On the Trail Again

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It’s been a while since we’ve gone on a new trail. Almost a year. After reading about Conner Park in my Trails of Central Arkansas book, we headed there this morning.

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It’s a beautiful pond the city stocks full of fish. The blue trail circles the pond. We followed the blue trail to the green trail, which takes a wider loop above the pond. This walk took less than 10 minutes, so we decided to follow the red/yellow trail northwestward. After a while the trail forks: yellow-left, red-right. After reading in the book that the yellow trail eventually has great views of WLR, we took it. The book did warn me that the yellow trail is hardest. It has a good ascent and eventually becomes very narrow.

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At one point,  the trail is so narrow, if you misstep, you’re falling/rolling down the hill. I had to hold Jacob’s hand and walk behind him. I took this picture right before reaching the power pole fork.

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It’s not fog, but my camera was cold from being next to our waters, so it fogged up when I opened it to take the picture. I like the filter effect.

At the power pole, you choose left or right again, still on the yellow trail. Once you’ve reached this, you’re out of the woods and into the bright sunshine. Still waiting for those good views, we went left. The trail becomes very vertical at this point, mostly climbing on small rocks. Unfortunately, Andrew had a scary encounter with a bee. And as I was not enjoying the sunshine beating down on my head and Jacob kept tripping every third step,  I decided we better turn around. Hopefully we’ll return in much cooler weather and enjoy pretty leaves and no bees.

Back down when we reached the yellow/red fork, we took the red. It’s a slow ascent/descent, undulating through small valleys. There are many little bridges on the trails, which I’m sure come in handy when it’s recently rained.

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Eventually the red trail leads up a small hill to another fork and there is a playground!

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This actually belongs to Grace Church and is adjacent to their parking lot.

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After a while, we headed back down the red trail (which would have been the right fork) and joined the green trail, which lead back to blue. Full circle!

I really like this trail. There are no paved parts and could never be done with strollers.  This makes trail number 8 we’ve done in the book!

Life is Worth the Living

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A year ago, in the middle of the night, in a darkened hospital room, heavy with silence, a little baby girl was born. She was complete, serene. She had fingers perfect for playing piano, long legs superb for dancing. She was so soft and so fragile.

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But I could never know more than what I was seeing then. She wasn’t completely mine. God had granted me only a glimpse of her. Her perfected self, her soul never tarnished by sin, had been welcomed home in heaven. Someone else was cradling her and filling her with love. And that Someone was doing the same for me.

God provides, heals, and gives.

As I think about my journey this year, my many encounters with God, my heart has changed. All those who belong to God will undergo this change.  “The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.” (Deut 30:6.) It is a painful thing to be marked for the Lord.

My living children left physical scars on me whereas Cora has left a spiritual scar. My heart was cut to make room for the desires of heaven. I say yes more often. I’m less uptight about little things. I feed on the Bible. I enjoy the childishness of my children more. I ponder song lyrics. I sing on purpose.

If I had to pick a song to be my theme for the past year, it would be “Blessings” by Laura Story. It’s a song about unanswered prayer–at least not answered in ways we prefer. It’s a song about perseverance. About endurance. About drawing near.

Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near.
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.

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I have spent a lot of time in introspection this year. The boundaries of my faith were pushed and God was faithful. I completely let go and found peace. And now I’m ready to start living.

You make me brave, You make me brave
You called me beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave, You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the promises You’ve made.

Surviving and Thriving

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This past week was VBS at my church. I’ve been dreading this week for a while. And not just because it meant daily getting out the door early, dealing with myriads of little kids, and being exhausted each day. Out of the last 6 years, 4 of those years something major happened to our family around VBS time. Andrew got the swine flu the last day of VBS in 2009, Celia had a broken arm in the summer of 2012, Charlotte broke her elbow at VBS in 2013, and we found out about Cora’s death during the week of VBS 2014. Summer is not my favorite season!

For a minute or two, I entertained thoughts of hibernating during VBS this year. Avoid it like the plague! But, I decided to kick Satan and that negativity out the door. So, we all went to VBS this year. Joey  and I even were the main teachers in a room. And we all made it. No sickness. No tragedy. Just blessed normalness!

