& sunshine & bubbles & amoxicillin 

Life with two almost two year-olds is mostly sunshine. I’m being totally serious. These past few months have been primarily sunny in our little world, with these little guys.


Their personalities have become so distinct. Their likes and dislikes are obvious and communicated. Their sleeping through the night has become consistent, with very few exceptions. And you know what? When you finally get to sleep through the night, for more than one night, for the first time in years (literally), you can sort of look over all of the other not-so-sunshiny stuff.

Like temper tantrums, refusal to eat,  and strep throat. Amoxicillin still tastes like bubblegum but falls into the refusal to consume category too, FYI.


After talking about it for nearly seven years, we finally fenced in our backyard. Since it’s completion on Sunday we have eaten dinner & stayed outside until just before sunset each night. It feels so great to let the sun tell us when to go indoors!


Bedtimes have become more of a suggestion than a rule, but all of the outside play followed by necessary nightly baths has the boys basically begging to to go bed at 8:15, which isn’t far off from their usual time anyway.


We might as well buy stock in bubbles since the boys don’t totally understand the concept of keeping them in the bottle. We could also probably forego laundry detergent since we all end up completely covered in bubble solution.


And while completely unimaginable that these two will soon be TWO YEARS OLD, I’m so thrilled that they are mine and that we get to spend all of our sunshiny, bubble-covered time together. They are my favorite people in the entire world. 

But I could do without the amoxicillin.

11 Toddler Easter Basket Ideas (That Aren’t Candy)

Easter is just over a week away…are your little ones getting a basket filled with goodies? Are you going to dye eggs?? As a kid, Easter was one of my favorite holidays. I loved Easter basket gifts, getting a brand new dress for church, and especially getting together with my cousins to hunt for eggs. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles would always fill plastic eggs with money; some coins, some dollar bills, and there were always a few big winners with tens and twenties. They would then hide them outside and we’d all go nuts searching. As we go through this second round of holidays with the boys I grow more and more excited about starting our own traditions with them. This year we’ll be doing Easter baskets and hiding a few treat-filled eggs around the house. I’ve had so much fun searching for little gifts with which to fill their baskets (actually these Lands’ End totes).

Let me start by saying that I think you should put candy in your toddler’s Easter basket, but it does not need to be the main attraction. Particularly if candy is truly an occasional treat, rather than the norm, as it is in our household. That said, there are so many cool, inexpensive things that you can put in toddler Easter baskets that will hold their attention for far much longer than a bag of Butterfinger eggs. I would say Reese’s eggs but I have a strict no sharing rule about Reese’s eggs. In my opinion, they are the best Reese’s holiday treat– they contain the perfect peanut butter to chocolate ratio.

I love the idea of Easter baskets containing fun, small gifts to enjoy outside as warmer temperatures surface. I also like to think outside the box for the actual “basket”. Easter backpacks, storage totes, and laundry baskets are all great ideas that will be useful beyond Easter.

Below is my round-up of Easter basket fillers for your little one(s), mostly geared towards ages 1-3, but generally fun for all ages!

