Saturday, December 31, 2016

Becca's First Christmas

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To finish out our 2016 memories for the eventual blurb/yearbook, I've got about 100 Christmas photos that mostly capture a baby always on the go and her million Christmas outfits. The photo collage came home from daycare wrapped up for our Christmas present, and it's adorable. She really was our best gift of the year.
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We have spent our Christmas break with family and at home recovering from some nasty head colds while watching Rebecca take things out of drawers and her toy baskets. This kitchen drawer has served up plenty of fun, a few straws, and great tupperware lids. Also seen in the background, Dad's old dishwasher. As he's the primary operator, it's fair to say Kip is most excited by the new replacement that gets the job done much much much quieter. We had to run the old one at bedtime otherwise we couldn't watch TV. Yeah, it was bad.
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For a variety of reasons, we decided to go to church on Christmas Eve eve (December 23rd) downtown. This allowed our church to make room for visitors at the three services on Christmas eve, and it worked pretty well with our baby too. She wore her fancy outfit with her cute cardigan, and she played with the Anderson girls upstairs in the nursery while we enjoyed a beautiful candlelight service.
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On Christmas Eve, we headed to my mom's house in the late afternoon for a family Christmas celebration. Mom prepared a delicious roasted chicken with our favorite traditional cornbread dressing, roasted beets and more. We had pineapple upside down cake and yummy beer before we opened presents.
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People have been asking how Kip is doing after surgery, and he's doing really great. He reports that he has more range of motion in his knee now, three weeks after surgery, than he did in the week before surgery. However, he can't drive until January 24th, and he finds this more than mildly annoying. His brace locks his knee from going beyond 90 degrees, but he did tell me this morning that he can walk down the stairs again. The eight days on crutches were a little long, but we made it with help from our friends and family. Becca's happy that daddy can carry her around again.
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She got a few toys and activities for Christmas and some really cute clothes from Aunt Lu, but really Rebecca loved all the bows, papers, ribbons, and boxes. So much fun stuff to pick up off the ground.
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Rebecca had new Christmas pajamas from Grandma Barbara and Mimi in Indianapolis, and they all fit just in time for the holiday. Becca opened one present on Christmas morning, a very popular snail from Santa. She also woke Mama up like four times overnight, so we're happy, but tired in this one photo from Christmas morning. Becca embraced the song "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth," and these latest four teeth have been a real joy.
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After Christmas day breakfast with Mom and Aunt Lu (bacon, hash brown casserole, coffee cake, cinnamon rolls and mixed fruit), we packed up the car for Manhattan. There was a new stocking on the mantle this year with the addition of a perfectly pink stocking for Rebecca.
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When it was time to open presents, Becca wanted to cuddle with Daddy and eat some snacks from her snack trap. It was adorable.
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She was also really busy watching everyone tear the paper and fascinated with the bows. She received many wonderful books and puzzles and even her first John Deere combine. #kansaskid
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Rebecca wore Christmas outfits for several days because they were all too sweet and adorable - just like Becca. She won't remember this first Christmas, but we will remember it for more than her sleep striking at Grandma and Grandpa's. She's been cute, cuddly and adorable all of break. I also understand even better why mamas get so sentimental about the Lord Jesus being born a little baby two thousand years ago. Just like Rebecca, the best things come in small packages.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Cafe 19 and Hot Chocolate Bar.

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We tried a "common read" at Rosedale this fall with the book The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. We ordered several hundred copies of the book and tried to sell them for $2 to students. Sales weren't that great so we ended up giving away a lot of copies later through some raffles. (We didn't really need to sell the books, we just thought that might increase buy-in from students if they purchased their own copy.) Teachers bought the book for their advocacy groups and themselves, so we had many adults around the building reading it as well!

In the end, we had over 115 students sign-up to attend the special event we planned during the school day. The room outside my office was transformed into "Cafe 19," complete with a hot chocolate bar and large muffins from Hy-Vee. Kids came in groups of about 30-40, discussed the book, enjoyed hot chocolate, and competed in a short team competition at the end. I think everyone that came had a lot of fun!

