# Christmas 2015: In Review

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We’re all over it, I know. No one wants to relive the glory days of the holidays when we’re all knee-deep in resolutions, but here I am with a quick recap.

One of big highlights for me this year was our tree. It’s crazy how much Christmas trees make me happy.

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I mentioned some of the new ornaments we acquired, but it seems like this was the Year of the Ornament. Thanks to gifts and Ebay, here were the other new additions:

Two song birds in a horn? Was this made for us?!

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You might have seen this when I mentioned seeing the Star Wars movie, but we had to commemorate this year’s big Christmas moment (for Joe). I spent a whopping $0.00 for this guy thanks to shopping at Kohl’s for our nieces and nephews. #winning

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Two ornaments from my childhood that I wanted to enjoy on my own tree. Thanks, Ebay.

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A sweet gift from Abby that combines her love of cats and my love of dogs.

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And, this Peanuts classic from Bryan and Robbi.

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That’s a lot of new ornaments for one year! Our tree has never looked better.

We saw a lot of these cuties via Facetime.

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We watched them open gifts with glee…

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…and missed a few kisses from Linc.

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Other highlights include…

playing lots of games. We rocked two-player Euchre, Phase 10 and I finally taught Joe how to play mancala. We haven’t stopped since.

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It warmed my heart to see my friends embrace my family’s quirky traditions with their own families…

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And we celebrated Chilali’s birthday with Star Wars (again) and a delicious meal that ended with a peanut butter cup pie. It was ridiculous.

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Overall it was just chill, which was exactly what we needed. We finished the latest season of Homeland. We slept in. We ate good food. And we shoveled snow. It was about as perfect as it could get, being away from family.

# Bella turns 11

Yesterday was a day of celebration when our precious pup turned 11!

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I’ve been thankful for all of her birthdays, but never like I was yesterday. She has come so amazingly far from where we were just last year.

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Back then, she was so sick and we were all so scared. Little did we know we had six more months of her getting worse before she got any better. But, her resilience is nothing short of astounding and, though she doesn’t quite look it here, she’s very joyful these days.

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(Yes, she desperately needs a haircut, but I find something torturous about shaving all of her hair off when it hasn’t been above freezing in weeks.)

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Since, frankly, this wasn’t a milestone we thought we would have together (if you asked me last year), we went all out in spoiling her.

First up was a fresh pair of snow boots, which she insisted on breaking in that moment.

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She. LOVES. snow.

After drying off, we gave her some Frosty Paws doggie ice cream…her second favorite thing, after that snow.

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But, our most exciting adventure was to take her to PetSmart, which I’ve actually never done before. We wanted to let her pick out her own toy, which was as ridiculous as it sounds.

Road Trip!

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Maybe a little overwhelming…

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She We finally picked one and let her watch the birds for a while. She was happy. Confused, but happy.

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Overall, it was a perfect day honoring our perfect girl. This caps what was/is/will always be The Year of the Bella for this house. This, and the amazing painting Joe gave me for Christmas.

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A picture perfect depiction of our girl. She is everything to us.

Friday Five: Christmas 2015 New Decor

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

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Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you I’m the most nostalgic of the bunch. I love to remember and revisit. This year we have a few new decor pieces that remember and revisit both the high points of our year, as well as high points from my past. And since the big camera was out to capture a certain amazing dessert I’m STILL obsessing over, you get real-deal pics. It’s a blog miracle!

5. Hawaii

Hands down, the best part of our year was our anniversary trip to Hawaii. My family has a tradition of collecting ornaments from trips and it’s one I’ve happily adopted for us. If you search for “Hawaii ornaments” you’re going to get a lot of hula-ing Santas and sunsets painted on sea shells. Not really our style, but we did hit gold with this Oahu highway sign.

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It’s so perfect since our condo was on Ala Moana Boulevard on Waikiki and we hiked Diamond Head. I was SO BUMMED to learn its matching Maui ornament (that also featured the place where we stayed) is (forever?) out of stock. Ugh. Sad trombone.

