December 30, 2011

What are you doing New Year's Eve?




So, six years ago today I began this blog. I had totally planned to write up a post about all the things I've seen come my way since then --homebirths and blog conferences and life events like that, how I've grown and changed, but that's all in my archives. I'm into looking forward instead of behind. Neat that we're approaching a new year, because I'm ready. So ready. 

I'm really glad I arrived here so long ago, and am thankful it still feels like home.

Oh, and we're celebrating with family and friends this New Year's Eve. It's going to be awesome. 


December 29, 2011

Small Style: Hand-Knit Cape with Vintage Buttons

cape with vintage buttons




While searching Ravelry for patterns that would accommodate my new celery-green Manos Del Uruguay yarn (bought for a different project that didn't end up working out), I found Amanda Keeys' Squishy Love Cowl. I pinned it on Pinterest "to make" and then actually made it in just about a day. 




Hand-knit cape


I added vintage flower buttons from one of my many button jars. It's delightfully Victorian and so very Ivy.


Squishy Cowl


Also on Ivy- Matilda Jane top via Zulily


[Linking up with our favorite Small Style

December 27, 2011

It was only glitter

I think I forgot how to sleep. I lie in bed and it's all awkward and I don't know where to put my arms.

I need to pick through Ivy's hair again. She sits on the bathroom stool while I bend and spray Argan oil and comb with the sharp silver teeth. My stomach dropped when I thought I found another bug but it was only glitter, because that's Ivy. And I laughed, shaky with relief.

The new direction that I mentioned for the coming year is to focus on only taking work that fits into my interests and life as a wife, mom, and homemaker -- not the other way around. I plan on setting days when I'll tuck my laptop beneath the couch and instead will simply do something else productive and fulfilling, offline.

During a recent daydreaming session I worried that people don't stare out windows anymore. How do we imagine bigger things if we aren't looking at the sky? We look down at a screen and just take other people's dreams and goals and try to pass them off as our own. Have we become too lazy to even dream our own dreams?

I still daydream, today at the snow, and sometimes I wait for the uncomfortable to get me to finally bend but I do, I bow, and stretch, and comb this life out.

December 26, 2011

Pecans and lice

Origami flower


So, Friday night was pretty uneventful until...

Carter ate a cookie that we believed had walnuts in it (but later found out was pecans) and soon his throat and ears were itchy, and despite giving him Benadryl, he was getting worse. His eyes were red, throat closing in, and he had trouble breathing. I dashed off to the ER and there was a line at the registration desk. Thankfully a couple EMTs were wheeling in a lady in front of me and they pushed us to the front, and actually we never signed in - they started treating him immediately. Poor thing had to have a shot and an IV. And he's okay. (And yes we now have Epi-pens.) Such a relief until...

I discovered he had lice.

Friends, I'm so tired. And I had a good cry on Christmas Eve in my parents' kitchen. But Christmas was really awesome anyway. I was in the ER and it wasn't for seizures. That's how I measure a lot of things. My friend finally came home with her daughter Phoenix on Friday night. She had surgery last week and can now see out of one eye. Pecans and lice are nothing.


crop images



The sun is shining. It's so strange to have a warm and not-white holiday, but I'll take it with great thankfulness.

This is my last week writing at Babble, part of my better direction for the New Year, and I've shared scenes from our Christmas morning there.

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011

Christmas Morning 2011


I am holding up the Christmas card I promised to show. And while I did send most of them out early this year, I've still got a few to send! There were a couple wrenches thrown into our holiday weekend (a trip to the ER and also? lice.) I'll fill you in on the details some other time, for today, we are having the best morning.

Merry Christmas!



See our past Christmas cards.



December 22, 2011

Goldilocks


Ivy's smile

This is her smile when Carter comes into the room.


Goldilocks

He told her the story of Goldilocks and she beamed as if he were talking about her.


misha toes

 Because he was.


Carter & Ivy


Ivy's dress is by Lucy Sykes and was originally $82 but I got it for $12 at The Bargain Barn here in town. Love that place. The pants are from Misha Lulu and I must direct you to a fabulous Misha Lulu giveaway at Frecklewonder that ends tomorrow, so enter! But don't! Because I want to win. But I also didn't want you to miss out just in case. And Carter's robe is from Target- they all just went on clearance.

