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New York Trip Day 1

If you follow me on Instagram then you know we made a long weekend trip up to New York, specifically Buffalo, last week. Matt’s cousin’s twins graduated from high school and his aunt threw a family reunion/graduation celebration. The last time we went up to see them in Buffalo was 20 years ago when we were newly married and kid-free. So it was definitely time for a trip. It was a last minute decision for us because we had to work around Tyler’s football camp schedule but we managed to carve out a few days. We left Friday morning bright and early and arrived in Buffalo a short 12 hours later. Note the sarcasm there. 

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We crossed into Virginia about an hour into our trip and Zoey immediately began asking if we were there yet. ha. Sorry kid, no. 

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We hit the East River Mountain tunnel an hour later and the children were forced to suffer through 5 whole minutes of no internet and no music because xm radio does not get a signal in the tunnel. Matt and I tried to sing them a song to help them through those long hard minutes but they remained grouchy and ungrateful. 

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5 minutes later we crossed into West Virginia. I had no idea just how long we would be spending in WV. I always thought it was a relatively small state. So why did it take us nearly 5 hours to get through? I’m perplexed. 

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We stopped for lunch at Chick-fil-a and filled the kids with food thus ensuring us at least an hour of no whining, fighting, or complaining. Theoretically anyway.

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We came across a little sight seeing look out on the side of the interstate about an hour and a half after we stopped for lunch so it seemed like a good time to stop and stretch our legs. Tyler was asleep and refused to wake up so Maia had to climb over the back seat to get out. She was displeased. She got over it. 

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An hour and a half later we hit our first thunderstorm. The skies opened up and dumped massive amounts of rain on us. And every car on the road immediately slowed down to 35 mph on the interstate because they clearly do not understand the benefits of Rain-X on their windshields. Amateurs. The thunder woke up all 4 sleeping kids who then immediately asked “are we there yet?” No. 

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Half an hour later we finally crossed over into Pennsylvania. Again, the kids began asking “are we there yet?” No.

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We were trucking along at a speedy 70 mph until just after this bridge. Then BAM. Dead stop traffic. For miles and miles and miles and miles. Ugly words were said, bargains were made with God. Nothing. 

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2 hours into the stop and go traffic we reached the “shove powdered donuts into our faces” stage of the road trip. 

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Shortly after we finally crossed into New York, prompting an immediate chorus of…wait for it….ARE WE THERE YET? Sigh. No we are not there yet, FORTHELOVEOFGOD stop asking that question!

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An hour later we passed through our last toll booth of the trip and were so close we could taste the freedom!

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By 10:30 we had arrived, been stuffed full of food, snuggled in our jammies, and were enjoying time with our relatives. We had 14 people crammed into a 3 bedroom house with 1 working bathroom. Nothing says family like claustrophobia. But it was only for one night- we didn’t see the point in paying for a hotel room when we were arriving so late and Matt’s aunt and uncle graciously opened their home to all our craziness. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning drinking beer with Matt’s brother and his family and just chatting. It was awesome! And bonus- we drank enough beer that we didn’t care where we slept! 

Day 2 coming tomorrow. Spoiler alert- we went to the zoo!

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5 Tips For A Successful Summer With Older Kids

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Now that my kids are older summer break has taken on a completely different dimension. It used to be something I dreaded. 12 weeks of little kids who require total supervision every single hour of the day and woke up at dark o’thirty every morning? That’s a nightmare. But now that my kids are older it’s so much better. That being said there are still things you can do to make sure your summer break is successful.

1. Keep the food fully stocked. We have 2 pantries and 3 fridge/freezers. I keep them fully stocked at all times in the summer. I buy most of our snacks at either Sam’s Club or Aldi to cut costs and I always keep a ton of fruit on hand. My kids expend a lot of energy at the pool and they eat a lot. I keep the freezer stocked with things they can microwave easily by themselves- hot pockets, taco wraps, quesadillas, mini pizzas, chicken melts, etc. 

2. Let them sleep. Remember those days when the kids woke you up before the sun? Well those days are long gone in my house. My kids don’t wake up before 10am unless we physically wake them up. And I only wake them if we have somewhere to be. Otherwise I let them sleep as long as they want. Poor Tyler has to be at football by 8am four days a week so he’s leaving the house at 7:15am. I remember my mom always waking me up by 8am during the summer and it was awful. So I don’t do it. They sleep late, sometimes they take afternoon naps after swimming, and they stay up late. That’s exactly what summer should be. 

