Overwhelmingly Blessed

Growing up, I always thought it was weird when my classmates would celebrate Christmas on any day other than Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. But now that Dan and I live four and a half hours away from most of our family, we’ve joined the club. Dan’s parents came down the weekend before Christmas, in part, to celebrate Dan’s brother’s graduation, and in part, to celebrate Christmas as a family.

Lydia enjoyed new additions to her dress up closet, and Abby loved her new little piano. The gift opening was a lot of fun.

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Oh, and the food in Abby’s stocking was also a big hit.

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Just a couple of days later, my parents came down for another Christmas celebration. They made one of my favorite Christmas treats with Lydia and we enjoyed the afternoon together before opening presents. Abby got a little ball she loves to chase around and Lydia opened a new baby doll which she now carries with her everywhere.

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It was such a blessing to be able to see both sets of parents. We weren’t sure if they would be able to come this year, and we weren’t really able to travel at this point in my pregnancy. So it was exciting when things came together at the last minute and we got to do our family Christmases after all.

And then…Christmas Eve came, and we scrambled (ok, I scrambled) to get last minute preparations done. Between my overdoing it and Abby’s decision to almost choke on some plastic, things sort of fell apart at the end of the night. We threw some spaghetti in a pot and decided to keep things a little simpler next year.

But the girls were finally put to bed, the living room cleaned, and the presents wrapped. The advent calendar was filled. Lydia finally got to put on the sticker of Baby Jesus in the manger. The stockings were stuffed, and the food was prepared. Dan and I headed off to sleep before midnight.

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Then…Christmas morning.

I have an unwritten rule that I don’t take any pictures Christmas morning during the gift opening. We just enjoy our time together, technology set aside. Lydia got a toy doll stroller, perfect for her new baby doll. Abby got a toy train that we all love playing with. And, even though there’s no snow right now, the girls got a sled. It turned out that sleds do work(ish) on grass and carpet.

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After gift-opening, everyone enjoyed breakfast and got dressed. Dan read us the Christmas story. Then, we all played inside for a while, then the kids went outside with Dan to play on their new sled while I cleaned up from breakfast and worked on lunch. After a snacky sort of lunch, the Taylor girls got in some nice naps.

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Soon enough, it was dinner time. After dinner, we decided to give Lydia real treat and let her watch her very first video: A Charlie Brown Christmas. She also got to eat dessert in the living room. It was epic. Abby was unimpressed.

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And then it was time for bed. All day long Dan and I just felt overwhelmingly blessed. Our hearts were full. It was such a happy day. And then we got Dan home for three more days. Needless to day, it was a happy weekend. I hope you all enjoyed Christmases as happy as ours was, celebrating Jesus Birth with the ones you love the most.

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Taylor Christmas Letter 2014

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Hullo again Friends, it’s Mr. Christmas Moose here, returning for another addition of the Taylor Family Christmas Letter. I must have done a good job last year because they invited me back to write their letter again this year. Can’t say I’m too surprised. English has always been my strong point.

Well I better start off with the most important news. Thanks to your kind and generous comments on my last post, my time out of the box has been extended. I now get to come out of hibernation from the day after Thanksgiving (and yes, I’m pleased to say they actually woke me up on time this year!) through Fur Rendezvous. That’s the third Friday in February, thank you very much. And, in case you missed it, our little Abigail had her movie world premier at Fur Rondy last year. If you didn’t watch it then (or even if you did) check it out here. She’s a cutie.

Now after all of the madness of last year, I wasn’t sure the Taylors would give me much to write about this time around. But I guess they don’t like to be uneventful because this year was just as action-packed as the last.

January started off with the new little munchkin getting settled into our home. It had been a long hospital stay and the joy of bringing her home was not short-lived. Our routine was interrupted, though, when Dan’s work ran out of work for him to do and he spent two months at home looking for a new job. During that time, some inconsiderate neighbors were causing some environmental issues for our littlest munchkin and her doctor told us it would be best to move. Again.

