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weaning Q: photos to treasure.

as i mentioned in my post last week about our decision to move L into his own big-boy bedroom downstairs, part of the decision was impacted by my nursing relationship with Q. as i did with his big brother before him, i nursed Q for a total of 15 months, and despite some hiccups with my supply when i returned to work, our breastfeeding relationship was wonderful and fulfilling.

when reflecting back on the two growing boys that i nursed, is that in the early weeks of motherhood and breastfeeding L, i felt so, for lack of a better word, confined and tied down to my “job” as his sole food provider. now, i know that the biggest culprit behind those feelings was the fact that i was a brand-new mama who was doing all of this for the first time, but what’s interesting to me is that i never, ever felt this way when nursing Q. perhaps it has something to do with the fact that i was still reeling from his unexpected early birth and subsequent time in the NICU, or maybe it was simply the blessing of my status as Mom 2.0 to two children, but it was so, so different. while i certainly treasured my nursing relationship with L, as i reflected here, it was more of a battle to appreciate, at least at first, the ability to meet his needs in such a meaningful and intense way. but with Q, i was likely more prepared for that responsibility, and instead of battling against it or feeling emotionally drained by it, i soaked it up – i relished it.

when it came time to wean Q, as i mentioned in my post last week, we did it in stages; we day-weaned Q in December 2015, and a few weeks later, we then weaned him to only nurse one time per day, right before bed. in mid-February, i would be traveling away for a few nights for a work conference, so i felt strongly that a few nights before i left marked a good time to “make the break,” so to speak.

on Monday, February 15, i contacted my sister-in-law, Larissa, and i asked her if she’d be interested in snapping a few photos later that evening of me nursing Q for the very last time. she was kind enough to take photos of me nursing baby L, and i am so appreciative of those photos.

here’s me and L in the midst of our nursing relationship:

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thankfully, Larissa agreed to stop by, and what follows in this post are photos that i so treasure, for they capture this special time in my life, and in Q’s life, when we were bonded so inextricably close together. many, many thanks to Larissa for taking these special photos!

here’s me and my sweet Q:

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Disney, christmas 2015 + a long overdue update on life.

in this {doozy!} of a post, you’ll find the following:

  • sharing our holiday – Christmas 2015
  • all about L: hockey skates, a few giggly Lionel-isms + a recent development that has me feeling all sorts of reminiscent
  • all about Q: a birthday trip to Disney + our babe’s one-year photos
  • all about us: buying in to Dave Ramsey {pun intended!} + the big nine
  • an investment that’s given me peace of mind about all of the photos that i take
  • a book that i’m enjoying + reading in a new way this year
  • a project that i do every year for each boy that brings me so much joy

let’s get started!

Christmas 2015

we were so blessed this Christmas to have two growing littles to share in our joy of Christ’s birth.

evidence: our boys reading the Christmas story with me.

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new traditions this holiday season included:

1) the arrival {and Christmas Eve departure} of Clive the Elf {on the Shelf}, named and much-loved by L; he delighted in seeing where she ended up each morning {though she didn’t like to move every day…ahem};

2) a Christmas Eve Eve {aka December 23} gift-opening session for the Mama and the Daddy of the house;

3) a Christmas Eve morning gift-opening session with just our little family of 4;

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and 4) a Christmas Eve sleepover with Grandma Patty, Grandpa Joe and Uncle Brian at our house, complete with Christmas jammies.

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we also got this ADORABLE photo of all 5 Gillis cousins in their Christmas garb; i dare your heart not to melt:

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and, like the years before {2013, 2014}, here’s what our boys hauled in for gifts from Mama and Daddy this year:

Lionel, age 3.5:

want: Blaze + the Monster Machines Monster Dome Playset; need: Melissa + Doug Umbrella; wear: Seattle Mariners baseball hat; read: Ninja Turtles boxed set

Quincy, age 1:

want: Hape Scoot-Around Ride-on Bike; need: Minnetonka Moccasins {NOTE: size up – these were way too small!}; wear: St. Louis Cardinals baseball hat; read: The Going to Bed Book + 1, 2, At the Zoo

all about L

our biggest boy this year was elated to receive his very own pair of hockey skates {“blue, size 8,” per request in his letter to Santa Claus}.

