Taylor Staycation 2015

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The big news in our family is that Dan will be starting a brand new job on June 8! His last job went well for a while but gradually the requirements began to change until he was doing work he didn’t enjoy. Finally it became obvious that it was time to find a different job and he began applying to various positions. As it turned out, he received two offers at the same time and we had a stressful weekend trying to decide between the two. The decision came down to simply praying about it and Dan settled on a new job as a quality engineer for a car company.

All this is to say that Dan is off work from now until June 8, so we’ve decided to fill the remaining days with fun family activities close to home. To kick off our fun times, we took a trip out to our favorite downtown: Plymouth. We had to go there so I could get some more pictures at our favorite Plymouth fountain, carrying on the tradition from the past two years.

2013:
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2014:
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2015:
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Lydia and Abby, 2014:
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Lydia, Abby, and Paul, 2015:
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We have a lot more fun coming, including Lydia’s fourth birthday party, a trip to Greenfield Village, and some other surprises. I’ll do my best to take some pictures so you can all share in the fun.

He Called Me Susie

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It was a warm summer day when Dan drove down winding roads to take me to meet his grandparents for the first time. I was nervous. Meeting Dan’s parents hadn’t been to nerve-wracking because we had grown up attending the same church and I had known who they were for most of my life, but I had never met Dan’s grandparents before. What if they didn’t like me? The only thing I really knew about them was that Dan’s “Gramma” was the biggest University of Michigan football fan ever. Once when Dan was little, Gramma Dexter’s…enthusiasm…during a televised football game had scared Dan enough to make him cry. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this visit. I was planning to attend the University of Michigan myself, so at least I had that going for me.

Dan called ahead to let Gramma and Grampa know we were on our way. I could hear Grampa’s voice through the cell phone as Dan told them he was bringing his friend to meet them, the one they had heard all about. “Heh? So we finally get to meet Susie?” Grampa asked. He was teasing, but for several months he continued to refer to me as Susie.

We pulled up to the house at last and a short, smiley lady welcomed us into her home. I needn’t have worried about Gramma and Grampa not liking me. They welcomed me in like family. Grampa gifted me with a small stained-glass University of Michigan ornament that he had made himself. “You made this?” I asked in surprise. He pointed out the light above the kitchen island. The stained glass light fixture was also blue and maize. “Gramma saw one of these lights in a store and wanted it. I looked at the price tag and said, ‘I could make that'”. So he did.

Dan and I were treated to an impromptu dinner of steak and potatoes and I felt right at home sitting at that island and watching blue and maize candles burn in their centerpiece as we chatted with Dan’s grandparents. Time flew by and all-to-soon, it was time to leave.

We enjoyed several more visits to Gramma and Grampa over the years as Dan and I went from being friends, to dating, engaged, and married, eventually bringing the great-grandkids for visits whenever we were in the area. But I will never forget that first visit when even Grampa’s teasing made me feel like family and the months that followed when he would always call me Susie.

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Dan’s Grampa has had several health problems and knew his time on earth was coming to an end, so it wasn’t uncommon to hear talk about his final plans and what he wanted for his funeral. On one occasion, I learned that Grampa had a certain song he had adopted as his own and would often sing for others at church. When I found out he wanted to show a video of himself singing this song at his funeral, I told Dan, “I have to ask him to sing it for me the next time we’re up. I don’t want the first time I hear him sing be at his funeral.”

Sure enough, on the next trip up, we made our way to that cozy little home and I asked Grampa to sing for me while Gramma played the organ. For someone who had long struggled with almost every health problem you could imagine, and for someone who loved Jesus, the song was perfect:

If this earthly tabernacle should be dissolved today
I’d trade it for a finer one, that would not pass away.
But till the day arrives when it’s time for moving out
Tis such sweet peace to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

The sweetest fellowship I’ve known has fortified these walls
And peace has reigned since he’s been walking up and down these halls.
With snow upon the rooftop now and these hinges near worn out
It’s such a joy to know the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
It sure ain’t fine and fancy and all I can boast about
Is after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

Now there were times he had the right, just to up and move away
And there were times and days I knew it took God’s amazing grace to stay.
But he never left this old building once, that’s why I can sing and shout
Cause after all these years the Lord still lives in this old house.

To him it’s been a dwelling place where he kept my hand in his
To me a home away from home, is all it really is.
And it sure ain’t fine and fancy and all that I can boast about
Is after all the years the Lord still lives in this old house.

After all these years the Lord … Still lives in this old house.

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Grampa passed away two weeks ago.

