And the Winner is …

  

Congratulations to Jennie on winning the Mighty Mug Giveaway! Thank you all for participating!  
There will be more giveaways to come. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the latest posts.

Note: The winner was selected via random.org.
 

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5 Things I Learned From Our Theme Park Day

Theme Park Lessons for Mommy
It’s time for 5 Things, where I share 5 of anything that happens to be on my mind. And since this blog has recently been all-things-theme-park, I figure I’d keep going with that. But, unlike the previous posts on how to save money at these places, this one just takes you on a tour of the park, as seen through my eyes.

Well, the night before our fun day, when the kids were tucked in bed, my husband and I were on the internet, planning our day at the theme park. It was just one day, and we intended to maximize it. We noted the height requirements for the different rides, made a list of the attractions to visit, and studied the map to determine the most efficient route.

The park’s hours of operation were from 10:30 am to 9:00 pm. Shall we dare stay the whole 10 and a half hours? Would the kids be able to hang? Would we?

Well, we did. I don’t know how, but we did. And, we didn’t choke each other in the process. But, I did take away 5 lessons from that eventful day.

Theme Park Lessons for Mommy

#1  Things won’t always go according to plan.

No matter how meticulous we were in planning each step, there was bound to be unexpected detours. For us, it happened at the entrance gate when my ticket was scanned, and I was told that I had already used it last month. Huh? Really? Would I really go there without my family? I mean, I know I need a break once in a while, but going to Target by myself will do.

#2  We should’ve circled all the bathrooms on our map.

After our ticket misunderstanding was cleared up, we took less than 10 steps when my youngest boy announced that he desperately needed to go potty. Where’s the nearest bathroom?? And of course, this happened a few more times throughout the day.

#3  I can still ride a roller coaster.

I used to ride roller coasters all the time, but my fears have grown over the years. Since some of my kids are old enough to ride them now, I have to toughen up a bit. If I can handle 20 hours of labor and delivery, surely a 2-minute thrill ride is tolerable.

Theme Park Lessons for Mommy

#4  Consuming a funnel cake can always be justified.

It was almost closing, and we were beat. As we made our way to the exit, a place selling funnel cakes happened to be conveniently located near the gates. Though I can easily say no to my kid asking for those cheesy souvenir magnets, we will surely make room in our budget for funnel cakes.

#5  A fast food dinner at 9:30 pm is an exception I’m willing to make.

As we loaded up the van, the kids asked if we were going to eat dinner. I thought, We just had a delicious funnel cake dinner. But no, they were still hungry.

I was achy. I was tired. And the last thing on my mind was lecturing my kids on healthy eating … and after walking around that park from morning till night, a bacon cheeseburger and curly fries sounded like a good way to end a very long day.

Theme Park Lessons for Mommy

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5 Ways to Save on Theme Park Food

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When our kids say “You’ve never taken us here” after arriving at the theme park (even though we’ve been there before), it’s proof that we just don’t frequent these places regularly. Either that or they’re trying to give us a guilt trip. Can you blame us though? Just one day at an amusement park can cost us a fortune!

But, with 4 free tickets from participating in a Six Flags reading program + 1 free entry for the baby, we were willing to cough up some money to buy 2 more tickets so that our whole family can go have some summer fun. (Click here if you missed the post on how to save money on admission tickets.)

But once we passed the turnstile, we were not in the clear yet.

What are you going to do when the sights and smells of the park are luring you to lose all senses and pay 10 bucks for a hotdog on a stick? Oh, and if you have kids, you can add fries, burgers, snow cones, and cotton candy to that list.

Here are 5 ways you can fight the urge to blow your whole paycheck on theme park foods.

1. Bring Cash

If I see a sign for funnel cakes, I’ll race you to the line. One of the memorable experiences of theme park visits is consuming the deep-fried goodness that they sell there before buckling yourself into one of those insane roller coasters. So, before entering the park, set the amount that you’re willing to spend on food and souvenirs, bring that amount in cash, and leave your plastic cards at home.

$12.42

2. Re-Entry Stamps

So you accept the fact that you’ll be spending money on food, but just can’t get yourself to spend it at the park, where prices run twice as much. I mean, if you’re gonna buy fast food, maybe you’d rather just go to McD’s down the street and get some things from their dollar menu. Who says you can’t do that? Get your hands stamped at the gate, buy that McChicken sandwich or two, and come back to the park for more rides.