[Linking up with our favorite Small Style

December 21, 2011

I am in the season

I am in the season when the Christmas cookies look hideous because they were iced by my three-year-old. 

And as much as I want to say that is what makes them beautiful, the truth is, they really are hideous. 

And they were not made by scratch. I am in the season that I don't think anything will be made non-convenience style this holiday. It's a bit of a downer but also, I'm relieved that I'm not in the season of doing it all when I really can't or shouldn't be.

I am in the season of bumming rides and relying on friends to help when I'm usually more comfortable in the I'm the helper season. It's just not that time for me right now. I'm dealing with it. 

I am in the season of the elastic waistband whenever possible.

I am smack dab in middle age, I think? And I hear the constant buzzing of that prayer by Ruth Bell Graham, and painfully wonder where my writing on the Internet fits in it all... 

Dear Lord,
Thou knowest better than I myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody's affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody, helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I must have a few friends at the end.

I am in the season of wanting mercy more than I'm able to dish it out. I am in the season when I wish I had more to give, of everything. And I hope to remember that so often others have been right here, too, and I didn't understand. But now I do. And I'm sorry I didn't give you the break you so needed. I sure do hope you're in the season of forgiveness.

I am in the season of searching stranger's faces for secrets, for familiarity, for something we might know about each other, and for anything that feels like home.

December 19, 2011

What do you call cheese that isn't yours?*

When the boys get on the bus in the morning and Ivy is still asleep, or that fifteen minutes when she finally  naps and they aren't yet home and I sit here with my laptop and my green tea and a SweetTart candy cane. That is my Calgon.

The bar owner walks in with a butty cigarette hanging out of his mouth while he carries in the two cherry pies he made for the fundraiser. I miss people. And I love them. Like when the funny actor plays a serious role, or when the tough guy cries. Every one is that, somewhere if you look. I could watch strangers and learn all I need to know. Having a good time because a good time is to be had. That is good stuff. That is real life.



Right this moment my heart is warmed by how incredibly close my children are but I'm also a bit skeeved. Currently both bathrooms are occupied- Noah in the downstairs and Carter upstairs. Ivy is camped out in front of Noah's door, carrying on a conversation with him as well as keeping me informed of his every move "he just flushed" "he's washing his hands now" and Grayson is waiting for Carter, telling him every move he just made on Super Mario Bros.


We have strange names for our cheeses around here.

Kraft Singles are "Dog Cheese" (growing up we used to hide our dogs' pills in it, or just give it as a treat. It will forever be dog cheese to me) and "White Dad Cheese"  is what Ivy calls Swiss cheese. Because Jeff eats a slice with his apples every morning, and it's white duh.


* nacho cheese!


-- linking up w/ just write

Jamming til the jam is through

6 days til Christmas



Bob Marley Sunday mornings because of course.

Last night I found a small slip of paper in Gray's backpack reminding parents not to forget to pack their bathrobe and slippers for the Polar Express party on Monday! 5 minutes later I'm at Target just before closing time buying a bathrobe and slippers because of course.

If I had a car today I'd go get stuff for baking and the teacher gifts I've yet to purchase but instead it's going to be do-laundry and present-wrapping day all day long. If I wasn't forced to slow down I don't think I ever would.

Six days until Christmas.

December 15, 2011

It has a ring to it

FASHIONSHOW 001

If you could peek in on us right now, dinner is cooking in the oven and okay I'll admit that by dinner I mean frozen fries, Gray and Ivy are eating salads at the counter, Carter is doing homework at the table, and Noah is reading (or pretending to read- I caught him with the book upside down) on the big chair by me. It's quiet. The music that is usually playing is silent. I have been turning it off in trade for the sound of quiet. Silence has a sound, you know. And for a while, when Ivy fell asleep in the car earlier today, I just sat in the driveway with it running warm and looked out the window and really looked. Not for anything in particular, but just watched.

I had just lunched with a friend and -on a topic totally unrelated actually- about some place she was in and how she had to "lean in to hear", and how that was okay, not a nuisance but a charming comfort. I told her to stop right there and let me think on that for a minute... That's it. It's okay to not have everything served up to our ease. Let me strain. Make me lean in. That means I want to hear. That means it's worth something. Right now I am sifting to find those pebbles that are actually worth any energy I have to offer right now.

