first time because I didn't remember anything until it happened.

 Ascendance Trilogy--Jennifer A. Nielsen
Quick, easy, enjoyable.

Other Fiction
Little Women--Louisa May Alcott,  Caddie Woodlawn--Carol Ryrie Brink
We got these classics for our niece for her 9th birthday and that put me in the mood to reread them. I enjoyed both of them almost as much as I did in elementary school :)

The Rainmaker, The Client, The Broker, The Partner--John Grisham
I didn't read them all in a row. I enjoyed The Partner most and The Broker least.

What Alice Forgot--Liane Moriarty
I went into this one with zero expectations and I really, really liked it. I think I read this in fewer than 24 hours (and sacrificed half a night's worth of sleep in order to do so--I just had to know how it ended).

The Martian--Andy Weir
This barely beats out What Alice Forgot for my favorite fiction read of the year. Looking forward to seeing the movie... eventually...

And now that it's already February (how?!), here are my somewhat humbler reading goals for 2016. I'm taking the hint from 2015 and not trying to plan out my reading for the whole year--but these are the books I want to make sure I read. In no particular order:

Started in 2015 but not finished
Introduction to the Devout Life--St. Francis de Sales
Life of Christ--Fulton Sheen
Angels (and Demons)--Peter Kreeft

More of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries
The Midwife's Revolt--Jody Daynard
Ready Player One--Earnest Cline
Father Elijah, Elijah in Jerusalem, and The Father's Tale--Michael O'Brien
The Divine Comedy--Dante

Diastasis Recti: The Whole Body Solution to Abdominal Weakness and Separation--Katy Bowman
The Temperament God Gave Your Kids--Art & Laraine Bennett
The Second Greatest Story Every Told--Fr. Michael Gaitley
Jesus and the Last Supper--Brant Pitre
Beyond the Birds and the Bees--Gregory Popcak
The Treasure of Homestake Gold--Mildred Fielder

Well... what else should I read? I'm ready and waiting for your recommendations to derail my goals for this year :)

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Arrival of Colette Cynthia: A Birth Story

Alternate title: Weren't We Just Here?

Here is the saga of little miss Colette's birth. But first, a little about her name. Family names are important to us. Both my mom and Alex's mom are Cynthia, so we were delighted to be able to honor both of them at the same time. We also named her for St. Colette, who reformed the Poor Clare sisters in the early 15th century. We have loved this name for several years and finally had a chance to use it! And Colette is a diminutive of Nicolette, a derivative of Nicholas (she already has Uncle Nick entirely wrapped around her little finger, of course)--so if she starts going around punching heretics, we will know why!

All the usual disclaimers apply: lots of messy details, words like "cervix" and "dilation," stop reading now if you don't like reading lengthy descriptions of labor and childbirth! And it is embarrassingly long--I'm not good at keeping an actual journal any more but I don't want to forget any of this. Just think, I could have written this right away instead of waiting two months. Imagine how long it would have been then! You're welcome.

And in case you're like me and prefer to read birth stories in chronological order--because *gasp* there might be spoilers if you read the newest one first!!!!--here are the boys' stories:

Michael -- a very Bradley birth
Liam -- fast and furious
John Paul -- third time's the charm

(Yes, I know I'm weird.)

This birth story starts all the way back in March 2015. Okay, not really. The relevant backstory starts in March. This pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, and it came with a fair bit of anxiety. As soon as I knew I was pregnant I started reading birth stories--ever since my first pregnancy I've loved birth stories, and I guess it was a way to ramp up excitement for this baby and ignore the anxiety. So over the course of the pregnancy I read literally hundreds of birth stories and branched out into midwifery blogs and research articles. By the end I was joking about my degree in midwifery from Google University. The downside was that I was constantly thinking about labor and delivery for almost the entire pregnancy... not conducive to patience and living-in-the-moment.

Fast forward to November 1st. I was two weeks out from my due date of November 13th (which I knew for certain from charting my fertility and for which I had had to argue with my healthcare team---I'm sorry, but I don't care what your ultrasound says. There is no way I conceived when you say I did... yes, I do want you to write down my due date as November 13th instead of November 7th, thankyouverymuch).

