Friday, May 31, 2013

Sunday in the Country.

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I'm no Pioneer Woman, but I do really enjoy driving around with my family in Jewell County and taking a few pictures to document the country and our activities. Sunday morning we rose for church at the lake. There were 60 people in the church of all ages, it was worship. The whole time we were in the little stone church, the verse from Matthew 18, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." We sang and praised the Lord and heard a short message. My grandparents attend regularly, and it is a very neat ministry of locals and vacationers at Lovewell Reservoir.

We had breakfast together afterwards - pancakes as big as our face - and drove through to see all the people camping. I did not envy them.
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Then as we drove home we found these babies. My mom said they weren't pick-up trained to look for food from our car. Instead when we stopped they ran away. I could have bumped up the contrast more for the photo when I processed it in Lightroom, but this is closer to the indecisive gray skies on Sunday.
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And I thought the mommas and baby calves were beautiful. Plus all the hills were so very green!
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We also found these guys grazing closer to the farm. They didn't run away. Also, this is a reminder that Kansas isn't flat. (And this is technically almost Nebraska too.)
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Back at the farm, my grandma wanted us to take photos with the yellow rose bush. She says they have been around since she got there about sixty years ago. My mom remembers them from growing up too, and I've seen lots of photos of them throughout the years.

We're in a good mood because this is after pancakes and before the Royals lost. AGAIN. My grandpa has a few words he uses to communicate, but we all know exactly how he feels about the Royals current performance. And he has seen some rough years of baseball. Post update: THE ROYALS finally won a game!
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After the business and social hours at the reunion, it was nice to be on the farm all afternoon on Sunday. We made cookies for Grandpa, ate everyone's favorite taquitos (doubled the batch and made one batch with black beans! YUM!) and watched the Memorial Day Concert on PBS.
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With the long weekend we were able to stay two days and two nights, and it was nice. Just very nice.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Reunion with Mom.

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We went to my mom's hometown for her 40th high school reunion last weekend. It was part of a larger celebration of all the classes that happens each Memorial Day and all attendees sit with their classmates.

My grandpa is also a graduate and had a spot at the table too, way across the room from my mom. There were about fifteen of Mom's classmates there throughout the night at the reception before the meal, hanging out at a classmate's house and at the street dance in front of Bob's Inn. You remember Bob's Inn...
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It was an amazing crowd - the whole community center was full during the dinner! The dinner was catered by family favorite the Buffalo Roam.

While my mom and her classmates caught up some more after the dinner, I escaped to my aunt and uncle's house where we split a bottle of wine and talked about work, books, and all our projects we want to do. We're a family that likes creative projects - and I can't wait to share some of them with you! We have some really good ideas.
 photo Blog_0095_zps9eb43da9.jpg I also spent some time carefully looking through my mom's high school senior year yearbook. She was valedictorian, something I think she forgot to mention before. My mom is pretty awesome like that. When we were overachieving in high school, she always acted like it was normal for us and never about her. She was not the kind of mom to say, "When I was in high school..." and so awesomeness was just something she expected without reminding us about her accomplishments.

She also told me the story about these glasses she had to have for senior photos that made me feel better about my own impatience. Mom was really worried they wouldn't come in time, and they just barely arrived from the eye doctor in another small town in time. I'm glad my anxiety about stuff coming on time in the mail is genetic.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

School's Out!

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So my six weeks of summer vacation doesn't technically start until June 10th, but it feels like school is out already! The students last day was on Thursday, and there were lots of tears. Apparently we make our school a place everybody wants to be, and they were sad to leave for the summer! I had my two library buddies in my office for about 45 minutes while they cried it out. It was sweet, and I will really really miss them next year.

