Saturday, November 29, 2008

Morning Madness

Yesterday, I decided to brave the crowds and do the early morning Black Friday thing. I've done it in the past and found it a little thrilling to go in search of that must-have doorbuster. My only rule is that I never go to Walmart. I've been there, done that, and I must say it's a little frightening. At other stores -- Shopko, Target, and the like -- there's a sort of "we're all in this together" feel from the other shoppers. People will hand you items through the crowd if you want and the mood is jolly. The hunt for bargains is an exciting treasure hunt.

At Walmart, it's a whole different story. It's like someone broke a pinata at a birthday party for mean greedy kids. It's every man for himself. So I avoid Walmart like the plague on Black Friday.

Yesterday, I broke that rule because my two boys both want Lego sets for Christmas. Walmart had a two-day special on the King's Castle Siege Set -- $110 at Amazon, but only $50 at Walmart. I decided to try the Walmart in a smaller city south of here, in hopes that the craziness would be a bit toned down. I arrived at 4:50 to find the entire parking lot full with tons of cars driving up and down looking for spots. I had to park at a nearby Quiznos and hike over. I was a little confused to find no line outside, but when I got inside, I saw the reason why -- every aisle was jammed packed with shrink-wrapped pallets and people waiting for the 5:00 time. I got a cart, but soon had to abandon it because there was barely room for a person to get through, much less one with a cart. I had a credit card and driver's license in my pocket and was ready to go. I was jammed in the toy section, unable to get to the Lego aisle, much less search the pallets for the set I wanted, when they announced 5:00 over the loudspeakers. The resulting melee was truly amazing. People were ripping plastic wrap, grabbing ripsticks, barbie jeeps, and who knows what else. Within one minute, I was able to walk across an empty pallet on my way to the Legos. I got to the aisle and found no King's Castle set anywhere. The frenzy was going on all around me, and I could see no way down the main aisle, so I headed back and around, hoping that there would still be a set left by the time I got there. At the back of the aisle, there was one other customer, holding a King's Castle set. They were right there, and no one was around. I took three (one for my boys to share and the others for two of my friends who were wisely sleeping in) and was on my way through the madness. My main item scored, I somehow managed to weave my way through the frenzy. It took me about ten minutes to even reach the front of the store. Before checking out, I was able to find several sets of Star Wars Clone War Jammies for $4, DVDs for $2, a Rubbermaid container set for $7. After waiting in an enormous line to check out, I headed over to K-Mart and then Staples for a few things, where the crowds were small and jolly.

I made it through and got what I wanted, but I didn't realize until this morning that I may have been taking my life in my hands. People will kill for a bargain at Walmart, and yesterday, in Long Island, they literally did. Pretty scary. I'm so sad that in order to save a few dollars, people will disregard common decency and respect. This poor man's family.

I think I'll stick to my rule from now on.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How to enjoy a rainy morning


I'm pretty laid back as a mom. There are certain things I don't tolerate, such as fighting, hurting, or saying mean words. We also have a strict "food stays in the kitchen" policy. But otherwise, I let the kids do a lot of what they want to do. If they start doing something unusual, I ask myself, "Are they doing any lasting damage?" and "Are they having fun or learning something?" If the answer is no to the first, and yes to the second, then I let them proceed. I think childhood should be a time to get messy, make mistakes, and explore the world.


Crayola washable markers -- they really ARE washable!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

went here, had fun, the end.

I don't post a ton of "this is where we went and this is what we did" type posts on this blog. I do a lot of fun things with my kids, but I figure it's pretty boring to read. But we had such a great time Tuesday, I thought I'd break my rule. I'll keep this short and you're welcome to skip it altogether, if you like. On the other hand, if you can't wait to hear more about all the mundane things we do, leave me a comment and tell me so I can continue to delight you with my travelogues.

Tuesday, we went with our co-op preschool group to the Discovery Center in Salt Lake. I was able to use my membership to get everyone else in free, and we had a great time. We spent four hours there, including snacks/lunch.

The best part? Eliza, who is constantly hearing things like, "No, don't touch that," "Put that back," "Get out of the fridge, please," "Turn OFF the water!" "Stop" "Don't" and "No" at home, could play and explore to her heart's content. Ah, bliss. They had a water area where she spent about an hour playing. She ended up soaking wet, but so happy.