I woke up that Sunday morning with sure signs that labor would be kicking into gear and we would be meeting our sweet new baby within a day or two. Discernible contractions while lying down and the beginning of what seemed to be bloody show? Yep, based on my extensive experience of my last two babies labor was definitely imminent. 

Of course I would be going into labor on the day of Liam's 3rd birthday party. I had worried about this for weeks. But I wasn't in labor yet and there was no need to get everyone all excited--maybe I could make it through the party. So we went to Mass as usual, prepared for the party, had the party went to bed, and...

Got up the next morning. Not in labor.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

For almost two weeks.

For almost two weeks I would have some signs of imminent labor. In the afternoon and evening I would have irregular semi-painful contractions. I was having occasional signs of bloody show. When I went to bed the contractions often got more noticeable rather than less. But when I would get up during the night to try to speed things up by walking around or doing lunges up the stairs, the contractions would stop completely. What was this? Contractions while resting but not while being active? That was the total opposite of everything I had read or heard.

I was exhausted. I was frustrated. Would I ever have this baby? Or would I just be stuck in this prodromal labor limbo forever? And to top it all off, my hemorrhoids (sorry, TMI, but I did warn you) flared up in a major way on the 5th or 6th. Like, pain-worse-than-childbirth, how can I possibly push out a baby like this? I was miserable. And scared. And the contractions stopped completely for a couple days. Great.

On Monday I called my OB, but they said that was an issue for primary care. So I was able to get a walk-in appointment with primary care (there may have been tears involved), and my doctor said there was no way anyone would do anything for a thrombosed hemorrhoid on a woman who was 39 weeks pregnant and the only "treatment" was to deliver the baby. Lovely. But she did recommend a lidocaine cream which made a huge difference--where was that for my last three pregnancies and deliveries?!

My discomfort subsided over the next couple days, and the intermittent not-quite-labor-but-not-Braxton-Hicks contractions came back. Every evening. In the the middle of the night. Going away when I tried to get them going harder.

Finally it was my due date, Friday November 13th. Same old story. I was 2cm dilated and starting to soften at my 40 week appointment--nothing to get excited about. Some definitely uncomfortable contractions that afternoon... continuing on through dinner prep and dinner... and closer together after going to bed. So I got up and had a snack just in case this was it (my MO for the last several nights). No contractions. Walked and prayed downstairs for an hour. No contractions. Went back to bed and... couldn't sleep because the contractions were less than 10 minutes apart and starting to hurt. After almost two hours of dozing and timing contractions, I finally woke Alex up and told him this might really be it. Contractions were anywhere from three to eight minutes apart, lasting anywhere from 45-90 seconds. I wasn't ready to go the hospital yet, but I couldn't do it by myself any more. So we puttered around and slowly got ready over the next hour. We decided that yes, it was almost hospital time. Thankfully Alex remembered to eat something before we headed in--we weren't going to make the same mistakes we did with Michael's labor.

At this point let me just say how incredibly wonderful it was to have my mom staying with us--she helped make the weeks leading up to actual labor so much easier, and it was so nice not to have to call anyone to come over in the middle or the night or wake up the boys to take them anywhere!

We left for the hospital around 4. I was terrified of getting sent home like we did with John Paul. Thankfully I had two contractions (albeit lighter ones) during our eight minute drive to the hospital. Maybe I really was in labor after all! As we pulled into the parking lot we were laughing--weren't we just here to have John Paul? It was only 20 months ago (to the day--almost to the hour!), and it felt like it was just yesterday. Okay, I must not be in labor because I can joke and laugh. Dang it.

