Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: Amy Inspired

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Amy Inspired written by Bethany Pierce

Book Description: Amy Gallagher is an aspiring writer who, after countless rejections, has settled for a career as an English professor in small-town Ohio just to pay the bills. All her dreams suddenly start to unravel as rejections pile up--both from publishers and her boyfriend. But just as Amy fears her life is stuck in a holding pattern, she meets the mysterious, attractive, and unavailable Eli. She struggles to walk the fine line between friendship and something more with Eli, even as staying true to her faith becomes unexpectedly complicated. When secrets, tragedy, and poor decisions cause rifts in Amy's relationships, she must come to terms with who she's become, her unrealized aspirations for her life, and the state of her faith. Can she dare to hope that she will find love and fulfillment despite it all?

Book Review: This book was written in the first person ~sigh~ but I was still able to follow along and still enjoy the process of reading, unlike most other first-person books I’ve read.

I found the story line to be, okay. I didn’t mind picking the book up to read it, but it wasn’t something I “couldn’t wait to get back to” either. It falls somewhere in between a good book, and just an easy-read to pass the time. Depending on your literature preference you could easily fall on one of the two sides – for me, I fell in the middle.

The book had a usual storyline: compulsively organized, list making girl meets a free-spirited, easy going boy. Their attraction is predictable, and filled with the ups and downs of “opposites attracting”. The other characters in the storyline added slightly more depth, an eccentric, vegetarian roommate to the borderline stalking student, but brought with them too much detail and distraction. The book was slow in creating an exciting storyline, and went too in depth of some of the less meaningful characters, for an average storyline, it created a dragging story and only an okay book.

One thing I do have to mention about this book, is that although it is classified as Christian fiction, there are some less than honorable “scenes”, you should use discernment when allowing young adults to read it. While no "obvious” lines are crossed there are a few less-than-pure situations.

This point brings me to a tangent I must make, please disregard the following if you could care less about my personal opinions about book (and other media classifications):

Booklist (the review journal of the American Library Association) in their review of this particular book described the main character as “a flawed woman facing modern-day dilemmas and conflicts of faith, thus bringing a welcome dose of contemporary reality to the Christian fiction genre” I disagree. A flawed woman, like us all, she may be – but to seemingly justify moral degeneration by calling it modern-day does not make Amy’s obvious lack of conviction acceptable, and certainly not “welcomed”.

I understand that my task is not to critique  Booklist or their review, but rather this specific book, however in doing that I was brought face-to-face with an example of how our society (and often the church) looks at luke warmness, compromise and obvious disregard for scripture and accepts it as “Christian”.

Just because a book mentions God, or faith should not qualify it as “Christian Literature” or meeting Christian standards. Just because an author/artist claims Christ, does not mean their work always points to Christ. The author of this book may be Christian but this book does not fall in the same category.

Does the storyline contain situations that happen in the lives of Christians? Yes, probably. Does it promote and encourage Christian standards? No. Did it mention or portray the gospel message? No.

So I want to be clear, although I did enjoy parts of this book, and the storyline, it was in the same way that I enjoy other non-Christian books at times. However, I would probably not recommend it as a Christian Fiction.

Christmas Day

The morning of Christmas, luckily didn’t start too early. I was proud of the kids for sleeping till after 7.

We made sweet rolls for breakfast (okay, Tim made sweet rolls for breakfast), and the kids were patient waiting to open gifts.

Each of them had three gifts to open.

Treyton received the Lego City Police Headquarters, a Spiderman Web Shooter (his favorite gift), and a Hot Wheels set.

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Lexie got a Disney hair salon set (her favorite gift), a little people princess castle and pieces, and Melissa and Doug Cutting Food.

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Audrey got an alphabet foam block set, a v-tech light up ocean toy and a green sock monkey.

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Lexie loved her salon set, and immediately set to helping mom do her hair. It didn’t take long for Treyton to join in the fun, too.

