Faith, Trust, (a reasonably large sum of money) and Pixie Dust – Disneyland Part 1

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Brilliant Plan:  Roadtrip!  Colorado to Southern California.  Two days in the car. Sixteen hours of drive time. Two kids. Concoct biggest surprise said children have had in their short lives.

Chalk this one up to “seemed like a good idea at the time.”

By all accounts, the actual trip was awesome.  The little people were relatively well behaved, Nathan and I were in good spirits (most of the time), and we only realized that the air conditioning in our road trip car was non functional once we reached the desert.  Nice.  Yeah, and we had to replace a set of tires in the middle of nowhere, Alice face planted at Walmart and just barely escaped without stitches in her lip… And that massive surprise was kind of a bust.  But other than that; good times.  Good times.

We headed straight out to Disneyland in complete secret.  Finn thought we were just out for another camping trip while I was busy sneaking autograph books, Mickey ears and Disney pins into my suitcase.  We planned on walking him into Downtown Disney, seeing how long it would take him to notice where we were and then blow the top off the whole charade.  In my mind, I pictured Finn bursting into heaving sobs of joy; hugging and kissing his parents and showering them with gratitude…  Kinda like this kid whose mom reunited him with his best friend after three years of separation.  I seem to have forgotten that my life is not a movie.  And Finn is five.

As we walked, Finny began to notice the signs for Disneyland.  And the monorail.  And when he saw crowds of people walking back to their hotels carrying Disney bags, we thought the cover was blown…

“Wow.  All those people must have just gone on vacation to Disney.  That is really weird.  Look at their bags,” Finn remarked as yet another monorail passed overhead.  And still, completely oblivious.

We sat him down, asked him where he thought he was and braced ourselves for an onslaught of gratitude.  Instead, we got a, “Oh.  That’s cool.”

By the time we were on our way to the actual park the next morning; enthusiasm seemed to pick up.  Finn’s never been to Disneyland (but has been to Disney World), so he knew what was in store, but also knew that there were things in California that he’d never seen in Florida… The Matterhorn.  Cars Land.  Monsters, Inc.  And he knew he was now tall enough to go on Tower of Terror.

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Once we were tucked away into the confines of the Happiest Place on Earth, it was an all-out scramble for Finn to get on as many rides as he could.  We took in the Matterhorn, Dumbo, the Storybook Land Canal Boats and the carousel while all anyone else seemed to care about was scrambling for a place in the two hour line to see Anna and Elsa.  Spoiler:  I have better ideas on how to spend 120 minutes.  We skipped it.

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Alice got her own Mickey ears while Finny and I went on the Matterhorn.  I felt like she was officially inducted into the family.  Sure, she’s two-and-a-half.  And our own flesh and blood.  But now she BELONGS.

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Finn is crazy for the Haunted Mansion…  The video game version, that is.  When we got to the real thing, he was ready to be done.  “Why do they have to make this place so scary???” he pleaded.  All the while, I was hoping that the whole ordeal would scare him enough that he wouldn’t want to try The Tower of Terror.  So far, no success after visiting the 999 happy haunts.  No matter his fear, he was still hell bent on flinging himself (and me) down a thirteen story elevator shaft.

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We stopped for lunch just after riding Winnie the Pooh (best lemon and honey cupcake EVER!!) and headed back to to hotel for a nap soon after.  Both kids crashed hard…  And Nathan and I had one of those moments where we almost cried we were so happy.

Well… I did.

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“Do you want to go back to Disneyland?” I asked as soon as the kids woke up.

“YES!”

For once, they agree on something.

“But what about breakfast?” Finny asked, a slight panic in his voice.

“Finn.  It is still the same day.”  This child is NOT accustomed to taking naps in the middle of the day.

Later that evening, we headed over to California Adventure to check out Cars Land.   It really was a sight to behold; Finn and Alice thought it was “really, really, cool” with all the rock formations from the movie.  Nathan and I rolled our eyes since they had zero interest in the real rock formations we had spent hours driving through the day before.  The rides were surprisingly a kick in the pants; I figured bumper cars, spinning tractors and a street that looked exactly like Radiator Springs would be pretty standard faire, but it was awesome.

