Families & Freedom

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Babies babies babies!!!!!!!!!!!  I love seeing pictures like this where our whole family is present that we’ve built together.  It just makes it sink in the legacy that we’re leaving behind here in this world.  I’m a firm believer that our children are our legacy, and these are the people who will carry on our beliefs and morals and work to make the world a better place, even if it is in small ways.

I’ve been wanting to write an update about our life right now for awhile, but it always seems to be on the back burner.  We’re just on the cusp of summertime 😀  I may not be blogging as much just due to how much I try to get the kids outside to do activities in nature (or just plain old swimming).  But hopefully there will be some posts that crank out.  We’ll see 😉  ❤

I cannot wait for Summer to officially start!  Each year it seems I get so excited about it – just all the possibilities and opportunities to take the kids to go see things or do different things around our city!  I like to really treat it like a 2 1/2 month long vacation with them… I want them to have these memories for a lifetime where they look back and remember how much fun they had together in our family.

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But… this is Texas and it’s already getting hot hot hot!

The Texas heat just doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother other people.  Thankfully my husband is the same way.  Maybe we’re just used to it, or maybe we just spend so much time in the water that we don’t notice it as much, I don’t know, but I do know it wouldn’t be Texas + Summer without that brutal Texas heat.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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Happy Memorial weekend readers.  Reflecting on being in this gorgeous country, and treasuring the beauty of the countryside, I can never express how grateful I am that so many have given the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free here.

For the sake of our children, we must keep on fighting this war against our freedom.  Because yes, they are our legacy.  And they are the only thing that matters going forward.

Stephanie

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Relaxing in the Shade

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Ahhhhh… this was so relaxing.  I’m amazed how wonderful God’s creation is and how peaceful just being in your own backyard can be!  The only sound we heard this lazy afternoon was all the dozens of birds making their various calls in the trees.

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It’s a great feeling when all of your littles are relaxing at the same time.  It doesn’t happen for very long LOL… but it is nice when it does happen.

I made us all homemade blue coconut icies and it was the perfect drink for being out here!  This picnic blanket is super lightweight, water resistant, and I found it for only $10 at Wal-Mart.  It’s soft and beautifully patterned, too.  That along with our pillows and the icies – well, it doesn’t take much for us to feel like we’re living in luxury 😉

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Have a Happy Mother’s Day weekend readers!!!!  Enjoy it as much as you can!

Stephanie

A Hill Country Road Trip

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The past 2 months have flown by it seems!  As a family, we’ve just been crazy busy… first leading up to Easter, and then various family-administrative stuff, and now we’re getting ready for the end of the school year.  It’s been the kind of busy where although it’s fun, it’s also been a bit stressful.

I’ve also been running 3 miles a few mornings a week with my husband ❤ and then doing pretty heavy weights, so it’s been a little exhausting, in a happy-fun kind of way at least.

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Whenever I get like this, almost on the brink of “burn-out,” for some reason I feel a strong pull to take a drive in the areas nearby our city where I grew up in the hill country.  I miss it so much… sometimes living in the city makes me feel like a “stranger in a strange land,” lol.

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The craziness of the city and fast-paced lifestyle, seems to evaporate when we’re out there.  I had the sense this last Friday when I took the kids for a nice, day-long road trip get-away, that when seeing those hills and the spacious countryside, I could finally breathe.  I wish I was exaggerating 🙂 , but it’s true that when I left with the kids, we were all tired and a little stressed out.  But on the way back from spending hours out there, the atmosphere in our little caravan was the opposite – everyone was rested, refreshed and optimistic!

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It was simply a day to roam around the country, visit places I loved going to growing up, my old church ❤ , our little town’s main street with all the old buildings and adorable shops; we visited the restaurant I used to work at as a teenager ❤ … we got food and ice cream and traveled on into even deeper, more beautiful and rural countryside.

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This church below is our town’s Catholic church, built almost 100 years ago.

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The feelings and emotions of going back there, back to where I grew up and the places that surrounded me, were sublime.  I’m just so glad that we don’t live too far away where that isn’t possible.  My children get to experience all those things in a small way, and my older son really enjoyed talking to me about growing up out there.