Allison and Sarah loved playing in the helicopter while we ate lunch. Allison kept sneaking more granola bars and feeding pieces of them to the sparrows. Here's Sarah:


Harmony pooed through all her clothes, and I hadn't brought any spares, so we borrowed a sweatshirt from my friend's daughter Julia, who is about 8 months older and 10 times heavier than Harmony. Harmony didn't seem to mind a bit:

And Julia had a great time, even without her sweater:We finally left at 2:00. On the way home, Allison & Sarah fell asleep. Don't they look comfortable?

So basically, we went somewhere, had fun, and came home, with pictures to prove it. The End.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Organization

I was watching a home improvement show at the dentist's office this morning. As I stared at the screen in between making unintelligible conversation with the hygienist, I found myself wanting to laugh. The show was a makeover of a family's home office. The family mentioned that it was always cluttered. During the makeover, the designer kept saying, "and here we're going to add more organization," as she added various pieces of furniture to the room.

No, people, organization is not a piece of furniture or a file cabinet. Adding storage to a room, even when appealing to the eye and cleverly designed, is different than adding organization. I'm willing to bet that unless this family undertook the work of actually developing a system of organization using those storage options (highly unlikely), that the office is going to be just as cluttered in a month as it was when they started.

Our family's office may be a mess, but at least I don't think I can add a piece of furniture and have it magically organized.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas in a Large Family

is simply magical. It's so fun to be the mother and watch it happen. We don't have a lot of family around, so mostly it's just us. Here are some of our traditions:

* We try to keep Christmas fairly simple and focused on the Savior. We usually sponsor a Sub-for-Santa family and go shopping together to pick out gifts the children would like. It is so sweet to see my children thinking about what a stranger might like.

* We keep our gift buying simple. We get several presents for the whole family (this year's gift? A counter-top ice cream maker), and then find two main presents for each child, one from Santa and one from Mom and Dad. The kids also get small things like books and socks and clothes. I don't worry too much about keeping the amount we spend the same per child, since their needs and interests are so different. I always try to find at least one gift that is hands-on. I remember one Christmas as a child being so disappointed because everyone else was playing with toys or putting together some cool Lego set while I sat there with nothing to do (of course I got plenty of great gifts that year, like books and clothes and things, but there wasn't the same excitement). So even though my daughter Lillian is a huge bookworm, I try to still give her a puzzle or an art project or something that will fill up some time on Christmas Day itself.

* To help us with our shopping, around Halloween, we have the kids make a list of things they want, and we try to get them at least one thing on the list. This year's lists cracked me up. Lillian wants a watch, a digital camera, Nancy Drew computer games and boring stuff like that. Michael wants Star Wars or Indiana Jones lego sets, plus dress-ups (specifically Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Knights, and Pirates). Joey wants a "gold locashion book," a 6" megaladon tooth, and a bag of sand with real gold in it so he can pan for gold. Oh, and a book on what to feed "hornd" toads, a package of "hornd" toad food, and a reptile cage. Think he's trying to tell me something? Sarah told me today she wants a baby, the real kind that grow in mommy's tummy. I hope that's not some sort of premonition!

* We usually decorate for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving. We collect nativities and buy a new one each year. It inspires reverence to see the way different artists and different cultures have portrayed the miracle of Christ's birth, and the older kids like to pick up the Mary in each set to see what year that nativity joined our family (I write the years on the bottom).

* Around Thanksgiving time, we draw names among the older kids (ages 3 and up). Each child spends their own money, usually about $10, to give a gift to one of their siblings. I love watching them plan and think and pore over ads to get their sibling the perfect gift.

* Each Monday night during our Family Home Evening, we try to do something Christmas-oriented, like making gingerbread houses, driving around to look at lights, reading the Book of Luke, and watching our favorite Christmas movies, such as The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (that's got some of the best lines in the world: "you mean they tied him up and put him in a feedbox? Where was the child welfare?" "What were the wadded up clothes? You read about it -- they wrapped him up in wadded up clothes!" "I'm not going to be a shepherd. Gladys Herdman hits too hard!" "My mom doesn't have any white sheets. Can I wear a sheet with balloons on it?")