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While waiting in line for Luigi’s Flying Tires, Alice decided she must braid my hair (just as the two teenage girls were doing in front of us).  She’s got a ways to go before we send her to beauty school.

Alice’s favorite ride of the day was the bumper cars in A Bug’s Land…  Those were exactly as much fun as I remember bumper cars being.  Only slower.  But the kids got to drive, and neither one of them noticed the lame-ness.

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We finished off the night with World of Color (a light and water show) and another trip down the main drag in Radiator Springs.  Every Disney vacation we take, without fail, Nathan always manages to get oddly overexcited about some beverage container…  We have a collection of light up mugs, blinking ice cubes and glowing Buzz Lightyear drink clips awkwardly shoved into the cabinets.  This time, it was the construction cone mug. (By the way, Nathan is not happy with me putting this “stupid picture” of him on Facebook or here.)

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By the time we stumbled back to the hotel that night, we were all cashed.  And still had two more days to go…  On our second day, I managed to showcase my complete lack of coolness – three times – on an epic scale.  One of them involved completely rocking out to “Jump” by Cyprus Hill (a staple of my junior high days) at the Mad T Party… So much so that Finn asked what the hell I was doing.  And that is the tame one.

You’ll just have to wait to see the other two.

See ya real soon!

The Cake that Almost Wasn’t

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Another Big Bite - Elsa Frozen Cake

Thanks to Heidi over at Sassy Crumpet for taking a WAY better pic than I did. 🙂

“Don’t spend that much on an Elsa cake!  I will totally make one for you.”

Ah, ha.  Famous last words.  Why is it that whenever I expect things to go smoothly, I end up with chunky peanut butter?

One of Finny’s preschool friends was turning five, and like just about every girl under the age of fourteen, she is a major fan of Frozen.  Surely you have heard of this small, independant film?  You know the one; made by Disney, starring not one but TWO sparkly princesses…  The same one that people are spending hundreds of dollars on merchandise on Ebay…  The movie whose soundtrack I have managed to tune out much like a seasoned mother tunes out the tantrums of her two-year-old…

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In December, I made Alice and Ariel cake and I thought I would tackle this one in much the same manner.  A plain, round cake with a VERY basic princess on top.  Nothing too fancy, and “not Ace of Cakes or anything, so don’t get too excited.”  The internet is chock full of Elsa cakes.  I’d find a little inspiration, get to try my hand at marshmallow fondant (to get rid of the marshmallows taunting me from the pantry) and maybe even get super fancy with sugar “ice.”  Hell yeah.

Hell no.

My first batch of sugar ice never got any harder than maple syrup.  Many YouTube videos and and two hours later, I was proudly admiring my second batch of perfect blue sugar glass.  And I was ready to tackle a fondant Elsa as soon as the kids went to bed.

Fondant Elsa had other plans.  Turns out marshmallow fondant isn’t quite as stiff as regular fondant.  Just as I was working on her head, I noticed her slowly slumping to one side.  I went to cut another toothpick to hold her up and as I turned around, I watched the skewer holding her up poke through her shoulder.  I gave up and waited for her to dry out a bit before I kept going.

She dried up enough to stand on her own by the next morning.  The cakes were baked, frosting was made, and the following evening I got to assembling everything.  Purple and blue marbled cakes got a coat of teal frosting and marshmallow fondant snow.  I made a fondant Olaf which turned out much better than expected.  The blue and purple sugar ice was set to go on the next morning before the party.

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Just as I was finished putting the sugar ice on, I stopped to snap a picture of my handiwork.  It turned out pretty cute and just as I was patting myself on the back, Alice decided she would take a taste.  She gouged out a hunk of fondant and cake from the top of the cake and I completely lost it.  I started crying and yelling; it was as ugly as the time Finn knocked over the Christmas tree and smashed half of my childhood ornaments.  A few minutes later I realized I was being an idiot.  I smooshed in a few more shards of sugar ice and packed everything up in the car.  I may or may not have sung “Let it Go” to move past my drama.