3. Keep the plans to a minimum. I used to have a schedule and plans for nearly every day of summer break. Vacation Bible Schools, splash parks, play dates, dollar movies, camps…we did it all. If every minute wasn’t scheduled the kids were fighting, bored, and annoying each other. Now that they’re older they do not want to have all those plans. They want to chill. Which works well because I also want to just chill. 

4. Spend as much time at the pool as possible. We’re lucky to have a great neighborhood pool right down the street from our house and a hot tub right on our own back deck. We spend as much time in them as possible. It keeps the kids active, keeps them busy, and limits the fighting. They’re too tired to whine and all their friends are swimming with them instead of messing up my house. It’s perfect. 

5. Relax the rules. During summer I am flexible with the rules we maintain during the school year. The kids are allowed to drink select sodas during the summer when I never ever buy it during the school year. We make Coke Floats and Root Beer slushes. I don’t enforce bedtimes. They are expected to be in their bedrooms by 9:30 unless it’s family night but they can play, read, or watch a movie for as long as they want. I also don’t enforce any limits on screens or electronics. The kids spend a lot of time outside and in the pool so unless I see them spending days upon days glued to a screen I just let it go. Their friends are welcome to come over and play anytime during the hours we’ve established- 11am to 8pm. They just come and go all day and it’s great. My backyard is always full of laughing kids. 

Cheers to a great summer!

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Our Plans For An Amazing Summer

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It’s here, y’all! The first official day of summer vacation at our house for all the kids. Tyler’s been out of school since May 23 and Maia was done June 2 but the little kids last day was on Friday. We are so excited! It was super sad saying goodbye to our favorite teachers at the little kids’ elementary school though. This is our last year at that school after having at least one kid enrolled there since 2006. It’s on to a new school next year- the same charter school where Tyler attends school and while the kids are excited I was sad to say goodbye to some of the teachers who’ve meant so much to our family.

But we’re ready to dive into summer vacation this year. We don’t have any plans for a big beach vacation or anything. Putting 4 kids in charter school is expensive y’all so we’re forgoing the big beach vacation and sticking close to home this summer. Plus Tyler has football workouts 4-6 days a week all summer long and physical therapy twice a week so that kills the summer vacation plans. We are so busy during the school year that we all really just want to relax during the summer. I asked the kids what they wanted to do this summer and the number one thing they all agreed on was sleep in, followed closely by swimming. 

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Most days will consist of the pool, the hot tub, play dates with friends, and playing outside in the yard. My kids are happiest at home where they can relax. I’m fortunate that they don’t require a lot of entertaining, they are very much self sufficient and able to amuse themselves without my direction. I foresee lots of hours at the neighborhood pool with friends and lounging in the hot tub. Not having to drive Tyler up to football practice and sit and wait in the parking lot this summer means we can pretty much be at the pool all day every day if we want.

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I also see lots of movie nights and sleepovers. Dinners on the back deck and nights in the hot tub also factor heavily into my summer plans. Mama loves her a good frozen margarita while soaking in the hot tub! I’d also love to take the kids to some of the free summer concerts and movie nights in the park that our city does. I think they would love that. Basically my goal is to spend as much time outside as possible this summer with some trips to the library sprinkled in there too. Maia has set a goal to read 30 books this summer and Mason wants to read 10. 

There are a few house projects that I want to get done this summer. I want to get all the trim in the house painted- it hasn’t been repainted in the 12 years that we’ve lived here. I want to get the kids bathroom upstairs painted. I really want to get Zoey and Mason’s rooms redone but that might be too ambitious for this summer. We are definitely going to get the backyard done. We actually already started that project this weekend. Matt cut down all the old bushes that were just randomly placed around the yard and he cut down 3 small trees. Then we (and by we, I mean Matt and Tyler) leveled the section of yard that has been eroding every time it rained. Today we’re getting hundreds of dollars of river rock delivered to start filling in the yard. It’s going to be a big project but it will be so worth it!

I’m so ready for this summer break. It’s been a long year of school. It was a great year but a long year. I look forward to recharging my batteries and enjoying some time with my kids. 

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Observations From A Snow Day

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We started hearing news reports about the impending winter storm heading for our city last week. As the days went on the reports got more intense and the projected snow totals started to rise. By Friday afternoon they were calling for 6-8″ of snow in my area, the grocery store shelves were bare, and all activities were canceled for the weekend. This is the South. We shelter in place at the mere hint of a snow storm heading towards us. All my people were home safe by 4:30pm on Friday with no intentions of leaving for days. I think back now to snow days from a few years ago when the kids were younger and snow days were the things nightmares were made of. It’s as if I’m living a totally different life these days. 