He sat as my co-pilot, my little man!  And when he was gazing at the hills and eating his ice cream, the sense of peace he had was so tangible.

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I don’t wish I could go back 🙂 I LOVE our life right now.  But wow is it fun to take a walk down memory lane, tell them hilarious stories about the people of that town or things my brother and I did 😀 .

It’s nice to be able to go back.

 

Things I Want My Daughter to Know: You Will Grow into Your Feminine Beauty

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I am a major book worm.  In case you haven’t noticed that I’ve NEVER changed the cover of this blog in nearly 5 years!  Because books are life!  There is so much knowledge and wisdom and beauty to be found in other people’s thoughts, that I can never get enough of reading it seems.  I had a few favorite books growing up – but Jane Eyre is hands-down one of the most memorable ones, and one that I STILL cannot get enough of!  I loved Jane Eyre because I was (what I thought of anyway) an ugly-duckingly, and she gave me hope LOL!  Growing into my femininity and beauty has been a long journey for me, and one that I hope I’ll be able to help my daughter navigate well in the future.

We were out yesterday selling some clothes for extra cash and I found a little historic novel based on a true story about a young nurse, only 16 years old (!), who tended injured men during the Civil War.  She became known and loved among the men she tended to for her gentleness and kindness to them ❤ .  Many other girls who volunteered to help had actually run away once the war came to their area, but this one girl stayed and became remembered for her character.

I had planned to buy some earrings I found for a good deal to build up our daughter’s stock, but I put them back and decided to get them next time in lieu of this awesome book!  I told my husband, “it’s for her future ❤ 😀 !!!”  I want our daughter to understand that character is what makes a woman truly beautiful.  Outward beauty shows self-respect or graciousness to those around you, but who you are as a person is what people will fall in love with and want to be around.

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She is such a little beauty already – almost strikingly so, and her happiness and joyful laughter are SO endearing!  But I want to raise her to love good books!  I want her to enjoy knowledge, and to know and understand that true beauty comes from very deep within – from the soul of a person, and that it takes time to grow and flourish… and that it can be lost if not safe-guarded against bitterness throughout life.

And I want her to know that it’s a process of becoming.

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It doesn’t usually happen all at once – being truly beautiful inside and out – for most women.  In fact, I’m not sure “most” women achieve both inner and outer beauty to their fullest personal extent, at all sadly.

Just like outer beauty takes A LOT of hard work and diligence over time to achieve and then to also maintain.  Inner beauty takes even more work, discipline, diligence, perseverance and even then if you manage to achieve it, it is MUCH harder to keep over the course of different circumstances one will face in life.  It’s a constant process of correcting your own character flaws, and that takes a TON of self-reflection, introspection, and acknowledgement of your own failings.

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Hence why I think a lot of women (and men if you’re thinking about men in that way) don’t even try to maintain inner beauty, or they may try but then give up or give in to their natural states of ugliness… since human beings all have sin natures… and our sin natures make us VERY very ugly.  That and we constantly fail.  Success in this regard requires a lot of perseverance and endurance.

So becoming a beautiful woman over time is very hard.  The inner beauty work is very difficult, and since I’m Christian, I do believe there’s a spiritual aspect to this where knowing God, having his help to get through life’s difficulties, really TRUSTING Him with EVERYTHING in your life (all those ugly emotions feelings and such), is the best or most proven way to maintain a beautiful character throughout life.

Avoiding all the vices that come so naturally to us, and working hard to develop the virtues that come from the Holy Spirit – that takes constant coming back to God to prune and develop you – to grow you and break you.  It’s painful work – which is probably why so many avoid it!  He’s molding you into a reflection of Christ, but again, that all takes a lifetime to achieve, and one has to be really working out their salvation with fear and trembling in order to achieve it at all!

But sweet, sweet, joyful little girl, you will grow into your beauty and femininity, and your daddy and I will be there every step of the way to guide you in the way you should go.

Stephanie

 

 

Labor of Love – Painting!

So… my oldest has officially inspired me to start painting again.  I think it’s been… over 10 years since I’ve actually sat down and painted anything serious on an actual canvas.  Finger painting with toddlers – yes!  But actually sit down, sketch out a portrait and landscape, do all the colors and shading and back-painting a real painting requires?  Nope.