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  1. Flash cards | We have a few sets of these flash cards, and while they are called “My First”, they provide learning opportunities for all ages with different questions about the animal or item, as well translation of the word in four languages.
  2. Magna Doodle | You know why Magna Doodles are so awesome? Because they allow your little artists to be creative without the mess. This mini Magna Doodle is perfect for little ones.
  3. Hooded towels | You probably already have some hooded towels, but Target has a bunch of different character towels that your little ones are bound to love. The end of bathtime can be a bit dramatic around here but climbing out and into one of these fun towels definitely helps!
  4. Bubbles | We tried some bubbles last summer but they must’ve been a bad batch because they weren’t at all bubbly and did not at all keep the boys’ attention. I can attest (thanks to Aunt Lexi & Uncle Adam!) that these bubble sticks are super bubbly and fun! There are actually a ton of awesome bubble machines/toys if your kids are a little older and regular old bubbles might not capture their attention.
  5. Toddler Bible | I like the idea of giving a bible for an Easter gift rather than Christmas, because Easter gifts are generally smaller and less distracting than Christmas gifts. It seems like a bible might get lost in the hustle, bustle, and shuffle of Christmas gifts, ya know? There are so many great, picture-filled, bibles out there to help toddlers learn about God’s word.
  6. Bath crayons | I’ve read a lot of reviews about bath markers, but I see far too many horror stories about permanently stained bath tubs. We have these bath crayons and they have been super easy to clean up. Plus the boys think it’s the coolest thing to draw all over the tub. We’re down to just one yellow crayon now so we’ll be throwing these in an Easter basket for sure.
  7. Special smoothie cups | We have a clear version of these bottles and as soon as they come out of the cupboard, the boys know it’s smoothie time. Every once in a while I’ll also buy whatever straw cups are in the Dollar Spot but make sure that we don’t use those cups or bottles for anything other smoothies. It makes smoothie time extra special!
  8. Slinky | I legit remember receiving a tie-dye Slinky in my Easter basket one year as a kid, and spending hours sending it down the stairs to our basement. These things are timeless!
  9. Finger puppets | Stuffed animals are, of course, a great Easter basket option, but finger puppets take up less space and are guaranteed to provide entertainment. The animal puppets are not only cute, but provide a great opportunity to work on animal names and sounds, which is a pretty big deal in our house right now.
  10. Sidewalk chalk | Chalk was something new for the boys when they first experienced it last weekend (again thanks to Lexi & Adam!) but I know it won’t be the last time. I foresee lots of driveway murals in our future this summer. This set from Melissa & Doug includes triangular pieces that seem like they’d be easier for little toddler hands to grip. There are also very beginner sets with chalk holders but in my opinion that’s just one more thing to break or get lost.
  11. Shoes | Okay, according to your kids, this might be the boring one on the list. But when do toddlers NOT need new shoes? Especially with increased outdoor play in sight, new shoes are a necessity. I’m a total sucker for TOMS kids shoes (and not gonna lie- kinda wish I had a girl so I could buy these pink glitter watermelon shoes!) , but of course there are plenty of cheaper options out there- some of my other favorites are Nordstrom Rack (absolute best for kids’ shoes!), Kohl’s, Marshall’s and Target.

Right now Target is offering $5 off when you spend $25 in the Easter shop, as well as $10 off when you spend $50 on toys. And if you think you deserve to buy something for yourself after all that Easter shopping (I think you do!), they are also offering $10 when you spend $50 on clothing and accessories (promo code: STYLE10)!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation and/or discounts on purchases as a result of you clicking these links.*

 

& Friday Favorites | 3.10.2017

Hello! With any luck this post will find you well on your way to an enjoyable weekend, leaving the hustle and bustle of the work week behind. I put in my 20 hours of work away from home before my head hit the pillow at 2am Wednesday so now it’s the usual work of cooking, cleaning, and entertaining toddlers for me until Monday Tuesday (I just remembered I’m off Monday – woo hoooo!)

I’m attending a fundraiser tonight, a brunch/shopping get together tomorrow morning, and it seems like one of those weekends where Sunday will probably become a busy one too, though we do not currently have plans.

Anyway, it occurred to me last week that there are a number of items/products in our household that make my every day a little easier. So as the weekend approaches and you might set out to do some shopping or product searching of your own, I thought I’d share. I am an absolute sucker for product recommendations, reading through dozens and dozens of reviews before making purchases, so in the event that you might be in the market for one of my favorite things, here are my thoughts!

Shark Rocket TruePet – I pull this vacuum out of the closet at least once a day, sometimes more. It’s super lightweight, takes up very little storage space, and it is incredibly efficient. We have hardwood floors throughout our entire house (except the stairs to the basement), which means we have a lot of area rugs. This Shark easily transitions from the hard floor/low-pile rug setting for most of the house, to the high pile carpet setting for some of our rugs. But my ABSOLUTE favorite feature is the light on both the upper handheld part and the main vacuum base. We have a white, shedding dog, and our floors are light in color. His hair settles in the corners and on our baseboards and it can be difficult to see in regular lighting. But with that light, his hair doesn’t stand a chance! It also has a bunch of attachments (and a handy, hanging storage bag), most of which have gone unused for us, but a few that are super helpful for corners, carpeted stairs, etc. Added bonus: the boys LOVE when I vacuum.