1. Nobody really wanted to go outside and play. Tyler and Maia are way over the stage of wanting to go outside and play in it. Zoey likes snow in theory. She likes to look at it from the window. But the first bit of snow that found its way inside her glove and she was over it. Mason went out with her in the snow for a little bit. They dressed themselves, undressed themselves, and required nothing from me. They threw snowballs at the dogs, Chase tried to eat their gloves right off their hands, and that was the end. They lasted about 10 minutes and then wanted to play Xbox for the rest of the day.  

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2. Snow cream is delicious when you add vanilla vodka and half and half. Really delicious. Also- don’t mix up which batch has vanilla vodka and which batch is alcohol free. 

3. I should have been a meteorologist. We were supposed to get the 6-8″ of snow. That’s it. Instead we got 7 hours of sleet followed by 2 inches of snow. Clearly not the same thing. Meteorologist is the only career where you can be wrong 90% of the time and still have a job. Just blame it on Mother Nature and shrug your shoulders. 

4. The dogs enjoyed the snow more than any of the people in the house. They ran, chased each other, rolled around, ate snow, and acted like little kids. They were hysterical to watch. 

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5. The only time I left my house was to pour hot water over the heater to defrost it. Yes we still do that. If you’re a long time reader then you probably remember the time we almost got arrested while defrosting our heater. If you haven’t read the story you should. It’s a classic. The neighbors still talk about it. 

6. The new neighbor came over to borrow some milk. She’s from the North and this is her first winter down here in the South. She did not heed the warnings to stock up on bread and milk as though preparing for a zombie apocalypse. Everything shuts down in the South when it snows. 

7. The neighbor took one look at me decked out head to toe in fleece and asked if I was taking my kids out to play in the snow. Nope, that’s how I dress every day from November until March. In fleece. Meanwhile she wore flip flops with toe-less socks. Clearly we are not the same species. 

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So the snow day was a fun break from reality. We made Crockpot Taco Chicken Chili, watched the football wild card games, and enjoyed snow cream in front of the fireplace. 

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2016 Year In Review

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2016 was a great year. We did lots of fun stuff as a family, we made a lot of changes in our life, and we embraced life. There was some hard stuff and some struggles but we persevered and didn’t let them get us down for long. Here are just a few of the highlights from 2016!

January:

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A water leak in one of our main front windows led to brand new hardwood flooring in our living room, Tyler’s room, and our upstairs hallway. It wasn’t exactly in the plans for 2016 but I’m so glad we went ahead and did it. What a difference!

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Mason turned 8 and celebrated with Panthers cupcakes and good friends! He’s such a cool kid. I can’t wait to see what he accomplishes in life. 

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We ended January with a good snowfall. Being in the South, we don’t get a lot of snow so we really enjoy it when we do get it. I think we only had one real snow storm in 2016 but we got about 9 inches so it lasted for awhile. 

February:

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I started February working hard to finish the master bathroom remodel. A water leak inside the wall behind the vanity meant a total overhaul of the bathroom. It was way overdue and I’m so glad we went ahead and did it. 

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February also saw our hometown team, The Panthers, in the Superbowl. Although it didn’t end the way we wanted we still celebrated their amazing season. We hosted a fun Superbowl party with friends and family and a good time was had by all. 

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Mason and Tyler both finished out the 2015-16 basketball season. Both of their teams made the playoffs and they had a good run. 

March:

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We started off March with Zoey’s very first lost tooth! She was so excited. And the Tooth Fairy actually remembered to come so I’m calling it a win. 

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We spent a lot of time at IKEA while finishing up our master bathroom remodel. A lot of time. And money. A whole lot of money. 

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But it was worth it when the remodel was finally done. Especially since it didn’t cost us anything- insurance covered 100% of this remodel! 

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The weather finally warmed up and we started having a yard full of kids again enjoying the sunshine and playground.

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The hot tub got cleaned, refilled, and ready for the season. I love this hot tub. 

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We celebrated Matt’s 39th birthday with a family dinner out at Texas Roadhouse. And a Jamaican Cowboy margarita. 

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We went up to see my parents for Easter and the kids had a huge easter egg hunt in her big yard. She stuffed the eggs with money and candy which guaranteed Tyler was out there with the little kids searching for eggs. 

April:

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Zoey attended the Kindergarten beginners night at the elementary school and I got a glimpse of having all my babies in school for the first time ever. 

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We bought a yearly membership to the state zoo and took our first trip there. It’s a little over an hour away from us and so much fun. Matt’s parents met us there to spend some time with the kids and it was a great day!

May:

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We spent a lot of time at the neighborhood playground usually with a pack of kids from our street. The absolute best thing about our neighborhood is how many friends our kids have here. 

