Charitable giving

As the school year begins, I am thinking not just of the golden evenings between school days, but of the need for help around us.  My students come from a variety of backgrounds, and some are in need of basic clothing, food, and a roof over their heads.  Our country is in the midst of storms and power outages, and though my little world is quite stable, that’s not the case for others.  My daughter asks about the people in Texas, Florida and the ‘Islands’ and if they are home yet.  These tough questions from a four year old bring it home: I have much, so I can give back.  We chose to donate to the Houston Food Bank but there are so many other charities and organizations to choose from.

Birthdays, celebrations and holidays begin to loom over my head, as the resident gift-giver for our family.  I began to look into not only making our own gifts, but also companies who gave back. Thanks to Buzzfeed, I found a great beginning article on charitable companies and how they help.  It’s a beginning!  So my awareness for this time: how can I give back?  How can you?

Embracing the now

As we sit mid-August, I am focusing 100% on being present with my family.  I know that I’m about to enter a busy schedule of over 700 students and bringing them the best musical experience surrounded by a genuine appreciation of who they are.  This is my teachers’ New Years: the time to make resolutions and press a much-needed “reset” button before returning to the full-time balance of work and family.  

So for 2017-18, my focus is on a solid tree, rooted in family, a passion for bringing joyful music-making to students of ALL backgrounds, and of keeping true to myself in the midst.  Surrounded by so many others who are doing their best to plod forward, I can feel hopeful for the year ahead.

On the awareness front, we have embraced Prescribe-Nutrition as a family unit, pressing a “reset” on our nutrition before we all get busy!  It is very simpatico with the writings of Michael Pollan and how I have been feeling over the summer about whole foods and less processed food entering our normal diet.  Being able to do this with a good friend has been wonderful, and I highly recommend this plan if you are looking at how and why you eat the way you do.  Feeling so much more energy these days!

De-cluttering: family stage

While on vacation, our minimalist de-cluttering took a back seat.  Though my parents, our host for the past month, are impressively minimalist people!   We returned home, and in the few days that I took while the kids played with their friends at daycare, this is what I’ve noticed:

  • A summer of de-cluttering has really cleared my mind!
  • De-cluttering is simpler with practice: Throw it? Recycle it?  Donate it?  or Keep it? (aka put it back where it is supposed to be)  Those are the only choices.
  • Our kids seem happier with less choice: One toy bin means one place to look for toys to play with.  They end up playing with each other more often than toys, anyways.
  • Our kids can help clean up!  The one toy bin on the main floor is where all of the toys for the day go.  Books on the shelf.  Clean up takes 5 minutes.
  • The kids now ask to de-clutter: our daughter this morning commented, “mom, I can’t find….(name object here)….I think it’s time we clean up the art shelf.”  She’s four.
  • It’s never-ending.  Oh gosh, one morning of cleaning, and I slipped down a few rabbit holes (the kids’ bookshelf, the bathroom closet, my nighstand, my clothing, a new bag for recycling….!!)
  • But once a little thing is taken care of, it’s very rewarding.  A clean shelf.  Another bag for donation. Books walked to the lending library.  Sigh.
  • My husband (a naturally ‘less is more’ person), seems very pleased with the progress.

Coincidentally, I’m enjoying “The Worry Trick” on audible by David A. Carbonell.  It all ties in nicely with wanting to clean outside and in.  Happy August!

How does it feel to give away?

This sweet and spicy four-year old came with me to drop off our first trunkload of donations to a local center, Joseph’s Coat.  (They are very full of donations, but are looking for hygiene care and new socks/undies, etc.. by the way!)  As we drove up, a friendly man made jokes with her and gathered our things.  She stood quietly by and took the experience in, and as we drove away I asked her how it felt to donate our things.  “Sad” she replied.  When I asked her why, she explained that she’ll never see those clothes, toys and things ever again.  We sat in silence for a bit.  We talked about when we’re sick and need help, the people and places that help us get better, and how there will be times when we need something and times when we can give something.  She sat for a moment and asked, “So, when will we go back to donate more things?”