We ordered ours from Amazon but I did see that a very similar model is $30 off on Costco.com right now.

nutpods – I discovered nutpods when I was attempting a Whole30 before the holidays. Even though I wasn’t suuuuuper successful with the Whole30, I have made some changes to my daily eats, and have eliminated a LOT of junk from my diet. I said see ya later to traditional coffee creamers a long time ago (with a few occasional exceptions) but this is by far the cleanest thing I’ve ever added to my coffee. Nutpods is dairy-free, paleo-friendly, soy-free, non-GMO… nothing but good stuff in here. If you like an ultra sweet cup of coffee, this is not for you. But if you want a perfectly satisfying cup of coffee without any added junk, give this a try!

I buy mine in the natural foods section at HyVee (buy it on Wellness Wednesday for 10% off!), but it’s also available at Whole Foods and you may even be able to find it at your local grocery store.


Nuby sippy cups – I can only assume that sippy cup companies advertise their “no leak” cups as such because they’ve never actually tested their own product. Amiright?! We’ve tried dozens and they all start out great but turn into Niagara Falls eventually.  So when we first discovered the Nuby cups with straws I thought we’d hit the jackpopt. But I hated cleaning and trying to keep track of the straws, so on a recent Target trip I found these and they are perfect. As long as the inner rubbery seal part of the lid is on correctly, they don’t leak a bit! We use these for our pre-bedtime, wind down “bottle”, then brush teeth, then put a little water in these for them to take to bed.


We also still really like these Munchkin Miracle 360 cups. Also found at Target, of course!

Ninja Blender System – Smoothies have always been a hit around here but since they boys been on a bit of an anti-vegetable kick lately, I’ve been making them almost daily and sneaking in cauliflower, zucchini, spinach, kale, etc. and they have no clue. The blades are super sharp and this thing has got some power! I’ve always dreamed of having a VitaMix but I really love this system.

We purchased ours at Costco last summer but it doesn’t appear they still carry that exact model. This one, from Target, is the exact model that we have.

& a follow. If the aforementioned Whole30/Paleo lifestyle is of interest to you, please click over to my friend Emily’s blog, Whole Life Handbook. You know what, even if it isn’t, take a look. At the very least, follow her on Instagram for some seriously drool-worthy food pics.

Alright, friends. I’m ready to start weekending! Tell me about your favorite products right now and have yourself a great weekend!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive compensation and/or discounts for purchases as a result of clicking these links.*

 

 

& HelloFresh tips

I expressed my frustration with meal planning recently, so I figured it was time to finally pull this post together and share my experience with HelloFresh, as well as some tips I’ve learned along the way.

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Towards the end of the summer, a friend of mine shared a promo code for a free HelloFresh box. I had been intrigued by these meal subscription programs for quite some time so I decided to go for it.

I was immediately impressed with the packaging. The ice packs were more than sufficient for keeping the meat cold, the meat was safely separated from the rest of the food, everything was definitively labeled, and most importantly, the packaging for refrigerated items was long & sleek, making it storage friendly until used.

I was equally impressed with the quality of the food, and the ease of the recipes. That said, I ended up cancelling after two boxes. It just didn’t seem cost effective, and I was still doing so much grocery shopping because I wasn’t doing any planning ahead.

HelloFresh then called me just after the new year, and offered me a lower rate. So I went for it again. But this time I made it a point to browse the website, download the app, and really educate myself on how to get the best value from this service.

Because I know that we could all use a little break from doing all of the shopping, prepping, cooking, etc. I thought I’d share my tips for getting the most out of your HelloFresh subscription:

  • Download the app. If you’re anything like me, having an app available means that I might actually remember to do something with it as I’m scrolling through my phone, looking for excuses not to get out of bed in the morning. Instagram, email, Facebook, Snapchat, work email, HelloFresh.
  • Pause menus that don’t interest you and/or are cheap to make on your own. At the very least you can use the meal idea as inspiration, but I tend to pause weeks that include pasta as a main dish, particularly if it doesn’t include much in the way of vegetables or proteins. On the other hand, I almost always opt for meals containing beef, as it tends to be rather expensive to purchase at the grocery store.