Here are some of the things that went really well and made it so fun:
  • I had so many adults helping! We planned it so teachers could come on their plan, plus I had a few friends from across the district join in. Teachers manned the hot chocolate bar or sat with groups of kids and led discussion. They seemed to do better with adults asking the questions. We'll be practicing book discussion across the building much more next year!
  • The hot chocolate bar was totally made possible by the nice folks at nutritional services. I had definitely stressed about how to make that much hot chocolate. Our cafeteria manager got the water super hot on the stove and filled five gallon containers for me, even loaning me a big whisk for mixing in the hot chocolate. Kids loved whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and little candy canes for topping their hot chocolate. And the jumbo muffins from Hy-Vee were totally perfect, delivered first thing in the morning by their catering department. 
  • The book was the right length. At just about 115 pages, it's pretty accessible for most students and has some themes that are great for discussion.
  • Students totally read the book! For the most part, we think everyone who signed up and attended had totally read the book. It was cool to see about 20% of students participating in this event.
A few notes on what I would do differently:
  • Seventh and eighth graders that are not serious readers or kind of nerdy were not into the book. While it has plenty of grade level appropriate themes, these teens thought the book was a bit babyish because some of them read it in elementary school or read other Kate DiCamillo books when they were younger. I might do a different book for 7th/8th graders next year.
  • I will not offer the movie option next year! Kids who attended Cafe 19 could sign up to stay after school and watch a movie on Thursday. Only about 30 ended up staying, and we had a few behavior problems and just general after-school silliness. 

Rebecca Claire || Ten Months

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Rebecca has been changing rapidly week after week, and yet in the ten days since I took these photos, it feels like there have been even more changes. She's truly found her voice with lots of things to say all day every day!

At ten months old, Rebecca was diagnosed with her first double ear infection. I took her in because she had a pretty uncomfortable cough and the doctor said, oh the cough is fine but she's got a double ear infection. She didn't have the tell-tale symptoms, but after ten days of amoxicilin she seems much more herself. Basically, her appetite is back.

Becca weighed about 21 lbs. 11 oz. at ten months and wears pretty much all 12-18 month clothes and size 4 diapers. Her sleep is pretty much the same, though she takes delightful naps for Mom and Dad on the weekend. Daycare naps are hard. Regardless of the quality/quantity of her naps, she still likes to get up twice a night. A good night is once and a terrible night is three times. It's hard for Mama to get enough sleep even going to bed really early if Becca gets up three times, but one of these days, she'll figure it out.
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As evidenced by these photos, Rebecca is on the go. She does not want to sit in her chair for photos, quickly arching her back to begin her escape out of the chair. Becca's favorite toys include the cups that she's holding above, her stacking rings, lids from around the house, and lately, things she can push a little bit. Becca still does pretty well with books, and she likes ones with flaps which means we've read the Halloween book from my cousin Sasha straight through all the other holidays.

She also LOVES anything that's on the coffee table, and she is learning what the word "no" means. We've been doing some baby proofing during break so we don't have to say no quite as much!
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Becca's got lots to say, and sometimes we think the da and ma signs correspond with Daddy and Mama. She loves to stand up and shriek with excitement - she thinks she is pretty big stuff with her new views around the house. We've seen a few claps and a little waving and can't wait to see what she's up to next!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Getting in the Holiday Spirit.