We entered through the ER entrance, filled out our paper work (thank goodness, another contraction!), and waited for someone to come down and escort us up to Labor and Delivery. And waited. And waited. It must have been at least 15 minutes--I guess we didn't look far enough along to warrant more of a rush. A couple more contractions...hang onto Alex and breath through them... not too bad... Finally the nurse/orderly/whoever she was arrived with the wheelchair. I asked if I could walk, and she looked at me like I was crazy, but she didn't argue. We made it upstairs to the new (since our last visit) Labor and Delivery floor. Thank goodness--triage was now a private room and not a tiny little curtained-off cubicle! A student nurse started the looooong process of checking us in. When her supervising nurse arrived I was both pleased and alarmed to recognize her as our labor nurse with Liam. Very nice, fun English accent, but very loud inside voice.

We successfully completed our hour of observation and question-answering in triage. I continued having contractions 6-8 minutes apart, some of them light, some of them painful. Finally I had a big one that baby girl did not like. The nurses got quiet and serious watching the monitor and had me change position. Her heart rate picked back up, but they wanted to keep an eye on her. Then they finally checked me--4 cm and 90% effaced. I was elated--yes, I was finally actually in active labor and would be having a baby that day.

We moved to an LDR room and got set up with the monitor there. I got my IV for antibiotics, and we tried to settle in. I was so impatient to be off the IV and monitor. Being in bed was not comfortable. I just wanted to get in a warm bath and have the glorious respite I'd had with John Paul. There were a couple more contractions where Colette's heart rate dipped lower than they liked and took a while to pick back up. Thankfully rolling onto my right side instead of my left seemed to solve the problem and they eventually let me out of bed. In the meantime we got a new nurse for shift change. She was absolutely lovely--quiet, supportive, and unobtrusive. And I finally got the okay to get in the bath. 

Almost as soon as I got in the tub one of the two Kaiser OBs on duty poked her head in to say hello. What she actually said was "Well hello Ashley! Are we having a baby today?" In a very loud, overly cheery voice. Well, no, not really--I just like the tubs at the hospital. Of course I am having a baby! I had seen this particular OB for a prenatal visit at 36 weeks and decidedly did not want her delivering my baby because I felt her manner was somewhat condescending and a little abrasive. But there was nothing to do about it now--I certainly wasn't going to try to hold out until she went off shift!

Much to my dismay, the tub was nowhere near as comfortable as it had been during John Paul's labor. and in my completely exhausted state (I'd been up for over 24 hours and hadn't eaten in over six hours at this point) the heat was making me light headed. So I got out and went back to the bed to try to rest in between contractions. I was able to doze lightly between contractions for about half an hour. By now the contractions were definitely painful and bordering on an urge to push. I simply could not relax through them. I had thought for weeks that Colette was probably posterior, and now I was sure of it. I felt every contraction sharply in my lower back and hips. And I was too exhausted to even think what I was supposed to do about it.

I was so ready to give up. I was weepy with exhaustion and just wanted it to be over. And I was partially convinced that there was no way I would be having this baby naturally--that I had somehow jinxed myself by reading too many birth stories and thinking too much about this labor. She was posterior, I was too tired, I had started all the Spinning Babies alignment stuff too late and hadn't been consistent enough with it and her head wouldn't fully engage, I would need pitocin to progress and then I would need an epidural and then she would go into distress and I would need a C-section... etc. etc. etc. And despite recognizing on some level that these thoughts were not entirely reasonable I knew I didn't dare let myself hope I was in transition.

Meanwhile our new nurse had been checking on me occasionally and had told me to let her know as soon as I felt like I might need to push so she could call the doctor right away, because this was my fourth one and although she was perfectly capable of delivering a baby on her own she would really rather not because of all the paper work (I loved her sense of humor). I, however, was determined that this time around I would not say anything about needing to push "too early." I would just let my body do what it needed to do and not be subjected yet again to being told to fight the urge to push before I was fully dilated. And everyone around me expecting this to go quickly just made me even more afraid that it wouldn't. Even when I started to feel myself pushing with the contractions.

