The New Year

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late. Middle age is when you’re forced to.” ~Bill Vaughn

New Year’s weekend was exciting, fun, and very, very different. (Also, CAUTION, this is one of the longest blogs I’ve ever written.)

My friend Niki and her 3-year-old son, Finn, were coming to town. As we don’t get to see them often enough, we try to get people together for a visit. As it fell over NYE, I figured I’d throw a shindig. Well, the sentiment was right, the execution? Not so much.
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The party dwindled daily, until it was just our core group. Then, Frodo couldn’t make it. Things were not going well. In preparation for Finn, I had talked to Mindy. She and Tom were out of town, but they were looking for a home for the boys. I volunteered to take them, during the party, so that they could keep Finn company. I’m so brave. Turned out, having them there was the life of the party. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the first time, Niki and Finn were staying the weekend with me. Usually they just stay one night. They arrived Friday night about 9pm. Finn fell asleep in the car, so Niki carried him in the house and up to bed. Then, because so many couldn’t make it on Saturday night, we had our friends over on Friday night. This was mostly an excuse for us to see Frodo. We stayed up and talked and chatted.

We were in the garage for a bit and the girls were making great use of the one man we had on hand.
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That picture just about sums up my friends. So comfortable with each other. Poor Frodo, the only guy left in the bunch, but we love him and I think he loves the attention.

Then, Niki wanted some pics, and we are a group that does not often do pictures.
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First, we had Frodo take one of just the girls. Then I said that my phone has a timer and we aimed for the four of us. We sat on the couch, did the timer, and…

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Seriously? That is a terrible picture. After several tries at this, it occurred to me that the flash wouldn’t reach that far. Finally, we stood up and moved closer. We got this.
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It’s still not the best, but it’s pretty good. It is also the only decent picture in existence of me with those three friends, so that makes it very special.

When I was sharing it with them, Frodo said, “am I really that much taller than you guys?” And, yes, he is, but it made me a little sad, because it always used to be him and Peter with us girls and Pete was so tall that Frodo never seemed tall when he was next to him. Without him, Frodo is now the giant of this group.

Of course, as these things tend to go. We were up until about 4am, drinking. We crashed, hard, and everyone slept at my house. The next morning was hard, but it was fun to see Finn. At three, he is just darling and so creative. We played and played and played while Niki dozed on the couch. They left at lunchtime to go visit some friends of theirs. Finn didn’t want to leave me, he was having too much fun. Niki said he talked about coming back and playing with Olivia.

Then, of course, the real fun began. Tom’s mom, Teri, brought Clay and Lew over to my house. Surprisingly, this was the first time they have spent the night at my place. They were so excited. Plus, it was New Year’s and I had promised them they could stay up as late as they wanted to.

We let the boys play for a bit, but they were a little squirrelly. Finally, to wake up me and Niki, we went outside to play. It was over 40° outside that day, which is unheard of for nearly January in Minnesota. No snow on the ground. We played outside with the boys running, then we did a couple games of hide-n-seek. Finally, Niki decided we should explore my woods. My idea of a good time.

We hiked into the woods, found sticks to carry, made trails, followed trails and generally just explored. We found a pond and some guy yelled at us, “that’s private property!” I apologized, we really didn’t know, and we started to leave. Then he yelled, “they can play, I don’t mind” except, you already yelled at us, so clearly you DO mind. We left.

We found a huge hill and the boys ran to the top to “get a good start”.

The race results?

#1
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Clayton. You can see the little boys WAY behind him at the top of the hill. He’s very fast.

#2
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Lewie. Apparently that year makes a lot of difference.

#3
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Finn. These boys were so cute running and running. Being hungover and tired, Niki and I were just fine watching.

Eventually, we made it up to the park where we played all sorts of silly games that only kids can play. Something called Alligator that Clay and Lew swear their mother made up. If that’s true, Min, I’d like to hear the “rules” not the crazy rules the kids make up and change to suit themselves.

I wanted a cute shot of the boys to commemorate their first night staying at my house. As always, they were good to me.
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Eventually we walked back to my house and we were only gone for less than 90 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were gone for HOURS.