But, I still love the one we have. Especially it’s glittery edges that shimmer in the tree’s lights.

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We also nabbed this sparkly sea turtle since it was the highlight of the highlight. We are still enamored with our chance encounter with these guys on the beach.

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4. Penguin Paradise

You might remember a very special visit by my sister and her family a few months ago. Another big highlight from our year. Since Lily, Tim, Joe and I got to feed the penguins together, I thought it would be fun to have matching ornaments commemorating the fun.

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This tiny penguin playing a horn totally fit the bill, so now we both have one on our tree. He’s in good company with my favorite ornament of all time, near the top of the tree.

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3. Doughnut Dreams

Great minds think alike. That’s typical when it comes to me and my sister; we’re almost always on the same wave length. She was already on her ornament game when I sent off our matching penguins. But she totally knocked my socks off with his handmade Judy Doughnut, complete with orangey-pink frosting.

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EXACTLY like the ones Lily and I made together while they were here. Melted my heart. What a sweet (literally!) reminder.

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2. My Angels

2015 wasn’t a walk in the park, by any means, despite these highlights. I lost two wonderful men in my life. After Gramps died, my friend Bobbie–who knows me so very well–gave me the most perfect gift. A metal ornament with special photos honoring our time together. I was blown away.

Christmas, we agree, is the best time for remembering those we’ve lost. So I made two more ornaments for Pops and Uncle Dick and now my tree is covered with special moments I can relive each holiday season. Can you hear my heart about to burst? The seams are splitting as I type.

Each one has color photos on the front with their names, while the back has black and white photos with their dates. I am absolutely in love with them. I miss seeing their faces, but this is a wonderful way for me to see them every day.

Here’s Gramps‘:

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Here’s Uncle Dickie‘s:

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And here’s Pops‘:

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All the hearts, all the memories. Thank you so much, Bobbie, for starting a new tradition.

1. Cut(ters) to the Heart

Making sugar cookies is the #1 holiday memory from my childhood. You can click here to see all of the photographic proof of our obsession, along with the dang-good recipe, but one thing that really made it special was the cookie cutters. They are Hallmark cutters from the late 70s and early 80s. What one would now call “vintage.” You’d be hard-pressed to find an old photo of us making cookies without them being there.

Like in this Halloween example.

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My mom still has her set that gets pulled out every year and I know my siblings and I would each love to eventually own them and continue using them every holiday. So, I’ve taken matters into my own hands and–with the help of ebay–created my own matching set.

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I had my mom take pictures of the cutters she has and hit up in the interwebs to find exact matches. And I had so much fun doing it.

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Eventually I want to have them sitting in my kitchen in glass jars like these, but until the snow melts and I can get to Target, I’m using a glass mixing bowl I already have.

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I love my new centerpiece and the flood of memories that wash over me when I see (and smell) it.

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Plus, they’re all ready for me whenever I’m ready to make my own set of cookies.

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For someone whose holiday is hijacked by NCAA bowl games, this is just one sweet and special way to bring my hometown holiday to me. (I also recreated our Halloween cutters, so stay tuned for October 2016! Ha!)

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Are your decorations up? What new traditions are you starting this year?

# visitors and Thanksgiving 2015

It’s been a few long and difficult weeks around here, but we’ve had some very bright spots that I’ve been meaning to share!

A little over a month ago, my Dad came to visit. It was such a fun week with him here and we made the most of it with many wonderful meals…

…including the special Mortician Burger (double patty, double cheese, bacon, pastrami, onion rings and sauce) for the boys…

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and a very cold football game.

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Joe’s band did an awesome custom show for Halloween called “Zombie Apocalypse.”  I loved his zombie cymbal players in the school’s old uniforms.

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Later that weekend we hit up some shopping and eating in Salt Lake, including visiting the new Penzeys Spice store, which was pretty much heaven for me.

Then, that next weekend, my mom and Mike came to visit.

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It was their first time here without it being homecoming. Ha! We made use of all the extra time by making pumpkin cinnamon rolls.