* Our Christmas Eve dinner for the last five or more years has been spent at our favorite Chinese restaurant. I love eating family style, and the kids understand the funny Christmas Story implications of our meal (in case you've never seen the movie, the neighbor's dogs eat all the turkey at Ralphie's house, so they end up at the only restaurant open on Christmas Day, a Chinese one). One year, we even ordered roast duck. It was gross, so we decided to forgo it in the future.

* On Christmas Eve, we have a simple gathering with our immediate family. We act out the Christmas Story and talk about Christ's life. Last year, Lillian (on her own initiative) spent much of Christmas Eve day searching out the perfect outfits for everyone's costumes, such as Allison as a wise man holding a beautiful geode to give to the Christ Child:

* After the nativity story, each child gets to open one present. Sometimes, the present is new pajamas to wear that night.
* After the program, we send everyone to bed. Sometimes, they gather for a party in each other's rooms, playing games for a while before excitedly trying to sleep so Santa can arrive.

* Once a child knows the truth about Santa, they get to take turns being Santa's helper. Last year was Lillian's first year to help. She was so thrilled and excited to set out the presents for each of her siblings with us, and a bit disappointed when we told her Santa didn't bring presents to kids who don't believe anymore (we were kidding! After she went to bed, we brought out her presents from Santa.)

* I almost always make butterscotch rolls and set them out to rise that night (my recipe uses frozen rolls and is very simple. You can find it here).

* Santa brings one main present for each child and fills the stockings, usually with oranges, peanuts, chocolate coins, candy, and a movie or a book.

* Christmas morning dawns bright and early, sometimes with a child or two running into our room at 2 a.m., announcing, "It's morning time!" After we put said child back to bed, we finally do get up around 6 a.m. and head for the stairs. We line the kids up youngest to oldest and the rush for the toys begins.

* Santa doesn't wrap his presents, so right away, everyone has something exciting to look at. While the kids are looking at their presents, I start the rolls cooking in the oven.

* After looking at their presents from Santa and emptying their stockings, we go to the kitchen for a yummy breakfast. I get out the rolls and DH usually makes sausages, bacon, eggs, and pancakes.

* After breakfast, we go back to the living room to open the rest of the gifts one at a time. The kids can't wait for their sibling to open the special gift they picked out just for them, and since both of our extended families draw names, too, there are usually a few surprises in there, even for mom and dad.

I hope your Christmas season is wonderful too!

Free Advertising for Mr. Clean

I don't know why I've never tried them before, but yesterday, I had DH pick up some Mr. Clean Magic Erasers at the store and I'm sold! With a tiny bit of scrubbing, all crayon and pencil marks came off my walls. With a bit more effort, all the scuff and shoe marks came off. The only thing that didn't come off was some of the ball-point pen. It really was magic!

So happily, my entire house is no longer a tribute to my children's artistic ability.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reflections of Christ

If you're in Utah County, I highly recommend you head over to the BYU bookstore before November 18th to see the Reflections of Christ exhibit. We went this week for my birthday, and I was touched by photos such as these:


Next stop on the tour is Sacramento, so if you're in Utah, this is your chance! If you're not in Utah, you can still view all the images in a slideshow here: http://www.reflectionsmg.com or here: http://www.reflectionsmg.com/reflections-of-christ-photography.php

Monday, November 10, 2008

Someday, I'm sure I'll laugh.

I'll think it's the best story, how I let you go to sleep in my spot last night so you wouldn't bug your sister. I moved you to your own bed, then lay down to find out what you'd been doing to my sheets (but only where you thought you could put a pillow down to cover it up):


And how as soon as my back was turned this morning, you took a crayon and colored on the chairs:

Someday, I'm sure I'll laugh. Maybe the day you become a famous artist and buy me a pink Cadillac (which I'll trade in immediately for something much classier, like, say, a Dodge Sprinter).
Or perhaps the day other parents start calling, asking me what they can do to help their children develop into famous artists like you. "I encouraged them over and over again to only color on paper," I'll say, "but such talent cannot be restrained."


Or maybe the day you get an art scholarship to a prestigious university and I can brag to all my friends, "Yes, she got her start right here in our humble home, decorating her walls:"


Or perhaps when the Sistene Chapel calls and wants the ceiling painted in their new addition, I'll feel a sense of pride, knowing that life in our family has uniquely prepared you for your calling in life.