The boys played for a bit in the basement (careful of the bookshelves!) and then Niki left to go to the grocery and get dinner for us. I said I didn’t want to cook. So she cooked. Niki is a very good cook. She and Pete had me over for dinner a few times and I was always very impressed. While she was gone, I entertained three boys. We played “Sea Monster”, they met my puppet Louie for the first time (Louie was purchased by me when I was 15 years old. He’s one-of-a-kind and I was nervous to let them play with him. But they LOVED him. Lewie loved that Louie has the same name as him. So did Clay he kept asking me, “Can I play with Louie?” which is so funny).
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That’s the two little boys playing “sea monster” I’m not too sure on the rules, but they sure loved it. They were loud and entertained and paying no attention to Clay, except when they would randomly attack him and throw pillows at him. I think they were considering him the sea monster. Eventually, Clay got frustrated and yelled at them. This was the only “fight” of the weekend. I knelt down by Clay and he was struggling to stay in control. I told him it is often hard to be the oldest. Then I asked him how old he was. Seven. I asked him how old Lewie is. Four. And Finn? Three. “Well, if you add up their ages, how old does that make them?”

Seven. Just a moments pause and he said, “so even if you add them up, they’re only almost as old as me?” (He’ll be 8 in April). I said that was exactly right. “And he said, so since they’re so little, I should be more patient?” And that was it. He was calm and patient and didn’t get frustrated again. He also called them “the little boys” for the rest of the time, which I found funny. I sure do love that kid and how his brain works.

Finally, I couldn’t take the noise anymore so I declared it was movie time. I set the three boys on my bed and headed down to grab a movie. I have precisely two movies that children of this age can watch. Cheaper By The Dozen, which most of the children who visit me have seen and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I knew they wouldn’t be entranced by either, so I gave my collection some serious thought. Suddenly, my eyes alighted upon The Princess Bride. It’s PG, it has action comedy and a little boy just about Clay’s age. I thought, why not? I presented it to them and, predictably, they were none to thrilled to watch a movie with “princess” in the title. But I told them it was a movie about pirates and there were sword fights and a giant and oversized rats and it’s all to rescue the princess. They were hooked.

I started their dinner while they started the movie and, even though they swore they were starving, they would not tear themselves away from the movie to eat. Even Finn, who is only 3, loved it. I finally set up the laptop on the dining room table so they could watch while they eat. It worked and Niki and I got some more peace and quiet.

Muffy showed up soon after and the three of us were set to have “grown up” dinner. Niki did all the cooking and preparation, which should have been weird since it was my house, but I guess she’s stayed there often enough! The boys settled in to watch Rudolph while we ate. Of course, that is a short movie and they were over it fast enough. Then it was “play with us, play with us!”

We managed to hold them off long enough for us to eat. Not too long after dinner, Niki put Finn to bed, it was 9pm! Clay and Lew were still holding strong, though their parents said they’d never last.

They wanted some entertainment, so Niki suggested we play a game. Clay chose Monopoly. No surprise there, that boy LOVES that game. However, Monopoly is a bit involved to start at 9:30 pm and it is a bit much for Lewie. I remember a game that was given to my nephew as a gift and I keep it at my house. We’d never even opened the box. I asked Clay to get it. He was a bit pouty and said he didn’t want to play that game. I said his options were play this game or sit quietly. He chose the game.

The game is called Caterpillar Scramble. We set it up, put in the batteries and read the rules. Four players. Clay, Lew, Niki, and Muffy.

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You have to use tiny plastic tongs to pick up tiny plastic marbles and place them in tiny plastic cups (the caterpillar’s hands) and you have to do it while the caterpillar is moving. It was strangely fun and addicting. We played a game and Niki won. Clay was a very close second. After the first round, Clay leaned over by me and said, “sorry I didn’t want to play this, it’s very fun.” I love how he will freely admit that he was wrong about something.

We played this game several times over. Niki and Clay won every game. Those two have very steady hands. Lew finally started gaining momentum. I think, at four, he was at a distinct disadvantage, but he played every game and tried his best. By the end he was one or two marbles away from winning.

After a while, we all got a little bored with it and I suggested we play cards. Niki and Muffy were chatting and Lew was playing on my phone. My phone got an intense workout. All three boys played multiple games throughout the weekend. Lew finally saw it sitting, unattended, and figured it was his chance to play, uninterrupted. He was quietly playing for about 2 minutes when Clay wanted to play with it. I said no, it was Lewie’s turn and Clay was just going to have to play with me.

We played a couple games of Crazy 8s. I won. I do not let him win. He handled it very well, (he’s super-competitive) but after I beat him two games in a row, he didn’t want to play that anymore. So we switched to War. I dislike this game. It is not challenging and goes on forever. I offered to teach Clay some new games (I know a TON of card games) but he wanted War. So we started. He was killing me. Fine, the faster he wins, the faster it is over.