The reality is that summer isn't always the best time for everyone. Some kids don't have much to do, and they will miss the routine of school. That always makes me sad. Some will be with us for the next couple weeks for summer school or sixth grade jump up camp, and they make me happy. It's a little too quiet working without the noise of teachers and students. And the students really will be ready to come back in August when it's time, even if they act like they're too cool for school.
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The last week was a busy one with field trips to the lake, William Jewell and the Tucker Leadership Lab and picnics and movies at school. This was the second college trip that I took kids on this spring, and William Jewell never fails to impress.

It's also been 8 years since I went for Truman boot camp at Jewell, and I was feeling a bit nostalgic thinking about staying in the dorm and researching charter schools until my brain was fried. But it was also sweet to remember that I belonged with that group of smarty pants because of a true interest in public service and kids. 

My second year in the building was a really good one. I found my groove a little bit more as a teacher leader, really embraced my love of reading as part of my job and mentored a new teacher. I'm going to spend the next couple weeks gearing up for new initiatives in literacy, scrounging around for books and making plans for next year. Six weeks off will go quickly, but I will be ready on June 10th after I cross a few more things off the to-do list.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Graduation Weekend.

Prepare for a photo overload. But there were too many good ones that had to be shared, and I had an extra day off this weekend to put them together.

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Dad, Tracy and co. arrived on Friday night with Bonnie & Fred as a bonus pair from Indianapolis. We had yummy Mexican food at Zocalo on the Plaza!

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I'm occasionally slightly alarmed talking to my brother. He so resembles me and Daddy that it's a little freaky. BUT I love this America-loving seven-year-old and can't wait for his July visit!

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Saturday was the big day. So blessed for time with this part of the family (and more time over Memorial Day). I like being a grown up with my cousin Sasha, her husband Mike and my aunt and uncle. We all appreciate fine beer like the Boulevard 80 Acre and Triple Julep on tap at The Oread.

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It was a little too much time with the crimson & blue, if you ask us, but we're proud of Lauren regardless.

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We took some photos outside the Lied Center where they graduated before a small reception at the Law School. The coolest part about the reception at the Law School was Lauren got to pick up her actual diploma on Saturday. This thing is real! We were also fortunate we could camp out in the Law Review office out of the way of the crowds.

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We were all very well behaved during the hooding ceremony at the Lied Center. It was fun to watch for the people that I have met with Lauren over the past couple years I've been home. And some others I have known for longer than that!

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And she's made some great friends. This group of newly minted lawyers had the hottest party in the law school on the fifth floor terrace at The Oread.

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My brothers were allowed to change and ham it up. I did NOT purchase them these glasses.

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In an ironic coincidence of strange timing, it was also my cousin and Mike's anniversary. They had a lovely wedding exactly one year before in this exact spot. Their second anniversary will have something to live up to!

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Lauren was lucky so many of her KC friends braved Lawrence for the party (Mizzou and K-State fans pictured above). Emily and her husband told their baby she was only allowed to attend for grad school as well.

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It was a brilliant mix of family and friends, really. Also, did you know that I love these kids? Next graduation on the schedule: Gabby's! From high school in 2014. I know, this troubles me too.

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We're related.

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Bonnie was there too! This photo was artfully framed to crop out the wine she spilled when she tried to break a cookie. Lesson learned: don't break my cookies in half. Just eat the whole thing.

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On Sunday before Lauren walked down the hill, I went to see my little godson Robert on his baptism day. I love him, and I think being a godmother is just the neatest. I didn't have one and am a rookie, but pretty sure I can figure it out. Leave me a note about the cool things your godmothers did for you, and I'll do them for Robert.

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Lauren walked down the hill with her friends (see previous post), and then we had brunch at Wheatfields. The party was over, and we were exhausted but so proud.

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And with that (and seriously, like tomorrow) Lauren begins the next chapter studying for the bar and job searching. If you'd like to hire a super smart attorney who was the managing editor of the Kansas Law Review, let us know. Jobs within an hour of my house are preferred.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Favorite Graduation Picture.

My sister Lauren graduated from KU Law on Saturday, and I have about nine million (or 50) great photos from the weekend. We were so blessed to have tons of family there to celebrate, and my sister and her friends had a very fun party Saturday night on the Oread.