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Next Tim and Treyton decided to play the Wii while Lexie and I watched Beauty and the Beast in the bedroom and Audrey napped.

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After lunch, we did some Christmas baking – making Jesus’ birthday cake and some sugar cookies. The kids each cut out and decorated their own cookies.

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Lexie was so cute, when she first put the sprinkles on, she did it one at a time, after a while she got the hang of it and started “dumping them on”. 

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Treyton, as you would expect, was a pro! 

IMG_0045  Lexie did her cookies pink, Treyton did his orange.

IMG_0056 While the older two kids were busy baking and decorating their cookies, Audrey was just hanging around with dad. :)

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I love this little girl!! Her big toothless smile is a source of joy in our lives.

IMG_0061 She seems to have enjoyed her first Christmas. IMG_0062 Here are the finished pastry masterpieces and the chefs!!

IMG_0085 Next, it was time to enjoy their creations.

IMG_0088For dinner we made our favorite meal – lamb, zucchini and potatoes. Dad decided to add a fun candlelight for an added fun element. The kids LOVED the idea!! 

IMG_0097 We held off on diving into Jesus’ Birthday cake, to reduce the chance of a sugar coma. So we waited to put the finishing touches on and sing Jesus Happy Birthday til Sunday.

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IMG_0101I praise God for such a fun, relaxing holiday that we got to share with our children. God is so good!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Who is Treyton?

IMG_0041 Treyton, an orderly, people-pleasing firstborn, is easy to talk to, raise and disciple. He is a seeker of knowledge and explanations, a lover of truth. Rarely okay with accepting a simple answer, he’s analytical and desires to understand and see things from every side. He possesses a wisdom beyond his years, and asks many questions about God, heaven and life. Despite receiving insufficient answers to some of life's greatest mysteries, his faith is strong in the one He knows to rule it all!

  Responsible big brother, our number one helper, is capable of IMG_0086many things beyond his years. Protective of his girls, Dad can’t get away with any sort of teasing without Treyton coming to our rescue. He is always asking to carry Audrey around and a day does not pass that he doesn’t make his sisters laugh. A  caregiver; if someone is sick, it is usually Treyton who lays by their side, constantly available for the littlest need. 

A goal-oriented, type A personality, can become easily flustered when things are not as they should be. He thrives on orderliness. Fear and anxiety are his weakness, and he easily falls into thinking of “what-if” scenarios.

One of my favorite qualities of Treyton continues to be his  sensitive nature, and his ability to see people, really see them. It’s not surprising to hear Treyton ask “Are you upset, mom?” “Is everything okay, mom?” “You seem tired, do you have a headache?” “What do you need mom?”. He wants much, but also IMG_0047longs to give much to others.

He is a talker – a loud talker!! Which can be annoying at times, but is a perfect illustration of his determination and perseverance. It’s no secret that Treyton has had a language/speech delay, but he has never let that slow him down or change who he was. Rather than becoming frustrated with others when they can’t understand him, or shutting down, he has learned to communicate in his own ways. 

He loves to cook, close the van door, play football with dad, ride his bike, race, and cuddle with mom. He is excited about learning to read, and finds pride in both his brain and his muscles.

IMG_0029A jokester to the core, he is always teasing, laughing and trying to get people going. He laughs the hardest at his own jokes, even if I don’t find them funny ;) He loves music, mostly playing on his guitar and singing. He tries to imitate those he sees, always looking to improve his skills.

Competitive to the core, EVERYTHING is a game or competition, holding a winner and a loser. A football fanatic, little-slugger rookie, sports are a passion of his handed down from his father. Most of these things come pretty naturally to him, and if they don’t he is determined to achieve at least some level of success. He is good at and interested in a little bit of everything.

Surprisingly social despite his shy nature. Friends and family are his most valued treasures. With a heart of gold and a love that IMG_0082runs deep, he is a loyal and true friend to any that will have him.