Then, suddenly, Lewie wanted to play. Clay got bored so they switched. Now I was playing War with Lew and Clay was on my phone. This is a terrific game for kids who are working on numbers. Not only does he have to recognize all the numbers, but he has to know what beats what. He and I had a lot of fun warring back and forth. Of course, inevitably, he got bored and we quit that game.

Lew’s cough was getting worse and worse and it was getting close to bed for him. Niki suggested I give him honey. Even though I hate honey, I needed it for a recipe and had some on hand. I gave Lew a spoonful of honey and within minutes, it actually helped his cough. I never knew that before!

About 11 pm, Lew was done for. I walked him downstairs and he wanted a cup of water. I grabbed a cup and stepped into the bathroom to fill it up. I was five steps away from him and gone for 20 seconds, max. He was asleep by the time I got back to him. He was so tired. Sweet boy. (And in case you were wondering, he DID take his shirt off).

Muffy left and then it was just Niki, Clay and me. The three of us were sitting in the living room, just talking. Clay was semi-playing with my phone, but we were chatting. We learned about school and his friends and what he’d been doing on break and what his favorite Christmas presents were. We also talked about the ball drop. Never having lasted until midnight, Clay was unfamiliar with this tradition. At about 5 minutes to midnight, we went into my bedroom. We turned on the tv and found that only one channel was broadcasting the ball drop. Isn’t that weird? Of course, it was channel 5, which never gets a clear picture at my house. But, we saw enough. And just turned it on in time…they started counting seconds after I turned it on. I guess my clocks are slow.

We said Happy New Year and Niki and I had champagne. I gave Clay a sip. He didn’t love it. But he liked trying it.

Then we went into the kitchen and I waited until the clock said midnight in order to get this:
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He climbed up onto the counter to do that for me. I’m glad we have photographic proof that he lasted until midnight. He really liked that picture and asked me to send it to his parents. I did and Mindy wrote back: “I can’t believe he made it!”.

He did, but he was so very tired. Right after I sent that photo, he hopped off the counter, said “goodnight Olivia” and walked downstairs. I didn’t tell him to go to bed. He was just so tired. Five minutes later, he was back upstairs. I asked him what was wrong and he looked at me and said, “I’m kind of scared.”

It was so sweet. This was the first time he’s ever slept at my house. I know it is hard to sleep somewhere new. I asked if he wanted me to come downstairs with him and he did. I sat next to him and talked to him and he looked over my shoulder and said, “what’s Ferdinand?”

It is an oversized children’s book I purchased, “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. It’s a really cute story about a bull. Clay didn’t know it. He said, “will you read it to me?” And my heart just melted. I’ve read to him since he was born and every single time I’m at his house at bedtime he asks. I love reading to him. We read the story and then, the best part of kids getting bigger, we talked about it. He told me what he liked about it and what he thought it meant. Even with all the fun we’d had, that was, hands down, my favorite part of the weekend.

Finally, I told him I was going to go into the hall to pick up all the coats and shoes and that I’d be right back to check on him. He said that was fine. I left the room for three minutes and when I came back, he was out like a light. So sound asleep I was able to take this, with flash:
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Both boys, sleeping sound in front of my new bookshelves.

The story (long though it is) should end there. But it did not. Lew woke up coughing at 4:30 am. He woke up Clay and said he couldn’t sleep. Clay said to go get me. Lew said “I don’t want her to get mad”. Which cracked me up when Clay told me, because neither of these boys have EVER seen me get mad and certainly not at them. Eventually, Lew came and woke me up. I gave him a glass of water and two spoonfuls of honey. During this, Clay came upstairs. He said to me, “I don’t know why we always wake up so early.”

I laughed and told him that they are going back to bed, 4:30 is too early for anyone to be up. Plus, Clay had only slept 4 hours at that point! I walked them downstairs and it was C-O-L-D down there. So cold, in fact, that I worried my furnace had gone out. As I shivered, Clay, who was tucked in bed, said, “how come the door was open?” I thought he was dreaming something, but he said that when Lew woke up he got up and shut the door.

The door to the outside.

Damn! When we went outside to play, we didn’t come back in that way and so the door didn’t get locked. That door doesn’t shut tight unless it is locked. It has popped open before. Naturally, it popped open in the middle of the night, on the one night it SNOWED. These poor boys were sleeping in front of an open door in 20° weather. Yep, I’m a helluva babysitter!

I felt so bad. But, I just tucked them back into bed, grabbed an extra blanket and locked the damn door.

The next day, they got up about 8:30 am and came into my room. We’d made a plan the night before. They were to come into my room and watch cartoons. Clay knew how to turn on the tv. I heard them come in and said good morning, but then I went back to sleep. I drifted in and out until 10:30. Finn had gotten up at some point and come in there to hang with his buddies, so Niki got to sleep in as well.