It felt amazing to share this first experience with her- to discover the many feelings involved in giving away.  We are very lucky to have so many clothes, books, toys, household items that we are in a place donate.  We cannot always expect to be in this place.  She won’t see the families and people receiving the same things, but she understands what it means to need something and receive help.  I am hoping, like Becker said in “Clutterfree with kids,” that we are teaching her the value of an experience over objects, as well as the sense of community in our intentional work.  That friendly man?  He’s our neighbor, the woman after us in the donation line?  She rang up our groceries last week.  It is my hope that these experiences add up to create a woman who understand the value of our community.

Awareness update: clutter!

So, about a month ago, while rocking little e to sleep, I was watching documentaries. First it was on chefs, then it morphed to the nature and science of cooking, after that, I watched one on sustainability, and finally on minimalism.  As a pastor’s kid, my family was minimalist to begin with.  We made to with what was passed our way, and my mom was amazing at keeping a clean home while being an artist, juggling three very different kids, and being that sweet (and spicy) pastor’s wife and all the job titles associated with it.

My superhero mom with little e

My superhero mom with little e

Currently, husband and I have been talking for a while about whether we are outgrowing our home.  A family of four in a three-bedroom house (I know, in most metro-areas, we have struck GOLD!  Let’s mention the nearly two backyards we have…), but visiting family and an upright piano has made things, well, cramped.

Enter, “Clutterfree with Kids” by Joshua Becker.  Part-cultish, part-logic, this book has already shed light on the fact that we may (or may not) be living in a perfectly fine sized home.  It may just happen to be filled with clutter.  And our priorities, also, may be filled with clutter.  So this weekend, I decided to flex my beginning minimalist muscles: the fridge.  I filled an entire 10 gallon bucket with organics waste (all out-of-date), two recycling bins and then cleaned out the glass.  What remains is a very organized, only-needed-items space.  If the fridge can look this good, what could happen to the living room? …..basement?

Next step: move the kids together (we are pumping big E on the excitement train!), hold a garage sale (get ready, Saint Paul.  lots of great baby things coming your way!), and de-clutter our little home. Then we can talk about our space and whether we need more of it.

Sustainability

January 4, 2017: So in light of all of the things happening this year, I’ve decided to make choices to positively change my environmental impact- I did some research and found a list that I feel good about, and will post one of my own challenges each week! 

i.e. What can we do in this increasingly environmentally-aware era?  We now have two children, and I would like to leave a good space for them, have them be aware of the impact they have on this earth, and of course, be healthy.  This began as a little research in the 2017 New Year.  My resolution tumbled into weekly facebook posts, which them spun into this page.  Here are the past posts that I’ve made, as a sort of collection of the things our little family is trying to do to make a better impact on this place that we love so dearly.

What are we leaving for them?

 

June 22, 2017: Welp, we did it, folks!  Took the trash out for the third time this summer, and only one bag lives in the bottom of the bin.  The rest we’ve diversified to organics recycling (LOVE that it’s on my favorite section of Grand avenue!) and the big blue recycling bin.  This was the first week that the recycling truck drivers had a temper-tantrum with me and flung the extra two bags that overflowed into our yard.  I guess I found their limit!

Also, excited to start reading my next summer read: “Clutter-free with kids” by Joshua Becker.  Our tiny house is overwhelmed with trinkets, most of them forgotten in a day by the kids.  Wonder how this may affect our family and living in our little home?

More about “Clutter Free with Kids”

June 16, 2017: Bringing awareness to a different place this week: Ella has a genetic issue with her eye turning inward (esotropia strabismus), and so we’ve limited screen time to keep her eye issues at bay, with other pretty positive outcomes. After talking to her pediatric optometrist, he lead us to this website to discuss a family media plan. Pretty interesting info for families of all types when considering when and how to use screen time positively!