On Sunday, Mom and I drove back over to Lawrence to see the law students lead the procession down the hill. This is a serious KU tradition and families line the hill to see their graduate walk down and into Memorial Stadium for another ceremony. We knew Lauren wasn't planning to stay in the stadium, but she couldn't miss walking down the hill. The law students led the lines on the west side and the med students led the east side of the hill. Lauren's friend Jenna was in this line.

Mom and I were laughing to ourselves as people take their spots along the line very seriously. People didn't want to budge one inch for us to get a photo of Lauren and her friends on the hill, even though they weren't waiting for law students. But it all worked out fine, and there are some cute photos of Lauren and her friends in their robes, hoods and tams and as they passed us on the hill.

But my favorite photo from the day is one that someone else took. By pure luck, Lauren, in the law school line and Jenna, in the med school line, walked through the Campanile at the top of the hill together. And someone captured these besties triumphant walk as seen on the big screen in the stadium.

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This was the photo that pushed me over the edge and made me dissolve into tears. My sister graduated from law school! And her best friend who I've known since they were 18-year-old freshman at K-State is a doctor! They worked so very hard, and it hasn't always been easy.

I'm so proud of Lauren. She's a brave, tough, smart kid and now has a J.D. after her name. I think this photo just says it all - it's my favorite memory of how cool it was to watch this all happen.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Spring Trip to Deanna Rose.

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Rachel already blogged about our trip to Deanna Rose, but if I don't write it down too then it didn't happen. Also, I took all the photos from our trip to the petting zoo so I might as well use them! I love those baby goats all waiting for a bottle. And the chickens! They were cute too.

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I invited a fun game to get Finley to look at the camera. I put a number of fingers on top of my head and asked him what it was. And then I would switch it up so he would keep looking and calling them out. In the photo on the right, he's explaining something to me not counting numbers. Favorite Finley phrases from this trip, "BUSTED!" and "Not gonna happen!"

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After tractor races (that went nowhere), I went in Vic's General Store and bought a postcard souvenir. Finley took a photo with me because we're buds. The thing about four-year-olds is they are just a lot of fun. He will talk to me about stuff, play games and do puzzles, and help make the pancakes. I'm so blessed this little guy loves me and calls me Tori.

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And a very special happy 30th birthday to Rachel! She's my partner in crime, partner in Etsy, and partner in planning the most ridiculous parties ever. My life is better because of Rachel, and I'm without a doubt a better person because of Rach. She holds my six-foot-tall frame to high standards and lovingly supports me as I try to be the best Victoria I can be.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Go Herd! (or Amy and Chris Got Married!)

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We had a very special wedding on Saturday. Our friend Amy married Chris, and it was a great big party! It was at the Marriott in Overland Park, also known as the same legendary ballroom from Kate and Adam's wedding five years ago. But as Kate points out, her wedding happened DURING renovations, so the whole place looks totally different. Some people got new duds (Abbey and Drew!), and I wore my standard black dress because I'm a better dancer when I wear it.

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So Amy looked like a million bucks and all of my friends except Nan and Tara have exceptionally long hair right now. This is what 30 does to you.

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I'm a huge fan of the purple bridesmaid dresses. It practically screams that in it's second go it will be worn to the Wabash Cannonball. That IS a dress that you can cut off and wear again.

The drinks were poured, we all ordered the beef, and we had a good time. Without talking to each other, we pretty much all chose the beef entree. When the bride is marrying a man from a cattle family, it's easy to assume the beef will be the best.

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I spend a lot of time with these lovely ladies and their babies, but it's also nice to have a night out together with everyone and lots of dancing! We sang the Alpha Chi song for Amy and didn't sound terrible (surprise) and followed it up with Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy because we're classy like that. It was wonderful to celebrate the start of Amy and Chris' life together - cheers to the happy couple!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

13 Cookies: Giant White-Chocolate Pecan Cookies.

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This came in Martha earlier this year, and I tore it out immediately and put it in the "to bake" pile. A couple of small details made this great cookie just outstanding. And really really big. I looked back through the cookies I've made so far this year, and I'm most likely to make these cookies again. Or the Peanut Butter Oatmeal. Yum.