It was an amazing weekend. Very different that I had planned or expected, but oh-so-much fun. Before leaving, we managed to get this, a shot of the three little boys who kept us on our toes.
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Happy 2012! Hope yours was as loving, fun, creative, and event filled as mine.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’ve been jonesing to teach some more fun stuff here on my blog. And I don’t think I’ve ever done a Valentine’s TYNKYNK, so I was looking forward to it. However, today was crazy, insane busy. That means I’ve nothing new to teach you today, you’ll have to wait until next year. Unless you want to learn about Lyme Disease in Dogs, that’s what I read about today….

Which is why, toward the end of the day, all you get is this:

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The sign is my little sign on my desk that I play with daily to reflect my mood, interests, whereabouts, etc. In front of that, you see a plate of cookies. Those were a Valentine’s present TO ME from one of my students. Isn’t that cute?

She made Chocolate Chip/Peanut butter cookies, which I don’t like at all. Nothing against her, but I don’t like chocolate and peanut butter together, outside a Reese’s. And the pink ones? Well, those are Cherry Chocolate Chip cookies, and they are fantabulous! I loved them. I was so happy receive anything at all, but especially a new treat.

Thanks Tina!

And, lastly, birthday season is once again upon us (if you don’t know, approx 95% of the people I know have bdays from Feb-June) and I am already slacking.

Happy Birthday to Muffy (42), who is known for celebrating in style:

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And Happy Birthday to Miss Hadley (3) who was forced by her evil grandmother into this getup:

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She’s so ashamed she can’ even look….

They share the same birthday (yesterday) and I forgot both of them. Sorry girls!

Let’s make it Happy Valebirthdays this year!

Friend Fiesta

The weekend after my family Christmas party, I had another party. (Yep, I’m just that kind of crazy)

This one was pretty spur-of-the-moment. My friend Niki and her son, Finn, were coming to town. I hadn’t seen them since the memorial service for Niki’s husband Peter, last September.

Niki let me know they’d be in town and that she wanted to get together. I was supposed to see Mindy and Tom, et. al. that same day. Since they all know each other through me, I decided to just have a get-together at Casa Olivia.

Mindy and Tom brought the kids. We invited Muffy and Frodo. Niki and Finn stayed over, it was awesome.

I made tacos for everyone, marking the first time in history that I have cooked a meal to feed other people. (Yes, that’s true. The previous party was potluck). The tacos were really good, but I made way too many. After the fourth or fifth consecutive day of me eating them for both lunch and dinner, I finally ran out.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Let’s go back to the week of the party.

I had such a busy week that week, several nights I wasn’t even home until 8 or 9. This made things a little chaotic when the weekend finally hit. Friday was out as that was Christian Kane Day (that should be a national holiday or something) so my focus was elsewhere. However, I did hit the grocery store on Friday to get all my taco fixings.

When I finally got home from errands that day, I was so intent on getting ready for CK that I rushed in and threw my groceries in the fridge and left.

Saturday, I had planned all the things that needed to get done. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan the time I needed to actually get them done. You see, I still had to take down ALL of my Christmas decor. My tree was undecorated, I had managed to squeeze that in at some point during the week. My dad was coming at 2:00 pm to help me get rid of the tree itself. Thank the Lord, my mom called and came over at 1:30. They both helped me get my house in order and Christmas stuff away. My mom then helped me clean while my dad assembled the new shelf I bought before Christmas but never got to put up.

Just as my mom was arriving, I grabbed one of the new tubs I had bought the day before at Target. I knew I’d need it to put away all my decor. When I looked inside, there was plastic bag at the bottom. Puzzled, I picked it up and realized that it was my hamburger meat.

Yep, in my excitement the day before, I forgot to put the meat away and the whole five pounds sat out overnight. For at least 24 hours. Crap.

With only four hours to go and TONS of work to do, I had to send my mom to the grocery store to buy more meat (and I just realized I never paid her for it! See, Mom? This is why you should have let me give you the money BEFORE. Then it’s covered. And I don’t forget for two weeks.)

She came back and finished up a few things for me, because, while she was gone, Niki called and said she and Finn were on their way, over an hour early! And I wasn’t even showered yet. I sprinted to the shower and frantically raced around getting last minute things ready.

I’ll tell you what. If not for my amazing parents, there is no way this would have happened so successfully. I just didn’t have the time. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou Mom and Dad.

Eventually, everyone arrived and we got into the party.