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We hosted a huge Memorial Day BBQ at our house and had a big crowd come celebrate with us. We grilled, drank beer, opened the hot tub, and had a great time. 

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Our neighborhood pool opened for the season on Memorial Day weekend and the kids could not wait to take a swim! We spend a large part of our summer right here at the pool and I’m so grateful to have this amenity for our family. 

June:

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We celebrated Maia’s graduation from 5th grade as a family. 

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Maia graduated from 5th grade and Mason finished up 2nd grade while Zoey finished her last year in Pre-K. Tyler finished his freshman year strong with all A’s and B’s. 

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We packed up and headed out for a week at the beach!

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It was a fantastic week full sunshine and family fun. 

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Tyler enjoyed his last week of freedom between school ending and summer football starting.

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These three turned into the biggest beach bums ever. They were perfectly happy to be on the beach from sun up to sun set!

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I love the beach so much that this has been my phone screensaver ever since we got back. 

July:

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We spent a whole lot of July at the pool because it was so dang hot! The kids swam with friends and I read a lot of books. A good time was had by all. 

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We also spent a lot of time at the playground at Tyler’s school waiting for him to finish weight lifting with the football team. 

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Camden came to spend a week with us and had a great time swimming with the kids. 

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I spent a lot of time sitting in the car when football field practices started towards the end of the month. It was hot. 

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We dropped Tyler off at the end of the month for his very first 3 day football camp with the varsity team. He was promoted to the first team within the first few hours. He also was the oldest looking player getting on the bus. Ha!

August:

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August saw us spending a whole lot of time on the football practice field as the varsity team moved to two a day practices in prep for the season. 

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We had a blast at the annual neighbors night out party that our neighborhood throws every summer. There was volleyball, a DJ, tons of food, and lots of friends. 

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Tyler found out that he had earned a starting position on the offensive line for the varsity football team. He was so excited and honored, being one of the only underclassmen to earn a starting position. 

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We attended our first tailgate at the first home game of the season. I love this school so so much.

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Tyler had his very first day of school at his new charter school. Truthfully, it didn’t feel like a new school by the time the first day rolled around because we spent so much time their over the summer with football. That was such a blessing. He walked into his first day of 10th grade at a brand new school already knowing so many people. 

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Maia started 6th grade at her brand new charter school. She’s rocked 6th grade so far and she loves her school. 

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Mason started 3rd grade and baby Zoey went off to Kindergarten. All my kids are in school!

September:

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This little beauty turned 6! My last little lady is a big kid now. Those 6 years flew by so fast!

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We celebrated homecoming at Tyler’s school. Family from both sides came along with lots of friends to help us tailgate before the big football game. It was so much fun and so nice to have family to support Tyler!

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Tyler had a great game, playing both right tackle and nose guard for most of the game. 

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Unfortunately he took a shot to the side of the head and ended up with a pretty severe concussion that took him out of football for the second half of September. 

October:

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Tyler played his last home football game of the season and celebrated a huge victory over their conference rivals. 

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We celebrated at our neighborhoods Fall Festival with cotton candy, hay rides, and good friends. 

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Halloween had us trick or treating through our neighborhood with a huge group of friends and family. 

November:

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Tyler played his last football game of the season in the playoffs. It was a tough loss but he played hard and had a great season. I’m so proud of this man-child. 

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We threw a huge surprise birthday party for my mom’s 70th birthday up at her house. It was a blast and she was shocked. It was an afternoon full of old friends, good food, and grandkids. 

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This boy turned 16! He’s more man than child at this point. He celebrated with friends and a homemade ice cream cake followed by an all-night Call of Duty Xbox tournament with 20 of his closest friends. 

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My first baby girl turned 12! She’s becoming such a fabulous young lady right before our eyes. She’s smart, kind, funny, and determined. I can’t wait to see where she goes in life. 

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We hosted both sides of the family for Thanksgiving again and had a house full. It was a fun day full of food and football. One of the greatest blessings in our life is having so much family to celebrate with. 

December:

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We celebrated having big kids by wrapping gifts early and enjoying seeing them underneath a beautiful tree for the entire season. 

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Matt took the 3 biggest kids to a Hornets game and treated them to a fun night on the town. It was the first Hornets game they’ve been to in quite awhile and they had so much fun!

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Santa visited our house and left tons of great presents. We had a great Christmas break full of fun, friends, football, and food. Matt had 10 days off in a row with the kids and we made the most of them. 

2016 gave us a lot of great memories. Now onward to 2017! Happy New Year, friends. 

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