Bring Your Best to Mothering

“I looked on childrearing not only as a work of love and duty but as a profession that was fully interesting and challenging as any honourable profession in the world and one that demanded the best that I could bring to it.”
– Rose Kennedy

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I haven’t always felt like Rose Kennedy. Early on I assumed it was my role, my duty, as a strong woman, to pursue a career. But by the time I got engaged, my heart had changed a lot. But God wasn’t finished yet…

When we became pregnant for the first time, it was both of our heart’s desires to have me home with our child full-time. Financially, that wasn’t possible. So I spoke to my boss, and they were willing to employ me half-time, working two 10-hr days each week. We found a daycare that would take Anja 1 1/2 days per week, and Husband kept her home with him one morning each week and worked four full days and one half-day. It was a wonderful arrangement that we kept until Anja was just over two. At that time my photography business had experienced a very successful first full year, my income was matching that of my half-time job, and so I quit three months shy of Markus’s birth.

So even though I was home with my kids, I was also working a LOT of hours in mid-spring through late fall, shooting on weekends, editing every night after we put the kids to bed. I got a lot of time with the littles, but virtually NO time with my husband. That took its toll on our marriage.

Fast forward three years, and Husband received several promotions and raises. Because I’m too stubborn (stupid?) to pare down my own schedule, God began to take away, bit by bit, some of my photography obligations. I no longer worked in the commercial sector, and I no longer felt I had to accept every engaged couple if they weren’t a good fit.

God also gave me a husband who has vastly different “down time” needs from me, and that has helped me keep more of a balance in my life. I would work non-stop until I burnt out and only then evaluate what was truly something I should be doing. See a need–fill it! was my modus operandi.

Today I am a full-time mom, home educator, and very part-time photographer. I still help out at our co-op, at church, and have many outside-the-home duties, but I am feeling more comfortable each day with saying “no” to things that will take time away from my family or be detrimental to my marriage. I definitely find mothering fulfilling, interesting, and certainly challenging, but I still struggle with the feeling that I’m not “doing my part” financially for our family. I have been wrestling with that bit for a couple years now, and I think it will just take continued prayer and trust that God really does want me here, that He really does have a plan for me even if I’m not raking in the dough, and that plan just might include spending more time with Him, more time with my kids, and more time NOT running frantically from activity to duty to event.

Every mom wants to do their best (or should want to, anyway!). We each have different scenarios…some work full-time, some work part-time, some stay home…and God has different things in store for each and every one of us. But let’s do our best to mother, in His grace, and see the joy and challenge and honor in it.

Thankful Tree 2014

We had our usual Thankful Tree up this year, but it was a little bigger than before. The kids were great at initiating and writing down their own leaves. We did a paper version on the wall. It took a while for me to cut it out, so I’m re-purposing it as a place to hang our Christmas cards during December. Here’s what we had to be thankful for in 2014:

Husband:

  • Anja
  • Heat
  • Space
  • That my migraine pill worked
  • Beef stew
  • Supper
  • Heidi’s teaching (the kids)
  • Warm house
  • Markus
  • Heidi
  • A car

Me:

  • Anja’s storytelling
  • Caring friends post-miscarriage
  • Snuggles with Markus
  • God’s financial provision
  • An evening with a good friend
  • Markus’s enthusiasm for Alaska
  • Halloween candy
  • The library (twice!)
  • Husband’s diligent work on the toilet handle
  • Jan Karon
  • Time playing basketball at the gym
  • Family nights
  • Worshiping with my 3rd/4th grade small group
  • Glitter snow
  • Free mittens
  • Laughter
  • Sunshine on a long day
  • Considerate friends
  • Homeschool
  • Hot soup on a cold day
  • Markus doing T25

Anja:

  • Markus!
  • MOMS group
  • TV
  • Mom!
  • Snow
  • Light and darkness
  • Dad
  • The fun time I had with Malia and Nolan
  • Supper
  • Grandma and Grandpa
  • Swimming
  • Grandma and Grandpa’s arrival
  • That we got to set up the tent
  • Jungle Book
  • Happy times
  • Jesus
  • Fun, new Kindle game
  • Day and night
  • Jesus. Without him the whole world wouldn’t be here.
  • Mama
  • Christmas
  • Warmer weather

Markus:

  • The Avengers
  • Candy in my Halloween bag
  • Beautiful trees outside
  • That the snow has dried up
  • Pot pie
  • Earth, because otherwise our house would be floating in space
  • Snowmen
  • Snow
  • The number 6
  • Being taken care of when I’m sick
  • Our house
  • Eating this food
  • Jelly and peanut butter
  • School
  • Fun with friends on Halloween
  • Ninja Turtles
  • Swimming
  • My new shirt
  • Building a house with blocks

Anja, 7 years

Anja, at seven years old, you:

  • Are attached to your guys just as much as when you were a toddler. Sherman and Malia remain your top picks, followed by Coco and Elsa (a dolly I made for you last fall). You rarely go anywhere without at least one of them with.
  • Are very emotional. We’re back to tantrums again, only now they aren’t just loud screams, they are vitriol and threats against your family. Yikes. Hoping and praying this will be overcome.
  • Are, on the other hand, very nurturing at times. Especially with other little kids (besides your brother). You are patient and kind with them, always trying to help entertain and lead.
  • Continue to be a self-proclaimed “artist.” 🙂 I am glad that you enjoy your artistic abilities…we’re working on humility.
  • Have new favorites. Color: pink, snack: cheese and crackers, cereal: Chocolate Chex, book: Bobbsey Twins series, holiday: Halloween, food: cookies, game: hide and seek.
  • Are silly and happy most of the time. You dance like your mama with a bit of your daddy thrown in. You are always making awful jokes and trying to get others to laugh along with you.
  • Are generous. You would give the clothes off your back if someone else needed them.
  • Are in 2nd grade.
  • Have grown so much at your reading and writing! Your cursive is rather pretty, and you will sit and read chapter books in your room now. You still hate math with a fiery passion, but we’re plugging away.
  • Can pose like nobody’s business. I took you out for your 7-year photo shoot, and every time you heard the shutter click, you struck a different pose. It was amusing, yet concerning, if that makes sense. 🙂
  • Are on the charts again for height! 93rd percentile. Yet you continue to grow out of pants at a rate that makes me consider taking out a loan…
  • Are a poet (and you know it…*groan*). You write songs and poetry in your spare time and will often perform them without any entreaty to do so.
  • Have no fear of speaking in public. I’m thankful that you started CC last year, because each week includes an oral presentation, and you could go on and on…you’ve come a long way since being scared of other kids when you were three!
  • Are playing better and better with Markus. As you two age, you seem better able to come up with things to play together, though you still take the role of “boss” while Markus is often the “underling.” Thankfully his strong personality doesn’t stand for too much of it.
  • Seem to be having lots of moments of “hearing” God. I don’t put too much stock in them yet, because often they aren’t very biblical, but I’m thankful you’re interested in reading His word and learning to listen to what He says.
  • Have lost two teeth and have one more on top that is wiggling.
  • Want to be a ballerina and a photographer when you grow up. Well, then.

We love you lots, little lady, and we are partners with you in prayer that you will continue to grow in maturity and in love for Christ.

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Markus, 4 1/2

Little man of ours, at 4 1/2, you:

  • Verbalize everything. You are a non-stop talker from the moment your feet hit the floor until your head hits the pillow. It is exhausting for this mama, who is an internal processor.
  • Are incredibly creative. We marvel at your drawings, the things you create out of Duplos, your play stories, your questions. I love how God has wired you!
  • Are getting more adventurous with foods. You will now occasionally accept a small amount of sauce or dressing with salads, and you’ve eaten tomatoes (only one and very on purpose) several times.
  • Have stopped napping. You gave them up cold turkey at the end of May. That’s been a transition, to say the least. 🙂
  • Are as intense as ever. You have patented what we call your “pterodactyl scream,” which occurs anytime you are interrupted, anytime your sister gets near you, anytime you aren’t getting what you want, anytime we “aren’t listening to you,” and many other instances. We. hate. it. And we are still working with you on overcoming your need to it. “Please use words instead,” is heard a lot around here.
  • Disassemble everything. We find screws, bolts, nuts…just PIECES of your bed, your easel, your toys…everywhere. I fully expect your bed to collapse beneath you some night.
  • Demand very specific coloring pages. Your coloring books are not good enough anymore. I have had to limit you to one coloring sheet per day, or I’d be printing them out hourly. And you always have a very specific idea in mind when you request them, which isn’t easily met. “Mama, I want a racecar coloring sheet, but no faces on the cars, and with lots of cars on a racetrack, and one of them is the number nine…” I can’t tell you the number of coloring sheets I’ve ended up drawing for you because nothing online matched your customized request.
  • Enjoy reading. I read aloud to you and Anja probably 30-60 minutes per day, and you both enjoy it immensely. Daddy has read you Redwall and has started Mossflower with you over the past six months, and while they’re a bit over your head, you still listen for the most part. Some other chapter books you’ve enjoyed are: The Cricket in Times Square, Henry Huggins, and several of The Bobbsey Twins series.
  • Are getting more independent. Some days you’ll even open your dresser and grab your own clothes and get dressed before I’m awake. I don’t mind that at all!
  • Say the funniest things. We really appreciate your sense of humor. For instance, just while I was writing this, you fussed, “I have to pretend destroy Anja, but she’s running really fast and she’s not going to give my Legos back to me unless I pretend kill her!”
  • Need to be externally motivated. Unlike your sister, who is only self-motivated, you need a carrot dangled in order to accomplish tasks, whether it be a treat, a privilege, or an outing. You see no need to complete chores unless there’s something in it for you.
  • Wrestle with anyone who will let you near them. They might be your size or 6 times your size (Mr. Dustin?), you charge at them with the same ferocity. Your sister does not always appreciate this. You are competitive.
  • Act shy around strangers until they look away. Then you realize you might lose their attention and begin talking their ears off.
  • Are a very social boy. You want to be around people constantly. Getting you to stay in your room for longer than 5 minutes for afternoon quiet time is a big challenge.
  • Have some favorites. Color: blue. Food: pizza. Movie: Planes. Bible Story: David and Goliath. Book: Transformers something-or-other from the library. Toy: Audralina the fox. Indoor activity: Legos. Outdoor activity: biking.
  • Learned to bike with pedals. Now we can do family bike rides! They’re on the slow side, but still fun.
  • Can write most of your letters and some of your numbers. I think we’re going to work on letter formation this year. After spending months un-teaching and re-teaching your sister all her letters in first grade, I want to start you off right!
  • Still like to cuddle with your mama. I’m so glad!
  • Are curious. I think this is why you take things apart and ask so many questions…you have a great desire to learn! We were amazed by your little sponge-brain picking up almost all of Anja’s memory work just from listening along in the car.
  • Have had a little growth spurt since spring, but are still short for your age. All the friends you dwarfed as a baby are taller than you.

We love you, Markus, and we are excited to see where God takes you and how He uses your unique giftings.

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Sea Life Aquarium MN

This week our family got a chance to visit Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America. They sent us some complimentary tickets a couple weeks ago, and Husband took the day off work so we could all go together.

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They just closed their octopus exhibit and are gearing up for a crab exhibit called Claws! It opens in June and includes Giant Japanese Spider Crabs. Those things are HUGE!

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My personal favorite creature was the garden eel. I could’ve watched those little guys for half an hour. Husband said they reminded him of Slimey. They fed them while we were there, and all these little snails appeared out of nowhere (I think they crawled up out of the sand) and started eating, too.

One other funny moment was when Husband was holding Markus in the Ocean Tunnel (where the creatures swim right over/around you), and I pointed and said, “Look!” Markus turned around and there was a huge stingray right in his face. He panicked and dug his little face into Husband’s neck.

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If you are looking for something fun to do in the Twin Cities and are short on time, check out Sea Life. Kids of ALL ages will enjoy it!

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They also have tours for school groups and even a special week for homeschools.