3. Eat Big Before Entering

Eat a good, filling meal before going in, and perhaps you’ll be able to pass all those food carts without a second glance.
Funnel Cake & Fried Oreos

4. Brown Bag It

Always check the park’s food and drink policy first before arriving. Most people assume you can’t bring outside food and drinks in, but you may be surprised. We’ve been to places where water bottles are allowed and sometimes, even a small cooler of food.

5. Tailgate It

If you can’t bring the food in, some places allow you to consume it outside the entrance. The amusement park we recently visited even provided picnic tables for that purpose.  Or, have a little “tailgate” lunch in the parking lot, and maybe you’ll stop wondering what deep-fried oreos taste like …

or maybe not.

How do you keep yourself from eating your way through the entire theme park?

Share your tips in the comments.

 

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5 Ways to Save on Theme Park Tickets

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We did it! We went to an amusement park this summer! While I give my legs and feet a break from all that walking, this would be the perfect time to share with you some ways you can save money if a trip to one of these places is in your future.

The high cost of admission tickets is the biggest reason why we don’t visit these overcrowded establishments too often. Of course, the bigger the name, the more money you’ll spend on tickets! If the sign has the word “Disney” on it, you will not find the word “cheap” anywhere near it. Unless you win your tickets in a contest, expect to pay a lot, but here are some ways to soften the blow.

1. Don’t buy at the gate.

Usually you can get a discount if you purchase online and/or if you designate the specific day you’re visiting when you make the purchase. This is when preparing ahead definitely pays off!

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2. Think outside the park.

Sometimes there are places, besides the park itself, that offer discount tickets. I’ve seen coupons and deals advertised at local grocery stores or in magazines. You can google “cheap tickets at such-and-such theme park” and find something legit to save a few bucks. Our go-to place for tickets is the military base. Thank you, Dad, for your service!

3. Put your kids to work.

Look into programs that encourage kids to “earn” their tickets. Six Flags has a Read to Succeed program that our children participate in. They each have to rack up 6 hours of reading time in order to get a free admission ticket. Check with your child’s school and see if they take part in something like this.

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4. Start homeschooling.

Some parks designate “Homeschool Days” in their calendars, where they offer tickets at a lower price. Is it worth adding on the role of homeschool teacher to your already long list of responsibilities? Well, consider that tickets from the Happiest Place on Earth for a family of 4 could run you about $400. Happy now?

But if homeschooling is not your thing, check online for other special days when the park sells tickets at a discount.

5. Go before your kid turns 3.

For most places, 3 is the magic number when a child moves from a status of “free” to “$49.99″. Ok, so maybe your kid won’t remember a thing at 2 years and 11 months old, so just take lots of pictures to prove to them later on that they really did meet Mickey Mouse and friends.

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Do you have other ideas for saving money on admission tickets? Please, do share!

Stay tuned! There’s more to come on this little summer series about visiting your favorite theme park!

 

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{GIVEAWAY} Mighty Mug: No More Spills

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Coffee is my friend. It has been my friend since college days when I would frequent local coffee houses, trying to study, until I realized that their over-priced beverages were not exactly in my budget.

After college, I landed a job that started at 6:30 am and was an hour commute away. Add another hour or so to shower, get dressed, and look presentable, and I was up at 4:30 on most mornings. But coffee was there for me, getting me to the office on time, ready to tackle the pile of papers on my desk.

Now, coffee has been as faithful as ever when, as a mom of littles, continuous sleep is never guaranteed and quiet moments are all too brief. And even though I have forgotten my cup of joe more than once … on the kitchen counter (after setting it down in order to rush a child to the bathroom) or in the microwave (to reheat for the 7th time) … coffee will forever be a loyal friend to me.

But, as you can imagine, a hot drink and five wiggly children may not be the best combination. Spills are inevitable, but what could I do? You can’t ask a sleep-deprived mom to give up her caffeine fix.

Then, someone told me about a magic cup that won’t tip over. It’s called Mighty Mug.

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Say what?? Is this for real?

They told me that the bottom of the cup has “Smartgrip Technology”.