At five years old, Treyton is, not only our son, but a person we enjoy being with. He makes us laugh, and keeps us honest.

Isms: Common Sayings

IMG_0120One of the things I love about my kids is that they go through stages where they have sayings that they use all the time. For a while, Lexie’s would mimic whatever Treyton’s was, but as she’s getting older she too is developing a few of her own.

For Treyton, a few of his favorites have been: 

“Duuude!”

“That’s what I’m talking about” (he’s used this one for a while now)

“Oh yeah! I SMOKED ya!” (if he’s winning, otherwise, you “smoked” him)

“That’s true.”

“Woo hoo!!”

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Alexa has been using the following sayings often:

“Perfect! Just Perfect!” (this is an exasperated expression for her)

“Yeah Baby! That’s what I’m talking about!”

“Lamb” Her little lamb that she carries with her everwhere started out as “Lalalalala” then graduated to “Lamby” and is now simply “Lamb”. I keep trying to encourage “Lamby” because I personally think that’s cuter, but this girl has a mind of her own, when she makes her mind up about something, there seems to be no changing it.

“What you doin’, Mama?”

“Oh My gosh” (not a favorite of mom and dad’s we’ve been working hard to change it to “Oh My Word”

“I can do it!”

“I know, I know” she says this when I am correcting her, and though she isn’t listening or obeying she will look at me and say “I know, I know” to which I reply “Then do it!”

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Eve Memories

IMG_0212_1 Normally we celebrate Christmas Eve with my side of the family, but because a couple of the families were recovering from the stomach flu (our’s being one of them), we decided to push our celebration to next weekend to minimize contamination or re-contamination of such an icky stomach bug.

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Although being home was a little last-minute, we found enough to occupy our time with. After taking it pretty east for most of the morning, near lunch time we decided to open a few advent gifts that we didn’t get to (we stopped opening gifts for our advent calendar to keep the focus more on Christ). As well as the gifts we wanted to exchange with one another – the kids exchanged, and Treyton got both mom and dad something.

Treyton got Lexie a tinkerbell night-light. And she also got two Fancy Nancy books and a bat girl costume.

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Lexie got Treyton a Melissa and Doug tanagram puzzle. And for the calendar Treyton got a spider man car that shoots out plastic webs and an iron man costume.

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Audrey got a rolling monkey ball, and a Melissa and Doug stacker.

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Dad got a Wii.

Mom got a treadmill.

Treyton got mom a neck massager and some socks, and he got dad a Dunder Mifflin shirt, a belt and a new wallet. IMG_0161_1I was so proud of Treyton for wanting to get others gifts this year, and even insisting on paying for part of Tim’s with his own money.  He was really good at keeping our gifts a secret, even when we tried to get it out of him. Tim kidded with Treyton when he opened his gift, pretending that he thought Treyton got him just a box. Treyton, got a pretty big kick out of it. Those two are like peas in a pod, such jokesters.

All in all, Christmas Eve was pretty low key and very relaxing for us, we had wanted to attend the Christmas Eve service at church, but decided to stay home, just in case some of us were still contagious. So we spent our time, playing superheroes, learning the Wii, and taking naps instead.

IMG_0146_1This was Audrey’s first Christmas, and like most babies, her favorite part was definitely all the wrapping paper and boxes. She has a great time crawling among the “wreckage”.

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The wii, luckily was a big hit – Treyton is such a competitive little boy! Him and dad played nearly every game on the two sports games we have. Treyton was really good at the bowling and table tennis, but he also really liked the sword fighting and three-point basketball competition. Lexie was even able to play a few games, though her interest doesn’t last as long. Personally, I enjoyed the three-point basketball game because I had to work so hard to get the high score (23) which lasted a whole 30-minutes before Tim beat me again (getting 25). Good times were had by all.

Yummy food is one of the biggest necessities for a successful holiday - We made one of our family’s favorite meals for lunch, gumbo, and had a “snack dinner” (a tradition from my side of the family).