(Out to lunch afterward)

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Spring 2014 Fun List

Every season, we make a “Fun List.” They’re probably similar to the “bucket lists” you see on Pinterest, but we strive to keep our lists relatively short (10-20 items per season) and attainable. And though we live in MN, we use them for the actual 3-month seasons, so often our fall and spring fun lists need to include snow activities. Here are a few lists from past years as well as a list of what we have on our current list:

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1. Go eye-balling

2. Go swimming at the gym

3. Sprinkler/water table fun

4. Make an Easter craft

5. Hike at a local park

6. Family bike ride

7. Eat at our favorite local diner

8. Fly kites

9. Play at the park

10. Go to Dakota Heritage Village

11. Rides at the Mall of America

12. Special surprise for Daddy

13. Plant a garden

14. Draw flowers on the sliding door with dry erase markers

15. Pick strawberries

We keep this list posted in the kitchen so that we can revisit it every week or so, crossing off things we’ve done or planning when to try something else on it. As you can see, the items vary widely in the amount of prep/$/time involved. And I try to steer the kids toward things that we already have on the calendar. So far, spring cleaning hasn’t made the list. 🙂

Anja, 6 1/2

Oh, the years, how they fly! I can never believe it when my kids hit their half-birthdays and birthdays, and this one is no exception. I’m a month late in even posting this! Anja, at six and a half, you:

  • Are challenging me in new ways. I wasn’t prepared for the flip that switched on your six birthday. You are more mature, yet sassier as well. And tantrums have begun anew. That could have something to do with the fact that you finally gave up naps around that time, or it could just be what you’re going through developmentally. Growing is hard. You have big emotions. We’re here for you, even when it’s tough.
  • Are still tall. In fact, you’ve grown another inch and a quarter since October. You are often mistaken for a 7- or 8-yr-old. And you wear size 7 and 8 clothes, except when the waists are too big for them to work. It’s hard, because you have the bodice size of a 5T or 6, but you need an 8 for length. I buy you dresses and have to return them all the time because the bodice and arm holes are too big.
  • Are an artist. At least, that’s what you tell people. We chuckle, but you do produce a lot of art, usually in the form of crayon/pencil drawings or cards made for others. We love your sweet spirit that is always thinking of how to bless others with your words. You made cards for each of us as surprises the other day. Mine said, “I love you more than ever.” Dad’s said, “Dad, you are rocking love.” And Markus’s said, “You are racing love.” Mine was clearly the best. Haha!
  • Have really gotten a good grasp on reading. We started The Bobbsey Twins series a couple weeks ago, and you are doing great. I remember reading those at your age and loving them, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be poring over them on your own. Your handwriting has improved immensely, and it has been both a trial and a blessing to walk through learning with you this year.
  • Are loving Classical Conversations. As with every year, it seems, we had another big decision to make for next fall, and when asked you chose to stick with that. It is a good fit for you, and you have a much easier time with the memory work than I anticipated.
  • Are still incredibly creative in your playtime. Storytelling remains a favorite activity, though you’re much more likely to stop now when someone walks up on you. I know this self-awareness has come with age, and I should’ve expected it, but I don’t like it. I miss being able to eavesdrop on all that is going on in your world.
  • Are engaging your brother in play more and more often. As he gets older, I think you see his potential as a character in your plots, so he is sometimes given a role. OR I’ve even caught you playing cars with him and doing things he likes, which is great. Big sisters can be so bossy, and you are, but you are also so tender with Markus at times.
  • Are still learning how to tidy up. You’re always willing to pitch in and help, especially with Markus’s things, but your own room…well…let’s just say it’s not very neat (and that’s being VERY polite). We’ve had to revoke some privileges and pare things WAY down to make it manageable for you, but I’m confident that if we keep after this together, you’ll be able to be tidier than me.
  • Have favorites (though they are ever-changing). Color: purple. Food: c. Sport: ballet. Book: Redwall. Movie: Aristocats. TV Show: Jake & The Neverland Pirates. Holiday: Easter and Christmas. School Subject: art. Best Friend: Markus (awwww….).
  • Want to be a dancer or a gymnast when you grow up. Considering you have taken tap/ballet for about 3 years less than the other girls in your class, you’re doing quite well!
  • Have a great understanding of the gospel, but aren’t sure yet if you want to call yourself a believer. We keep praying that God will get a hold of your heart and that He will become your ultimate treasure!
  • Love playing with friends. You are often a ringleader and have a hard time following, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’m trying to teach you about listening to others’ opinions and being a little more diplomatic. Hard things for a firstborn, I realize (from experience).
  • Still favor your doll Malia and your dog Sherman. Coco, and a few other selects are out most of the time as well. I’ve taken you to the American Girl store a couple times and asked if you would like one, but you always decline. I’m glad you’re self-aware enough to resist the materialist pull, because sometimes I kind of want one. 🙂
  • Loved the Olympics. You got very into it, and your understanding of different countries and sports grew as well. We went to a high school basketball game with Grandma, and you asked, “Are either of these teams American?” We all had a good laugh.
  • Lost your first tooth! One of the bottom front ones. You were extremely excited.
  • Love to laugh. You ask to be tickled, make terrible jokes, and sometimes just get tired-silly. Those are some of my favorite times with you.