AAP Media Family Plan link

Awareness in terms of environment- bamboo toothbrushes! Did you know how many toothbrushes float around the oceans and fill landfills? This company makes sustainable bamboo ones, biodegradable and sold at target! Yahoo!

Woobamboo toothbrushes

Woobamboo toothbrushes.  Loved their caption on the back.

June 9, 2017: Michael Pollan on supporting local agriculture: (farmers markets, CSA, co-ops) “Yes, shopping this way takes more money and effort, but as soon you begin to treat that expenditure not just as shopping but also as a kind of vote–a vote for health in the largest sense–food no longer seems like the smartest place to economize.” (“In Defense of Food”)

June 1, 2017: This week has been focused on our new summertime endeavor: organics (NOT organs!!) recycling! I hold out hope that Saint Paul will one day have curbside pickup for it, but In the meantime, we have our bin and have reduced our trash drastically!

Saint Paul Organics information

May 23, 2017: This week: attempting sourdough bread from a starter! I’m just learning about the benefits of sourdough for your gut and well-being. And “feeding” the starter has intrigued my daughter immensely! Let’s hope the family enjoys the bread, too!

Best pastry sous-chef around!

Best pastry sous-chef around!

A comedian joked about Americans’ complete waste of clean water. Makes me ponder our waste. Anyone else looked into what we could do to help communities who need clean water? http://www.charitywater.org/whywater/

May 14, 2017: One big bucket list item achieved, thanks to my dad and kind husband! We will now plant two magnolia trees along our back yard, next spring they’ll blossom a sweet purple and add more to our little world!

 

My wise owl helping me put the two trees in, mother's day 2017

My wise owl helping me put the two trees in, mother’s day 2017

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April 30, 2017: This week’s focus is technology and unplugging at night so save in wasted energy, but it’s turned into a family ordeal in that we’ve limited/eliminated screen time until the kids are asleep. So far, the result has been less, “I’m bored!” Statements from the 3-year old, way more mess at the end of the day, calmer time enjoying each other and a spirit of play. Save on energy AND sanity!

No screens? Might as well make music together!

No screens? Might as well make music together!

April 23, 2017: Happy belated Earth day! This week’s focus is a fun one: buying local to save in transportation (of my drive and the commute of goods). I continue to enjoy shopping at my local shops to get to know my neighborhood- the hardware store with their sweet knowledge, a baby boutique with creative gifts, this SUPER tiny bookshop run by school librarians, and our local co-o to name my favorites. Can’t wait to get some plants from the farmers market!!

He seems to enjoy the good produce!

He seems to enjoy the good produce!

April 19, 2017: Two great quotes I stumbled upon today: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin. And “The one condition necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke

April 16, 2017: This week’s focus- paper. Recycling newspaper and using or recycling all of the paper we come in contact with. Jeffs birthday is coming up, and so I’ll use Ella’s drawings and newspaper to act as wrapping paper. My to-do lists on old envelopes and recycling all of the packaging (and it’s a lot! Cereal, soap boxes, toothpaste boxes). Phasing out paper towels has been a little tricky, but it’s working out quite well!

some SERIOUSLY fun wrapping paper!

some SERIOUSLY fun wrapping paper!

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April 15, 2017: Hung the laundry outside, spread mulch, baked with my daughter with the windows wide open and laughed as the little guy crawled gleefully all over the yard. What an amazing weekend so far!

Nothing better

Nothing better

April 13, 2017: I’m hooked on Netflix’s “Cooked,” and while watching the first episode, I realized our next eco commitment, which we had started thanks to local co-ops. The importance of choosing meat that was given a good life as an animal, preferably locally raised has risen high on my list of priorities. I’m already introducing the family to at least one vegetarian meal a week, but even a glimpse into how corporations treat animals for mass production is enough to make it clear that I cannot support that. Humane treatment is a must if we are choosing to eat meat.