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he couldn’t wait to try them out on ice, so our family went to the local ice rink a few days after Christmas to take L for a spin around the ice.

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at first, he was {adorably} discouraged, because “the ice was slippery, Mama,” but he slowly got the hang of it.

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in a call back to my younger days as a figure-skating-obsessed kiddo who wanted to be Kristi Yamaguchi when i grew up, Mama tried to help him “march” on the ice to help him to grow comfortable with ice skating. it seemed to work well, even though he would much rather skate around the ice like this instead:

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it was a wonderful time, though, and he frequently asks when we can go back to “his ice” to skate again.

a few memorable Lionel-isms as of late:

  • “Holy boy!” {i frequently utter “holy moly!” and “oh boy!” so this mash-up is quite adorable}
  • “Cuz my bed is just a little bit too bigger than your bed, Mommy.”
  • “When i grow bigger like this *moves his hands up in the air* i take a shower like Daddy. Lionel doesn’t like showers, but i take a shower like Daddy when i eat chicken nuggets and grow big like Daddy.”

finally…guess who has made a valiant return to our biggest’s heart?

welcome back, Gus the monkey.

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our L grew quite attached to sweet Gus in his early years, but Gus has since fallen out of favor. while meltdowns would once ensue if Gus wasn’t in Lionel’s arms when he went, well, anywhere, Gus’s latest job has been to sit idly on L’s bed, like some stuffed animals eventually do.

but last night, when L and i were saying our prayers and thanking God for our family, for football players and hockey men and touchdowns {?!}, and for our teachers and friends, L dropped in Gus’s name and insisted on snuggling his green stuffed monkey as he slept.

and this morning, L insisted that Gus wanted to watch our boy go potty, wanted to share his pancakes {but that Gus didn’t need to be cleaned up, unlike my syrup-covered son}, and needed to go to school with Lionel.

i have to say, the return of Gus the monkey has this Mama feeling all sorts of nostalgic. i thought that he had moved beyond his love for pretend friends, in favor of his real friends at school, but just when i think that i have a grasp on who my boy is growing up to be, he surprises me. i just love being his Mama.

all about Q

while many people say that the second child is neglected a bit in comparison to the first, at least our sweet Q can say that his brother didn’t get to spend his first birthday at the most magical place on Earth – DISNEY WORLD.

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in short {because our trip to Disney is deserving of its own post…hint, hint Jord}, we had a wonderful time in Florida. the boys were absolute gems from the moment that our plane left Sioux Falls, and their excitement made Jord and i feel like kids again. in other words, we can’t wait to go back.

a few photos, because you just can’t beat little boys in Mickey hats:

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{Q’s adorable Mickey outfit from here}

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when we returned from Disney, our sweet boys were sick for weeks {as i mentioned in this post}. but, after they returned to health, we scheduled a photo session with our favorite photographer, Kara of Creative Kindling, to snap one-year photos of this big guy:

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we feel so grateful that Kara’s witnessed all of our most major life events, from our engagement and wedding to our kiddos joining our circus. in other words, we absolutely treasure these photos.

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all about us

i mentioned this on Instagram last week:

Jordan and I started Financial Peace University last night + I can already tell that it will be life-changing and life-giving. We’ve had a budget since we were married, but we want to dropkick some student loans and save and spend more wisely, so it’s time to try something new.

we finished up our first week of homework over the weekend, and this adventure for us continues to be life-giving. it’s going to be hard, hard work the next few years of our lives as we try to dropkick our student loan debt and be more intelligent with our finances, but we are so excited to have a plan to guide our efforts, and to be taking this journey alongside other couples from our church. plus, Nancy + Will Ray are definitely helping me to catch a glimpse of what will be the fruits of our labor; i encourage you to follow along with them if you are either considering or currently enrolled in FPU, or even just want to be smarter about your money! Em for Marvelous is also a huge resource for this math-and-money-challenged girl; check her out!