We joked, half-heartedly about being one step away from those Wall-E people who travel on motorized Rascals and never look away from their screens. It scares me. I don't need a loud speaker or fancy lights to get you. I don't want the decorations I want your dirt and roots.

I'm sad at my own reflexes- I don't reach out to you or ask how you are doing because I already saw on Facebook. But I am missing out. Yes I do need to reach out. It is not good enough to skim the surface. It is junk food. We can email but it's not your voice like on the phone or your pen scrawl in a card or your knee touching mine on a couch in a coffee shop.

I know this is same old same old. I know this has hidden messages about my spiritual life. I don't make resolutions for the new year anymore, but I definitely have some hopes and baby steps in mind for what I want to happen next.

I bought candy canes today for the tree because they're fun and I found all sorts of flavors and colors at the store (even Star Wars ones) and I think there were like eight boxes and Noah said, at the sight of them all, that it was the best day ever of his life.

December 14, 2011

Fashion Show! And a Noonday Collection Giveaway.

FASHIONSHOW 005
She is my sunshine. And she always steals my jewelry.

So, Ivy has been cutting out her only naptime every day and replaces it with try on all her clothes and spin around the house time. And I must note that - lest one might assume this child has waayyy too many clothes (which is somewhat true) - she has also been growing like a beautiful weed.

dress


I mean, I'm amazed at how often I'm buying the next size up and since she's the only girl, well, we don't have much for hand-me-downs. And new clothes always call for a twirl and test drive even if we have no place to go on rainy days such as this.

FASHIONSHOW 004

She is for real.

It's a never-ending fashion show. And most of the time I can't really take pics because she's in her little undies and no shirt wearing a big plush Hello Kitty backpack. You know how that goes.


FASHIONSHOW 008

This week's As Seen On Ivy is joining in with our favorite Small Style over at Mama Loves Papa...


necklace: (purchased by me) from Noonday Collection* see giveaway below!
dresses: Beetlejuice via Gilt Children (So, I had some credit & couldn't resist 3 dresses, other dress here!)
boots: Minnetonka (thrifted, from The Second Child)


WIN! I'm excited to offer a $50 giveaway to Noonday Collection. My friend Liz is an Ambassador for Noonday and I bought the beautiful acai rope necklace at her recent trunk show. The company's mission is rooted in advocating for orphans. You can read more about their story here. Every piece is marvelous and of excellent quality. I wish I could own every single bracelet as well, and if you get your order in by Sunday, there's still time to have it here for Christmas!

Leave a comment below to enter to win the $50 to spend at Noonday Collection. Please check out the site and let me know what you'd maybe buy? Any comment will do, and no purchase is necessary. Open to residents of US and Canada. I'll choose one comment at random after 11:59 pm Friday night to give the winner time to order for Christmas, just in case! If you comment anonymously please be sure to leave a way for me to get in touch with you.

Congrats, Carolyn!

I have not been compensated nor have I received product or discount to post this giveaway. I'm doing it for my friend, because I really like this company and believe in its product, and for you!

December 12, 2011

This is from memory

our day

I know the sound of the mail truck.

I know when there's sirens to bristle and make sure the ringer is on. I am a mother.

I know that thing that I thought would be the end of me. I stare oddly while stopped at the red light. Amazed that it's now far, far, far behind me. I will look at each of my kids someday and faintly remember. Thankful that good times always always outweigh the bad. And that the bad times were just a minor role,

a bit part

to the really really good.


In the grocery store, my cart is full and I'm almost done but not quite done and it's that not quite done that almost totally sends me over the edge. Like, I could have just sat down in front of the toilet paper and cried. Or simply walked away from my cart and out the door. But I didn't and so I just finished up like any regular day even though inside I was not okay.

My daughter closes her eyes with each bite of the soup I made from scratch. I sit on my hands to keep myself from leaving this moment and my chair to grab the camera. So I look at each face and beg to remember it all, each bit of this piece of time that seems to be everything that matters to me in this world right now around one wooden table. I try to memorize, the words I'll use when  I retell it here. And I'll be okay if I don't, this event still happened even if it doesn't have a photo and if I don't ever tell a soul. I let my mind wander at the stakes

of keeping it all for me.