More on Michael Pollan’s “Cooked.” Truly inspiring

April 10, 2017: This week’s eco-focus: recycling! Saint Paul gave us huge single-sort bins, and it wasn’t until we road-tripped this weekend that I realized how set we are on recycling! Boxes, clear lids, the tin foil tops of yogurts, all go in, and this has drastically cut our trash waste down. Next investment is organics recycling (meat and dairy, a drop-off location nearby), then I wonder how little waste we could generate?

We decorated the top to make it more inspiring. Now it fills up 3-4 times weekly!

We decorated the top to make it more inspiring. Now it fills up 3-4 times weekly!

And because I’ve been home with a sick kid: update on un-paper towels. They’re a hit! Ella quickly reaches for them, Jeff loves them as napkins, and our old wet bag from cloth diapers holds the dirty ones between washing. I like sewing new color combinations with each batch, too!

Old diaper wet-bag to hold them in-between washes. Great idea!

Old diaper wet-bag to hold them in-between washes. Great idea!

Buzzfeed video on plastics (now I’m very curious about this CleanPath brand…)

March 26, 2017: Eco-focus for the week:I made reusable bags that turn into picnic plates. Out of oilcloth that will last a lifetime and bring a smile to my face! Less plastic in the trash can!

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March 19,2017: This week’s eco-friendly focus (besides dreaming of a homestead…): unpaper towels! I just ordered plain flour sack towels, will cut them up (thanks to a tutorial on pinterest) and will replace them with the paper towels we currently use A LOT. Even our cloth-diapering days are being recalled, as we’ll use the wet-bag to store them in-between washes! 🙂

BIG hit in the Camozzi home!

BIG hit in the Camozzi home!

March 17, 2017: This week’s eco-friendly approach: simple usability. Ella and I have been making things we normally buy: bread (when not sick), soap, washcloths, drawstring bags…. And now that spring is coming, we’re beginning to plot the vegetable garden and think about how we could jar things for next winter. What do we love to eat? Can we grow it in our backyard plot? Spring break is the perfect time for dreaming up a great little veggie/fruit patch!

Given as gifts within the week (infused with lemon, lavender and eucalyptus!). We may need to make more!

Given as gifts within the week (infused with lemon, lavender and eucalyptus!). We may need to make more!

An easy soap recipe I used. Bought the materials and we were in business!

March 7, 2017: This week’s focus- (and as all teachers would state- in need of a little ‘recharging’ as we head toward spring break) using rechargeable batteries, in my class and at home. To save on dumping and filling landfills with batteries, recharging saves money and waste! (I even got a dock in my classroom, super nifty).

February 25, 2017: This week’s (life’s) focus: them. Focusing on my children. My family. After last week and no doubt a lifetime of scary unknowns, I am only reminded more fiercely to love them and celebrate their stages. Ella’s curiosity found a home with science today, as Eldon squeals at every new discovery. I choose to embrace life around these lovely beings so that their future is full of love.

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February 21, 2017: This week’s efforts at making a change came as a struggle for me. Then yesterday’s bomb threat and my own childrens’ safety made it clear. I called all congress people that I can effect and told them my story. Thanked them for their effort and urged them to push the NSA and FBI to did those responsible for threatening our children and community. I am not Jewish, but have a profound love and respect for the Jewish community. It warmed my heart to see the Muslim leadership step
Up and offer a reward for finding the caller(s).

Love Wins

Love Wins

February 12, 2017: Focus for the week: DOING something about getting out the vote. Thanks to Katie Bee, I’m learning about phone banking. And thanks to Jeff Camozzi for watching the kids, mostly, we can do it while baking bread and sipping coffee (and feeding babies…)

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February 4, 2017: This week’s conservation focus: food. Americans waste more food than any other country, this is no surprise. So with the help of my favorite Mennonite cook book, and my sous-chef, our family is attempting to eat less meat (we don’t eat much anyways), and make food that creates less waste: more home-made, lots of fresh produce, less packaging. And making it together only makes it more fun!