These are the friends that I partied with throughout the majority of my 20s. Mindy and Tom, for my entire 20s. I met them a month after I turned 21…ah, the stories! Get together’s with these people typically involve LOTS of drinking, occasionally some food, more drinking, laughter, a bit of drinking, and once-in-a-while, a game.

That’s how we create memories, folks.

This party was different.

Turns out, this is the first time we’ve all gotten together, including the children. Having kids around makes for a very different experience. And this is one of the best nights I’ve ever spent with these friends of mine.

It mostly began with Clayton. After a tear-filled moment when he asked Niki point-blank why Peter died (Niki handled it amazingly well, I was in the corner, wiping tears away as she told him that Peter was sick in his brain and that is why he died.) Clay was his usual happy self and he wanted me to play with him. Since I ALWAYS play with him when we’re together, I’m sure it was a shock to him when I said I couldn’t. I was cooking.

But, I told him I had bought him a game to keep at my house. He opened it and it was….Monopoly! Might be that you’re thinking Monopoly is a little advanced for a six year old and you’d probably be right, but Clay is wicked smart and he loves this game. (He had told me so over Christmas, so I made sure to get it for him).

He went around the party and asked people to play with him. He got two takers, Tom and Frodo. (Frodo, as it turns out, is a confusing name for kids–so we eventually switched to Ryan to lessen the confusion.)

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The boys played Monopoly almost the entire time. And the rest of us ate and chatted and played (if you were Finn and Lewie) and occasionally observed the intense game.

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It wasn’t Clay’s turn…and that’s Lewie in the middle and Finn on the right.

Children of all ages seemed to be wildly in love with my Christmas village. It’s too bad it is ceramic, it really took a beating this year. But you know what? I don’t mind. Because I loved the fact that it created memories.

At one point, we broke to do presents. I hadn’t done Christmas with Clay and Lewie this year–and I got a little something for Finn, so he wouldn’t be the only kid NOT getting presents.

One of the things I got Finn was a Pez dispenser. Finn is 2. I got Simon one when he was 3. Evidently, Pez dispensers are for older kids….

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That is Finn, uninterested while Niki and Frodo tried to get it loaded. I don’t know why it needed two people….

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Now Clay is entertaining Finn while they are still loading it…

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Frodo is trying to explain how it works to Finn, who caught the word “candy” and just wants to eat it.

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Now Niki is trying to show him…but he just wants candy.

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Success! Finn got his candy and Frodo got him to eat it “correctly” out of the dispenser. We were all thrilled.

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Mindy is tallying up exactly how much candy I gave her boys (a LOT) while Lew is obsessed with his present. A Star Wars M&M dispenser. I know, I’m so cool.

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I think he likes it!

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This is actually Clayton’s snow globe, but Finn really liked it!

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Eventually we tried to settle the kids down. Lewie was no problem. With a party going on in the next room, he’s obsessed with the movie. He didn’t even turn his head when my flash went off.

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We got Finn in there, too. And Niki stayed “for a minute” thinking he’d fall asleep. She ended up watching the whole movie with them! (They were watching Up!, which she’d never seen. And it is a very good movie).

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Mindy and I were getting pretty involved with the crazy Monopoly match going on. Clayton was counting all his own money, doing subtraction and addition and I even taught him how to figure a percentage for his mortgaged properties. He also figured out all his own deals. He’s very shrewd–and had no trouble negotiating to get what he wanted.

Which is why he won! (Legitimately, they didn’t let him win. He knocked out Ryan first and then took down his own father.)

I asked for his best “Donald Trump” look:

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Which I thought was hilarious!

Then, because he knows me well, after the silly one, I get one good one:

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After the game, the Mindy and her fellas had to get going, her parents were in town visiting and just waiting at her house. So they left and Muffy, Frodo and I sat and talked while Niki put Finn to bed. When she didn’t come back for a while, we checked and found that Niki had fallen asleep.

Eventually, she woke up and rejoined the party and we all sat and talked and drank until 4ish in the morning.

The next day, I had my first ever am houseguests. Niki got herself ready to go while Finn and I played trains.

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He looks so much like Peter in that picture that it kind of breaks my heart to look at it. I hope that in addition to his looks and his height, Finn gets his dad’s thirst for knowledge and ability to listen and his love and loyalty. That’s what I’d wish for him. From his mom, he’ll get his common sense and her humor. Also her calm demeanor and relaxed nature.

Sounds like he’ll be a pretty great kid.

It was an incredibly fun night and so different from the norm. I really enjoyed having the kids around and being able to interact with everyone. I hope this is something we’re able to repeat in the future.