In the evenings I juice a grapefruit or two and put the glass in the freezer until the kids are asleep. I check on them, they are perfect and safely delivered through another day and now I can just be. And I drink my grapefruit slushy with a spoon and you know, this is like what I look forward to all day. Especially today. The last minutes at the end, the mosey around the finish line.

Lately I try to remember what life was like before the Internet and I wish so hard we could go back to there.

-- linking up w/ just write

December 11, 2011

Holidays in Grand Rapids


Rebel Reclaimed, one of my fave shops in GR!

There is so much to do in Grand Rapids during the holidays. This is Part Two of our most recent trip there, btw (see Part One.)

Sleigh Ride

The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park was all be-decked for Christmas. There's even a sleigh right at the entrance perfect for photo opportunities. Over 300,000 sparkling lights are hung, and see if you can catch the Gardens Holiday Express train as it travels through the three indoor gardens. 

Through January 8 you can check out the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World. Trees representing countries from all over the globe line the hallways at Meijer Gardens. The kids loved looking at each one -- Carter especially loved Japan's with all the origami paper cranes. (He's really into origami right now.)

Christmas and Holiday Traditions from around the world, Meijer Gardens
So much to see, Ivy couldn't stand still


Later that evening we drove up to the  Nite Lites Drive-Thru Christmas lights at Fifth Third Ballpark, just a short drive from downtown Grand Rapids. It was awesome -- over one mile of beautiful and fun displays and tunnels of lights -- over a million lights total! I thought it would be so wonderful to drink cocoa and creep along in the snow. So perfect!

Nativity at Nite Lites




Sunday after breakfast we walked over to the Grand Rapids Public Museum which was beautifully decorated for the holidays. We walked upstairs to the Planetarium and got in line for the Holiday Magic laser light show going on through December 16. It was incredible! We were told to sit in the back if we could so we'd have the best view. We got a great spot and were practically fully reclined in the seats as we watched the ceiling with a really cool laser light show set to holiday music and favorite carols. So neat!

Ivy rides a bike on the streets of old Grand Rapids at the Public Museum




For lunch we headed over to Electric Cheetah and found out they had 26 craft root beers! Gray chose the Dang! butterscotch flavor and it was the best root beer I (I mean he) ever drank. Our meal was fantastic, with great kids options. The fresh veggies instead of fries was fab- fresh peppers, celery, carrots, etc. Oooh and we also ordered the hot pretzels for an appetizer with special dipping sauces. Highly recommend! Ha and P.S. I accidentally left my debit card there and when we called to see if they had it, they asked, "Yes. Were you the table with the many children?" LOL

So, these are just the things we did while chilling during a short weekend visit. Be sure to visit Experience Grand Rapids for a full list of all the awesome events and activities to check out this winter. Do plan a trip! I am hopefully going back for a just girls trip in a few weeks! I can't wait to play tour guide. Then after that Jeff and I are really hoping to sneak away to GR for a couple's weekend.

Do you do any holiday traveling with the kids? What's your favorite thing to do with the family when visiting a new city?

Our hotel stay, meals, entry to Meijer Gardens and Public Museum, as well as compensation for this post were paid for as part of my relationship with Experience Grand Rapids. We can't wait to go back. xoxo

December 9, 2011

Opening Day!

SNOW!

We have snow!

I took Ivy to get new boots today. She had asked for PINK BOOTS for Christmas but we have our first snow today! Couldn't wait. And then of course I had to get her a fancy pink hand warmer muff because oh my goodness I had one when I was a little girl. She is still wearing it in the house. It has a little buttoned pocket and everything.

New snow new boots


The boots are L'amour from Piper in Valpo (as is the muff), dress is Beetlejuice via Gilt Kids, long sleeve tee from  Tea Collection (today is the last day for free shipping on any order! Use code: WOWFREESHIP ), and leggings are H & M.

I'm kind of boggled we are so close to Christmas. I am normally a little farther along with my shopping and am so not this year. I made a little gift guide with some local flair and online mentions as well over here today. And I do still want to make some food gifts for Christmas - getting ideas from gift baskets I see and thinking about how I can totally make something like that (I like the sea salt and seasonings idea.) But I said the same thing about creating our own wrapping paper and just bought three adorable rolls at Target last night, so. Anyway!

