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Spina Bifida Walk N Roll

This month I had the opportunity to walk in the 
Spina Bifida Walk N Roll
to support my little cousin Shea. 

For those who don't know, 
I've been babysitting my twin cousins, 
Haley and Shea, 
just about every week since they were babies 
up until last year. 
I've watched them grow and learn
and I've watched Shea overcome many of the immense obstacles
that have stood in her way because of her spina bifida. 

None of it has slowed her down one bit
and Haley has always been her biggest fan. 
It makes me all teary eyed to think about it all. 
I've been so blessed to be such a constant part of their lives. 

So this walk was exciting for us to be a part of. 
As we arrived we saw crowds of people, 
old and young, 
walking, running, and rolling in wheelchairs, 
and it was empowering to think that they were all there 
because they loved someone, 
just like I love Shea. 

She had a huge team of people there to support her
and I hope she remembers that no matter what point of life she gets to
or how alone she feels, 
she will ALWAYS have a huge team of people who love and support her. 


As we walked, all of the little girls tugged on Svea's stroller vying for her attention, 
but she curled her fingers around Haley and Shea on both sides. 
One of the girls said jealously, "Why is she holding onto you?!"
"It's because she knows them. She loves her cousins," I said.
It's true. 
Svea already loves her family members so much
and I am so grateful that she will grow up with them to be loving examples for her. 




What a neat experience it was to be a part of Team Shake N Shea
and spend time with the people I love
(Shea, Haley, Kendelle, James, Grandma, etc)!











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Recipe: Cauliflower Soup

Happy Thursday and Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Instead of sharing a Things I Love Thursday post this week, 
I thought it would be more appropriate to share a delicious recipe!
If you need something quick, easy, and delicious to add 
to your Thanksgiving spread
then my cauliflower soup would be perfect!


Also, I'm a picky eater sometimes, 
so I've adapted most of my recipes to remove a lot of things that
classic picky eaters don't like!

Enjoy!

Start with:

  • 2 1/2 cups cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 3 crushed cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups of chicken broth

Instructions:

  1. Put ingredients above together in a pot.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Cover the pot and simmer for approximately 16 minutes.
  4. Smash mixture until the texture is how you prefer it. (I like to leave some small chunks, but you can puree it all the way if you like.)
  5. Once everything is smashed and blended, stir in the following. 

Finish off with:

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
Add salt and black pepper to your bowl at your own preference!



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Family Gifts Giveaway

For my birthday back in September, 
I received the most wonderful gift from my siblings. 
It was probably the most thoughtful gift I've ever been given by them
and I LOVED it. 
They got me two Phoenix Pogo Passes

Pogo Passes are these amazing passes that get you in to all sorts of 
events, parks, sporting games, museums, and zoos for free for a year! 
Seriously, check out all of the amazing venues here.

Svea is still young enough that she doesn't cost either, 
so we basically can have dates with just Lance and I
or family dates with all three of us!


We have so far been to several of them
and one of the ones we loved was the Sea Life Arizona Aquarium!
With all kinds of neat views of the ocean life there
and interactive exhibits where you can get a look at the life of the fish
and even touch some of them, 
we had so much fun!


One of our favorite spots there
was the Ocean Tunnel where we could see 
rays, sharks, sea turtles, and so many other neat animals! 
Svea was amazed and we loved being able to show her 
this incredible underwater world!


They had a whole exhibit on sea turtles as well
where we got to see many species of turtles that live underwater.
Svea and I even got a first hand look at what hatching from an egg is like. :)


We just had such a great time 
and I cannot even begin to explain
how much I'm looking forward to using our passes 
every single month for the next year
to plan fun dates for our little family
and for Lance and I!


So to celebrate me getting the best gift ever, 
I want to give some great gifts to my readers!

Up for grabs I have three prizes for three lucky winners:

- $20 Shop Credit to A Pretty Life Shop
- $25 Shop Credit to Peanut Brittle Art



Enter in the rafflecopter below to win!

Really want to get some Phoenix Pogo Passes, 
but don't want to pay the $99.99 price?

Enter code PUMPKINTHIEF at checkout 
to get a 60% discount and pay only $39.98
for year long passes!



Happy gift giving!




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Svea's First Halloween

This year was a very exciting Halloween indeed since it was Svea's first!
Lance and I have loved coming up with Halloween costumes each year 
that include our whole family (dogs too)
so we were excited to have Svea in the mix this time!

The first Halloween function we attended was our church Halloween party, 
but Lance couldn't make it that evening, 
so I had to come up with a costume for just Svea and I. 
I settled on us both being Rosie the Riveter!


Svea was adorable! 