Now, as much as I enjoy being out of my box, I really do need the sleep I get during those other 9 months of the year. So, I wasn’t too happy when I was placed in a bag and hauled off to live under some ping pong table for the next 5 months. I guess it was good that Dan found another job at that point. A moose has got to eat! But the ping pong table wasn’t my favorite. I can’t tell you how many dreams I had about woodpeckers, jackhammers, and balls bouncing over my head. It turns out a very generous family from church had opened up their home to the Taylors and gave them a roof over their heads (and a ping pong table over mine) while they began their hunt for a more permanent home.

I thought the day would never come. It seemed like every evening the Taylors would leave me to go look at houses only to come back and tell me that they hadn’t found the right one yet. If it was me, I would have given up and gone to live in a cave, but, it’s not my family after all. Some exciting things happened that summer, though…

Abby became the smiliest baby in the world. She is so cute and she loves, loves, loves to eat. Lydia remains the cute and animated little munchkin I’ve always known she is. She loves to help her Mommy in any way she can, even though her help sometimes isn’t extremely helpful (if you know what I mean). No offense intended toward the little one, she is a sweet heart. Toward the end of the summer, Dan got another new job. That was good for everyone because he liked it a lot better, it payed more, and they feed him lunch every single day. You can read more about that story here.

And, though they didn’t break the news for months, in August the Taylors found out another little calf…er…baby was on the way. I can hardly wait to find out if it’s a boy or girl, and what they’ll choose for a name. But we’re all hoping this Baby doesn’t come until after Fur Rondy this year. Wouldn’t want to get put back in my box early, you know!

In September, I got pulled out from under the ping pong table and hauled off in a truck to a nice, clean coat closet with the other Christmas decorations, lights, and our beautiful tree. I could hardly wait to come out of the box to see the new home the Taylors had finally chosen. It was quite a story, how they ended up here, and when I finally got the tour I wasn’t at all disappointed.

Now I’m out on my new home, the fireplace mantel. I have a great view of the tree, the front yard, and the area where the biggest munchkin likes to play dress-up. As I write this she’s dancing around in tights, a swimsuit, a scarf, and she’s singing a most beautiful made-up munchkin song. Lovely. The other munchkin is crawling around eating everything she can get her hands on (my kind of kid!), and the smallest one is nestled snuggly right where s/he should be, in Mommy’s belly.

Sometimes they bring me down for the munchkins to play with. Oh how I love the hugs and kisses, the dancing and giggles. But watch out if the little one ever gets a hold of you. She’s sweet, but she likes to nibble on your antlers if your not careful and she’s getting some mean molars back in that mouth of hers.

Well, we plan to lie low this Christmas and spend the day at home as a family opening gifts, eating good food, and celebrating the most important gift: the coming of our Savior, Jesus, as a little Baby. I sure have enjoyed hearing the Christmas story over and over this year as Justine teaches it to Lydia. She’s getting it down pretty well and if you tune in later this week maybe she’ll even share it on here.

Until Christmas, stay warm and well-fed and make sure everyone gets a good nap (that’s what we’re all learning around here these days). Merry Christmas everyone and enjoy the special moments you get to spend with the ones you love most.

Yours truly,

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Mr. Christmas Moose

Pregnancy Update: 22 Weeks

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A couple of weeks ago, Dan and I took the girls with us to see Baby’s 20-week ultrasound screening. Because we’re not trying to find out if this is a boy or girl, we had to miss a lot of the screening while the ultrasound tech did her job with the screen turned away from us. Nevertheless, we did get some peeks at Baby and some cute pictures to share.

Here’s a shot of Baby’s face.

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The head is on the right side of the screen, looking right at you.

Our ultrasound tech said this was the most beautiful baby she had seen in a long time. By that she meant that Baby cooperated and allowed her to see everything she was supposed to see.

Here’s a picture of Baby’s hand and foot.

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At one point during the ultrasound, our tech showed us that Baby was resting his/her head on my artery. Every time my heart pumped Baby’s head would move up and down with my heartbeat. It looked like s/he was having a little dance party in there.

Here’s the foot again.

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Toward the end of the ultrasound we got to see Baby’s profile. S/he was pressed right up against the placenta. It looked like s/he was giving it kisses.