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This was a huge deal since A) I haven’t, until then, had any luck with yeast dough at high altitude, and B) my mom is the queen of cinnamon rolls. I know she was the good luck charm I needed to make it work.

We also played our Bella’s favorite game, Cards Against Humanity.

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This pretty much sums up the entire game. Joe laughing hysterically and my mom staring blankly at a card. hahahahahaha! Too bad it’s blurry, but I don’t even care.

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Sorry, mom. Truth be told, she almost won the game.

And, then there was last week’s Thanksgiving. It was such a quiet day, which we really needed. I didn’t take many pictures because we were either in a heap on the couch in our PJs or we were in the kitchen with flour everywhere. But, here are the few I managed to snap throughout the day.

First up, pretzel bites. It’s one of our favorite things to make and eat. I paired them with a cheesy cider fondue that was really easy. The perfect snack for parade/football watching.

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This was the only picture of the spread I have (ha!). Shown: turkey, gravy, green bean casserole, rolls, mashed potatoes, spinach tart and Joe’s sliver of canned cranberry. I halved every single recipe. It was the most math I’ve done since roughly 2000.

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The best part was, every single thing was prepped in advance, so all I had to do on Thursday was cook everything off. Amazing.

Here’s the vegetarian’s plate. So. good. Especially the gravy, which was a new-to-me recipe that used nutritional yeast. Totally rocked my world. It’ll be my forever gravy from now on.

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I’ll dedicate a separate post to the dessert I chose (with REAL pictures!), but this was Joe’s Vanilla Bourbon Pumpkin Pie. I’m not a big pie person, but I was happy with how it turned out. Bella was too.

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That’s where we’ve been…now we continue to stalk bowl predictions and look toward Christmas and a new year.

Friday Five: Linc turns Two!

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

What the what?! Linc is shedding his baby status by turning T-W-O today…with no terribleness in sight!

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Just like last year, I wanted to share some of my favorite photos of the big boy. He’s the cutest of the cute and I’d celebrate him every day if I could.

5. Our Mouseketeer

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This boy LOVES some Mickey, who up until recently was “Tickey.” He loves reciting the whole gang’s names and is having a Mickey-themed party tomorrow that I’m so sad to be missing.

4. Our Silly Sweetheart

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Linc is always all smiles, all grins, all laughs and all silly. One of my favorite parts of his (and his family’s) recent trip to Utah is hearing his giggles and watching him run around to make us smile. I feel like his personality has exploded in the last year…probably because I’ve seen him more, but also because I feel like he’s finding his groove among big sister and others. He holds his own just fine.

3. Our Snuggle Monster

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I love Linc’s cuddles. He’s definitely a snuggler—when you can get him to sit still—and has such a kind heart. And he freely gives Aunt NoNo kisses, which quickly sends him soaring to the top of any list.

2. Our Boy’s Boy

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This was {somewhat} painfully obvious when he only wanted his Uncle Mikey Joe, or “Minaco,” when he was here. I didn’t mind…I couldn’t mind…because my heart was exploding with love every second the two of them were together.

1. Our Linc

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He’s the perfect addition (I first wrote ‘addiction,’ which is also pretty true) to our family and the incredible joy we felt when Lily came along has just grown and grown since he joined her ranks. They are a special pair and we can’t get enough of them.

Happiest of birthdays, Linc. We love you so, so much.

Friday Five: Lily’s Utah Recap

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Pictures are all good and everything, but I wanted you to hear it from the source. Please welcome back everyone’s favorite guest blogger, Lily.

M: Hey, Lil.

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L: Helllll-oooo! Want to see my map? I thought I’d mark it so I remember where you live.

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M: Perfect! I thought maybe I could ask you a few questions about your trip.

L: Sure.

5. What did you think of Utah?

L: I loved it! I loved that NoNo and Mineco (Linc’s version of Mikey Joe) were very nice. Oh, andguesswhat? Guess what I’m wearing for socks.

M: No clue.

L: Daddy’s stinky socks!

M: Nice! Hey, how do you spell “Mineco?”