We’re on a journey, o-o-o-oh!

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Super Six

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When I was a child, I remember attending a friend’s birthday party where each guest got to open a present. There was this table, piled high full of wrapped matching sets of presents. Each guest picked a pair, and the birthday girl and the guest opened the presents simultaneously, each receiving the same thing. It was magical for me to receive a present when it wasn’t my birthday! I even remember what I opened: a Hello Kitty address book! Months ago when planning Celia’s party (yes, my children start thinking about their parties almost as soon as the last one is over) she mentioned wanting to give everyone at her party a present. This conversation began after reading Princess Joy’s Birthday Blessing, which involves the princess deciding to let her guests have the presents that were intended for her. Remembering the party I attended as a child, I told Celia we could do that.

This weekend was the pool party. Very thankful the rain finally stopped!

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Minnie Mouse theme

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It was fun as mom to watch the happiness on each child’s face.

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She said it was the best birthday ever!

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Week 2

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This week we took a trip to Mud Island.

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This was actually Andrew’s second visit, but since he was 24 months the last time he came, he doesn’t remember it. We did the whole tour, including the monorail:

waiting to start,

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pretty views;

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the museum tour;

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and of course walking the length of the Mississippi River.

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When we came to the Baton Rouge, LA town map, Joey had to stomp on LSU.

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We finally reached the Gulf of Mexico!

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Joey standing on the southernmost tip of the Mississippi.

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And a picture of our photographer.

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It was a very tiring trip. We also paid a visit to the new Bass Pro in the Pyramid. Now that’s craziness! Two stories, with an accompanying resort in the store, a restaurant, a bowling alley, plus the world’s tallest free-standing elevator inside (which for $5 a head before 4 p.m., $10 after) you can ride to an open observation point outside. Uuhh, no thanks!

We crossed some tracks on the way to the car and Jacob had to stop and look for Thomas.

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And what’s a trip to Memphis without a picture with the King?

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This morning our cleaning chore was  Mr. Erasering all of the walls and door moldings. We scrubbed through 5 sponges!

Super Summer Schedule

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Summer break started Monday! This year, since we’re not faced with crises to start our summer (broken arm, broken elbow, baby), I’ve decided to have a little more structure to our break. I hope to once a week: do an outing, teach them to clean something around the house, and participate in summer reading club at the library. Summer reading club starts the week after VBS (very convenient!)

This week, we had a dusting session. In about 2 hours we dusted the living room, school room, my bedroom, and the kid’s bedrooms. Whew! It wasn’t done to my high standards, but it was done to my satisfaction. And now I feel like Andrew, and perhaps Charlotte, can dust something without my assistance.

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Our outing was to the Wonder Place. Andrew had to stay home for this one.

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We also wrapped up piano with Andrew and Charlotte’s piano recital. So special that their Nana gets to teach them!

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And last but not least, my tulips for our anniversary. I carried tulips on our wedding day and now he carries them to me on our anniversary!

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The End Is Near

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The End Is Near

We are on the downhill slide to our school year ending. Only about three more weeks!

We continued our study of Moses and the Israelites by somewhat celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I say somewhat because I knew it would be too miserable on everyone to go without bread for a week. So I decided that only for their snacks, not main meals, would they need to avoid leaven. At the beginning of the week they made a list of the different names of leaven so they could easily check their snack boxes to see if it was approved. Unfortunately for the kids, most of what they like, except popcorn, was on the Do Not Consume list. Fortunately for the kids, this was the week after Easter and they had plenty of candy to consume in its place. Which was unfortunate for the teacher. Hmm, not exactly the “suffering” I was hoping to achieve! Oh well!

They made tambourines because after the week is over, the Israelites would have a big feast to celebrate its end.

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The next week I read passages about God leading them in a cloud by day and fire by night. So, we made our own pillar of cloud fire.

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A little difficult to capture our cloud on fire in a picture.

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Today we went to the National Park Aquarium in Hot Springs. I thought it was a nice wrap up to our study of marine animals this year.