in other news, on Wednesday, Jord and i will pause to mark nine years of life together. yes, it was just nine years ago on January 27, 2007, that i gave Jord permission to date me. and even though our lives have changed so, so much, and even though our lives probably look nothing like what we had planned when we first decided to do life together, i wouldn’t trade this life with him for anything. he’s who i will turn to, when we’re 80 years old, and say, “remember that?” he’s who i’ll share my greatest adventures in life with, and who i’ve had by my side for all of our adventures thus far. i’m so, so blessed to have a man like him.

iCloud storage

you guys, i used to wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat…all about my pictures – the ones of our wedding, the ones of our boys in their earliest days of life. i’d have nightmare after nightmare that the hard drive on our iMac would crash, and that our pictures would be irretrievable.

enter: iCloud storage.

in December, i took the plunge. for $0.99 per month, i’ve backed up all of my photos {and there are THOUSANDS, guys} to iCloud storage, and all of a sudden, i have peace of mind. in other words: it’s worth it, friends. you’re welcome.

what {and how!} i’m reading this year

Jord gifted me a subscription to Audible for Christmas this year, and i started listening to my first book last night. i’m currently “reading” When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi, and it’s exquisite, guys. this man’s story is such a tragedy, yet he writes about it so eloquently and with such beauty that i literally caught myself forgetting to breathe as i listened to his words. i can’t wait to read more tonight. and if you haven’t already, read this – you MUST.

my favorite project for our boys

and lastly {if you’re still reading this, then you deserve an award or something for navigating the most rambling blog post ever}, i wanted to share a project that’s dear to my heart.

inspired by John and Sherry, each year, i create a photo yearbook for each of our sons. in these books i place photos and snippets of our family-related blog posts here. i use Blurb to create these photo books for my boys, and i’ve been so impressed with the ease of their desktop client, BookWright {formerly BookSmart}, and the quality of the books. Jord also used Blurb to create a book of my wedding blog as a birthday gift for me, and it’s one of my most treasured gifts. this isn’t a sponsored post or anything – i just wanted to share my love for Blurb with all of you!

and with that, i’m signing off for today – goodness knows that this post is long enough as it stands! but before i go, a short glimpse at what’s to come in this space:

  • reveal: our upstairs bathroom – phase I makeover!
  • reveal: a DIY “fireplace” in our upstairs living room!

{photos from Q’s one-year session above by Creative Kindling}

uncovering gratitude, amidst the sick bugs.

it all began the week of our brief getaway to Disney {pictures coming soon!} earlier this month.

our littlest was sprouting spots on his chubby fingers and sausage feet, a sure sign of my least favorite kiddo ailment: Hand, Foot + Mouth. but, we persevered, and so did he. our trip to Florida was not quite spot-free, but it was relatively pain-free and fever-free…until we came home.

our sweetest Q spiked a fever on the Sunday on which we arrived home, a temperature that demanded a cancellation of his first birthday party {waaaa!, said the Mama} and a quick trip to Urgent Care. an ear infection was the culprit, so antibiotics were administered in hopes that we would soon be over the sick hump.

and then L became a droopy chicken.

one trip to the doctor later, we learned that he too had an ear infection but, thankfully, a negative Strep Throat test as well. antibiotics were prescribed for him, too, and medicine time quickly became the worst times of his days.

with both boys on antibiotics, Jord and i locked {tired} eyes, vowing to simply survive until the medicine took hold.

and then Q began vomiting. in the middle of the night. in our bed.

he has impeccable timing, and even more impressive aim, for each time he vomited {yes, it was more than once – YOU WOULD THINK THAT I WOULD HAVE LEARNED MY LESSON}, he managed to let go all of his guts all over his Mama.