Or when your famous art teacher tells me that she's never seen such a young prodigy.
Or when your colorful, inventive new toy wins "Best Toy of 2028"

Or maybe when you become the next Martha Stewart, designing colorful, imaginative new fixtures that brighten up everyone's home:


Or maybe I'm dreaming, and the only time I'll laugh is when your daughter does this to your walls, your toys, your sheets, your lamps, your life, and I think to myself, "revenge is sweet."

(note: most of the artwork above was done by Sarah in the last six months, but her partner in crime Allison is probably guilty of some of it.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Growing old (er) . . .

This week I turn 31. I feel no need to hide my age. Last year, I turned 30 and I wondered briefly if I should feel old or depressed. I didn't then and I don't now. I suppose part of that is because everyone assumes I'm older because I have so many kids. I get some sort of strange satisfaction in being younger than everyone thinks. Odd, I know. Many women would love for people to think they are younger; I'd rather be younger. So far, I'm really enjoying my thirties. I love the stage of life I'm at, and this is why:

*DH is no longer in school. This is a big deal, as he was in school for five years of our marriage, three of them with kids. I was pregnant with #4 and #5 when he finally graduated. He was under so much pressure to support his family and do well in school and money was tight.

*DH has a very satisfying career that allows him plenty of flexibility. His commute ranges from 30 seconds (when he works from home) to 7 minutes (office #1) to 10 minutes (office #2). He takes the kids to most doctor's appointments and can get away during the day for school events or teacher conferences. He works several nights each week, but I gladly take that inconvenience for the blessing of having him around during the day when needed. When Sarah cut her head open at a mall playground last year, he left everything and met me at the doctor's office within 10 minutes. It was he who held her hand and reassured her as the doctor put her stitches in.

*We live in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors. One of my neighbors is always telling me I'm a good mother. True or not, I always feel uplifted when I talk to her. Is it any wonder I love her? Another nice neighbor takes DH and Joey fishing. Our kids have friends in the neighborhood, and so do we. Our kids can walk to school.

*We have a nice home with room to grow. All the baby plants I've been nurturing all summer long finally started to grow this fall.

*I love my kids and I'm grateful to stay at home with them. I love that my job description includes tickling, silly voices, singing, and reading. I love having my hands full.

*I have very satisfying hobbies. I feel at many times I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none, but I think that's a good thing for a mom to be. I love scrapbooking, blogging, designing, photoshop, and reading. This year I discovered Goodreads and have found so many satisfying books to read based on friends' recommendations. I love living in a digital age where I can connect with so many people in such positive ways. I can use my computer to help a friend far away, make a grocery list, order Christmas gifts, create beautiful scrapbook pages, reconnect with an old friend, write about my life and encourage others, keep my family history, listen to uplifting music, and more. What a wonderful time to live. The hardest task I have sometimes is choosing what, of so many enjoyable things, I want to do.

*I have three elementary school kids. I have to say to you moms who struggle every day with young children, just hold on. Things get a lot easier when you have school-age kids. It's still chaotic and crazy and we all have hard days, but when your children are old enough to be somewhat responsible, to be an actual help to the little ones, and to really engage in life it's so nice. The best part is that they're becoming little people who can be your friends -- you can play real games like Phase 10 instead of annoying ones like Candy Land. You can laugh and joke and really enjoy each other. I'd much rather have 3 school age kids and 4 preschoolers than have just 3 or 4 preschoolers. Something about the way I can see how all those years of nurturing is paying off just makes everything better. There's a lot less disciplining and tantrums and a lot more enjoying each other.

*My twins aren't two (I know I've mentioned it before but having two two-year-olds is about the hardest parenting challenge I've experienced). They're not three (the second hardest parenting challenge). They are four. They still aren't the easiest children to raise, but much of the exhausting battles have subsided. Their attention spans are growing. Allison is so intensely engaged in life. She can color at the table for hours, creating one masterpiece after another. Sarah is sweet and silly and fun. They both have a zest and excitement for life that is fun to watch and encourage.