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  • Think about the full meal. One of my very favorite HelloFresh meals was Apple Turkey Burgers. Not only were the burgers great, but it included 4 buns, potatoes for roasting as one side, and the makings for a sizeable salad. If I were making this meal with ingredients purchased from the grocery store, I would have undoubtedly ended up with too many buns, leaving me scrambling to find a way to use them or (most likely) tossing them in the garbage later that week. So I like to choose menus that involve a meal, a side, a salad, etc. rather than just one dish I’m throwing everything into.
  • Customize your menu. If you have the family plan, you get to choose two out of three weekly options. If you go with the classic plan, you get even more options to choose from. Again, this was something I didn’t realize I could do at first, so when I got the full menu card with three awesome looking meals, but didn’t get the one that looked the best, I was always a little disappointed. Then I learned that I get to pick, by simply clicking on the meals that I want in my box! You can make changes up until three days prior to receiving your box. *I initially went with the family plan, but recently switched to the classic plan for a little more variety. The boys may or may not eat what we’re eating, depending on the day, so I decided to go this route for a bit and see how I like it.*

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  • Work it into your regular meal plan. If you’re already pretty great at meal planning, but have some busy days on the horizon, you can totally work your HelloFresh delivery into your regular plan. You choose what day you’d like it delivered, and you can plan that around anything that might interrupt your usual meals. Additionally, there is a “Quick” option under the Subscription info that will ensure the recipes you get are as quick as they come!
  • Manage your subscription. If your current plan isn’t working for you, you can change it up. Not in the mood for seafood? Want some lighter options? All can be managed through the website or the app.

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PROS:

  • the instructions are clear & concise
  • once you have the recipes, they are yours…some of them are pretty run-of-the-mill, but others are something I may not have tried
  • the meals come together quickly
  • the packaging is clean and storage friendly, and includes food tips that don’t necessarily pertain to your current meals, just general tidbits of info
  • fresh, long-lasting meat and produce
  • common allergens are clearly listed under the weekly menus

CONS:

  • the packaging isn’t super environmentally friendly, however, it continues to improve with each box we receive. It seems I’m not the only one that took issue with it.
  • the cost. The convenience is obviously the key here, and you certainly pay for it, which is worth it sometimes. But it is definitely possible to buy all of these ingredients at your regular grocery store for cheaper, but then you have to do all of the measuring and prepping yourself. And time is money!

So I’ve decided to keep my subscription, especially now that I have a better understanding of the website and pausing/customizing my boxes. I think that, occasionally, it’s okay to get not just groceries delivered to my doorstep, but the exact amounts of everything I need, neatly packaged, and ready for me to easily prepare. We have to cut ourselves some slack sometimes, right?

Grab one of the promo codes for a free box below to try it yourself, and let me know what you think!

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*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive discounts on future orders. However, I did not receive compensation for writing this post, and as always, all opinions are my own.

 

 

& the weekend | v. 4

*I realize it is now Wednesday (and even warmer!) and we’re halfway to the next weekend, but I’m hitting Publish anyway.*

What you see below is not fake news. It was, in fact, 60 degrees here in Madison.


We’re having a stretch of record breaking temps so you as you can imagine, the entire state was outside over the weekend. Many people probably wearing shorts because… Wisconsin.


No shorts here. But we did have our share of outdoor time.

Unfortunately it started with a trip to the clinic because these sweet boys of mine just weren’t getting better & I needed a little peace of mind.

I consider this trip “outside time” because I forgot the stroller so we had a toddler-led, leisurely walk into the clinic. Theo wasn’t wearing shoes because we didn’t have time to get them on before leaving annnnd we were 15 minutes late anyway.

A one-time steroid was prescribed to help clear the boys’ croup. But my super sleuthy ways of hiding the crushed up pills in a smoothie did not work so we just continued on with two raspy, coughing, runny-nosed toddlers who now seem to finally be turning a corner.


Nonetheless, we did not let the croupiness keep us from having an enjoyable weekend.