I, on the other hand, only tried to do one curl in my hair, 
and ended up burning my forehead.
I am terrible at hair...
At least it turned out decent and you can't see the burn. 



Later that week, someone asked me if I knew of any easy, last minute ideas
for a baby costume, 
so I sat and tried to brainstorm ideas. 
I came up with a little kid and a Beanie Baby!
Everyone seems to have a fluffy animal outfit or pajamas for their kid, 
so if you simply make and attach a tag, 
it's turns out perfectly!
Five minute costume idea!



If I keep her for a long time, she'll be worth millions! :)


Finally, Halloween came and Lance scored an amazing last minute deal
on the biggest pumpkin in our local pumpkin patch!
He carved it out and we put our little Pumpkin in it.
She thought it was hilarious 
and ended up just licking the whole inside because it tasted good!





That evening, we got all dressed up for Halloween in our family costumes. 
We had settled on Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, an elf, and two reindeer!
Between Goodwill, things we already owned, DIY creations, and borrowed costumes parts, 
it all turned out wonderfully!
We even had a bottle of milk and plate of cookies for our little St. Nick.



So Svea got a little taste of sugar as her Halloween treat. :)


For Svea's beard, 
I took an old bib and simply glued batting from a torn old blanket to it.
That was it didn't have to touch her face or bother her. 
Lance created the dogs' antlers from a cardboard box in our garage!

Finally when night came, and I headed over with Svea 
to go to my parents' house and trick or treat with my little brother, Jonas. 
We had been going door to door for a while, 
and my brother was making sure to get as many peanut M&Ms
as he could from people who let him choose.
(Even at the house that passed out full sized candy bars!)
I realized that this was because they are our Pappa's favorite candy 
and JJ wanted to come home with them for him.
I love how selfless he is about little things like that.

When we walked up to one specific house 
 and JJ rang the doorbell, waiting patiently.
The front window had the shades open so we could see an elderly man inside.
Ever so slowly, he got up and shuffled around the kitchen.
A minute later I told my brother, "I don't think he's coming JJ."
"Just wait," he said, "he will."
After literally three or four minutes of us waiting in silence, 
the door finally opened and the man's weary face appeared.
It wasn't hard to tell that he was ill
and I felt bad for having made him get up. 
"I'm so sorry it took me a moment to find the candy.
My wife left to pass out candy with the neighbors,
and I haven't been feeling well, 
so I haven't been answering the door,
but I thought I would bring some to the door this time.
Here you go."

His hands were shaky as he held out candy to my brother,
who gingerly took a piece from him.
Suddenly Svea squealed and the man's face looked up, 
noticing her in my arms for the first time. 

I have never seen such an amazing transformation as I did on that man's face in that moment.
His eyes lit up as he said, 
"Oh sweetie! Do you want some candy too?"
He hobbled out to her and held out a small chocolate bar in a wrapper,
which she used her limited motor skills to take from him.
"There you go!"
She smiled so big that it spread across her whole face.
"She's the prettiest little Santa I ever saw," he said in a whisper.
I was surprised that he knew she was a girl since
 people had been mistaking her for a boy all evening because of her costume.
But he knew.
He stood there for a moment, as though he was soaking in her energy
and she beamed back at him as if she knew she needed to fill him up.
Finally, we said thank you and turned slowly to be on our way to the next houses.

A few homes down, a group of people were all sitting in the front yard,
passing out candy together.
"Sorry you waited at my house for so long.
My husband is there, but he's very ill, 
so he hasn't felt strong enough to answer the door.
I've got some candy for you though."

We realized it was his wife.
"Oh he answered the door and gave us candy," 
we told her.
"Wow really? I hope he got a look at her then,"
she said, gesturing to Svea Claus and smiling.
"He did," we assured her.

We walked around the corner and Jonas said, 
"Did you see his face when he saw Svea?
He loved her!"

"Yeah, he did," I said back. 
I turned my head to wipe away a tear without being seen.
How sick was that sweet, old man?
How many more Halloweens would he be able to come to the door?
Would he get better?
I didn't know the answer to any of these questions.

I did know, though, that that night, Svea had made Halloween happy for him.
She in her unassuming, simple joy had given him the strength he needed 
to beat his pains and take a little courage for that moment. 

Had this all happened to someone else, 
or even to me on another day, 
it might not even have really been noticed,
but that night I was paying attention.
I realized that moments like this happen all the time, 
and we can share in their beauty 
if only we take the time to pay attention.

I promised myself that I would not forget to write 
about how Svea's first Halloween was filled with happiness 
for someone who needed it
because of her incredible, spirit.
Certainly her spirit is much bigger than her little body.

On we walked, down the street to finish trick or treating, 
and my heart was filled to the brim.
The sweetest treat of all was my daughter.
How blessed I am.




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