*Eliza, despite being two, is so enjoyable. She drives me crazy because she's into everything at home, but she is a fun and delightful companion when I take her places. She's patient and good at the grocery store, the library, the van, the post office, and the bank. She adores her dad and her big brothers and sisters. Having her around makes everything more fun, from carving pumpkins to trick-or-treating to reading The Giant Jam Sandwich.

*Harmony is a bright, shinging addition to our home. She's so smart and active and happy. She seems grateful simply to be here. I love singing to her and watching her sing back. She grins and talks and lights up our lives.

*Our family enjoys vacationing together. We budget and pinch pennies in other areas so we can afford to travel. DH is the main impetus behind this. I'm always worried about spending too much money while he can't wait to take us to some new destination. We've bonded at Indian ruins, old mining towns, rockhounding sites, Disneyland, beaches, the Grand Canyon, and hotel swimming pools. DH is really engaged in his children's lives. He spends his spare time poring over atlases and Mapquesting his latest idea for a fun family trip or a fun Daddy trip with just the older kids.

*My health is good. I'm not as skinny as I want to be, but I enjoy exercise and have the strength needed for all my daily tasks. I've had scary challenges with health in the past, so I recognize what a blessing good and prosperous health can be.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Forgetfulness is a marvelous thing . . .


Just like you forget the utter misery of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, you also tend to forget just how trying life with a two-year-old (even an adorable one) can be. You also forget how much they drool. Eliza's clothes have a constant ring of wetness around her neck lately. This morning, she's been into the cat food, the computer games, the computer, the bread, the butter, the books, the clothes I'm trying to fold, the sink, the spray bottle I used to mop the floor, a rag, and probably a few other things I didn't catch her at. We have a house full of toys -- TONS of them -- but if Eliza ever played with them, I think I'd faint of surprise.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trailing Clouds of Glory

(note: Sometimes I hear criticism of large families that includes phrases such as "all those children," or "raising a litter," or "just popping them out." I find that so degrading, and so far from the reality of having and raising children. This article is my attempt to share my views on becoming a mother.)

Some people believe that you become a mother just once, at the birth (or adoption) of your first child. It isn't true. Each time I give birth to a new soul, I become a mother anew. The miracle of a precious child of God beginning its earthly life is the same. As Wordsworth put it:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us,
our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

That special peace and joy and excitement of a new baby happens every time. The peace of heaven comes into our home each time we are graced with a child, no matter how many times it has happened in the past.

I remember studying an anthropology article in family science years ago. The details are a bit vague, but the essence of the article was that our English language is so flat and inadequate in describing the experience of a new baby. "Giving birth" we say, as easily as we say, "giving to charity" or "giving up." In one culture, the word for giving birth meant "becoming a mother" but the word was not so limited. It meant not only only "becoming a mother" but "becoming a mother to this child," a word full of meaning and substance. It meant that no matter how many times a woman had been a mother, when she gave birth, it was a sweet, precious, unique experience. She wasn't just "giving birth," she was entering into a new relationship, a whole new way of being. She was becoming. The child was not an afterthought, a number, or an object that could be given. It was such an essential part of the experience that their language included it in their word for giving birth: "becoming a mother to this child."

Recently, a dear friend looked at Harmony and said with a smile, "Well, if you've seen one, you've seen them all." She meant, of course, that my children look alike, that they share common features and facial expressions. She meant it as a compliment. I smiled and said, "yes, they do look alike, don't they?" but inside, my whole soul was rebelling. No, I thought, you haven't seen them all. This one is unique and different and special, and so are all the others. This is Harmony. Not the same song, different verse. A whole new being. A symphony of sound and grace and personality and life. A child with her own unique gifts and talents and mission in life. A child who will bless the world with her presence, who will touch and lift people with her goodness. A child. A child.

I feel the same way about each of my children. Lillian. Joseph. Michael. Allison. Sarah. Eliza. Harmony. Even the two who grew together in my womb and gasped for their first breath in the same sacred moment -- the two who share the same genes, the same DNA. They are each precious, unique, and special. A child. A child. They came together in the special miracle that is twinship, but they are each beloved, each unique and distinct. Every member of our family knows them as separate individuals, despite their look-alike faces.