Anja, I’m so glad you’re my girl. I say that to you all the time, but it’s true. So I’ll keep saying it.

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Markus, 4 years

My darling, sweet-hearted yet fierce little man, today you celebrate your 4th birthday! We want to share all the things about you at this age. You:

  • Are still the biggest, fastest, tallest, strongest boy anywhere….according to YOU. Your intensity is humorous now, but someday will be a great strength, we’re sure of it!
  • Like typical “kid foods” like pizza, burgers, mac and cheese (“with peas, Mama, not broccoli”), but when pressed (read: offered a dessert) you will eat a salad. But you don’t want anything to do with sauces or dressings. Nothing other than ketchup or honey, please and thank you.
  • Have become very verbal about your love. You have always been physically demonstrative, offering hugs and kisses freely, but in the past couple of months you have started saying “I love you” very often. It is such a day-brightener to be going about the business of laundry or butt-wiping or bed-making and have a munchkin run up, grab your leg, say “I love you,” and then run off. The fact that we receive such displays multiple times per day, rather than water down the meaning, only sweetens the deal. We love you, too, Buddy!
  • Have a couple of nicknames that still cling: Buddy (common for any boy your age, I’m sure), Boofy, Boofery-bock (don’t ask), Markus-pie (a bit feminine, but you don’t mind yet), Barkle-berry (again with the weirdness).
  • Have learned your letters by sight and are starting to put sounds to the letters. You have diligently taken up teaching yourself to write, and are getting quite good at a lot of letters. Considering how much of my time your sister’s schooling takes, it is wonderful to have a motivated self-starter as a second child.
  • Are VERY into ninjas, Ninja Turtles, Cars (as in the movie characters), Chuck & Friends, and really anything to do with battle and/or vehicles. You also adore biking and playing outside. You got a new pedal-bike for your birthday, and I have a feeling there will be a repeat of what happened with Uncle and me this summer: You and Anja will learn to ride two-wheelers concurrently. 🙂
  • Are seemingly fearless, but also very tender. You jump down 4 stairs at a time, giggle as you tumble, and attack men 8 times your size with gusto, but you also come running to Mama when your feelings are hurt or when you think I am having a hard time with something. I love your tough/tender little self.
  • Are a screamer. This is Daddy’s biggest pet peeve. Your shriek curdles blood, and it’s usually reserved for when you are fighting with Anja. Or if you aren’t getting enough attention.
  • Can talk a blue streak. We have been told since you were one year old how verbal you are, and that has not changed a bit. Probably our two most common reactions to you are your intensity and your verbosity. “He can TALK,” people say, and I follow that with, “All day long.” Since I am an internal processor, it can be very exhausting to listen to you all day long, but I will keep trying to hear you and also try to teach you when it is better to be silent or listen. ❤
  • Draw every day. You go through probably 5-10 pieces of paper per day. You’re not as interested in coloring books as you are in making your own creations. They are mostly pencil drawings, but sometimes you need tape and glue and scissors to make your vision a reality. I admire your ability to dive into your work, and I hope that your tendency toward perfectionism won’t hold you back! We love reading your homemade storybooks to you.
  • Saw your first movie in the theater right after Christmas. All four of us went to “Frozen” together. You liked it and were most upset when the snow monster disappeared and when the bad man’s sword broke. Boys!
  • Are learning all the time. You show great interest in building/mechanics, and you will happily sit and read books for hours. It’s so fun to hear the things you retain come out in your play or dinner conversation.
  • Have a great sense of humor. I couldn’t even contrive the hilarious things you say, and you have impeccable timing.
  • Love preschool. You have developed a little crush on a girl named Summer, and you immediately made friends and bonded with a lot of the kids in your class. You’re very outgoing!
  • Started Sunday School and ended nursery. These things make me realize how much you really are turning into a “big boy.” *sniff*

We are blessed to call you our boy, Markus, and we pray that God has big things in store for you!