In the time I have known him, Grampa has spent many weeks in the hospital. He always came home again. That’s just how it was with Grampa. He kept fighting and kept working as long as he could. Dan and I used to have a small reclining couch that was given to us from Gramma and Grampa’s house. More than once I cried in Dan’s arms, curled up on that couch, thinking for sure this visit to the hospital would be Grampa’s last. Many times I wondered if he would make it to our wedding, or until we had our baby, or until that baby came home from the NICU, or until he could meet his tiny grandchild. But every other time Grampa recovered and made it home again. He kept loving us, teasing us, and remaining cheerful through a lot of pain and difficulty.

Grampa would often connect with our little ones because they all had to be hooked up to wires, poked and prodded, and needed help breathing. It’s true, Grampa’s loud voice scared both Lydia and Abby the first time they each met him, but once they were placed on his chest they curled up snug and happy. One of the saddest parts for Dan and I in saying goodbye to Grampa now is that he never got to meet Paul. We only pray that Paul will also come to love Jesus so that he can meet Grampa in heaven.

A week and a half ago, Dan and I took the kids in a whirlwind trip up North to attend Grampa’s funeral. Although the goodbyes were heart-wrenching and I couldn’t stop crying for most of that afternoon, I looked at that “old house” of Grampa’s and knew he wasn’t there anymore. He wasn’t hurting or sad at all. He finally got to go home to Jesus. It’s only those of us left down here who have to suffer the sadness of the goodbye. When the time came for the casket to be lowered into the grave I just kept thinking, “Grampa doesn’t even want that old body anymore. Good riddance!” No more hospital stays, dialysis, breathing assistance, medications, cancer, heart attacks, surgery…

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There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to end this post because it feels like another goodbye. Day-to-day, Dan and I don’t feel the depth of the loss because we didn’t see Grampa that often, but at moments the reality sinks in and it’s just so hard to believe he’s gone. Only Lydia has been able to fully appreciate the victory in Grampa’s death as she has reminded us a number of times, “He’s in heaven with Jesus”. Grampa’s hope for eternity was in Jesus. He arranged his funeral to be reminder after reminder of the hope he had in Christ and the message that was shared was indeed the Gospel.

We all will die someday and we will have to account for our actions on this earth. The only hope of heaven is because Jesus died on the cross. Although he was buried, he rose again and offers enteral life to all who will repent and believe in him.

The Lord no longer lives in Grampa’s “old house”, but Grampa has gone up to live in a new heavenly mansion.

Grampa, if you could read this now, I’d want to thank you for welcoming me into your family. Thank you for teasing me and calling me Susie, for encouraging me when I was hurt, for making me laugh sometimes when I was crying. Thank you for loving us so much, for loving Lydia and Abigail and Paul, even though you never got to meet him. Thank you for singing for me before your funeral. Thank you for keeping your youthfulness and sense of humor even when you were suffering far more than you ever let on. Thank you for loving Jesus and for not being afraid to die. We love you and we miss you. Until eternity.

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Happenings

The past several days have been full of fun happenings at the Taylor household…

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To begin, we celebrated my birthday last Thursday. Dan wished me “Happy birthday” a dozen times, bought me some pretty spring flowers, and frozen raspberries to thaw out for a sweet dessert.

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Lydia wished me many “happy birthdays” and sang me many happy birthday songs.

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Abby dished out happy birthday smiles and entertained us all when she ate her raspberries.

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It was a happy, fun, and special day. Oh, and Paul slept better at night as his birthday gift to me.

A few days later we celebrated Paul’s first Easter, and his first Sunday at church. The morning was filled with a joyful church service celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and His ongoing work around the world today (and a yummy potluck breakfast). Of course, the kids were dressed in their Easter best, so we took a lot of pictures.

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Handsome little guy, isn’t he? 🙂

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(Another handsome one here, I might add)

To wrap it all up, yesterday we celebrated another important holiday: opening day.

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Our Much-Loved Routine

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I’ve tried a lot of different routines over the past few years. They keep me productive, help the day pass more quickly, and add a happy and welcome structure to each day. Often, I have stumbled through my routines getting stuck on the fun activities and putting off the boring ones until I was rushing around trying to finish everything at the end of the day. However, the girls and I figured out a routine that was working just beautifully for us until last Friday when we rearranged things so I could be off my feet more. We’ve adapted our routine, and it isn’t as ideal now, but I wanted to document this favorite routine of ours while the memories were still fresh.

A Day In Our Lives

7:30 Quiet Time

At 7:30 my alarm goes off. I usually take a while to wake up, then sit up in bed and turn on my handy lamp, pull out my Bible, journal and pen, and start my quiet time. I like to start with about 10 minutes of memorizing or reviewing memorized verses (I’m working through Psalm 37 right now), then have 10 minutes of Bible reading (I’m reading through the Bible now, at least a chapter a day, and recording observations about the characteristics of godly women in the Bible), and end with 10 minutes of prayer (praying through a regular list of needs and people along with whatever else is going on in our lives that day or week).