I wrote about yesterday how I'm giving myself some grace to not finish Project Life for the whole year. But I still very much intend to bake my way to 13 cookies. Too many people benefit from that project. Cookies for everyone!

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Here's the recipe from Martha Stewart (I'll make my one change at the end).

Giant White-Chocolate Pecan Cookies
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups packed dark-brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped into 1/2-3/4 inch pieces (I used chips)
8 ounces pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (highly recommend those cookie pecan pieces - I toasted them first!

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda to combine.

2. Beat butter and sugars on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in egg, then egg yolk, until thoroughly incorporated. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until just combined (do not overmix). Beat in white chocolate and pecans until just combine.

3. Place scoops of dough 3 inches apart on parchment with a 4-ounce (2 3/4 inch) ice cream scoop. If you don't have a scoop, measure level 1/2 cups of dough and roll into balls. Gently press to flatten. Bake cookies, rotating pans until golden but still soft in the center, about 14 minutes. Let cool slightly on baking sheets. Serve warm, or transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store up to 3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Or deliver to your friends and hungry Mortar Board officers at UMKC. They inhaled them and thought they were macadamia nut. As I am on a budget - pecan pieces were cheaper, better and fooled them.

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My one change was to make the cookies a little bit smaller. I really wanted to give away more than 10 cookies, so I weighed the giant balls of dough as I made them. I found that 75 grams was perfect for me, and I baked sixteen giant cookies. If you can make more than sixteen cookies, good for you. I had to sample the cookie dough a few times before I started. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Project Life Update.

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Hmm..not my best month of photographing project life but definitely some photos that I love. Also, the order got a little wonky a couple times, so I tried my best to use a somewhat logical set-up here.

I love this project a little bit less than when I started it, but I think it's mostly because I got "behind." That was NOT the goal because I don't want another project that goes on my to-do list. It's not that I don't love putting it together and more about the logistics. I don't have a great easy way to print photos that can be quickly secured and tucked into pages. It takes a lot of planning if you're not printing at home, and the local KC photo shops have kind of failed me!

I also struggled to make this a different kind of book and not my blog 2.0. The blog gets printed each year in a blurb book, and I want this little album to be a reflection of some of the other stuff that either didn't make the blog or was too personal. That means more instagram and iphone photos a lot of the time.

I have two favorite pages in this section. In the top right corner of the layouts, I love the section of intagrams from my trip to Virginia and all the delicious food we ate. And I'm fond of the layout on the bottom left with a large printed picture of my sister's fridge. I journaled a bit about when she wrecked her car on that page and the large format photo was fun.

My goal is to finish getting caught up soon-ish and finish out the little album until my 30th birthday in July. That will be half a year of Project Life, and that feels about right. If I want to paste in instagrams and other mementos, I'm going to do that instead in my little "For the Love of 30!" album that I bought. It's the same style as the Christmas one I adored.

I'm too old for starting and continuing projects for no good reason. I can give myself grace to leave something I don't truly love or quit something because it really is just too much coordination. That's why I only signed up to run one 5K. Didn't love it and it required too much coordination. And then I went back to walking, thank you very much.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Cookie Cutter Problem - and Solution!

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This mess has a happy ending! Since I started baking sugar cookies all the time, the number of cookie cutters inhabiting my kitchen cabinets was growing rapidly. I tried to contain them into these little small boxes, but they were too big and the boxes were too little. I wanted them to be sorted by theme so I could make quick assessments before buying more. This failed and I now have four daisy cookie cutters! Most of the cookie cutters I reach for the most are outside the cabinet on top of the fridge in two catch-all boxes that won't fit in the cabinet.