After dinner, the kids did their stockings and pajama gifts. They thought it was pretty special to open presents twice in one day.

IMG_0011_1Treyton’s favorite stocking stuffer was this little hot wheels motorcycle that pops wheelies. IMG_0013_1 Each of the kids got a movie. Lexie got Beauty and the Beast (mom’s favorite). Treyton got Toy Story 2. And Audrey got Snow White. IMG_0017_1When it was time to get ready for bed, Lexie crawled on top of me to cuddle, a minute later we feel Audrey climbing up on Lexie. In no time at all we had a pile of girls in the middle of the Living Room.    IMG_0180_1 I feel blessed that we got to have such a low-key Christmas Eve and that God spared us from sickness over the actual holiday weekend. It was a much wanted gift :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Complete Randomness.

I can’t tell you how many blog posts I write in my head, seriously, I’m amazing at writing blog posts…. if only I could transfer them to the key board somehow.

I’m sitting here at the dining room table , with Annie-Annie our new pet hamster watching Chopped (I love the food network!), and working hard to clean out my nearly 500 new google reader messages!! Where has all my time gone?

My house is actually clean, which I’m excited about but it’s really only because I spent ALL day cleaning up after sick kids, and the more they puked the more areas needed cleaning – sigh – but now, the kids are in bed, and for the moment, I have no puke to clean up. I’m praying hard that the kids make it through the night, without getting sick and tomorrow morning we wake up, like today never happened, and have a relaxed Christ-center Christmas family weekend.

As a weird side note I did 10 loads of laundry today. Starting at 5am this morning the washer and dryer were CONSTANTLY going! I have NEVER, and pray that I never will again, done that much laundry in a day.

In general, life here has been good, busy, but good, minus the last week, which we’ve obviously been battling the stomach flu. We haven’t done school all month, which at first I was disappointed about, but now I’m a little proud of. It’s one of the things I really love about home schooling, having a schedule that works for us, and not having to justify to anyone, even myself if I don’t want to. Treyton seems to still be learning, and mastering some of the skills we were working on before the break. Recently he’s been most proud in learning his ordinal numbers (up to 11th), and learning how to spell “toy”. I can’t believe how smart of a kid he is, I’m such a blessed woman in so many ways.

image Tonight has been one of the first times that I’ve just been able to sit, and look around and I’m loving the way the house looks right now, all the Christmas decorations and lights… I LOVE Christmas lights, they’re so beautiful and relaxing, I’m thinking about leaving them up until at least Valentines Day (is that bad?).

I mentioned before that we got a dwarf hamster recently. A fellow homeschool family was getting rid of her for free along with her cage, some furniture, bedding and food – I couldn’t resist. She nips a little bit when she is scared, which I kind of like. I don’t know if that makes me a bad mom or not, but I think a healthy amount of fear for my children in handling an animal that small is good. I’m surprise how much she really is like a mouse, yet how much I love her!! She’s kinda cute, a little stubborn, and a challenge to be met (in taming her). The kids named her. Treyton wanted to name her Annie, Lexie wanted to name her Fancy Nancy, after her new favorite books, they compromised with Annie-Annie. As you can see, Treyton was a little less compromising than Lexie, yet surprisingly, he forgets her name often, while Lexie wakes up in the morning walks up to her cage and says “Hi Annie-Annie!!”

The older kids went and stayed at Mommer and Papa’s house for a few days last week, I scrapped ALOT and almost got caught up which was nice. When they got home, I felt like Lexie had grown up at least 2 years!! She looked older too me, she was talking better, her vocabulary increased, her attitude was more refined. It was refreshing. She is loving all things pink, fancy and princess right now. A few years ago the thought of raising a girly-girl would have sent me running, but now, I’m tickled by the idea. She is such a perfect girly-girl. She says things like “Tinker Bell, like me!” “Fancy Nancy, like me!” – how cute is that? Another thing she does right now that just melts my heart is when she wants to cuddle (which is often) she comes up to me and says “I need you”, augh, I love her so much.