But this nurse was absolutely fantastic. She heard the change in my vocalizations before I even considered telling her, and asked if I was pushing. I said yes, sort of, and she was ready for business right away. She asked if she could check me, and I reluctantly said yes. I thought I was probably only at a 7. And I didn't know how I could possibly go on much longer. I think I told Alex as much. In fact, I was mentally preparing myself to ask for an epidural because I was just. so. tired. But much to my delight and relief I was a 9 and completely effaced--and the nurse said I could go ahead and push as I needed to.

The miracles didn't stop there--when she called for the doctor she discovered that my not-favorite OB was still in the middle of a C-section and so I got the other Kaiser OB. They got things set up, made suggestions for position changes rather than giving directions, and were quite simply amazing.

I pushed for about 20 minutes. At first pushing didn't seem to be doing much, so I asked the doctor to break my water and she also had me lie back a little more to help Colette maneuver past my pubic bone. Pushing was so much more work than I remembered, but I was so relieved to finally be at this point.  

During this time it was discovered that for some reason my second dose of antibiotics hadn't actually been ordered and so they weren't going to be able to administer it in time. Then Colette's heart rate started doing unpleasant things, so they attached an internal monitor. They really didn't like what they were seeing, called a NICU team, and told me she needed to be out now. I pushed so hard I almost blacked out a couple times, and I yelled so loud that I had a sore throat and cough for several days. They gave me oxygen (which I hate--the mask makes me feel claustrophobic), and finally there she was. It hurt more than I remembered with the boys and I was sure she was huge and I had torn like crazy.

They put her on my chest and despite the panic of the last few minutes she was absolutely fine. She pinked up and was breathing and crying immediately. I was sobbing and shaking--the usual afterbirth rush of hormones and relief and crazy joy.

Blah blah blah, placenta, blah blah blah, hurt more than I remembered... And much to my relief I did not need stitches--just "skid marks" yet again. Thank goodness for that. The afterbirth pains were so strong that I actually felt myself involuntarily pushing even after I had delivered the placenta. And then I had some weird spasms for about half an hour that I can only think must have been due to her butting her head against my pubic bone for so long.

She was 20 1/4" long and 8 lbs even, and I was delighted that this did not qualify her as "large for gestational age," and we were therefore able to skip the every-two-hours-heel-pricks to monitor blood sugar. She nursed well but had a shallow latch, so we had a good week of it being pretty painful before nursing was smooth going. I don't think my crazy overactive supply made latching any easier for her.

And that is the unnecessarily long tale of Colette Cynthia's birth. Heaven help us (or you, rather) if/when we have number 5... I'll need to write an entire novel about the birth!

But speaking of #5 (ha, gotcha!) everyone at the hospital was very... impressed (for lack of a better word) that this was baby #4 in only 5 years. And as the nurse was helping us into the car and saying goodbye she said "See you again next year!" It was almost funny... I guess when you have three babies at the same hospital within three years they just kind of count on you to be a regular customer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2015: Year in Review (Part II)

Part I

We discovered that Liam absolutely does not like anything that goes pop, snap, or bang. The 4th of July was more than a little traumatic for him...

Liam started putting together puzzles without any help and Michael made a self-motivated leap from sounding out words when prompted to reading entire books to himself (and he hasn't stopped since).

We had another lovely visit from my mom.

And John Paul continued to develop his own little unique sense of humor (a prelude to developing his own little unique sense of mischief, naturally).

Alex went back to school, we welcomed a new nephew, and the boys and I spent a lot of time in the basement playing Iron Chef America.

Iron Chef Michael presenting his dish to the judges
 We also started what should have been a small house project (clear the drain in our bathroom sink). But it turned into a long, drawn-out process of totally replacing the vanity and plumbing. Michael was a great helper.

I started my fourth year of teaching for the Denver Catholic Biblical and Catechetical Schools and worked too many late nights to finish up writing projects before going on maternity leave at the end of October.

We started counting down to little Colette's arrival (starting the anxious count down waaaay too soon, as usual). More late nights writing.

At the end of October my mom came out to spend a whole month with us and Alex and I took our very first baby moon and spent a night away at a lovely little bed and breakfast. I didn't get any pictures, naturally.