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It was hot that day.  We stopped to get lunch at McDonalds on the way to the party.  Just like every Saturday afternoon, the place was packed, but the kids were so excited to get to the party that they didn’t ask once to go in the playplace.  We headed over to the gymnastics gym.  And we were the only ones there for Ava’s party.  Because I was an entire day too early.

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On the way home, I noticed that the whole cake was slumping…  It was too hot, and all the movement in the car was making all the frosting slide down around the cake’s ankles.  By the time I got home, I was crying again.  (Might I mention I was more than a little hormonal?)  I did the only thing I could think of; I pulled Elsa and Olaf off and we ate the cake.  I drug the kids to the grocery store and gathered all the supplies to make a whole new cake.

“The cake never bothered me anyway….”

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As I was putting it all together the next morning, Finn was more than a little confused.

“Didn’t we eat that cake yesterday?”  Yes we did, son.  Yes we did.

Cake 2.0 made it to the party relatively unscathed and the birthday girl loved it.  Which made it all worth it in the end.

An Unpopular Opinion, Especially this close to Mother’s Day

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I’ve spent the last three weeks deleting emails from Flowers.com, Shutterfly and Shari’s Berries that indirectly proclaim that I am a terrible daughter if I don’t drop forty bucks on something meaningful or consumable or dipped in chocolate…  Something that will arrive on my mom’s doorstop this Sunday.  Something that will show my mom just how much I love her.  Because nothing says “thanks for squeezing me through your birth canal” like a vase of wilted flowers.

But then this American Greetings video was blowing up my Facebook feed; a beautifully crafted piece of propaganda that proclaims that being a mother is the hardest (and probably most thankless) employment on the planet.

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So I’m just going to come out and say what has been eating at me since I watched it.  Dude, being a mom is NOT THAT HARD.

Specifically, being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM to those of us who live in this category) is not that hard.

As with anything else, there are obviously caveats to this (slightly obnoxious) blanket statement.  Moms of special needs kids, moms of multiples, new moms and Michelle Duggar; they have it rough.  But us regular, run-of-the-mill SAHMs with our regular, run-of-the-mill kids have a pretty sweet gig going.  Not that most of us want to admit it.

Let the public flogging begin.  Bah-ring it on.

I try to compare what I do now with my “career” days before my little people came along, and I could not be more baffled at all the ladies who stay at home and proclaim that being a SAHM is nothing short of slave labor.  Maybe those girls never had “real” jobs.  Maybe they just like to have something to bitch about.  Maybe they are feeling under appreciated.  Maybe it is all of the above.

You’ve heard the old adage about doing what you love will make you happy.  Try as I might, I can’t think of a single thing that I love more than my children (taking a nap is a close second), and I count myself lucky that I am afforded the privilege of being able to stay at home with my kids.  So that is my job; being a mom.  I don’t need to tack on the “housekeeper, chef, personal assistant, blah, blah” blurb on to make myself feel validated.  I don’t need to calculate what wage I would earn if being a mom was a “real job.”  I don’t need some fucking American Greetings video to make my “job” seem important.  It is important.  Every mother’s job is.  It just isn’t particularly HARD.

You know what is hard?  Trying to make sense of three years of unreconciled expense reports while Janice from Accounting keeps yammering on about her divorce.  Trying to motivate a class of fifteen-year-old assholes into reading the classics.  Trying to wrap your brain around the death of an employee and getting their family the right information about their life insurance payout.  That shit is hard.

You know what isn’t hard?  Mopping the kitchen floor.  Making breakfast for little people even though you desperately need your morning coffee.  Picking lollipops out of the carpet.  Those things AREN’T FUN.  Getting a kid to sit still while trying in vain to get him to work on his handwriting; that is a little hard.  But if you neglect to do any of those things in a timely manner, you aren’t going to get fired.  It would take a criminal act to get fired from being a mom.