I'm also really glad I didn't post the super depressing stuff I wrote last night. Today is indeed a new day. Oh I still saved it in drafts and will be working on it accordingly.

My mom and I are going to see The Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker in Chicago (we have press tickets sweet) - it's opening night! and we have snow! happy! yay.

December 7, 2011

Rockin Around the Christmas Tree

around the christmas tree

So, Jeff and I have this tally going on- since the day after Thanksgiving we've been keeping track of how many times we've heard Rockin Around the Christmas tree (sung by anyone) and surprisingly we're only like up to seven or eight. The first weekend I think we were at 5! Anyway. I've kind of taken a break from having the Christmas music on in the house. Maybe when it snows I'll really be into it.

I'm still car-less, but that doesn't keep friends from coming to get me. Monday this lovely chica came and took me to lunch, and today Love picked us up and took us to her place for a play date. Ivy has a blast with Bianca and Clay, and jammed out with Jude and Nico. I was in awe of their ginormous Christmas tree. Seriously.

Christmas 2011

pilla' fight!

pillow fight

pile o babies

Right now it would be super cool if you could check out the Ugandan necklaces that Love is selling for a special reason/exciting news - I'm so thrilled for her family. They are the real deal, and they inspire me inside and out.



Pee Ess so does this video...




thanks to Sara Sophia for sharing it! The kids loved it.


As seen on Ivy for Small Style this weeklio

I had the dress Ivy is wearing saved in my faves on etsy forever. It's way too big, but one day I finally just bought it- it's thrifted/vintage Healthtex? I think? from 3 Ring Circus. I didn't plan on her wearing it anytime soon but she had other plans. And um, it's her favorite. Her heart dress! You know what, two sizes too large and she rocks it anyway.

December 6, 2011

in no particular order

the path of freckles under Gray's left eye

the Hello Kitty and Angry Birds bandaids next to the Tylenol PM

the empty kitchen sink

that my kids love each other, the this:

at bed check the other night...

the moment at the end of the day when I remember I did read to Ivy, snuggled on the couch, did crafts with Gray, spent time with my Bible and prayed, a lot, and even though all that I still feel so much less than and not enough and a little sad... but I know that it's all going to be okay.

December 5, 2011

the Head and the Heart

The Head & the Heart station on Pandora actually saved me from quitting this day. And yes, I am the kind of person who will admit that music can do that. Totally. I still want to quit, but I'm not gonna now.

I hold my breath. I don't even realize it until I remember to let it out. My shoulders are high, and I forget to loosen up. I am so easy going except I'm not. And this surprises me every time. I think what I want to do is have a little tantrum and an ugly cry. But. That just sounds exhausting, and I don't have time for it anyway.

Ivy keeps carrying around this photo of me in the hospital after I had Grayson. Little Noah and Carter with their matching buzz cuts are on the hospital bed with me and baby Gray. But Ivy cries, face buried in her hands. "I wasn't borned yet. You forgot about meeeeeee!" And no matter how much I try to explain, she doesn't understand. But you were there, you were in my heart. God hadn't made you yet. She loves that photograph but it makes her so sad.


But I missed my brothers! I missed you so much.

And I imagine that she did. All that time waiting. And I think about me and my not-rightness for so long, maybe all my life. I missed her, too, and I didn't even know it. And how many things that I love make me so sad, too. Why they do that? Why? The things I miss that just aren't here yet.

School concert tonight: the high school gym was full of kids and coats and hot. Gray and Ivy would not sit still and there was music, so, Ivy thought it was a personal invitation to perform a ballet and her shoes squeaked on that gym floor with every spin. I took her to the stairwell so that she could dance, I took her on a walk, I sat down again in the bleachers and knew that if we could just get through this, it would be worth it. And it was.


*bff Jenny recommended the Pandora station to me, btw.

-- linking up w/ just write

Twelve Days of GoGo


Christmas tree

I'm working with GoGo squeeZ again, this time for the holidays! Starting today at noon, GoGo squeeZ is announcing the Twelve Days of GoGo - they'll be giving away toys, games, and family-friendly gift cards daily until December 20th! 