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Everything from the ultrasound looked good and everything in the pregnancy is progressing normally. The next couple weeks are exciting for us as Baby is approaching the age where s/he will be big enough to survive if and when I do go into labor (early). Until then I’m trying to take it easy and keep life as uneventful as possible.

Just for fun I took a picture of me with Baby at 21 weeks to compare with my 21 week shot of Abigail. Abby’s on the left, Baby 3 on the right, and I even wore the same shirt for easy comparison. What do you think? Can you tell a difference or do Abby and Baby 3 look the same this far along?

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Our next appointment is scheduled for tomorrow. We’ll do another ultrasound, and talk about our plans for the weeks ahead as we enter the time when Baby will be getting old enough to survive if s/he comes that early. We’re hoping, though, for another 10 weeks.

Abby Update: 15 Months Old

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As Christmas approaches, Abigail is as joyful a baby…er…toddler(?) as ever. She’s not toddling yet, but she’s not exactly a baby. So, while I’m not sure how she classifies title-wise, I do know she is the smiliest little person I’ve ever met.

Abby is always happy unless she is very hungry or very tired. She’s always smiling unless she’s very unhappy or sucking her thumb right after a nap. Those cuddly moments are sometimes my favorite.

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Abby’s crawling around pretty efficiently using her one-armed, one-legged army crawling technique. It gets her where she wants to go so she’s happy to keep using it for now. She can crawl up a step and is pretty fearless, so she keeps us busy chasing her around.

Though she hasn’t taken to sign language like Lydia did, Abby is starting to use a few words. She can say “daddy”, “uh-oh!”, and “buh-bye”. When she eats her food and wants some more she makes a certain little grunt. She tries to say “mama” but more often than not it comes out as “baba”.

Abby’s all-time favorite thing to do is eat.

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And she eats a lot! She’s not too picky as long as she has food when she wants it in a nearly unending supply. If you interrupt her during a meal for any reason, she’s give you a harsh rebuke. If someone else is eating something different from her and she thinks it looks tasty, she’ll give you a few grunts until she gets a sample. Once she’s done eating she wants immediately out of her high chair so she can play or, more often, take a nap. After all of our struggles trying to get Lydia to gain weight, it’s nice to have an eager eater.

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Abby is a joy to the whole family. If find it so entertaining to hear the girls (who share a room now) chattering back and forth after we tuck them in for bed or naps. I find it just as heart-warming to hear their synchronized thumb-sucking once they do fall asleep. Lydia loves her little sister and we all have fun playing with her, tickling her, and getting her to laugh and smile in any way we can.

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Taylor Home Tour

Welcome to our new home! Would you like to take a look around?

Before we get started, I have a confession to make. I spent the whole morning running around, cleaning, and moving things out of the pictures before I took them. No, our house is not as clean as it looks here. But this is a blog, after all. Maybe I’ll hold this post up as inspiration in the future to keep things clean. 🙂

Anyway, come on in.

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Here is our living room, but let’s start with the upstairs, shall we? Turn to your right.

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Up we go.

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Don’t trip over the baby gate. We recently bought a new one that swings open (much safer for pregnant mommies carrying toddlers!), but it hasn’t arrived yet.

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To your immediate right, you’ll find the Master bedroom.

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The family who sold us this house also gave us a lot of their furniture, including an entire bedroom set for this room. However, we priced out king size mattresses and decided to stick with our queen. Then we couldn’t get our box spring up the stairs so we ended up buying a new bed frame from Ikea. Now I enjoy our new headboard every single night when I read before going to sleep. Then I enjoy it again in the morning while Lydia snuggles with me and I read my Bible and pray. But, go ahead, and have a look around.

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Now we’ll head across the hallway to the baby room/office.

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Glider for Baby. It needs new cushions. Or the current ones need to be washed. Not sure which we’ll do yet.

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Desk for Dan…

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Books and a few other boxes we have yet to sort through…

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Now we’ll head further down the hallway to the girls’ room. Shhhh, Abby’s napping.

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You also probably noticed that I’m in the process of washing Lydia’s sheets.