Being a SAHM isn’t always fun, I’ll give you that.  But it does have its own benefits package.  There isn’t available health insurance coverage, but I do get to wear sweatpants all day.  I don’t get the adult conversations that I did when I worked outside the home, but when the shit hits the fan I have executive power to abandon puzzle time in favor of Happy Meals and a trip to the playground.  I guess I do miss my coworkers allowing my privacy when I needed to pee, but I’ll gladly trade eating a Lean Cuisine alone at my desk for a half-eaten peanut butter sandwich with Finn and Alice any day.  Simply and literally, I LOVE the people I work for.  Actual, literal LOVE.  Not many other occupations can boast that.  The people I work for are fucking infuriating; even more so than Janice from Accounting.  But I would actually jump in front of a bus for them.  I want to spend my vacations doing my job.  When my husband bitches about his coworkers, he gets to leave them behind when he leaves work.  Call me crazy, but I miss my kids when I’m given a break from them.

On my hardest day; I desperately can’t get my minions to bend to my will.  I think in the business world, they call that “management.”

After I sat down and tried to work out the cost-benefit analysis of being a mom, I’m willing to bet it is one of the easier jobs out there.  Long hours, sure.  But no matter the work I put in, I am raising the future.  Yeah, that sounds over-dramatic and pretentious, but it is every bit as true as it is obnoxious.  A little hard work being a mom makes one hell of a difference in the end.

You know what job I think is hard?  Really hard?  Being a working mom.  Though my days of straddling that fence were brief (only about six months), it was tough.  For me, I could be a great mom or a great employee.  Everything I missed about working; the wardrobe, the friends, the social interaction; it took away energy from being a good mom.  The moms that hold the torch in both arenas; that is HARD.  And I tip my hat to them, for they are better and more patient women than I.

But somewhere along the line, this notion of staying home with your kids is toughest job EVER came into our collective social consciousness…  I want to dispel that idea.  And you can think me a pretentious prick; so be it. It is hard, simply because being a human being is hard.  But it is fun.  And there isn’t a dress code.  My kids are far from perfectly behaved angels.  They are terrors just like any other kids.  And yet; as an adult, I find it a stretch to describe what I do all day as difficult.

So now that I’ve pissed off 29% of the moms out there, I’ll leave you with this…  Although it might not be the most difficult job ever, it is one of the most important.  I dread the day when I have to put my two weeks in for staying at home with Finn and Alice.  Although that American Greetings video got my kickers in a twist a few weeks ago, they did get one thing right.  Appreciate your mom.  She did a lot for you.  It might not be rocket science teaching a kid how to poop in the potty, but it is important.  Let’s get our semantics right, shall we?

And even if you do spend an exorbitant amount of money on chocolate-dipped fruit for your mom this year (spoiler; I didn’t), pick up the phone and tell her how important she is to you.

I love you, Mom.

Childhood Milestone: The “Littlest A-Hole” Stage

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Don't let that cute, whipped cream covered face fool you.

Don’t let that cute, whipped cream covered face fool you.

Before I go on, the blogging community requires that I mention this disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER:  I love my children (probably more than you love yours) and think the world of them.

But…

My daughter has turned into a monster.  She has her moments of pure innocence and gentleness, sure.  But most of the time, she acts like a complete asshole.

We went through this stage with Finn when he was about this age, and it wasn’t until Alice started her round that we realized Finny’s had ended quite some time ago. For the most part, Finn has developed into a very nice young man.  He is rambunctious, doesn’t always listen and has the (slightly more than) occasional tantrum, but he is generally nice to people and doesn’t act like a little fucker simply for the sake of acting like a little fucker anymore.

Oh, lord…  She is saying these things about her children!  Calling them horrible names; cuss words, even!  How could a woman ever think such things about the  cherubs that burst their way from her very own uterus, causing sleep deprivation, memory loss, pain, saggy boobs, memory loss and lack of cultural awareness?