That actually changed today, and I sat down and painted a rather large sized canvas of my oldest (because he’s the one who has inspired me to paint again 😀 ) when he was about 2 years old.

This is what happened today:

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It just took the afternoon, and it’s going to be a gift to my sweet Mom… I had to keep stopping to tend to the kids and then to make dinner 🙂  but wow was it fun to paint again.

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I used to draw portraits in high school for fun… and then my friends started actually paying me to draw them.  I could never draw (or paint) faces of people, even though I tried a lot growing up… until finally something “clicked” when I was 17, and suddenly, it made sense in my brain and I was able to draw them.

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Honestly, this felt so relaxing and was so easy tonight.  I think I’m going to make it a point to paint more LOL.  I forgot how enjoyable it was…. 🙂

All the tiny little details, the millions of leaf prints and different shades of green and blues… it does take some time, but it is so worth it to make all the little leaves.

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Stephanie

8 Months – There’s No One Like Dad!

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Someone just turned 8 months recently!  We are so ready for SPRING… it’s been raining for a couple of weeks – gray days, no sunshine, but now the sun is just beginning to peak through the trees.

It’s beautiful!

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Her little pink onesie says,”There’s No One Like Dad!”  And it is SO TRUE!  And so cute!  My husband is seriously the best father I could ever have asked for to our children.  She adores him, as they all do.

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She is just the happiest little baby I’ve ever seen, and so easy!  Her joy affects everyone who knows her – even the girls who take care of her while we’re working out at our gym, just adore her and tell us they love when we come in because she’s such a sweet, happy baby!

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And she laughs so much!  She thinks everything her crazy, wild brothers do is hilarious!  LOL 😀

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I can’t wait for more sunny days, gardening to my heart’s content ❤ and playing in the yard with our kids!  The Spring and Summer are just such a welcome change… yes, even for Texans ;) LOL

Stephanie

Godliness Requires Choice & Action

I know this probably sounds like common sense – but go there with me for a moment.  I’ve only recently really thought about how weird it sounds when Christians make bold statements that whatever good things have come about in there lives, that it was ONLY due to God and had zero effort from them.

I know that I could not have done anything good enough or helped create a beautiful marriage with my own actions – there’s just not enough goodness in me to be able to do that.  So to God be the glory, for all things HE has done!

I know on the surface this looks pretty good and spiritual.  Let’s be honest, the way it’s worded, it’s supposed to look spiritual… but is it actually true?  Can we really be or do nothing good to “help” create a beautiful marriage?   I wondered why it sounded so spiritually fake, until it became clear a few months ago that it is a form of false humility.  False humility is when a Christian tries to look really humble, but in reality they have ulterior motives of pride buried beneath the surface of their spiritual statements.  Let me break it down piece by piece.

Normally, giving all credit to God is a good attitude to have toward our lives and the gifts we’ve been given.  To realize that yes, ,everything good given to us IS from God… but when it comes to being realistic with other people on actually achieving godliness, which realistically, is becoming more like Christ in our marriage, or with our kids, or toward our enemieswe should be honest that the transformation happens through our own choices in responding to God and in allowing Him to do the work in us that changes us.  That’s a huge piece of the puzzle that’s missing from statements like the one previously mentioned – the admission that we have allowed God to have His way with us, and to affect the way we behave toward others.  It is always a choice to follow Him, and a choice to develop godliness by clinging to Him overtime.  So yes, we can have the power to do good in our marriages, with our children, and toward our enemies – that power is given to us from God, but only when we submit to Him and allow Him to.

When thinking about this topic of false humility, these beloved verses came up below.

12 So then, my dear ones, just as you have always obeyed [my instructions with enthusiasm], not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation [that is, cultivate it, bring it to full effect, actively pursue spiritual maturity] with awe-inspired fear and trembling [using serious caution and critical self-evaluation to avoid anything that might offend God or discredit the name of Christ]. 13 For it is [not your strength, but it is] [c]God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energizing, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfill your purpose] for His good pleasure.

Philippians 2:12-13 Amplified Bible

These verses have fascinated me since about 2009 when I really started to study them and ask Bible teachers and leaders what they meant.