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Oh, I get it. There’s a suction cup at the bottom. Yeah, I fell for that when I bought kiddie bowls with the rubber suction that was supposed to keep them on the table instead of on the floor along with that morning’s oatmeal.

But, they said it’s not a suction cup, that it really does grip the table when pushed, and that it comes off the table easily when lifted up.

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How is that possible?

Magic.

Ok, enough of this magic nonsense and just show me the mug! I’ll believe it when I see it. And, by the way, you don’t know my kids. They will knock that smartgrip technology off the table and clear across the floor.

Mighty Mug, you may have met your match.

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But, I stand corrected.

My kids pushed, shoved, and punched, but they couldn’t knock you out, Mighty Mug. And when I lifted you up to take a sip of my coffee in between rounds, you let me do it with ease.

I don’t know how, but it works. It really works.

So, if you are …
– a mother of little ones
– a college student pulling all-nighters
– a klutz around computers
– a hoarder of important papers

… you may want Mighty Mug on your side.

Still don’t believe me? Check out this video.

Want your own Mighty Mug? Click here and check out their selection. They have cups for cold drinks too!

As a special treat to my readers, I have teamed up with Mighty Mug to give you a chance to …

win your very own mug!

Click below to enter. Giveaway ends on Friday, July 31st.

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NOTE: My kids and I really put this mug to the test, and I would say that, for the most part, it stayed put. Perhaps 5% of the time, it didn’t stick, but that could be for a couple of reasons, such as the type of surface we put it on (it has to be a non-porous, flat surface) or things, like too many crumbs, prevented the Smartgrip from doing its job. I would still recommend this mug, not only because it could spare you from having to clean up a spill but also save you from having to replace important items, like a computer or documents.
 
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Just an Ordinary Day: Minions Everywhere, Itchy Eyes, and an Ice Cream Social

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It’s time for another edition of Just an Ordinary Day, where I share the happenings of a day in my life.

It began as a typical Friday morning. Breakfast on Fridays is usually pancakes or French toast, a detour from the usual oatmeal/cereal/toast rotation during the previous days.

What wasn’t so typical was that I made the pancakes by myself. Usually, my kids are eager helpers in the kitchen, especially on pancake day. But on this day, most of them were sleeping in. Strange. What happened to all my early risers?

Well, there were two, who were up with me that morning.

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During breakfast, we went over our Bible memory verse. With the arrival of our baby and taking a break from our regular homeschool schedule, I’ve fallen off the habit of going over our memory verses, so we’re trying to get back into the practice again. “… train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

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Since we’re still not in school mode, the kids and I are enjoying the extended free time. This day being the opening day of the highly-anticipated Minion movie, I had to explain to the kids that even though “everyone” else is watching the movie, we never go on opening day because of the crowds. Not to mention paying for admission to the theater for our big family usually means an early withdrawal from our retirement accounts. Even without a movie night in their near future, minions were still very much on their minds.

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Speaking of minions, I found myself looking like one of these yellow creatures. After some excessive rubbing to relieve my itchy allergy eyes, I noticed a huge fluid pocket in my left eye. Let’s just say I freaked out. And when I came to my senses, I googled it. I think I had chemosis, irritating my eye from all the rubbing. I tried all the home remedies and prayed it would go back to normal by the evening since we were expecting company over. By the afternoon, my eyes were still red but at least I looked less minion-like.

We had invited the families from our Bible study group for a Friday night ice cream social. So, I assigned the kids to hospitality prep duty, cleaning up just the main areas of the house.

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We had such a great time with our dear friends that I neglected to take any photos of our fun evening. It wasn’t until after the last guest left that I snapped the photo below of my boys, dancing on our table. We don’t have any outdoor furniture, but the night was so nice that we just moved our indoor dining table out. Added some stringed lights for some ambiance and voila!

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How did you spend your day?

 

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Why I Love My “Covered Goods” Nursing Cover {Review}

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It was a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon, a nice day for a picnic at the park. My husband was keeping our two little ones happy and busy while I attended to our baby boy.

It was the perfect setting to enjoy one of the amazing privileges of motherhood. I donned my nursing cover, placed the baby underneath, and upon latching on, he immediately went from cries of hunger to gulps of satisfaction. I was in motherhood bliss.