The boys’ Aunt Lexi & Uncle Adam came for a visit, so J and I got to run errands & have a lunch date, while the boys entertained Lexi & Adam!


Sunday involved beer brewing, a visit from Grammy & Grampy, and a trip to the park.


Naturally it’s supposed to snow next weekend so we’ll be back to the usual February in Wisconsin programming.

& some random catch up.

Despite my best intentions, I never seem to complete a blog post. I have about 47 drafts from the past year, but it seems I never take the time to turn them into worthwhile posts. For instance, I’m finally hitting publish on this post, which I started writing two weeks ago.

But I always love going back to read my random thoughts from months/years past, so sometimes it’s nice to come here & just word vomit, ya know?

Speaking of vomit, when I was here last, we were a week into the stomach flu. While Theo & I never truly got the stomach flu, we did have a general stomach ick going around here for like two weeks. And now we’re on week two runny noses, congestion, sore throats, & coughs. Germs are so cool.

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Jessica’s post really gave me the boost I needed to finally do some toy consolidation/storage  in our house. It had been on my mind for awhile, but I just couldn’t see past those primary-colored toy storage bins. Those are great for daycares, kids bedrooms, toy rooms, etc. But our living room is our toy room so I needed something that wasn’t a total eyesore. The toys are eyesore enough! I had no intention of trying to hide the fact that toddlers live here, I just wanted it to feel more peaceful once the boys are in bed each night.

It’s been about a week and we’re loving it. A small change, really, but it’s made a huge difference and the boys don’t miss a single one of their toys that have taken up residence in the basement.

This wicker chest was available in three sizes at Home Goods. Aesthetically speaking, I wish I’d have gone with the medium size, as it would just look better in that space (and cover up that outlet) but it’s really nice to only have enough small toys to fit in that chest. A select dozen or so books, flash cards, cars, are in the basket by the fireplace. Obviously we still have some bigger stuff out in the open but it doesn’t even bother me now that there’s so much less stuff strewn everywhere.


Scooters, their teepee, & some bigger, (unpictured because currently in use) toys are stored over in the corner by the dog toys.

End of the night cleanup has been cut down by like 10 minutes, which doesn’t seem like a lot of time but TEN MINUTES of cleaning up toys is a lot of minutes.

//

A popsicle can pretty much solve any problem around here lately. I stumbled upon these Disney Frozen mini popsicles at the grocery store and they are an absolute HIT in our house. They are small, so they don’t melt down the boys’ arms before they finish them. And since the boys actually sit still while consuming them, I have like 4 minutes to get something done.

//
Let’s see, something not toddler related… I finally did one of those paint nights. You know, when you get together with girlfriends to drink wine, but also paint something for your house so it doesn’t seem like it was just an excuse to have a drink or two? Anyway, a group of us Madison Moms Bloggers got together at The Wild Dandelion last week and it was so much fun! The whole “paint on a board” idea is really just more my style than the canvas paint nights that are also pretty popular.

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Local Madison area peeps
– I highly suggest The Wild Dandelion if you’re interested in doing something like this. Heather, the owner, is awesome!

//

I have zero inspiration when it comes to meal planning lately. Justin is no help with dinner ideas. The boys might love something one day, but hate it the next. So I feel like I’m constantly shopping, prepping, cooking, cleaning up & doing dishes, and maybe half of the people in our house are actually eating and/or enjoying what I’m making. Am I alone in this? Please tell me other moms feel this way too! And that it will get easier and that it’s a phase and it will pass?!

//

Sadly, a tropical destination vacation is not in the cards for us this year. We really wanted to take the boys to Mexico but we just couldn’t find the deal we were looking for, and since we hope to buy or build a new home within the year, we couldn’t justify going super over budget. When I say “we”, I really mean Justin, because I would absolutely go over budget just to get away for a few days. But since I would be doing most of the work to get everyone ready for the trip (passports for the boys, finding a travel-friendly double stroller, finding warm weather clothes in the dead of winter, packing, etc.), I agreed on account of eliminating some unnecessary stress. So I find myself living vicariously through Timehop, which is currently chronicling the month I spent in Mexico, on a solo(ish- I had visitors) journey, NINE years ago.