more trips to the doctor, more co-pays, and our pediatrician looks at this tired Mama and says what she absolutely does not want to hear: “i don’t know why he’s vomiting.”

oh, go away, you stubborn sickness. boo sickness, boo our lack of a diagnosis.

so, in other words, since our excursion to Florida a few weeks ago, Jord and i have been feeling anything but grateful, as both L + Q {and now Jord, bless him} have been trading and battling and sharing sickness after sickness.

but, in this, the annual season of giving thanks, i’m determined to find some light in this dark, germ-filled tunnel.

so, a list.

first, this picture:

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oh, snow. we missed you.*

next in my ruminations on gratitude comes my shabby DIY fireplace, which i CANNOT WAIT to show you guys. it’s bringing me so much joy, especially now that it’s draped with Christmasy garland and pom-pom trim. here’s a peek, pre-Christmas decor.

and, i’m thankful for my brother’s kind offer to bring home Qdoba last night for me, because keeping me fed is quite the task, especially when my husband {aka our chef extraordinaire} comes home, slips off his shoes and goes directly to bed.

finally, what i’m sending up whispers of “thank you” for today, and all days, is that i get to do life with this man by my side, and that our boys have him as their Daddy.

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while i often tease him that despite my many {MANY} shortcomings, he chose me, i’m truly glad that i’m his chosen one. his green eyes, never-runs-out patience, and his jokester self is making this season of sick bugs all the more bearable.

*ahem. apparently some of us did NOT miss you, snow.

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{big reveal} our boys’ reading nook.

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ages ago, i mentioned our plans to set aside space in our lower level for our boys to play, play, play {which is our motto for this summer; every day, when i ask L what he wants to do with our day, he responds excitedly, “play, play, PLAY!” – and yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds}.

in that post of yore, i had this to say about our intentions for the space:

after living with the space since we purchased our home in august 2013, one of the big priorities on this level of our home became creating a dedicated space in which the boys can just be boys and play their hearts out. namely, we needed this space to house a few big toy items [including Q’s jumperoo and L’s new workbench – a third birthday gift!] . . . a few sports-related toys . . . and the Thomas the Train table that the boys’ uncle so generously gifted the boys for Christmas. we also have a car rug that L likes to vroom his cars on and a few other miscellaneous items that we needed more space to house that our upstairs living room allows. so, the idea of a playroom area was born.

but, since L is such a voracious reader {like his English-teacher Mama}, we knew that we also needed a space where we could cuddle up as a family and read a book {L’s current favorites are Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site and a Mickey Mouse “i-spy” type of book}. and after seeing many an adorable kids’ reading nook on Pinterest, including this one, which is from Lay Baby Lay, i was convinced: our playroom needed a reading nook, too.

i then shared this mood board with you:

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well, it’s been a long time coming, but after living with the space for a few months and making many, MANY adjustments to accommodate the boys’ needs, desires + whims {and, of course, this Mama’s hopes for the space as well}, i’m super excited to share the reading nook space with you! and again, as i mentioned in my first post on the reading nook, we owe big thanks to Tiny Prints for the customized pillows that you see below. this is our second project with Tiny Printsclick here to see our boys’ shared bedroom reveal!

check it out – here’s our boys’ reading nook:

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a few details:

– the book that’s on display and open on the ledge above the bench is a copy of The Velveteen Rabbit. using a cookbook holder that we received as a wedding gift {yay for retooling an item’s intended use!}, it’s open to the page from which, if you recall, one of our wedding readings was taken. i love this sweet detail! {p.s. in just a few weeks, Jord and i will be celebrating FIVE YEARS married – whew, time!}

– i quickly customized this white kids’ bench from my Mom {which, if you recall, was originally part of a kids’ store installation but was no longer needed} with some rope detailing on the legs to give it a bit of a rustic touch. hot glue worked like a charm, and 30 minutes later, the bench was ready for its close-up!