It’s a two-fold process – we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (actively be pursuing God daily and growing in spiritual maturity… repenting when we’ve fallen or become discouraged).  AND God does His part by working IN us, making us want to please Him even more, and giving us real grace (power) to be able to do more than we could without the Holy Spirit in us, extending our abilities beyond what they would be.  

The latter verse would not be able to happen without the first.  That means God would not be working in us like that if we were not inviting Him in, pursuing Him and His ways, putting His will over our own as a daily thing, and constantly seeking to grow in spiritual maturity.

I think when it really hit me that the previous mentioned statement is a form of false humility meant to look super spiritual, was when I realized that if it solely depended on Jesus alone – if we had nothing to do with following Him and reaping those rewards – then everyone who was a Christian would look and act exactly like Jesus did by default. ALL Christians would have ALL the fruits of the Spirit down pat, and with perfection.  Obviously, spiritual growth doesn’t work that way LOL!

No… it’s just not true that we have no goodness in us or power to affect our spiritual growth, although it sounds true to give God all the credit for our good marriages, or relationships with our kids, or how we deal with enemies.  It looks good – very spiritual and “right.”  But unfortunately it’s deceiving to leave out the fact that a Christian who has developed godliness in their marriage… or with their children… they did so because they sought after Him.

Remember, the second verse (Phil 2:13) of God working in us, can’t happen without that first verse (Phil 2:12) where we decide to keep working out our salvation in fear and trembling.  We have to invite Him in so that He can have His way.

What a beautiful reminder that the grace God gives us – which is the power to go beyond what we’d normally be able to accomplish – is available to all of us if we only seek Him and live out Philippians 2:12.

Stephanie

Parenting – Teaching Your Children to Use Their Gifts

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Our oldest is just amazing.  I know I’m his mom and so of course I’m biased… but oh my gosh, God has blessed him with many talents and gifts!  He’s kind… he’s gentle… he’s a strong leader and he’s only 7 years old!!!!!  Watching him is so inspiring to me to be a better mom – to be the mom he truly deserves in life (and yes, I feel like I fail constantly)!  We all deal with some amount of “Mom Guilt.”

Anyway… his school was having a city-wide art competition, and right away I was like, “You have to do this.”  He doesn’t believe in himself, just like I was growing up and still have issues with at times.  But his raw talent and gifts can’t just be shut up inside him and never used or developed!

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This is something I wish I had learned earlier in life myself – that my gifts, whatever they were, were supposed to be used and practiced and developed and strengthened!  It’s nice to have people loyally on your side, watching you with a gracious intent, gently encouraging you to use your gifts, but usually none of us really have people like that around, so we develop self-consciousnesses or neurotic beliefs that we’re always wrong or not very good.

And I see them reflected in my son.  His self-doubt, his belief that he’s actually NOT a good artist, or that he’s not funny, and not that smart (when he makes All A’s and B’s and excels in things like math!!).  It’s weird to me how we can have such a distorted view of ourselves when in reality, we are given so much more than we see.  This is what I imagine Paul was referring to when he was encouraging Timothy to not let anyone look down on him because he was young, but to set an example for other believers and to USE his gifts, and practice them and develop them.

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Practice.

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Develop

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It took him 3 days doing it a few hours at a time, and I had to keep reminding him that he probably wanted to work on it or it wouldn’t be finished in time for the contest, and he did want to finish it.  The more he painted, the more he enjoyed it, too!  As he and our other children grow older, I’m not going to be harping on them as much so that they can learn that if they don’t hustle and do their work on time – or be consistent in it – they will miss MANY opportunities in life and some that they won’t get a second chance at.

 

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But for now, I’m like the woman Jesus talked about who kept pestering a man to do what she wanted 😀  I will encourage him, remind him, love him, prod him, and “train him up in the way he should go,” according to his gifts I’ve seen God has given to him.

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His art teacher came up to me with excitement yesterday when I picked him up from school, and told me with wide eyes that he had placed in the competition… out of THOUSANDS of other kids who entered all over our city!  He won his school somewhere between $1,000-3,000 in art supplies!!!  Of course we were so proud of him!!!

And I asked him in the car when we were driving back home, if he was glad that I pushed him to enter… because he never would have known if he could win if he hadn’t even tried.