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Rebecca's first Christmas is in just a week, and we've been enjoying having an extra reason to feel the love around the house. She has not found the Christmas trees yet nor noticed the presents on the fireplace while she is crawling around, thank goodness! Kip's surgery last Monday was successful, but it has pretty much left him permanently on the couch. The angle of his brace locks his leg in extension, and it's not comfortable anywhere but on the couch. Becca's ignored the Christmas decorations but has been interested in Kip's crutches and stuff on the coffee table!
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While we knew Kip would need a new ACL, we didn't know when until a couple of days before the surgery. Luckily we had most of the Christmas decorations put up in the week following Thanksgiving. Rebecca "helped" a little and even climbed up on the green boxes once! We opted to pull out the fake trees from the basement this year to save a few pennies and make life a little easier. I miss the smell of the real tree from last year, but I've been extra busy post surgery, and I'm glad watering the tree isn't on my to-do list every day.
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A question that is often asked on Instagram is "Does Becca ever not smile?" Yes, yes indeed. Sometimes she does NOT want her photo taken in a cute Christmas shirt after church even though her daddy was wearing his festive shirt too. This is actually her real cry - the fake one has been getting some practice lately too. We're on to you, Rebecca Claire, and we're not going to fall for your tricks!
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The next week after church she was totally ready to ham it up for the camera. Love this shot, even with the laundry basket and ladder in the background. Post the ordinary, I say.
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She's got quite the holiday wardrobe and has been wearing it to church and school all month long. We're going to continue pretending that this dress is red and black and not navy because that's easier to match for a baby's wardrobe.
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Rebecca can cruise along the sides of the coffee table but not around the corners yet. She has figured out how to stand up and sit down again without falling down, and she's pretty entertained taking her toys from the ground to the top of the coffee table and back to the ground again. She hasn't tried to crawl through the coffee table yet, but I'm sure that will occur to her one of these days.
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We finally have two little Christmas books that are the right length for a ten-month-old. We've been reading them on repeat because they are short and sweet - Hello, Christmas and The Santa Shimmy. Kip said she even started to shake like instructed on one page in the shimmy book. She cracks us up!

Rebecca is too little for a lot of the other KC Christmas experiences, so we'll wait a year for the Christmas train at Crown Center, Santa, the lights at Deanna Rose, etc. This year we're enjoying bunkering down at home while she explores everything. I'm pretty sure she is on Santa's "nice list" and will have some new toys for playing at home soon too!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Six Books of November

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I can't remember exactly where I found The Year of Living Danishly (I think the What Should I Read Next Podcast), but I snagged it from the public library to read on my phone. This has been a happiness hack lately because I'm often feeding Rebecca with just my phone, and it gives me more time to read! Plus after I deleted Facebook and Twitter from my phone as part of my election recovery plan, I have more time to read books. I thought this one was going to be similar to the Gretchen Rubin books I've been reading, but actually this one was more of a memoir with a few happiness tips learned from the Danish mixed in. If it interests you at all, read it right now! It's super fun to read about "hygge." With winter settling in and Kip's surgery on Monday, we are hunkering down and enjoying the cozy in our house. The Christmas lights don't hurt either.

Daring Greatly was our November book club book. Recently Anne Bogel (see the podcast above!) had a guest who described these books as "personal development" instead of self-help. At the library or on Amazon online, they are totally described as self-help, but I prefer personal development. This is the first book that we have read for book club that I also purchased as a paperback to transfer all my notes. There are plenty of implications for the work that I do as an instructional coach working with teachers. Some of her definitions are terms take a little bit to get used to, but it was a very thought provoking read that led to some great book club conversation.

For my final plug for What Should I Read Next and Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy), We'll Always Have Paris. Honestly, I thought this was a different mother/daughter memoir but snagged it because it was a good deal with Whispersync. This was my first time using it, and I was totally hooked. I could read the book and switch to the Audible verison as I wanted to or as was convenient. And it always kept my place. This book was another memoir about a few different trips the mother and daughter took together to Europe but also a reflection on the author's relationship with her father. It was okay. Really Whispersync was the star here.
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Now for three young adult titles...

I booktalked Walk on Earth a Stranger without a ton of success this fall. It's historical fiction set during the California Gold Rush, and while good, our kids aren't that interested in historical fiction. It has a neat twist as the main character has a supernatural sense about where gold can be found. However, it reads like it was written by a history teacher who wanted to include all of her favorite moments in American history. It's the start of the series, and I won't be following up with the next book even though I would love to hear how she escapes from her uncle!

This Side of Wild is Gary Paulsen's newest book, and a book I read entirely aloud to Kip on road trips. I wish someone would have given him more Paulsen to read when he was growing up as he loves survivor type TV shows as a grown-up. In this one, Paulsen tells several short stories about animal escapades, and we laughed at the first half of the book quite a bit. It's a reasonable 120 pages or so, and I finished reading it aloud it coming home from Thanksgiving.