… until, days later, I noticed this picture. Look closely … past my cute littles.

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Yes, that is the rear view of my nursing experience. My nursing cover only offered privacy in the front but neglected to cover up my exposed backside. The image bubble in my mind of the contented mama and satisfied baby burst as I saw the reality in that photo. Now embarrassed at the thought that someone else at the park saw my wardrobe malfunction, I became more conscious than ever when nursing in public … even with the use of a nursing cover.

So when I recently saw a friend of mine using the Covered Goods nursing cover, I was intrigued, to say the least. And once I received my own in the mail, I excitedly tore open that package to try out the cover, and much to my baby’s delight, she immediately received an unexpected feeding.

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You can find lot of nursing covers for sale, but I wanted to share about Covered Goods because this is really unlike any of the ones out there. Believe me, I’ve seen all kinds throughout the years, having breastfed all my kids (my oldest is already 10), and now, I’m on #5.

Why do I like this nursing cover so much?

Because something is always worth owning when you can find at least one more use for it.
This is described as a “multi-use nursing cover”. Need to cover the car seat while your infant sleeps? This one won’t blow away in the wind. Going to the store but shudder at the thought of your child touching the germ-infested shopping cart? This handy item stretches right over the kiddie chair of the cart.

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Because it always feels 5 degrees hotter when you’re nursing a baby.
Since this cover is made of a very lightweight material, it helps with the temperature problem. Particularly during the summer months, my children always emerged from under the nursing cover red-faced and sweaty. But if my baby could speak, she would tell you it feels much cooler under Covered Goods.

Because I have a 4-year-old who wants to play peek-a-boo with the baby while I’m breastfeeding.
Covered Goods has some spandex in the material, so it loosely fits around the baby. It’s enough to deter any accidental lifts from curious tots or even from your nursing baby. You can even dare to feed your little one on the windiest of days … this nursing cover will stay put.

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Because no one needs to see my bare back. (It’s not a pretty sight.)
Nurse your baby anywhere. On a stool, a backless bench, or even a picnic blanket at a grassy park. You can feed your little bundle comfortably, knowing that you have complete coverage.

Have I convinced you yet? This really is the best nursing cover I’ve ever owned. I only wish it had been around when my other children were babies. Do you know an expectant mom who could use this?

Disclosure: Although I received the nursing cover at a discount from the company, I was not compensated in any other way to write this post. This is NOT a sponsored post. I simply wanted to share what I believe is truly a great product.

 

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And the Winner is …

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Congratulations to Gina B. on winning the StickerKid Giveaway! Thank you all for participating!

If you didn’t win, but would like order some products from StickerKid, use coupon code US29BL1136 to get an extra 5% off your order! [affiliate link]

There will be more giveaways to come. Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the latest posts.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

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Grocery Shopping Alternatives for the Busy Mom (or “I Can’t Go to the Store with All My Kids!”)

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Going through those sliding glass doors with all the kids, armed with my shopping list and a well-planned route through the store, can be likened to a “mission impossible”. So, when I come home with all the groceries intact and all the children accounted for, it’s mission accomplished!

But, I admit, there are days when I’m willing to forego the thrill of grocery shopping with the kids because, well … it’s safer to stay home. So, my wonderful husband receives that all-too-familiar text message in the afternoon: “Sweetie, can you stop by the store on your way home? Milk, eggs, bananas, chocolate hazelnut gelato.” (Yes, the gelato is for me … don’t judge.)

Here are 5 more ways to get your grocery shopping done without having to buckle any kid in their car seat.

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Shop When the Husband is Home

If you like to compare prices or do complicated coupon transactions, it’s probably easier for you to do the shopping instead of sending your husband to run that errand. Even though lines tend to get longer at stores in the early evenings and on the weekends, this is usually the best time for me to go by myself because the hubby is home from work.

Shop swap

Do you have a friend in the same predicament? If you and your friend shop at the same store, perhaps you can arrange a swap, as in “I’ll buy your groceries for you while you watch all the kids, and next week, you can shop while I babysit.”