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That said, I’m really looking forward to the warmer temperatures expected around here this week. I might even get to crack a window and set some of these germs free!

//

Bonus photo of Nolan showcasing his favorite part about the new toy chest. 0.2 seconds before falling off of it and onto his face on the hardwood floor.

::insert eye roll emoji here::


*also working on a redo of that gallery wall above, hence the current lack and strange placement of photos.

Happy hump day!

& I don’t even know.

Eating nachos at 10am is a totally normal Sunday morning thing, right? Because that’s what I found myself doing this morning and gosh, I would really just like some normalcy this week. I was so exhausted by the time we put the boys to bed Friday night that I didn’t even have the energy to make or drink a much-needed and well-deserved cocktail. It’s been a week here, friends.

I put the boys down for a nap this morning, even though they don’t take morning naps anymore. It was partially because they needed it and partially because I needed it. Because after this doozy of a week I was just looking forward to a leisurely Sunday with shared parenting duties, as weekends should allow. Maybe a solo grocery shopping trip, some food prep for the week ahead, stuff like that. But just after midnight, Justin woke up with the stomach flu…

But let’s back up to Tuesday afternoon when Nolan started vomiting. A lot. The dog ate it. Theo played in it. I wore it. I was home from work because it was too icy for my mom to drive in that morning. I also had to miss work Monday (but worked from home) because we were iced in at my parents’. Oh, and I also had to miss work Wednesday (I normally don’t work Wednesdays but was trying to get in some hours since I had to miss Monday & Tuesday) because I didn’t want our nanny to be exposed to the stomach flu & I felt like I was coming down with it too. Ohhhh, and I also had to miss my scheduled work-from-home hours Thursday because 2/3 of our daycare provider’s kids were sick. Friday was somewhat normal. I was absolutely beat, but I got a lot accomplished. Nobody was sick, and everyone got to where they needed to be for the day. I made dinner. Everyone ate and kept it down.

Saturday was sorta normal too, except Nolan was super fussy, then ended up being awake most of the night. Theo slept through the night (which is unheard of) and then took a 3 hour nap (also never happens), and is currently napping again (NEVER happens) so with any luck he’s sleeping off any chance he has of getting this flu bug.

I suppose I might even start vomiting at some point too, huh? Not that it matters. Moms don’t get sick days. My husband was in bed for 19 hours straight, minus getting up to barf, but if I get sick I’m sure he’ll just go to work and I’ll just have to mom and be sick at the same time. That’s how it works, right?

Okay, my bitterness is starting to show. My exhaustion. My defeat. My NEED FOR A VACATION. It’s showing, isn’t it?

What I came here to say is that we had a yucky week. A week I’m not sad to send off. But it could be worse. It could be SO MUCH WORSE. We are, despite this double round of the stomach flu, healthy. We are happy. We have a roof over our heads. We have clothes on our backs and food in our bellies (some of us more than others). And even in the midst of the crappiness of our week, there were shiny moments.

I washed all the bedding, hung some pictures, and cleaned two rooms. All in the same day. Nolan had to test out the fresh bedding for me.

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I sort of accidentally agreed to renew my HelloFresh membership and a box showed up on our doorstep Wednesday. We had this yummy beef stir fry for dinner Friday night and I was reminded of just how easily these meals come together, no matter how intimidated I am.

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We’ve been talking about vacation a lot. And it got the best of us yesterday. A late lunch of Coronita and nachos was necessary. Obviously these were pretty good since I had them (albeit a much smaller version- and no beer, but that would’ve been a good idea) for breakfast again today!

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Nolan was so happy to see Theo when he woke up from his nap, that he basically forced his Cheerios on him. Theo isn’t one to say no to Cheerios, so he ate them while half sleeping. It was probably a lot sweeter in person than it is appearing in this photo, huh?

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And lastly, Nolan was looking just so sweet in his grey knee socks & Packers jersey combo!

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And you know what, there were so many other shiny moments I didn’t catch on camera. We’ll get over this flu bug. Life will continue as normal some day soon. I’m sure of it. Heck, we might even get to go on that vacation. I’m choosing eternal optimism in my head, even if I’m not really showing it right now. Tomorrow is a new day!