L: Okay, spell MINE, but take off the E and then add C-O.

M: But, wouldn’t that spell MIN-co?

L: Oh, yeah. Okay, put the E back in there. (Mineco = pronounced “MY-nuh-co”)

4. How is Utah different than Oklahoma?

L: You have a lot more mountains, and I would say it’s probably a lot colder, and, hmmmm, I also say it’s easier to catch a cold there.

M: Did you say that last one because your mom just coughed?

L: … Yeah.

3. Were you surprised when you finally saw the mountains?

L: Yes, I liked ‘em. I was like, “whoa! I wish Oklahoma had mountains as high as yours.” We have hills, but not as high as Utah’s.

2. What was your favorite thing to do here?

L: I liked spending time with NoNo and Mikey Joe and I liked playing Bean Boozled. It was fun to throw a tomahawk with Mikey Joe.

1. If you came back, what would you want to do that we didn’t get to do this time?

L: I want to go to the museum next time. I want to see the penguins again, but maybe not feed them. If it was winter, I’d want to go skiing. I’m not sure what else.

M: Any last thoughts?

L: I wish there was snow when we came, but other than that? It was good.

M: Good is good. Love you.

L: Love you, NoNo. *muah*

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Today’s blog post comes from Lily

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Lily is a sassy seven-year-old, an amazing big sister, smarter than most and loved by all. She likes to swim, read, play with her baby brother and she still shoots guns like a boss.

Above sentiments also shared by her brother with the killer blues, Linc.

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# utah littles, part 3

Our last full day started with a kind invitation from our friends to let Lily meet their new endangered desert tortoise, Rose.

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Rose likes to eat dandelions and strawberries.

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I like to eat at Herm’s, so that’s where we took them next!

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With pumpkin pancakes and sandwiches around the table, there were a lot of smiles, but I especially love these smiles.

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We rested a bit at home with some books before our next excursion: hiking.

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Insert all of the heart-eyed emojis here.

Since Wind Caves were a little out of Lily and Linc’s league, we opted for the pretty Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

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We had the place to ourselves, which was great for Linc who wanted to run and run and run and run and run.

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Always making sure his Mikey Joe was right with him.

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Seriously, it was the cutest.

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This sign is about where I decided we should head back. *ah, look at the time..*

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And poor Linc ran until he couldn’t…so he ran into Mikey Joe’s arms.

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Oh, my heart!

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Before our last bed time together, I had one last surprise. If you have kids in your life or are a kid yourself, you might want to check out Bean Boozled. It’s a jelly bean game that Sean told us about where you have to eat a certain color at the same time as everyone else, not knowing if it’s a real flavor or a disgusting one.

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It. Was. Hilarious. In the online album, there’s a video of us eating Skunk Spray v. Licorice. It’s worth a watch.

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The next day we said some tearful goodbyes. Namely Linc when Joe left for work. (I get it. I, too, look like this when Joe leaves.)

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Group hug!

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Having them here was definitely one of the highlights of our entire year. It’s a rare treat to have them all to ourselves and we loved every single action-packed minute. Stay tuned tomorrow for a special Friday Five recap of the trip by Lily.

# utah littles, part 2

Before they got to Utah I had asked Lily if she wanted to bake with me while she was here. She said yes and we decided on Judy Doughnuts—a family favorite.

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All. The. Sprinkles.

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I love being in the kitchen with her. It reminds me of SO MANY wonderful times I spent with my Aunt Pam in the kitchen.

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Especially when we get to lick the bowl or try the treats first. (If ever there was a time to have matching jammies, it’s now. I want them.)

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Linc dubbed them a total success, and so did Bella, who kept a vigilant watch over him.

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Our big Saturday adventure was a fall festival just south of town.

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There were lots of attractions to check out, but Joe quickly solidified himself as the Cool Uncle by showing Lily how to throw a Tomahawk and shoot a gun. *shake my head*

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The real reason I wanted to visit was to do their huge Corn Maze with the group.