Each day a new giveaway will launch on the GoGo squeeZ Facebook page and fans can easily enter to win the prizes. Be sure to like GoGo squeeZ on FB and get in on the action! 


OMG CHRISTMAS!


GoGo squeeZ is compensating me for this post -- I'm thankful for the opportunity! -- and I hope you win!

December 4, 2011

December FOUR

DECEMBER FOUR

At church this morning Ivy took off her coat and the dress she was wearing was exceptionally poofy. Jeff said, "Oh, I thought you knew." I lifted it up to find that she'd worn a red and green Christmas tutu underneath. Of course when she got home, she changed into her casual & comfy pink tutu.

I took Noah shopping for his school choir concert. He even got new shoes. And I discovered that he is a whole size bigger than he was, like, last month. Size 3. My baby wears SIZE THREE.


December 4, 2011


This is the last official "four" photo of the year! Here's a look back.

December FOUR collage




I used to take photos of my kids on the first of every month, now it's on the fourth. Four for four... get it? You can see past month photos here.

December 3, 2011

Holly Days

holly days

Last night we went to our downtown Holly Days celebration, full of lights and ice sculptures and carols with the mayor on stage. Noah saw his teacher, I was happy to hug and meet friends, we bought fresh caramel and cheese popcorn, and then headed to a local diner where we barely fit at a round table for six but I found myself not-panicking at the thought of another child. In that moment it sounded so right. The boys were talking about how fun it was when Ivy was just a baby, and they are the ones that said it would be fun to have another. Huh. That doesn't really mean anything at all, but it did make me smile. And super happy in that very moment, and even now still.

December 2, 2011

Moving Pictures

at the gate
couldn't resist a gif of the kids at the gate, grand rapids


More stuff by me this week...


And for the record, I'm still embarrassed.


P.S. for "as seen on ivy" - linking up late with Small Style, Ivy's "wallpaper" dress is misha lulu, tee is tea collection, legwarmers by me!, glitter shoes via zulily

December 1, 2011

Oh, Christmas Cards

Mailing out our Christmas cards

I have this thing about Christmas cards. I really enjoy planning out a photo of the kids and creating beautiful cards to send our friends and families every year. Even though they can see us all here on the blog. It's my must-splurge every year. And I am always sure to have them ordered before Thanksgiving. It's my thing.

But, I try not to send them until December 1st. You know, I don't want to look like a show off. The first batch went in the mail today, btw. I lifted Ivy up to put every single one into the slot.

back of Christmas card
okay I'll show you the back...

This time around I ordered two different styles of holiday cards from Hallmark. I purchased them myself, but did have a coupon code. If you're feeling like checking 'em out for yourself, save 20% off with SOCIAL20 .

I'll show the actual cards after everyone's had time to receive theirs in the mail, of course.

This will be my last post with Hallmark this year. Aww. I am truly thankful for their nudge to hug those anytime moments and treat them like the special occasions that they are.


Ivy & Mommal


Today we visited Mommal and took her the cutest little gold sparkled tree with a teensy tree skirt and everything. Ivy decorated it for her and then we had lunch together. Not much, but yes much.

tiny tree

When we got home, Ivy had fallen asleep and I carried her inside to the couch. I really needed to work, but she really needed me to hold her. And so I did and I really held her. I didn't hold my phone, I didn't just sit and let myself worry about stupid stuff, and I didn't try to maneuver her body so that I could reach my laptop okay so maybe I tried that but I'm glad it didn't work ...

because then I just held her and felt my arms around her and how she gave in to me and I let her in. No, not much.

So much.

Happy happy special tiny momentous occasions, my friends. They are all around you. They are here, right now. What a present.


Be sure to visit the “Holiday Ideas and Inspiration” tab at Hallmark’s Facebook page for videos and tips from singer/songwriter Jewel (did you see that I totally chatted with her on the phone?!) as well as many other great experts to help you this holiday season.

Follow @HallmarkPR on Twitter for a fun Secret Santa daily giveaway until Dec 12.



Hallmark is compensating me for participating in the Life Is A Special Occasion campaign, and t'would be awesome if you sign up for their promotional emails (you might even see me in there!). 


I've enjoyed partnering with Hallmark this year- so much. As always, all content, memories, and opinions expressed are my own. 
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