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Now, when I think aquarium, I’m imagining tunnels of water surrounding you and coming face to face with huge sharks. That is not that type of aquarium! Think, smaller version of the lizards and spiders and snakes section of the LR Zoo. Plus it cost us about $60 less! It did have some other unique animals not found at our zoo, like stingrays and crabs. And the best part of this field trip, we had the entire place to our selves. The whole time!

We got up close and personal with  a lizard

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and a turtle.

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Andrew found the pet he wants

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and Joey trying to pet an owl (not real.)

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The girls’ favorite animals

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and Jacob’s.

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Joey said there was no proof of me being on the trip, so here’s my selfie.

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We’re phasing out school this year. As each student wraps up a subject, it’s done! Andrew has finished English and once each says their 10 Commandments verses to Daddy, we’ll be done with Bible. Next week we’ll be done with science and I hope Charlotte will have finished her history. Andrew finishes reading next week, too. Everyone will finish math sometime in mid-May. It’s nice to have a relaxing end to our school year!

Plagues and Passover

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Plagues and Passover

After reading the book Four Blood Moons, I decided I want my children to at least be familiar with important Jewish feasts. So I found a curriculum called A Family Guide to the Jewish Holidays. It had great worksheets in it and a good explanation of how the Feasts point to Jesus. We will be celebrating 3 spring festivals. The first is Passover. I decided that for the past two weeks, we would study about the Israelites journey out of Egypt. Each day, we studied one plague and did an activity about it.

Nile to Blood: They ate jello and drank Kool-aid

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Frogs: frog snowflakes

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Gnats/Lice: they covered themselves in white dot stickers and had to leave them on all morning

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Flies: I put chocolate sprinkles between contact paper and taped it to their desk, as a reminder that the flies covered everything. Charlotte is working on a word search.

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Disease on the cattle: They had to get out ALL of their stuffed animals and we divided them into the Israelite camp (on the left) and the Egyptians (on the right.) The Egyptian animals are turned face down to represent death.

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Boils: they had to cover themselves in Band-aids

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Hail: I bought plastic golf balls and they had fun throwing them up in the air

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On this day, the girls made our Passover Lamb. God specifies that they are to choose a lamb and bring it into their house a few days before Passover. Andrew painted the egg carton legs and face and the girls glued the cotton balls. They named the lamb Cloud.

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Locuts: made out of clothespins, which I made them clip to their clothes.

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For the plague of darkness, we did school without lights on or curtains opened. And we just talked about who we knew that would have died if they had been Egyptian during the last plague. On the day of Passover, we killed the lamb,

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which had blood (red ribbon) inside.

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We applied the blood to our door frame.

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That night we celebrated a traditional Seder/Passover. The Haggadah included in the Guide focuses on Passover pointing to Jesus, so we did some traditions (Seder plate) but not most of the ones that the Jews added much later (looking for Elijah etc.)

Because candles are an essential part of any Jewish tradition, the kids made candlesticks for our table.

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Our Seder included the 4 cups of wine (grape juice,) a Seder plate with bitter herbs, parsley, Haroset, salt water and lamb bone (Fisher Price lamb.)

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And of course the 3 pieces of Matza.

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I set the table with our fine china, since most Jewish women have a set of dishes used exclusively for Passover. All the kids had a good time and I hope they grasped some of the spiritual significance of the meal.

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This week is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I won’t let them eat any snacks that contain a leavening agent. And we’ll continue working on memorizing the verses about the 10 commandments.

March Madness ( a bit early!)

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Ten weeks ago Andrew’s homeschool basketball team registered for the National Christian Homeschool Basketball Championships. We didn’t think we would be able to go. It’s about a weeks committment and then add a hotel room (or two) and meals x6 people, it just didn’t seem possible this year. But, I asked around on FB for any deeply discounted hotel rates, codes, etc. And Joey asked at FamilyLife. One of his co-workers at FamilyLife gave us their timeshare in Branson for a week! Because of their generosity (God’s provision, really!) we took this opportunity to make this our family vacation. Our FIRST!