Liam turned 3.

Colette finally made her appearance on the 14th, the day after her due date. You can read more than you ever wanted to know about here birth here.

Her brothers have not stopped adoring her.

Okay, none of us have!

a special sweater made for her by a family friend
Colette was baptized on November 29th.

We were thrilled to have my mom with us for a whole month, and for Dad to join us for Thanksgiving. We were thoroughly spoiled by all the time we got to spend with my parents in 2015, and I think we are all still going through withdrawals!

I enjoyed my maternity leave and we worked on adjusting to life as a family of six (okay, we're still adjusting). We had a wonderful Advent and Christmas, and much to my relief neither John Paul nor Liam managed to pull the Christmas tree down on themselves during their daily un-decorating binges!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

2015: Year in Review and Massive Photo Dump (Part I)

I love year-in-review posts. Well, let me clarify. I love reading other people's posts, but I find them incredibly difficult to write. They take such a long time and I find myself wondering "Wow, what did we do that month? Anything? Apparently not..." But I'll try anyway--especially since I was so horrible about blogging in 2015 AND I didn't do a Christmas newsletter.

We started the year out by choosing a patron saint for our family with Jennifer Fulwiler's Saint's Name Generator. Our patron for 2015 was St. Godehard of Hildesheim, feast day May 4th, patron of traveling merchants (not really applicable), and against childhood sickness (hooray!) danger at sea (not planning any transoceanic trips, but good to know), fever (hooray!), hailstorms (well, we'd love a new roof but better not to have to deal with it), Oh, and against birth pains. Well, I guess that one's wasted because we're planning on waiting a while to try for #4 and won't be delivering a baby in 2015. Ha. Hahahaha. (This, friends, is what we call foreshadowing...)

Michael turned 4.

Alex and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Alex helped sponsor the high school's trip to March for Life in DC for the second year, and my wonderful parents came out to spend the long weekend with me and the boys.

Lots of time spent writing, *finally* got a second crib and moved JP from his little bassinet to a real crib in his own room, and, um... it was cold? See? These posts are so hard!


We found out we would, in fact, be having a baby this year. We took the pregnancy test on March 6th, the feast day of St. Colette--the name we'd had picked out for a girl for several years. So right from the beginning I was 99.99% sure we were having a girl.

John Paul turned 1 and took his first couple of steps.

We acquired a hand-me-down piano from my parents.


We spent Easter in Lincoln with my family and 7 out of 10 people in the house came down with the stomach flu. But it was a great visit anyway!

John Paul got his first hair cut and started walking in earnest.

We enjoyed a visit from my sister and her family.

At the end of May we went camping for the first time as a family. It was... quite the adventure. I loved camping growing up, and I hope we get to do a lot more as the kiddos get older. Camping with none of our own gear and three kids four and under was a little stressful. But it was still a beautiful weekend and some good memories.

And at the end of May we were privileged and blessed to attend the ordination of our dear friend and Liam's godfather. And somehow I didn't get any pictures except for a rather lame attempt at a family selfie on our way to the Mass. Sadness.

ignore the nose-picking going on in the backseat, please...


We had a gorgeous late spring/early summer and spent as much time in the yard as we could.

I turned 30, and my gut feeling was confirmed at our 20 week ultrasound when we learned that yes, we were adding a girl to the crazy mix of wild little boys.

a perfect birthday celebration at home with my boys

John Paul did not approve of the Otter Pops

We spent the last part of June visiting family in North and South Dakota. As always sleep was the hardest part of the trip, but we had a blast and the boys were such patient and fun travelling buddies.

meeting second cousins

we had a lovely visit with Alex's grandma--and despite his best attempts, John Paul did not manage to completely destroy her home OR throw himself down any crazy steep staircases

at the lovely cabin we rented with my parents and sister--it was so special to spend a week all together in the Black Hills



we Rappanas are serious about our popcorn

we loved all the time with cousin James
And with that I think I'll have to make this into two parts so I don't break the internet with the number of photos in one blog post... Part II here.
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