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The closet does have doors but they have to be reinstalled. When we had the floors put in (did you notice the beautiful new floors?) the workers took out the closet doors in here and they have to be cut to fit above the new floor now.

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I love this part of the room. Eventually Lydia’s kitchen will go in this little nook.

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Just a little further to our “dumping grounds”, that is, the third bedroom that currently holds all of the kids’ clothes. I have to sort through it all, but it’s not my top priority at the moment. This is also where Baby’s bed currently resides, although we plan to move it in to the Baby room/office.

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You’ll notice all that storage across the hall, from the ceiling…

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…down to the floor.

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At the end of the hallway is the bathroom.

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I love the girls’ puppy and elephant towels hanging there so happily. We really do need to install some more hooks though.

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And now we’ll go back downstairs to see the first floor. Notice the nifty shelves on the way down? This is the first time Dan and I have had more shelves than books. It’s nice.

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Here we are again in the living room. Notice the short open door to your right? That’s Lydia’s “dressup closet” and it’s nearly always in use. To close that for all the pictures would have been impossible. It was hard enough keeping the Munchkin in her tutu out of the pictures.

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There’s our Christmas tree.

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We ended up rearranging all of our furniture to accommodate the Christmas decorations. I love having this setup where I can read or work on little projects while I sit between all the Christmas lights. It’s cozy.

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There’s our Beloved Christmas Moose.

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Stockings and the kid-friendly nativity scene arranged by our own Munchkin. Yes, I realize we could have hung the stockings from our fireplace mantle like you’re supposed to. We tried but the hooks we were using just fell off. I looked up real stocking holders, but they weren’t in our budget this year.

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Now through this doorway is the kitchen.

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This breakfast nook is also Dan’s favorite spot to grade papers and plan lectures for the class he’s been teaching.

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Lots of cupboards, lots of counter space. I love this kitchen.

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The kitchen pictures are the most deceiving. The counters are actually covered in appliances. The appliances were under the island, but we’re installing a pretty massive water filter system there and I have to find new homes for everything. I love having my counters nearly bare (easy to clean!), and we’re currently deciding whether or not the coffee pot deserves a permanent spot up there. Dan votes “yes”, I’m leaning toward “no”. Thoughts?

Moving along…

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Here’s the island with a prep sink and everything. So handy.

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Through that door you see just past the island is the laundry area. It cuts right through to the piano room. We’ll get there.

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Washer and dryer behind those closets.

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Drying rack, hamper, and broom back here. We’d like to get that broom to hang up. Haven’t figured out how to do that yet. The hooks just fall down…might have to actually put some holes in the wall…

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Just past the kitchen is that back of our house and the dining area.

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This is the door we actually use. You, as a guest, came in the front door.

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Across from the back door, the first thing you see when you walk in, is our family-less tree. One day it will become a family tree, but that day hasn’t come yet.

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Here’s where all the meals happen. And my sewing.

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Adjacent to the dining room is the piano room. It also currently holds our chest freezer, closet doors to the girls’ room, Abby’s “standing toy”, and that massive water filter system I mentioned earlier.

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It also holds more decorations than any other room in the house. Sparse, I know. We’ll get there.

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And here we come around to the hallway that takes you out. We did a big loop, if you followed all of that.

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Before we go that way, I’ll open this closet door to give you a sneak peak into one of our many closets. I have unpacked sufficiently for now, but the closets are a mess. This is my “mom closet”. It has random toys that haven’t been put away yet, sewing projects, homeschool research materials, and some other miscellaneous items I don’t want the girls to get into.

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We’ll just shut that closet door and make our way out.Did you notice I even closed Lydia’s dress up closet for you? Feel free to use the restroom on your way out. First door on the left. You can just move Lydia’s potty seat. There’s a nifty little hook for it on the side of the sink.

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Well, it’s about lunch time and Abby needs to get up from her nap, so I’ll let you let yourself out. We won’t explore outside today as it’s getting late and it’s pretty cold out there. Have a nice trip home, stay warm, and come again soon!