Most sane individuals would call this “the terrible twos.”  I choose to call it what it is.  And while your children probably were never assholes (and eat only a gluten-free, free range, organic diet 100% of the time and have never laid eyes on a McNugget, battery operated toy or a television screen), mine certainly have been in their short lives.  I’ve read my fair share of compassionate parenting blogs and no one seems to want to admit that children are being complete pricks for no other reason than they can.

“Mommy.  Peee-you.  You farted.  Ewww.”  She gives me a look of disgust that would make Gary Busey run for cover.

Seriously?  Now she is blaming me for her flatulence?  Where did she pick this up?  I can be immature at times, but it isn’t like I’m gonna get into a school yard brawl about who farted.  I have better, more adult things to do than fight over whose stench permeates her delicate nostrils.

“I most certainly did not!  Don’t blame me for that!  I wasn’t the one who broke into the pantry and ate three fistfuls of dried apricots!”

Well, most of the time I have more adult things to do.

My sweet little angel, what have you become?  One minute you are a little peanut, snuggled in my arms as I rocked you to sleep…  The next moment you are trying to flog the dog with your princess wand (which I’ve learned is really nothing more than a sword for girls) and pull Finn’s hair because his feet touched yours.  Heaven forbid anyone in this house would want to take a shower without your brow-knitted scowl demanding that you also be included.  If we refuse, you lapse into a foot-stomping, teeth-gnashing flail fest.  Punching the iPad?  Shoving your plate on the floor because the strawberries are cut up?

Lady, I am damn particular about my food as well, but I do not negotiate with terrorists.

I get it, I get it.  She is testing her boundaries…  Trying to find her place in our little family unit.  Yes, that is great.  But blaming me when she farts?  Really?

After Nathan tucked her in the other night, she gave him a kiss.  “I love you, little lady,” he tells her.

“I love you, too, Daddy.”  Cue the heart-melting…  “Now go.”  She rolls over, sticks her thumb in her mouth and asks for me.

See?  Asshole, I tell you.

But, at the end of the day, she’s our little asshole.  And truth be told, she is very much her mother’s daughter.  If it means we come to blows over strawberries diced into manageably sized pieces, so be it.  From one a-hole to another, I love you, Al.

Captain’s Log, Stardate 04-05-14: Report from Planet Lego…

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Another Big Bite - Finn

Saturday was a big day for us.  Finn’s birthday party started at two, which meant we started our day at six…  Cleaning, prepping, decorating…  And that was the easy part.  Once the house was packed with four- and five-year olds, the cake really hit the fan.

Originally, Finn wanted to have a “Lego Superhero Party,” but I made the executive decision to edit if down to one much simpler theme; LEGO.  Although I’ve been known to blow lots of cash on seemingly useless things in the past, I was determined this was not going to be one of them.  If that meant that everything was going to be cut out of construction paper, I was fine with it.  We had one activity that broke the bank, but more on that later…

Another Big Bite - Lego Party

One of my biggest conundrums was figuring out where to seat a whole bunch of kids; I don’t have an army of folding chairs.  After going over the math on how much it was going to cost to buy enough cheapie end tables at Ikea to have everyone seated on the floor, I had a moment of clarity…  I made Nae take the legs off the dining room table and cut short ones out of scrap wood.  Then we sat everyone on the floor.  We covered the cushions from the House with Wheels (our camper) for seating.  It worked like a charm!

Another Big Bite - Lego Man Cake

The cake turned out pretty good; though I skipped using fondant in favor of taste over beauty.  It was far from my best work, but little kids aren’t what you call sticklers for perfection.  We had Finn blow out the candles on the big Lego Man head cake, but then gave all the kids cupcakes.  No forks, no cutting, and only one kid even mentioned that he wanted some of the big cake.  Major crisis averted.

Another Big Bite - Lego Cupcakes

The cupcakes didn’t exactly turn out how I wanted them to.  I envisioned red cupcake papers, blue cake, white frosting and a yellow candy Lego Man on top.  Meh.  At least they tasted yummy.