March Book Three wraps up this graphic novel series I've been telling you about for several years. John Lewis and his co-authors won a well deserved National Book Award for this volume, and it's extremely powerful. In this volume they detail the Selma to Montgomery March, and I can get students to read this one because many have seen the movie Selma. You really need to start with book one, but it is worth your time. This is the first graphic novel to win a National Book Award.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Thanksgiving in Indianapolis

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We took Rebecca on her first long car ride to Indianapolis over Thanksgiving. I was definitely a little nervous about nine hours in the car with a nine-month-old, but she gets an A for her first long car trip! Aunt Lu drove out with us on Wednesday, and it was fun to get some extra time with my sister. The traffic was pretty light, but we drove through rain for the last five hours.
With an extra adult always sitting with her, Rebecca stayed very happy in the backseat! She has many toys she likes, recently learned about "lift the flap" and touch-and-feel books, and ate her bottles like a champ. Coming home was also pretty good, and I sat in the back part of the way to keep her happy. She even took a two hour nap on the way home!
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I didn't do a great job capturing family in photos at Thanksgiving. I was still a little overwhelmed with Kip's injury trying to process what could be the new normal for the months ahead. While we were there, Kip was on crutches, and I was thankful to have some extra hands around to help with Rebecca. She gave lots of snuggles to all of her uncles, aunts, and my dad and Tracy! Sometimes she gets fussy if I am in the room and not holding her, but for the most part, Rebecca will still let anyone hold her. This is true unless she's really tired or hungry of course, but what can you expect from a baby?
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Her little turkey onesie was ordered from Ellie Handmades on Etsy and outfitted with a Baby Gap tutu and pants combination that she will wear often with all her Christmas onesies. Not going to lie, my favorite seasonal decoration is officially my kid. She just looks so cute in everything for the holidays! Rebecca loved the Thanksgiving meal, eating Becca sized bites of everything. She was a trooper for family photos, sitting in her high chair, and exploring all the new places with her very slow and deliberate crawl. We are definitely thankful for family and this little turkey.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Boulevard Brewery Tasting with KC Canning Co.

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I decided on a whim that we should go to a Boulevard Brewery pairing event on Sunday, November 20th. Our friend Anne is a proud Boulevard employee now, and she passed along the information about their Thanksgiving event with KC Canning Co. And because the event was from 3:30-5:30 on a Sunday afternoon, it was the perfect time for Rebecca to hang out with Grandma Barbara for a little bit while we went out. Boulevard had five little appetizer bites with drink pairings, and it definitely pushed us to try some beers we wouldn't normally chose. If you haven't been, the new Beer Hall is gorgeous and pretty cozy for the winter days ahead.
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Our Sunday Funday date ended up being really perfect in a lot of ways. Kansas City was looking lovely, Kip enjoyed seeing the Beer Hall for the first time, and we had a lot of fun hanging out just the two of us for a couple of hours. It was a little over a week before our anniversary, and while we brainstormed lots of things that we could do to celebrate two years, this ended up being our anniversary date. The day after the event at Boulevard, Kip threw a log while cleaning up brush that left him with a torn meniscus and ACL. His accident has made life a lot slower and a little more stressful as we have been trying to figure out next steps.
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We're really grateful that it happened while he was standing on the ground and not in a tree. And thankful for great medical care so far. While he is pretty restricted on movement, Kip can still carry Becca, take her to school, etc. We're still waiting on a scheduled surgery time (apparently everyone wants to have elective surgery done at the end of the year), but we are hoping that it can be soon as the doctor estimates six to nine months before he's cleared to be "as good as new." Kip is so positive and optimistic, making me so grateful that we're on the same team.
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Our anniversary was quiet with dinner at home with Rebecca and the last slices of cake we brought home from Indianapolis. I was thinking while we were eating that when I was single, these were the nights I craved. I wanted to be at home with my little family doing ordinary things like eating dinner, wrestling a baby into pajamas after bath time, and watching a show with my husband. Being married to Kip is all those sweet ordinary moments and so much more. He's so good for me, and he makes me a very happy lady. I love the life we're creating at our little house on Dearborn.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