Growing a family is not like collecting dolls or books or cats. When I contemplate adding to our family, I think of bringing another of God's beautiful children to this world. I envision coming to know the personality, the heart of another spirit, and helping them reach their potential. They become part of a group that is our family, but that makes them more loved and appreciated, not less. I don't love Harmony any less because I also love Lillian, Joseph, Michael, Sarah, Allison, and Eliza. If anything, I love her more because I've seen firsthand the miracle that is life and growth. I've watched six other babies blossom and develop in their own unique way, and I cherish each stage of her life with maturity and patience grown in the garden that is family life.

I don't know any of my friends with large families who simply pops out kids. Or who thinks of their family as some nebulous group. There probably are such individuals, who give birth without thinking, who bring more children into a family of neglect or who simply "oops" their way into a large family.

But I've never met any of them. The mothers I know worry a lot. They pray and hope and feel and work for each of their children. They wonder each time if they are up to the task. Their love is infinite but time and energy are finite. They pray and go to work and sacrifice for each new child to come to their family. They don't keep having children because pregnancy is easy or because they like the feeling of sleeplessness. They don't do it because they like chaos or messes or tantrums. They know all too well that those things are part of the package, part of the tumult, clutter and cacophony that is family life. But they do it anyway. They sacrifice and they give more than they ever knew they had in them because they know that even on their hardest days, what they are doing is extraordinary. They are helping distinct, precious individuals reach their potential.

Pregnancy can be difficult. But with the sacrifice comes a purity and a love that is easy to feel and hard to describe. When I became pregnant for the fourth time, I was excited. But I was also weary. I'd been through a devastating health crisis the summer before and I was just shakily getting back on my feet and regaining my confidence. I knew how hard a pregnancy would be, but I also knew it was the right thing for me to do. So I stood precariously on the path of becoming a mother again, hoping for God's grace to carry me through what I knew I could not do alone.

The morning sickness hit me hard. I threw up twice a day and did my best to nurture my children while patiently enduring what I hoped would subside in time. I was just starting to feel better, at 14 weeks, when the bleeding began.

It started as a trickle, just a spot of fear. A hope that nothing was amiss. A worry that something was seriously wrong. A silence as I went about my normal day, hoping I wasn't experiencing what I thought I was. Then it became a flood, and with the blood came tears. As I hurried to the doctor, I prayed and prayed, not for some nameless object, but for THIS child, this precious individual who had been growing beneath my heart and who I loved with a passion that surprised even me. "Heavenly Father. I've sacrificed so much for this child. Please don't take her away from me!"

Then came the news. The heartbeat. A child. A child! Still alive but perhaps in peril. Then the ultrasound, with my husband who rushed to my side. And further news. "Here's the first heartbeat . . . and here's the second." The bleeding still unexplained, but subsiding. Subsiding while something else was overflowing. Joy. Gratitude. Excitement. A child, yes, but also her sister, her companion through life's storms and sunshine. Two unique, precious souls. My children. Becoming a mother anew, this time to twins.

My children are not just a group of kids. They are Lillian, Joseph, Michael, Sarah, Allison, Eliza, and Harmony. A unique, dynamic group of individuals who teach me every day to be a little less selfish, and a little more loving, and a little more patient. In the uncommon, singular, supernal experience that is motherhood.

"Trailing clouds of glory." Indeed.

For the record . . .

I did not make the matching dresses. I am certainly capable and highly talented (well, sort of) in the womanly art of sewing, but I have not the time or the inclination right now. No, the beautiful dresses are a result of a small miracle -- a clearance rack at Jolene's that had perhaps ten dresses, five of them in roughly the right size for my five girls. It was fate.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Family Pictures

It's been a very wonderful weekend. I will post later about Joey's baptism yesterday and Harmony's blessing today.

Tonight, I wanted to show off the best of our family pictures!


I was so thrilled to get these back yesterday. The colors in our backyard were so pretty and I was so surprised to see that even in the pictures where the kids weren't really paying attention it still looked pretty good. I did a tiny bit of photoshopping on some of our favorites (had to swap Allison's head in one and both twins in another). For example, this is the original of the last one above:

Eliza wouldn't stop screaming, so Toni had us all scream:

Eliza's cute even when she's crying:
And some other favorites:



Michael:
Sarah:


Allison:

These are all resized for web viewing, so the quality is much better in the originals.

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