We had a bean bag toss and did “Pin the Face on the Lego Man…”

Another Big Bite - Lego Party 2

Only Alice & Finn's faces are still up there, though...

Only Alice & Finn’s faces are still up there, though…

Another Big Bite - Lego Car

Alice, Nathan and Finn's cars.  Ten bucks if you can tell which one is the little lady's.

Alice, Nathan and Finn’s cars. Ten bucks if you can tell which one is the little lady’s.

But the big event of the day was the Lego Derby.  We ordered the parts to make a Lego car base (the plate, wheels and tires) from three separate sellers over on Bricklink and then ordered a giant box of regular Legos from Amazon.  At the very last-minute (the night before), we made the trek out to Denver’s Lego Store to pick up steering wheels, headlights, fins, propellers, shifters, control panels and other random parts from the Pick-A-Brick wall.  In the end, we dropped about sixty dollars on all the makings of fifteen Lego racers, but it was money well spent.  It was our biggest expense by leaps and bounds, but when the kids lost their minds when I said they were for them to take home, it was worth it.

Another Big Bite - Lego Party 4

Since only about half the kids showed up (do not even get me started on how bummed I was that only three of the parents from Finn’s class RSVP’d), we had parts for extra Lego cars.  I asked if the dads each wanted to make one.  One of the dads promptly declared to his son, “Sorry buddy.  You are on your own; I’ve got my own to build.”  And he was equally excited when I told him to take both his and his son’s cars home with them.  It was awesome.

And so we had a “Dad Division” to the race.  The pull of playing with Legos follows us into adulthood, I suppose.

Another Big Bite - Lego Party 3

Nathan built a racetrack out of scrap wood we had leftover from Finn’s bedroom and the kids had a good time shoving the little cars to victory.  Finn cheated (and was subsequently disqualified), Nathan came in DEAD LAST in the Battle of the Dads, but little Alice pulled a third place victory out of nowhere.  In the end, all three winners were girls, and I had to fight the urge to bust out a 1998-Spice-Girls-ish “GIRL POWER!!” Though I totally said it in my head.  With a mental fist-pump.

Another Big Bite - Lego Trophies

Another Big Bite - Eating

We had cake and made our own ice cream sundaes before the presents were opened.  Finny always blossoms in front of an audience, I tell you.

Another Big Bite - Lego Party Bags

Everyone got a goody bag on their way out, though it wasn’t epic by any means.  Fruit snacks, a lollypop, a bouncy ball and some stickers never looked so good.

Both Nathan and I were exhausted at the end of the party; I have no idea how teachers do it for an entire day with three times as many kids…  We ordered pizza for dinner and everyone crawled into bed in a Lego haze.

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Another Big Bite - Finn 3

Another Big Bite - Finn 4

It wasn’t quite over, though.  Finn’s actual birthday was Sunday.  Nathan had a full day of work, so we woke the kids up at six to sing Happy Birthday, open presents and have cake.  Since Alice’s birthday in December, I think we have a new tradition on our hands…  Birthday cake for breakfast is the bomb-diggity, and they kids get all day to play with their new toys.  In Finn’s case, twelve Lego sets to be exact.

Another Big Bite - Finn 6

Over the course of 24 hours, he put every single set together.  I was on hand to affix decals and find little missing pieces that jumped and hid (or were pilfered by Alice), but by four in the afternoon on Sunday, he had everything done.  He was still in his pajamas, but I figured if there was any day where he was allowed to forget the rest of the world, it was his birthday.

We took him to It’z (a bigger version of Chuck E. Cheese) for dinner, and when we got home, there was one last package to open from Uncle Mike and Aunt Tamara…  A robot fish.  Which made him squeal with delight.  And made me breathe a sigh of relief since it was the only toy he had gotten that needed batteries.  Robot fish for the win!

Lordy, I’m exhausted just reliving the whole weekend.  But to see this look on Finny’s face;

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… I’d do it all over again.