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Anja, 6 years

Baby Girl! How did you get to be six? It has gone so quickly (and so slowly at the same time, if you know what I mean…). The days are long, the years are short, they say, and it’s true.

Anja, at six, you:

  • Are very artistic. You draw or color daily, usually for at least 30-60 minutes a day. I love that about you. The other day when you introduced yourself for oral presentations at CC, you said, “My mom thinks I should be an artist when I grow up.” While I’ve never said that, I do hope that your creativity is something you’ll carry with you throughout your life. Currently, your favorite subject matter is princesses, families, hearts, cityscapes, houses and furniture. And Ninja Turtles for your brother when you’re feeling generous.
  • Are homeschooled! This decision was a long time in the making; we’ve been praying about it since you were 2 or 3. It’s already been a large time commitment for me, but being a part of your learning process and having the flexibility for our family is already paying off. I hope we can continue through this year learning together!
  • Have become more whiny about food. That’s a bummer, because you ate most things without complaint for the rest of your life. You’ll still often eat it, but be fussing about it. You say your favorite foods are cookies (a girl after my own heart)
  • Love photography. Your old digital camera stopped working, and Grandma bought you a new one for your birthday. You have a very unique perspective on things, partly from being a child and partly from aforementioned creative streak.
  • Still enjoy reading and books a lot. You are an elaborate story-teller, but you will rarely let us in on that story-telling anymore unless it’s right at bedtime or you need someone to write down the words for a “book” you’ve made. Bummer. I miss those tales.
  • Like the outdoors. Biking and playing at parks rank right up there with chocolate chip cookies in your book.
  • Seem like you have a good memory and inordinately good hearing. I can whisper something to Daddy across the room, and you hear every word. Yet when I am calling your name loudly to do a chore, you seem to lose your hearing. Hmmm…
  • Love to dance. You’re in ballet and tap this fall, and you entertain us with interpretive dance around home all the time.
  • Are very friendly. You try to make friends with everyone. You assume the best about people, which is awesome. Sometimes I have to physically restrain you to keep you from running to the neighbors’ houses every time you see them outside. You’re SO excited to see them even if we just talked to them two hours ago. This is a far cry from your 3-yr-old self who wanted to leave the playground if any other children were present.
  • Are still attached to your baby dolls that you’ve had since infancy. “Malia” has a rattle in her belly and is a cloth doll intended for infants, but she is far and away your favorite. She and Sherman and Coco are played with the most often.
  • Speak in baby talk when you’re excited about things. Or sometimes just for fun. It’s probably 60% of the time. Oh. So. Annoying. Can this go away soon?
  • Have two current favorite shows: Muppet Babies (Daddy introduced you and often watches with you) and Magic School Bus. We try to limit TV to 4 or 5 shows per week. Days when Mom’s working or gone bring the average up, though, I’m pretty sure. 😉
  • Have occasional tantrums. We had a doozy of one today over a simple math problem. I kind of miss your 2-yr-old tantrums, because at least then you weren’t strong enough to throw chairs. Thankfully these are, as I said, occasional. And you now feel remorse over them, which your 2-yr-old self never did.
  • Love reading God’s Word. We have several children’s Bibles, and you will often page through the entire thing, examining each story. Our current one we’re using for morning Bible time is The Jesus Storybook Bible. It has mixed reviews among Christians for various reasons, but we love that it points to Jesus throughout the scriptures. Daddy reads a different Bible at night with you kids. I am so glad he does!
  • Have retained some of your toddler nicknames and probably added a few others. I can be heard calling you Pie, Anja-pie, Peanut, Baby, and other more generic ones like Sweetheart.
  • Have a natural compassion/empathy for others. You will often cry when your brother gets disciplined, even if you know he needs it or it’s because he did something to you. Another thing I love about you.

Some other favorites from an interview with you:

Color: pink and sparkly blue
Food: spaghetti and cookies
School subject: art
Music: Django Djangos
Sport to play: biking
Clothes to wear: church dresses
Holiday: Halloween
Animal: puppy and kitty
Kind of ice cream: chocolate

Anja, we love you and are so glad to see the big girl God is turning you into. We pray that He will continue to bring your heart closer to His.
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