Usually during this time Lydia comes pitter-pattering into my room to snuggle with me under the covers. She especially likes to hold my Bible case and journal, suck her thumb, and hold my hair. If she doesn’t wake up on her own, I wake her up before I pray, because she’ll be sorely disappointed if she misses out on our Bible time together.

8:00 Morning Routine

Throw laundry in the washing machine, empty the dishwasher, and prepare breakfast. Then get Abby up and get both girls dressed for the day. Say goodbye and send Dan off to work.

8:30 Breakfast and Bible Time, switch laundry to dryer

After breakfast, I read to Abby out of a little Bible story book and to Lydia out of a bigger story Bible. We’re currently reading through this book, which I recommend for little girls. We also pray for something specific (currently for Baby to “not be born today” and for Dan to get into a phd program), and sing a Bible memory song (reviewing Romans 3:23-24 this week).

9:15 Shower, play with Abby, do gymnastics with Lydia

9:45 Cleaning Chore

Monday: Tidy up, put things in their proper places
Tuesday: Change sheets
Wednesday: give baths and clean bathrooms
Thursday: Clean floors
Friday: Do something extra (clean fridge, floors upstairs, dust etc.)

10:15 Read to girls, Put Abby down for a nap

10:45 Computer chores

Write blog posts, update budget, pay bills, plan meals and make grocery lists, put pictures on Facebook.

11:15 School with Lydia

We’re working through this book. It’s just a little every day and we really enjoy it.

11:30 Get Abby up, Correspondance

This is when I try to stay on top of things as far as emailing, writing, and calling family and friends.

12:00 Lunch

1:00 Fold and put away laundry

I used to have the hardest time with laundry. I could get it washed and dried easily enough, but I waited to fold it until the end of the day and then, more often than not, I never got to it. But when I changed things around and started folding laundry after lunch, suddenly it got done every day.

1:30 Rest, read, and naps

This used to be straight up nap time, but the girls would play and giggle for so long that they didn’t fall asleep for at least half an hour (sometimes an hour and a half!). So I started bringing up some tea and spent that first half hour reading with my cup of tea while the girls played in their room. As the half hour ended, the girls would quiet down and when all was quiet I would nap too.

3:30 Project

I don’t feel too bad admitting that I take an hour and a half nap because I’m supposed to be taking it easy. (Right?) I’ve read that you should either nap for 15-20 minutes or for a full hour and a half to wake up energized and not groggy. So I take the whole hour and a half, but it is usually interrupted by Lydia needing to go potty. Ah well. After my nap the girls are often still asleep so I take half an hour to work on a project around the house.

4:00 Snacks and Adventures in Odyssey

The girls need a snack after their nap and then Lydia is usually still sleepy enough to want to snuggle. So we snuggle and listen to the day’s episode of Adventure in Odyssey online.

4:30 Make Dinner

6-ish Dinner and Bible Time as a Family

The schedule kind of falls apart from here on. Dan’s not as big into routines as I am, so I let the evening go with his leading. Sometimes we read a book together after dinner. Sometimes the girls need baths. Sometimes we just play.

8ish Bedtime for the girls

You know, the usual bedtime routine, brush teeth, change diaper(s), put on pajamas, wrap up in warm blankets and tell stories and sing songs. Most nights Lydia asks for a “Billy story” (stories that Dan makes up about a fictional boy named Billy who is obsessed with playing baseball) or a “Melissa story” (stories that I tell about a fictional girl named Melissa, but the stories are actually 95% straight out of my own life). On good nights she’ll get both. Then she asks me to sing a certain song (“The Bunny Song” is a favorite but lately she has also enjoyed “Away in a Manger” even though Christmas has passed). While I sing, she insists I lay down with her so she can hold my hair. Afterward she asks me to “Stay and rest for a while”. Then we turn on a music cd, turn off the lights, and head downstairs.

Sadly, now that I’m avoiding the stairs as much as possible, I no longer get to take part in the bedtime routine. Only for a season…

The Rest of the Night

The rest of the night is just for Dan and I. Sometimes we play the game: Go, or read a book together. Sometimes he works on projects and I read.

And so our happy day comes to a close. I miss our routine already, but know it’s for a season and will be worth it if Baby waits longer to be born. I also know this routine won’t be back for a long time. First there will likely be a season in the NICU. Then we’ll have a newborn at home with the usual sleepless nights, fussy times, and adjusting to having another little one. I’m sure there will be other seasons with happy routines, and someday I’ll probably look back on this and laugh at how easy we had it while the kids were so little and our lives so simple!

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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

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.