January 27, 2017: This week I’m leaving my environmental list alone and focusing on environment, civics, education and plain morals in the larger aspect. I am grateful for my senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, and for my 20 minute commute- more time calling them, I suppose? I believe the enemy of democracy is complacency. Keep calling!

January 22, 2017: This week’s focus on loving our earth a bit more- using environmentally-friendly diapers. In a perfect world, I’d do cloth, but our daycare does not (three cheers for those who do!!). So I’m spending more and testing out brands. Up side? Adorable bicycles and bow-ties on little man’s bum, thanks to Honest company!

January 15, 2017:This week’s crunchy thing our family is doing (my way of protesting these days..): joining a co-op! Mississippi market couldn’t be a friendlier place and they align so well with our eco-friendly meanderings: bringing our own bags and even egg cartons makes it fun. And buying locally is supporting our neighbors and the Midwest. (And have you TRIED farm-fresh milk in a glass bottle???? Amazing!!)

Mississippi Market! Such a happy place…

January 7, 2017: This week’s efforts to conserve- my dad helped me put my outdoor clotheslines up in the basement and I’m hanging laundry. It saves the energy spent on the dryer (and the cost of using it) and it’s been a surprisingly calming activity.(also makes the basement smell good and the dry air dries our clothing out faster than I thought it would!).

January 4, 2017: So in light of all of the things happening this year, I’ve decided to make choices to positively change my environmental impact- I did some research and found a list that I feel good about, and will post one of my own challenges each week! This week? Conserve water by not pre-rinsing dishes. Instead, I’m collecting the water used throughout our mornings and evenings and soaking the dishes in that (along with soap) before tossing them into the dishwasher! In the process, Jeff is calling me “crunchy.” 😜http://www.50waystohelp.com

Ella Mae 10 months

Ella Mae’s 10th month seemed to FLY by!  From April to May, Ella celebrated her first Easter, went to mom’s choir concert, a wedding shower and many walks around the Mississippi river (watching things thaw and plants beginning to sprout!)  She met and LOVED her friend Joanna (who flew in to dance at midwest lindyfest), and she chose her lovey- a very soft white bear that now MUST be in the crib for sleep to happen.  She continued to play (little imp!) and discover (like putting objects in other objects).  She brings us such joy!

Playing with Joanna and a balloon (which she calls "baBA!"

Playing with Joanna and a balloon (which she calls “baBA!”

Ella loves to play!

Ella loves to play!

Neighbor Amy showing her the tulips

Neighbor Amy showing her the tulips

Ella likes grass!

Ella likes grass!

Dandelions

Dandelions

Ella ate new food: quinoa, pasta, bread, avocado, cauliflower, green beans, and asparagus this month!

Ella ate new food: quinoa, pasta, bread, avocado, cauliflower, green beans, and asparagus this month!

Cuddles with mom

Cuddles with mom

Playing with dad in the front yard!

Playing with dad in the front yard!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella Mae 9 months

Ella Mae is 9 months old!

She’s a mover!  Ella Mae continues to grow and giggle throughout her 9th month.  She’s pulling to stand and lowering herself (most days), learning to fall (Ouch!) and wants to eat anything in sight.  Still no teeth, but her little gums are quite strong!

Up north with daddy

Up north with the dads

Up north with the dads

Photo-bomb!

Photo-bomb!

Standing...

Standing…

lowering...

lowering…

...and taking a break!

…and taking a break!

 

Ella Mae’s 9th month was full of mommy’s concerts, going up north to a cabin, and spring break with grandmartha!  We saw more snow than we’d want to as it approaches spring, but she stays in good spirits.  (or we do!)  Day trips to the library, local cafes and errands with her nanny keep Ella on her toes.  Oh and we can’t forget playdates with the neighborhood babies!

Time with grandmartha!

Time with grandmartha!

Grandmartha loves to play

Grandmartha loves to play

Walks at the mall

Walks at the mall

Walks at the mall

Walks at the mall

 

Playing at the Swedish American Institute

Playing at the Swedish American Institute

Ella Mae and daddy at music class!