K-State vs. Oklahoma State || Family Photos in Purple

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Kip took a weekend off hunting to attend the K-State v. Oklahoma State game on November 5th with us. It was an afternoon game, so Rebecca spent the afternoon with Grandma Karen, Grandpa Keith, and Uncle Kenny while we headed to the stadium for ribs and tailgate fun! Karen made us delicious cookies to take along to the game, and we loved the warm weather for a November game. It was nice enough for t-shirts!
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We stopped at the Alumni Center on our way into town to snag a photo for the Christmas card. A year ago we did the same thing in Manhattan, but it was freezing! We had to jump out of the car very quickly and use the tripod in front of the East side of the stadium. This year it was much warmer so we took our time at the Alumni Center getting the photo just right. We're the nerds walking around with a tripod, thank you very much.
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It's tricky enough to get Becca to look at the camera (she's so busy!), but it was even more challenging using the timer. Rebecca was so concerned about a little kid nearby at the Alumni Center that was crying and pretty upset. In the end, she did pretty well, and Mom got a great one for her card. She even used a couple photos of Rebecca for the back because she's pretty cute. We didn't plan our outfits, we all just showed up in purple and it worked. Funny how that goes in our family!
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I think Rebecca was a delight for her grandparents, and Kip and I had fun hanging out together just the two of us (and tens of thousands of K-State fans!). We were at the game until the end, and it was a heartbreaking loss in the final seconds. After the game we made our way in traffic to Kip's parents house, scooped up Rebecca and headed for home in the van. We stopped and got Panera on the way home, a perfect light dinner after the delicious ribs earlier in the day. Kip and I are both grateful for the family and friends who have welcomed Rebecca into the K-State routine. We are lucky to continue enjoying games together!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rebecca Claire || Nine Months

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On the 17th of November we celebrated nine months of Rebecca! This little nugget goes for a check-up later this week, so while we don't know her stats just yet, we do know that she's scrumptious. Becca has a lot more hair, and it's starting to swoop over to the right nicely. It's also the same color that mine was when I was a baby, a little lighter than my hair currently is now.

Rebecca is busy! She crawls slowly around and still crawls after her toys instead of getting into trouble. She has discovered that when I leave the kitchen and living room and go into the office that she can follow me! She was pretty proud of herself.

Belle and Becca interact a little bit when Becca is laying on a quilt, but they mostly just co-exist. You can see proof of it in the photo above as Belle walked by and licked Rebecca's toes just as I snapped the photo. Besides mama and daddy, we're pretty sure Rebecca has a good concept of puppy and knows where to look for Belle around the house.
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The photos get ever more challenging, and we chatted at book club about how much easier we could make them for ourselves. Next kid I will know better. I wanted her to lay down on the quilt, and she wanted to sit up and look around. And I wanted her to sit on the chair, and she wanted to dive head first off of it.

We made some big transitions in sleep this month, graduating from the Magic Merlin to a Halo sleep blanket. She doesn't use a pacifier except sometimes as a trick to help her fall asleep, and while she sleeps with her black and white puppy in her crib, she doesn't tend to cuddle with it. Rebecca had some rough nights when she realized that she could SIT UP in the middle of the night. It was like she didn't realize that once she sat up she could lay back down. That's gotten a little bit better in the last couple weeks.
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Rebecca is wearing mostly 12-18 month clothes from Gap and the like, but we squeezed in one more photo shoot in her 6-12 month white onesie. We've transitioned totally to size 4 diapers as well. She has almost outgrown her size 2 moccasins, but we've got backups ready to go in the next two sizes because they are so easy to put on and go!