And of course because I can’t write a completely random family post without mentioning our little sweetheart, Audrey. I am so excited to see her starting to develop a little in a few areas. She is starting to crawl a little more, and by crawl I mean scooting/army crawl. She still doesn’t like to sit for very long, doesn’t pull herself up to any position but the fact that she’s showing a little motivation is encouraging. I love how smiley she is, she laughs all the time, and is the most excited and joyful of our babies so far. I just want to squeeze her all that time (in a good way). Actually, I need to stop talking about her because I have a strong desire to wake her up just to see her --- I’ll admit it, I’ve done it before and it’s not the best of ideas :)

I wish I had time to write more, but I actually need to keep this post random and light if I have any hope of hitting the Publish button, and it’s officially time for bed.

I hope you all have a great Christmas spending time with family reflecting on the true meaning!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

Few have probably heard of Annie Sherwood, a stay at home mother and wife in the late 1800s. I hadn’t either until recently, but now she is someone I won’t soon forget.

Annie Sherwood once said “One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words “I Need Thee Every Hour” were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me.”

And so it was that the hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” came to be.

image Then Sings my Soul written by Robert J Morgan is a book with this and 149 other hymn’s stories and inspirations recorded for the reader. Though Annie Sherwood’s “I Need Thee Every Hour” may not be the most exciting story within the covers, it was one of the most inspirational to me. To remember on the tough days that God can touch me in a powerful way even as I go throughout my daily tasks living simple “motherly moments” is encouraging. 

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading the story behind some of the most common of hymn. With each story, some of our “every day” hymns are given new meaning, and emotion.

For each hymn, the music and words are placed on one page and on the facing page is the story of both the author and musician. A great set-up for easy reading. This book is full of fascinating facts about the hymns, authors and musicians. I have plans to teach hymns to my children for school, and I’m sure that this book will be a great resource for these purposes.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of this review from Thomas Nelson Publishers. The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Under the Overpass

image Under the Overpass written by Mike Yankoski

Book Description:

“Ever Wonder What it Would Be Like to Live Homeless?
Mike Yankoski did more than just wonder. By his own choice, Mike's life went from upper-middle class plush to scum-of-the-earth repulsive overnight. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag and a guitar, Mike and his traveling companion, Sam, set out to experience life on the streets in six different cities: Denver; Washington, D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego.


For more than five months the pair experienced firsthand the extreme pains of hunger, the constant danger of living on the streets, exhaustion, depression, and social rejection—and all of this by their own choice. They wanted to find out if their faith was real, if they could actually be the Christians they said they were apart from the comforts they’d always known…to discover first hand what it means to be homeless in America.”

Book Review:

From the first moment that I picked up this book I was inspired! I looked forward to the next time I could sit down and read another chapter. Well-written, and motivating I consider this book to be a great-read!

Mike Yankoski, was just an average 20 year old college student, when he found himself challenged during a Sunday Morning church service, and instead of  just “learning from it” he decided to actually do something about it.

I found myself relating to Mike when he explained the heart changes he felt before making the decision to live on the streets. It encouraged me to keep praying and listening to the Lord as my heart begins to soften towards the callings God has on my own life.

I loved the honesty that Mike brought into the book, regarding the tough moments of living on the streets and the relationships that came with it. Reading this book has opened my eyes to what life on the street is like and while I knew it was hard, there were aspects of it that I had never really thought about before.

Mike does a great job not only recording the journey he and Sam took, but also challenges the church regarding prejudices we have and our outlook on people who don’t fit nicely into our picture of Sunday Morning worship and loving others. I was happy to see, in the final chapter, a break down of some practical ways that we (individually and corporately) can serve the homeless, and begin taking helpful steps in the direction of sharing God’s love with those considered unlovable.