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– i plan to use the fun patterned clipboards {which i found in the $1 Spot at Target a long time ago and secured to the wall using 3M strips} for reading lists, notes to our boys, artwork and more. the options are endless!

– the pillows on the bench are all from Tiny Prints, and we LOVE them! they add such a great punch of color to the space, and they are cushy enough to take off of the bench and lean against the wall when Mama and Daddy join the boys for snuggles and family books in the reading nook. i customized these three pillows for this space: Sit and Stay, Let’s Snuggle, and Vibrant Diamond.

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– i’m still weighing out my feelings on the “house” paint treatment on the wall {as seen here and in the mood board above}…on one hand, it’s just so whimsical and playful and makes me imagine my boys reading beneath the “eaves” of the little play “house” and thinking that pretending to do so is buckets of fun…but on the other side, if i know myself, my mind changes in an instant and i worry that i’ll outgrow the “house” design far, far before the boys do. but then again, it’s only paint, and the “house” would add a great layer to the design of the reading nook…but what color to choose for the “house” paint? alas, you can see my indecision!

up next in this half of our family room = actually making decisions on an area rug and the “house” paint treatment, as well as printing and framing some engineer photo prints of the boys {inspired by these from Chris Loves Julia} for the wall above the television-stand-turned-changing-table, which is placed adjacent to the reading nook and is pictured in the mood board above. as soon as those items are checked off the ol’ to-do list, i think we’ll FINALLY be ready to show you the full playroom + reading nook space!

also, stay tuned: we’re nearing the finish line on the other side of the family room, where the sectional is located, and i can’t wait to show you all of our hard work! we’ve been making oodles of progress in the past few months, and the family room is finally feeling more like “us.” in the meantime, here’s a hint…three cheers for FINALLY hanging ART on the walls!

a weekend to remember.

I really don’t know the last time that I had so much fun over a three-day weekend. I’ve experienced a lot of things, but the three-day ride of just pure joy from this past weekend would be hard to match for me.

As you may know, Lionel turned three. When Sara brought up the idea of an overnight stay in Omaha before hosting his party on Sunday, I was up for it. I had some expectations from the trip, but I was really unsure ultimately how it would turn out.

Heading into the weekend, Sara had to call her first audible. The weather was not looking good for Saturday, which was the day that we had planned to go to the famous Henry Doorly Zoo, so we decided to book it down to Omaha in the AM to hit the zoo on Friday to catch the good weather.

20150608171937-9fbe18ce-meMama started the gift opening a tad early to keep this almost three-year-old excited through the drive…but Lionel loved his magnetic construction site book!

The drive down went pretty smoothly. We had to stop once for a diaper change, and I’m not used to that, really, since we haven’t traveled too far with the kiddos in the past, but I got over it quickly {I’m of the mind that we’ve gotta go go go go go ;)}.

We got to the zoo, and the weather was gorgeous. Lionel’s excitement was high, and thankfully Quincy was a very willing and happy participant.

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We started off our day by petting a starfish…

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Woah…

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I need to be closer to the fish!

We visited the aquarium just after lunch on Friday, and it was not busy at all. This made the experience ten times cooler, as we had a clear view of all of the marine life, and we didn’t feel the need to rush through it.

We saw many animals, but we missed the elephants {the zoo is currently expanding the exhibit, so the elephants were off-site}. Lionel didn’t mind, though, since we got to do this:

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Riding the Skyfari with Daddy = love.

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Eating ice cream = love.

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Riding the zoo train with Mama = love.

Riding the Skyfari was a cool experience. Selfishly, I’d love to try and take him skiing this winter, and he showed himself ready for a ski-lift without any fear or hesitation. He had quite a bit of fun! It could be different with snow, but I’m encouraged. He obviously doesn’t have his mother’s fear of heights!

At some point, we got ice cream to help us all to cool down on the warm day, and later, our boy finally got to ride the train with Mama. They had loads of fun!

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Lionel’s petting a snake!

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A tree swing in the jungle = cool!

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Hi, Quincy!

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All smiles!