Last week I was looking for barnyard playdate cookies and found a chick cookie cutter I didn't know I had! Problem. I needed to get them organized so I could find the right cookie cutter faster.

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I started by sorting them all out. This is one of those 8 foot tables from Sam's Club that I put up in the living room to lay out the goods. I tried to sort them the best I could by season and type to avoid future daisy debacles. I left all the cookie cutters that came in sets in their nice boxes.

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Then I sorted them into drawers of an 8.5 x 11 mini chest. The rolling shelves were in my mom's basement filled with rubber stamps. I took out one old obsession to put in a new one. My mom thinks this is hilarious. She says something about saving a ton of money on video games only to spend it instead on scrapbook paper, rubber stamps and Beanie Babies. Yep, two daughters.

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I labeled the drawers with post-its to make sure I like the categories. Then I rearranged some things in the coat closet so the drawers could slide in there. No lie, it makes me really really happy. Sometimes I open the closet just to look at that sweet nugget of organization.

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I also organized my sprinkles while I was on a roll. It's the small things people. It was better to store them sideways so I could see the contents and not a bunch of tops of small jars! The color drawer is still very organized but twice as full and the frosting tips are now organized by size too.

Writing all of this made me want to bake some cookies right now.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Barnyard Playdate Playmates!

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When Rachel was in town Thursday through Sunday, we obviously wanted to have a party. My mom was also excited about this party, which is convenient because it was at her house. It was sort of a reunion with family, college friends and work friends all together plus a LOT of babies. The photo above is a "college roommate" shot. Who would have imagined all these cute kids less than ten years later?

My sister's tweet when she arrived described the scene well...
"I came home and it appears my mom has opened a day care. Turns out it is just another event from and ."

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Everett let me hold him long enough to take three photos - win. And Braden's curls won for best hairstyle ever. They are just adorable.

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We set up the little table of my childhood in the breakfast nook, and I convinced both Karis and Finley to eat there by telling them that it was the table for "four-year-olds." Baby Fiona was on the move, drinking out of other kids sippy cups and exploring. And James is just cute. He's grilling in this picture.

The age breakdown was awesome: 14 grown-ups, 16 kids. The kids breakdown is even better: 3 four-year-olds and everyone else TWO and under. That's right - 13 babies and toddlers.

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We had some delicious lunch at the kitchen table. Check out all those sippy cups! And some kids, like my cousin's kiddo Cooper, wanted to sit in the big chairs. There were little kids all over the place so whatever worked flew.
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And there was a lot of playing. And a little bit of photo taking. I like the photo on the right because my friend Nanette is saying in the background, "Everett, don't you want to be on the blog? Look at the camera!"

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Allison baked us some cupcakes and brought her little babes Rue and Trace. Rue's wearing snow boots because this party had to be moved inside. Stupid snow in May.

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Because we couldn't go to Deanna Rose, we had to make some new plans. Mom picked up Papa John's pizza, and it was great for little kids (cheese) and grown-ups (chicken artichoke). Amazingly, with that many mom's in the room everyone got to eat a little bit because the kids were all distracted easily, and we could visit and eat around them. It was maybe a little easy to corral them than if we had been outside!

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I say this all the time, but it's true - I LOVE having family in town. Here's my cousin's wife Terri and cute Karis and Cooper. Not too sure why Karis is being so shy in this picture! Terri text me later that day to tell me that Cooper woke up from his nap telling her about all the fun things at the party. So glad they could come too!

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And baby Robert was there too. You wouldn't know it without this photo because somehow I forgot to get any pictures of anyone holding him! But Kate assures me this is a classic photo because there is a similar one from two years ago when Reese and James were the babies. It was nice to get everyone together not for a special occasion or someone's birthday but just so the babies could play and the grown-ups could chat.

As Lauren put it at the end of the party, "If you measure a party's success on how many children scream when they leave we are doing GREAT. " We had so much fun with everyone in one place and the kids had so much fun playing with toys from the 1980s.