Shop online

Reese, Hacker.
If you want to avoid going out altogether, let’s remember that you’re living in the age of online convenience. Many grocery stores offer a delivery service. I’ve never done this with our local supermarket but have taken advantage of ordering household items on Amazon, where sometimes, the deals are better than what you can find in the store. Not to mention the nice perk of having everything delivered to your door … and even better if you’re an Amazon Prime Member and you have a 2-day free shipping advantage. [affiliate link]

 

Shop and pick-up

Maybe you like the ease of purchasing groceries from your laptop but don’t want to fork out the delivery service fee every time. Some stores have begun launching a curbside pickup option for their customers. A friend of mine has taken advantage of this service at her store. She orders everything online and picks up her items at the designated time. And I thought the Starbucks drive-thru window was a genius idea!

Shop Your Pantry

The best way to avoid going out to the store and save money at the same time is to use up what you have. Look through your pantry. Take inventory of your fridge. Come up with a meal plan using the items you have on hand first, and you may find that it’s not necessary to go to the grocery store after all.

… except to get that gelato. :-)

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If you have kids, how do you get your grocery shopping done?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

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Just an Ordinary Day: Books, Baking, and Baby

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I thought I would start another semi-regular series on the blog, giving you a glimpse of an ordinary day in my life.

Now, an ordinary day may not be the most exciting day.
Then again, it may contain a bunch of extraordinary little moments.

It may follow a perfectly planned route (yeah, right).
Or, it may be full of unexpected detours.

It may fit into a nicely outlined blog post.
Or, it may be a hodgepodge of stories called life.

However it turns out, I wanted to document a typical day–the good, the bad, and whatever’s in between. Perhaps in my ordinary day, you will see just another wife and mom, trying to do her best, often failing, but depending on the grace of God every hour. Perhaps you will see someone just like you.

So my ordinary day began like any other day. My baby girl actually had a longer stretch of sleep during the night, so I felt a bit more energized upon waking up … just a bit. And, since it’s summer vacay, the kids have been sleeping in a little … just a little.

I was able to get some alone time, planning out my day and checking email. I was also looking forward to doing my Bible reading, but alas, the first child awoke from dreamland and came into my room. This used to be so frustrating for me, but God has been faithful to free up my time later in the day so I could spend some time with Him. And now, I welcome my kids’ sleepy-eyed faces and even their funky morning breath. A little bit of cuddle time, and we’re off to start our day.

We normally keep going with homeschool during the summer … just a lighter version to keep those wheels turning. But, with the new baby here, it’s taking me some time to get back into school mode. No one’s complaining though, especially since we’re all savoring the time with the newest member of the family.

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The kids have been able to find ways to keep busy. My oldest, Owen, has been working on a book series. He has 12 books already planned out, and he’s currently on Book 3. If he keeps at it, he may finish it all by the summer’s end.

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We also had a huge library haul the other day, so the books are keeping them occupied, especially my daughter JJ. Just a year ago, she had trouble with reading and was so discouraged. But, within the year, she learned how to spread her wings, and she is flying through these chapter books!

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Months ago, my husband picked up a package of dark chocolate/mint chips at a store’s clearance rack after the holidays. I had forgotten about it until now. I took a look at the “best by” date and knew we had some emergency baking to do.

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The Mrs. Field’s cookie cookbook (pictured above) has always been my favorite. I “stole” it from my parents’ house long time ago after I moved out. The butter-stained pages, flour stuck in between, and old pieces of cookie dough that have hardened on the paper just show how well-used this book is.

Baking is one of the main ways that I get to spend time with the kids. Sometimes only one of them will come into the kitchen and ask to help. But given that the plan was to make chocolate chip cookies, they all wanted to help.

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It was nearly time for our quiet hour, but I thought it would be torture to have them wait for their first bite of cookie after all their help in making them. It’s hard enough to wait just the few minutes for the first batch to finish. Pictured below, this has become their favorite spot, waiting and watching the timer count down, after putting something yummy in the oven.

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After dinner, we had movie night, a DVD we picked up from the library. Surprisingly, it wasn’t badly scratched up, and we were able to watch the movie all the way through. Then, some more baby-watching and baby-snuggling that by the time it was lights out, my little Lovey (as we like to call her) was tired of all the wet kisses.

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What are some highlights of your day? Tell me in the comments or if you blogged about it, include the link.

 

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