Preparing for a NICU Baby

This Monday I reached 20 weeks in my pregnancy, halfway for most people. However, as we have a history of preemies, Dan and I wanted to be well-prepared for another long NICU stay, if that’s what ends up happening. By the time I reached 20 weeks, I was told I would need to limit my activity a little bit, so those preparations all had to be done by Monday, and I’m happy to say that they were. The last few weeks have been crazy with all the things we’ve been trying to get done, but now I get to rest and I’m sure in a few months, the preparations will pay off.

So what kind of preparations did we do? The first task was to unpack. What a relief it is to finally be unpacked and moved in. The closets may be messy, and I have piles and piles of the girls’ clothing to sort through (someday), but the bulk of the work is done and everything else can wait or be done when we have spare time. I’ll try to post pictures of our unpacked home soon.

The second major task was freezing meals. Life with a NICU baby is very busy, so cooking is always an issue. Sure, you can eat out, but that gets expensive and unhealthy. Since we’re expecting some amount of a NICU stay this time around, I made a meal plan that would last 12 weeks (that’s how long Abby was in the hospital). As things became overwhelming I cut back, cancelled meals, and recalculated. As of today we have three freezers full or half-full of food ready-to-eat when Baby comes. Once I reach 23 weeks, Dan will go on a mega shopping trip to stock up on all sorts of nonperishables to complement our meals along with some more items to freeze. For now we have 34 breakfasts, and 88 lunches/dinners frozen and waiting to be enjoyed.

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The final task was to get our Christmas decorations up. This was so fun. It really didn’t take very long, and the girls stayed up to help with the tree. Then they headed off to bed while we finished with the lights, ornaments, and a few other festive items. I am loving the decorations every night as I curl up by our fire place, work on Christmas presents, and sip some tea.

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As far as the pregnancy goes, things have continued on as expected, for the most part. Last Wednesday I had some concerning contractions, but we’ve sorted out the root of the problem and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. The “big” ultrasound screening is Friday morning and we’ll find out how Baby’s doing as well as how much I will be allowed to continue to do. Any signs that Baby is on the way and I’ll probably be stuck in bed. For now we’re just taking it easy, soaking up this season, and enjoying our cozy Christmas lights.

Taylor Turkey Day 2014

Last Thursday Dan’s family traveled to our home for our Thanksgiving celebration. I had been warned by many (including my doctor) not to do too much, so we had to be strategic in our planning. I started the meal preparation on Tuesday and did a little each day leading up to our feast.

Thursday morning we wanted to attend a local church service, so I planned accordingly. Dan and I love being efficient, and this day was definitely a success. By the time we left for the service we had the cranberry sauce and dessert made, potatoes in the crock pot, sweet potatoes ready to throw in the oven, and the turkey stuffed and roasting.

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We enjoyed a beautiful service and took our time visiting before heading home. Car troubles changed our plans slightly so we had extra time to get the meal together. After a small lunch, Dan carved the turkey (which was smelling delicious by that point), and I made my first ever successful batch of gravy. We scooped out the stuffing and mashed to potatoes and put those prepped sweet potatoes in the oven. Then I headed upstairs to nap until Dan’s family arrived.

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By the way, does our turkey look strange? A friend gave us this tip a while back: if you cook your turkey upside down, the white meat will be much juicier. We tried it once and it turned out great, so now we’re hooked. Although, this year my entire turkey was over cooked so the white meat was dry anyway. Good thing that gravy turned out!

Then the fun part, family arrived. We piled up our plates and enjoyed the food while we visited and were entertained by our food-loving Abigail and ever-social Lydia.

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After dessert, we spent the majority of our evening in the living room. Lydia made us laugh until we cried by dressing up and dancing all around the living room. Books were read and stories told. Everyone got the first glimpse of this year’s ornaments made for us by Dan’s Gramma.

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It was a wonderful day and a wonderful night. Dan’s parents spent the night (much to the girls’ delight when they woke up the nxt morning!) before making the long trek North.

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Our Thanksgiving weekend continued on over the next few days and we set up our Christmas decorations, did some Christmas shopping, and enjoyed having Dan home for four days in a row. It was a perfect weekend to celebrate God’s goodness to us and our many blessings.