Here’s the week in review: Monday

Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery

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Table Rock Dam

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Butterfly Palace

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Unfortunately, we didn’t know that Celia is deathly afraid of butterflies (or just that many in one place.) She started crying and screaming the second we walked in to the butterfly room. Joey waited with her out in the atrium. Jacob  was frightened too, but only screamed once, and basically just took shelter in the stroller. He spent most of the time with his hands over his face.

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He did venture out of the stroller once, with the explorer’s hats they provide, firmly on his head. He is adventurous and couldn’t resist the elevated wooden walkway!

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Tuesday

Family photo!

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Little ladies and little gentlemen.

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Basketball started. The 10U boys Flames team is ranked #9 to start the tourney. We beat the Tulsa NOAH team to advance to the winner’s bracket.

Joey (as assistant coach) is crouched in the middle, leading the pre-game prayer.

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Andrew is #24. .

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Wednesday

Game 2. Joey was the head coach this game. We beat the OKC Knights, the #1 ranked team in the country, 28-23.  Andrew shooting free throws.

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World’s Largest Toy Museum. (God provided discount tickets! We  showed up and had friends in common with the man working admissions, so he gave us a 40% discount!)

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Xtreme racing go karts

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Thursday

Game 3: We beat the OKC Storm (the team that has won the championship the last 10 years), 42-25.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder home. This was a dream come true for me. She was my childhood idol. And she offers me hope that one day in my old age I can become a famous writer too!

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This is the spring behind her house that influenced them to purchase the land.

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On another part of their property, their daughter built them a Sears Craftsman house, very modern. After less than a decade, Laura and Almonzo missed their old house, and moved “back home.”

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There was also a museum on the property, which contained hundreds of items from both the Ingalls and Wilders families. I could have spent hours in there, but my children could only last about 30-45 minutes. If I had a bucket list, then visiting here would have been on it!

Friday

Championship game!

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Unfortunately, we lost to the Houston Wolverines, 33-42. Here is Coach Holloway giving an after game talk.

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Our boys played the toughest 10U schedule in the tourney. We are proud!

And to top off our week, we went to Jonah at the Sight and Sound theater that night! God again provided deeply discounted tickets for us. 55% off full price!

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This is the statue outside the theater. Because of heavy rain at the start of the evening, we took the picture afterwards. Kids are tired!

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But we all loved it. Even Jacob managed to make it through the end. I think every Christian who visits Branson needs to go to a show here. They incorporate the gospel message into each show and have ushers stationed around the theater for afterwards, in case someone needs prayer and wants to talk about what they’ve seen. LOVED it all!

Here are some random photos from throughout the week:

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Inside the condo, playing a game.

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And we ended the trip with a stop at Ferguson’s Country Store in St. Joe, AR, on the way home.

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The trip couldn’t have been any better. No one got sick. Jacob was a champ with no naps. It was a blessing we will never forget!

How to have fun as an 8 yr. old girl

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(or, how to make your Mom really tired.)

Invite over your closest friends and do a craft (no sew pillows):

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Have cake and ice cream (eat a lot of sugar):

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Open presents (make a mess with gift bags and tissue):

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Play a game (jump around the room and scream giggle when it’s not your turn):

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Apply make up and perfume (LIBERALLY):

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Watch Frozen and eat snacks (have more sugar and make sure and turn the movie up really loud so you can hear it above your own screams giggles, shout sing Let It Go, knock over all the popcorn boxes while performing to the movie and then proceed to scatter snacks across the living room floor)

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Have some art time (stay out of the living room so mom can vacuum up the previously mentioned snacks)

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Sleep in a circle (progress from talking really loudly, to whispering loudly, to screaming in fright because of unfamiliar house noises, cry and want to go home, and then have your Mom stay in the room until everyone falls asleep)

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Wake up in the morning (start talking at the first hint of sunrise) and have donuts for breakfast (sugar to go home with!)

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Do more dress up and videos until time to say goodbye (your Mom is thankful that at the end, everyone still likes everyone and she’s looking forward to watching you and your friends grow up together!)