Regardless of where God is challenging you in your life whether it to serve the homeless or in some other area, this book has a lot to teach about following God to the tough, un-desired places. Because the truth is, when you follow Him where He leads, the biggest transformations  that take place are in your own heart.

Favorite Quotes:

Little things do mean a lot, especially in the kingdom of God, where giving a drink of cold water has eternal repercussions. And I am convinced that the more committed we become to impacting one person at a time – whether through a cup of coffee or a genuine conversation – the more we’ll prepare our hearts and our churches to respond at both a community and national level.”

“What if following Him is hard? What if along the way He asks you to accomplish difficult tasks or to overcome intimidating obstacles? What if it requires more of you than you have to give? Listen, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

“God probably isn’t calling you to live on the streets like He did Sam and me, but He is calling you – like He does each of His children – to take important risks of faith that are unique to you and your opportunities. I doubt those risks will have much to do with putting on a Christian acronym bracelet or wearing a cross T-Shirt. More likely, your journey will lead you toward utter dependence on the King of kings and a resolution to follow Him wherever He may ask you to go.”

Practical Ways to Help:

  1. Fast and Pray for the Homeless in our Country
  2. Find your local homeless shelter and volunteer
  3. Cook a Pancake Breakfast with some friends for homeless people at a local city park
  4. Buy gift certificates to local restaurants/coffee shops for people who are panhandling.
  5. Throw a Christmas Party at your church for the homeless in your area.

Related Links:

Under the Overpass: Read Chapter 1

Under the Overpass Webpage

Christmas Under the Overpass Action Plan

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Tree

Cutting Down the Tree

For the first time ever, our family decided to cut down our own Christmas tree. We didn’t realize how hard it was going to be, due to what Tim refers to as “analysis paralysis!” IMG_0009It wasn’t the coldest day of the year, but it was pretty chilly, around 30 degrees. Lexie started crying about 3 minutes into walking around and preceded to cry for the next 30 minutes while we searched and searched. IMG_0012

Luckily, Treyton and Audrey were troopers.

IMG_0002Dad brought an extra saw for Treyton to use. Nothing could have excited him more! He was so proud to cut the tree down with dad. IMG_0023Though it took a little time and patience (with Lexie) – we really did enjoy finding our own tree and cutting it down.

Decorating

After we got home from the tree farm, we put the tree up right away. Treyton took the job of removing the large birds nest we found. And then we set to work taking out all the ornaments and putting them on the tree. IMG_0062

Treyton was REALLY into which ornaments were his, who they were from, why they got him that ornament, etc. In fact, he sorted everyone’s ornaments so that he could see who had the most. IMG_0079Lexie also enjoyed playing with her ornaments, though quantity was not her prerogative as much as playability. She loved her new ornament from mommer that played the little drummer boy carol, she played it over and over. IMG_0080

Audrey, was a happy observer for the most part.

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Daddy helped her hang her ornaments, at which point she was more interested in the decorations on the floor :)

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Treyton was absolutely hilarious when it came to putting the star on the tree. For the first year ever, he was actually a little leery about Dad holding him out over the tree. He wobbled around up there for a good 2 minutes before Dad could get him to reach out and put the star on. I was laughing pretty hard. IMG_0045 IMG_0046 IMG_0047 IMG_0051

We had such a fun day, decorating the house!! It amazes me every year how much the kids get into it and how cool it is for them to have “a tree in the house!!”

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Treyton felt like such a man, being such a big part of cutting down, bringing in and decorating the tree – he asked for me to take these pictures of him. :)  IMG_0085 IMG_0086

Christmas Stockings

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The two older kids got new stockings this year. Treyton has a camo one and Lexie got a princess one. Audrey got Lexie’s from last year – a denim flower stocking.

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When I brought the stockings out late last week, Lexie was so cute, she thought it was a new sock, so she did what any reasonable person would do and she put them on.  IMG_0033 I actually think she was a little disappointed when she found out it was for Christmas.