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Lionel loved to brush the goat in the Petting Zoo!

We spent almost five hours at the Omaha Zoo before things started to wind down. We made it to everything but the Desert Dome (Mama can’t handle the creepy crawlies there!). It was a ton of fun. But, it was time to find our hotel, find dinner, and get onto the rest of the weekend.

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Lionel runs the bases!

As we were leaving the zoo, we noticed that inside the zoo’s newly-expanded parking lot {part of which used to house Rosenblatt Stadium}, there is now a tiny memorial infield dedicated to the stadium of yore. We had to see if Lionel had any energy left. He ran the bases a few dozen times – OVERJOYED – before reluctantly returning with me to the car.

The night ended with a nice dinner and the opening of his second present, a Playmobil sports set that features a hockey get-up, among other sports gear. Lionel spent a good portion of the downtime of the weekend playing hockey with these guys, which was very cool.

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Good morning + happy birthday!

The next morning, we woke up to some donuts, and we stuck candles in Lionel’s to have our own private family rendition of “Happy Birthday to You” to kick off Saturday. It was a riot. Lionel opened another present {a firehouse version of the Imaginetics books}, and then we changed into swimming gear to head to the Coco Key water park, which was located inside our hotel in Omaha.

Unfortunately, given the large number of pools and water slides, water was all over the place, so there’s not many pictures. But, we snagged a couple…

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Daddy + Quincy-Bug!

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Swimming Lionel!

Throughout the day, Lionel transitioned from the kiddie pool, to the deeper pool, to the slides in short time. By the end of the day, he was traversing the entire park and going down the water slides in rapid fashion. We soaked in the pool for almost five hours before deciding to wrap things up and go home.

The drive home was pretty painless, as both boys were tuckered out, and while they didn’t exactly nap, they didn’t put up much of a fight about the drive, either. Mommy and Daddy got home and unloaded the car and did some clean-up, but were pooped and we all kind of crashed and went to bed rather early.

On Sunday, we woke up and began prepping the house for the party. Things were about to get real. We had no idea how many people were coming, but as soon as four o’clock rolled around, we found out how much everyone loves our Lionel. Cars started pulling up and parking, and people came into our home one after another to wish Lionel a happy birthday and celebrate with him.

In addition to great family and friends of ours, ALL of Lionel’s friends and one of his teachers from school came to his party, which delighted him, of course! Lionel was so good through the whole thing. He shared his toys, gave hugs and kisses, said many a “Thank you!” and had a smile glued to his face the entire time.

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Welcome to Lionel’s hockey party!

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Daddy had to get some baseball in…

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Quincy-Bug with Great Grandma Helen

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Q with Great Aunt Sharon, Great Aunt Judy + cousin Harper

Food was served, and then, a special guest arrived…STOMP from the Sioux Falls Stampede, our local professional hockey team!

Lionel’s no stranger to Stampede games, and when it was known that Stomp was available to come to the party, Grandpa Joe pulled a few strings to get the special guest to the show. Stomp posed for pictures, gave hugs to the willing kids, and played hockey with everyone.

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“Hi Stomp!” – Lionel

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Let’s score some goals!

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Defense!

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Everyone’s playing!

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Thank you, Stomp! A family photo.

We followed up hockey with cake and presents. Of course, a hockey party needs a hockey cake, and Lionel kept up the awesome vibe by hugging and often kissing everyone while thanking each person for the gifts that he received.

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“Happy birthday to you!”

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“Thank you!”

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Gift Excitement!

After the gift opening, the party started to disperse. Lionel played with almost all of his toys for some time the rest of the night. The energy of the day was long-lasting and incredibly positive.

I am still riding the high of how awesome the entire weekend was. Sara did an amazing job planning the entire trip and the entire party. I did my part here and there, but she truly shined as a mother who knew how to go the extra mile for her son. Friends and family showed up to make a special day even better. Quincy was better than you can logically expect from a six month old who is forced out of his routine.

It was just an awesome time. Wow!