With her two little teeth, Becca is still willing to eat all the food we give her, starting to figure out food pouches on her own, and getting much better at using her cups with a straw. I think she eats everything daycare gives her too, and we're thankful for our hungry little bear. Rebecca takes three bottles at daycare and nurses right after school and at bedtime consistently. She's still up one or two times a night, but I go to bed hopeful every night that she will surprise me and just sleep through the night.
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And she's still got those sweet dark eyes like her daddy with the kissable cheeks.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Literacy Festival 2016

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When I taught in Virginia, I coached a Battle of the Books team and fell in love with the competition around books. I wrote about the background of bringing it to KCK back in 2012, and the event has grown since then in really neat ways. Our book lists reflect our diverse population and questions were written by district staff including yours truly! Last summer I read all of the six middle school books and created questions for the competition. Mom read all the books too because she's a fan of the book battle and young adult literature too. While I did a few other various tasks to start, Mom has always done the score room and I joined in the past couple years. This year we brought along the junior member of the team, Rebecca, to supervise while Mom and I entered the scores.
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We were over prepared for Rebecca, carrying along a little high chair that straps to a chair, tons of snacks, a stroller, and even the Ergo. As my friend Tara and Bill Snyder like to say, "Proper planning prevents poor performance!" Becca did awesome. We arrived just in time for her breakfast, and she happily snacked on bite size snacks and then played with toys for over an hour in her chair. She did a little crawling around, took a short nap in the stroller, and greeted everyone who came in before finishing out the day with more food in the high chair. In the photo above you can see how delighted she is with whatever is on her high chair tray! She had fun while we worked, but next year she would be way too active for lots of sitting with Mom and Grandma.
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Battle of the Books has expanded in KCK to include storytelling, poetry slam and debate, a true literary festival and the t-shirts for our students reflect that. Our sweet students just barely missed placing, but I've been enjoying chatting with them about the books including my favorite YA title of the year, Echo.

My mom always says that teaching skipped her generation, but besides my mom, I definitely come from a long line of teachers. I have fond memories of visiting my grandma Virginia at school when we had days off to see her little reading classroom. And my mom taught me school was important in other ways by not missing an event when I was growing up. She is still busy supporting our students regularly with whatever they need (and they need a lot).

As someone who always loved school, I hope that Becca also thinks it is cool to visit Mama at school. I don't have a classroom of my own, but because I am a site based instructional coach, I get to know teachers and kids extremely well. I want Rebecca to know that school is a very special place to be whether it is her school around the corner from our house or the place where Mama works.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Mer and Bex.

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The sweetest bonus from our trip to Texas was time for Merritt and Rebecca to play. We went back through and hashtagged Instagram photos of these two little girls with #merandbex, which is sure to stay a unique hashtag for the ages.
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Much like when we visited in July, I found some cute matching seasonal outfits for the girls. Halloween pajamas may seem like a silly choice, but not to me. For many of the years I've known Rachel, she has worn Halloween pajama shorts year round! I thought our baby girls could stretch the seasons in similar fashion. Rebecca wore hers again this week! They are super cute and cozy from Gap.
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I wanted to take some photos of the girls together in their pjs, but Merritt kept trying to crawl away so I corralled them in this Amazon box. Cutest delivery that every arrived!
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Rebecca weighs more than Merritt, so Mer was a little fussy when I put Rebecca in the box on top of her little legs. Merritt twisted around, got herself comfortable, and started to suck her thumb to make it all better. It looks like Rebecca is trying to get her attention in this one - I think Becca was super interested in what Merritt was doing all the time they were together.
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They are a darling study in contrast with pretty light eyes and super dark eyes! Merritt is much easier to hold because she is five months older and better at grabbing on. She also talks much more. When she says "please," it's about the cutest thing in the world.
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After Halloween pajamas, we put the girls in their "Cutest Pumpkin in the Patch" matching outfits from Old Navy for our time with Braden. It's a tie really for cutest pumpkin with these two. The little pumpkins on their pants were our favorite parts!
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No idea how we got them to look so cuddly in this photo, but it's killing me with cuteness. Merritt has lots of teeth - Rebecca just manages to smile in a way that her two teeth always show!
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We put the girls facing each other in the City Select stroller, and it was like having two little high chairs. Merritt is much more skilled at feeding herself using the pouches, but Becca will catch up soon. Merritt looks unimpressed with Rebecca's feet or whatever Becca is saying. I wish these two could tell us what they are talking about with each other!
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And finally, Halloween costumes - Madam Secretary and her friend the French Pumpkin. Both girls were overdressed for the October Texas weather but beyond adorable. And totally happy to leave their crazy outfits on which surprised me! It's fun to see Becca grow up alongside all of my best friends' baby girls.