Ella Mae and daddy at music class!

And of course grandmartha needs to bring her to an art museum!  Ella points out the details with her foot.

And of course grandmartha needs to bring her to an art museum! Ella points out the details with her foot.

Sweet times with grandmartha

Sweet times with grandmartha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella Mae: 8 Months

During her 8th month, Ella’s fiery spirit continued to shine.  She even took a trip to her first dance event, Heartland Swing Festival in Des Moines, Iowa!  She had her first stomach flu, which was quite scary, but all recovered well.

She continues to feed herself, loves pinching vegetables and fruit between her fingers, and shoves anything in front of her in her mouth (including her hands).  She makes us giggle daily, and she takes us on many “walks” throughout the house!

Wearing a heartland swing shirt with her uncle Michael!

Wearing a heartland swing shirt with her uncle Michael!

Ella's first swing dance dress (the headband was flung like a frisbee a few minutes into the dance).

Ella’s first swing dance dress (the headband was flung like a frisbee a few minutes into the dance).

cutie pie!

cutie pie!

Ella swam while in the hotel for the dance event in Des Moines- happy baby!

Ella swam while in the hotel for the dance event in Des Moines- happy baby!

ready to throw down on the dance floor in Iowa!

ready to throw down on the dance floor in Iowa!

Ella pinches EVERYTHING!  even prunes!  (though this was the night that she came down with the stomach flu.  Hasn't liked prunes since...)

Ella pinches EVERYTHING! even prunes! (though this was the night that she came down with the stomach flu. Hasn’t liked prunes since…)

Sleepy baby getting better from the stomach flu

Sleepy baby getting better from the stomach flu

What a beautiful little babe

What a beautiful little babe

We continue our walks

We continue our walks

..and play peekaboo!

..and play peekaboo!

..and as we wait for teeth to come in, we gnaw on everything!

..and as we wait for teeth to come in, we gnaw on everything!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ella Mae: her 7th month

The challenge of two working parents and a growing little beauty!  It is hard to find the time to keep up, so I will attempt to keep a monthly tab on our sweet girl!  In her 7th month, Ella grew a little bit, said a few new words (and blew many raspberries!), and ate more food!  Nola dog is not too sure about her mobility, which resulted in Ella’s first big boo-boo (a scratch to the forehead).  She also got her passport, ready for some international travel this summer!  She continues to smile, chat away, crawl and walk us around by both hands.

Ella is standing on her own with wobbles for a few seconds at a time, and feeds herself quite messily.  She can pull to stand, which also meant a lower crib.  She wasn’t too sure about that, but got used to it.  She also began to ride in the grocery cart seats, which was thrilling and a bit scary.  Ella’s normal reaction to new things is fear, but then she warms quickly.

so playful in her exersaucer!

so playful in her exersaucer!

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Ella riding in the seat at the grocery store, what an adventure!

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We think she liked the seat at the store. Such independence!

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These eyes spell trouble!

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Ella so wants to stand on her own!

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During one of the weeks when daddy was out of town, we had many cuddles

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goodness, the faces she makes!

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We finally took a walk when the temperature rose to 30 degrees. Blissful!

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Ella loves helping mommy cook- she’s a loud sous-chef banging her pots and lids!

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Ella and her godfather Michael

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high five!

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face grab

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Ella loves pulling at faces

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Michael loves Ella

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OUCH!

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Yet another snow day- after a blizzard tore into town,this is the face that greeted me the next morning. A fun mommy-daughter day ensued!

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Ella Mae can sit up on her own!

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Our neighborhood after another blizzard- Ella has had quite a first winter!

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We took a walk after the blizzard- Ella was not so sure about the white white snow and the cold cold wind

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After the blizzard, we had to change plans to go up north to a cabin with friends. Instead, we went to each others’ homes and played! Ella with Micah

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Micah, a month older than Ella, is not sure how to play with our little girl

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love these looks!

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Right before this, Micah crawled over Ella to get to a toy- she was unfazed.

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