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Linc was lovin’ it. This is his best Nell impression. “Tweeees in the wind…”

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Childress of the Corn.

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Turns out, a corn maze with a stroller isn’t too fun, so Joe and I took Lily on our own.

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Annnnd we used a map this time so we weren’t aimlessly wandering around the same section.

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It didn’t take us too long to find the middle.

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We did it!

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Wouldn’t be a proper farm visit without saying hello to my other favorite littles…the goats!

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Later that day we took them up to USU to see where Joe works. They were pretty excited! I especially love the Star Wars outfits.

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Lincoln and Lincoln. So meta.

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We explained the importance of the A…

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…mainly so Linc could be a True Aggie with me.

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That night was Lily’s slumber party, so we did nails…

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…she did my hair…

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…she and Mikey Joe read about Star Wars…

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…and Joe got bumped so she could sleep in our room, where we stayed up and giggled about boys read.

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The perfect ending to a perfect day!

# utah littles, part 1

I’m catching up this week by blogging about some of my very favorite visitors yet. Joe and I had some serious quality family time when my sister brought her family out to visit last month. We were busy while they were here, so I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

For the full album of our adventures, click here.

Upon their arrival, we celebrated my birthday with dinner at Olive Garden (where I had lettuce in my hair) and a homemade skillet cookie cake that Lily helped me make. Baking with her is all the thumbs up.

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It turned out perfectly—chewy on the outside, and warm and gooey on the inside.

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Lily and Linc helped me with gifts.

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And “Mikey Joe” helped with homework before they called it a night. Quite a long day for them!

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The next day was our Explore Salt Lake City day! First up: the aquarium.

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This is where Linc’s infatuation with his Mikey Joe burst onto the scene. Lily’s always loved him and I was loving him even more watching him with these precious babes.

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Booh surprised us all with tickets to the Penguin Encounter! We were pretty excited.

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We got to put on heavy coats, crocs and gloves so we wouldn’t spend the rest of our day smelling of fish.

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Lots of penguin pictures in the online album. Most were molting, so they weren’t very hungry, but they sure were cute.

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They really gravitated to Tim.

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Molting does not look like fun.

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But being around those penguins was the most fun.

Other aquarium highlights included the shark tunnel…

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…and watching the otters swim and play.

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My highlight was when Linc wanted to hold my hand from the stroller. There was a lot of heart melting going on during this trip.

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That night we stayed in Salt Lake City for the Young House Love—my favorite former bloggers—Book Signing.

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Booh had the great idea to do our family’s “intentionally-closed-eye pic” and it snagged us a spot on their site and Facebook page. We’re basically famous.

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The only thing that could make the day better was snuggling with Bella when we got home. Mission accomplished.

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Parts 2 and 3 coming right up!

# HOF

When I was little I used to listen to my dad dictate his patient charts and referral letters. I’ve listened in as he’s described various masses and amounts of bleeding and removals of this and that, but one thing has been constant: his sign-off.

“Thank you for the referral of this patient and allowing me to participate in his/her care. Sincerely, Ronald E. Jackson, DO, FACOS.”

The FACOS part always made me laugh…probably because it rhymes with BAC-OS, our family’s choice of bacon bits.

But now he gets to add another fancy acronym to that moniker after being recently inducted to his high school’s Hall of Fame!

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A few weeks ago he was reunited with his senior year basketball team, who used to look like this:

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Yeah, #41!

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And now look like this:

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The team, which also includes my Uncle Gary, was being honored for its undefeated 1968-69 season which resulted in a Bi-District Championship. Their trophy stands proud in the athletic department’s display case.

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<Things That Never Get Old: Going with my Dad to his hometown and hearing everyone call him Ronnie.>

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And while this was the basketball team, the induction took place at the school’s Homecoming Game, so my Dad got to channel his Friday Night Lights days of also being a football star in Texas.

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Still standing with the cheerleaders!

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And the mascots!

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Proud of you, Dad! Congrats to you and your team!

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While I don’t think you’ll actually be challenging your FACOS any time soon, maybe we can all just call you HOF instead?

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