I explained to him again that when God gives us special gifts like that, He expects us to USE them for Him, and that others are BLESSED through our gifts – but only if we have enough confidence in ourselves to decide to step out in faith act.  We are also blessed when we bless others!  As he found out when he won that much money for his art teacher!  It’s a blessing to be able to bless other people!

He’s heard about the parable of the talents, but it will probably be a deeper lesson saved for when he is a little older – that if we don’t use our gifts, that God may decide to take them away.  I know it sounds harsh, but we are stewards of the things God has given us, and that includes our giftings and talents.

May we all learn to be more confident in the gifts God has given us, and to use them, practice them, develop and strengthen them for His glory.

Stephanie

Holiday Pies – Visually Beautiful, Deliciously Delightful!!!

I’ve never been a baker.  I LOVE to cook though, and reading cookbooks at night is something I’ve done for fun 🙂  Back when our oldest was little, and I had more time to venture out, we would go to a beautiful bookstore, and he’d play while I thumbed through French Cookbooks – even the memory of that is so blissful!

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But baking?  It’s just not something that comes natural to me at all, but  I force myself to do it anyway 🙂 , and along the way I’ve found some tricks that have made it a lot easier than I thought baking would be.

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Every year over the holidays I always get the chance to make something to bring to our family feasts.   Since I’m usually the youngest woman there and at the bottom of the family female totem pole 😀 for years I’ve only been allowed to bring the Green Bean Casserole LOL (you know… the meal thats like super easy and if you mess up you’re an idiot – kind of dish)!  But along with that, I’ve also been allowed to bring a dessert pie each year.  And THIS year, this past Thanksgiving, lo and behold I got the privilege of being in charge of ALL the dessert pies, and wow was it a lot of fun!  And a serious privilege I didn’t take lightly.

My older son also loves cooking, and so he’s kind of come with me on this journey of trying to become a baker 🙂  He and I have perfected our own Cherry Pie with lattice work and cut out designs – made from our own homemade pie crust (which is SO delicious you can actually just eat the crust by itself)!

Here some of the things we’ve tried (or similar ones since some I didn’t blog about):

Cherry pie

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Here’s a great cherry pie recipe (not our’s but very good!)

Pumpkin pie (from Pioneer Woman’s amazing recipe!)

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Sweet Potato Pie (a classic of the SOUTH ❤ and one I made a few years ago and blogged about it)

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Chocolate Tarte (the most AMAZING chocolate dessert I’ve ever eaten and super easy! Find it here)

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White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie (still working on perfecting, but THIS  girl’s recipe is what we go off of)

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Marshmellow Fluff Pie Topping:

for the marshmallow fluff:

  • 2 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 scant cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract (if you want them stark white; if you don’t mind a little ivory color, use the pure vanilla extract)

from: http://aperiodictableblog.com

 

Great video on homemade pie crusts:

 

If I had to pick a favorite one we’ve tried to perfect over the years, it would definitely be the Chocolate Tart recipe.  It is just TOO easy, and yet it is beautifully presented visually, and never fails to impress with it’s immaculate taste.

I hope you readers get to eat some pie this year!  If you don’t have time to make one, I know restaurants tend to make some really great homemade-style ones.  And if you’re in a pinch, I’ve found some brands are VERY good at making pie filling (like for cherry pies) – that along with a homemade crust makes it hard to tell if you made the filling or not.

Enjoy all the eating and drinking!

Stephanie

Merry Christmas!

One of the things I love about this time of year is the going to parties and seeing friends and family.  We just had our annual Police Dance event, which is very similar in ways to a Military Ball event.

It’s a dance and it’s supposed to be for fun and entertainment, but it’s also very much a work event.  We had actually never gone before, so it was fun to read up on all the military ball etiquette advice.  It was a lot more relaxed, but the etiquette was proved to be useful just as well.

We had so much fun! 😀 ❤

Everyone there was dressed so nice, the food was amazing, and we were able to have a nice night, kid-free, to actually get out and dance.

My husband announced to me that we “have” to do this every year from now on 😀  It’s not mandatory like a lot of the Military Balls are, but still, it was very much a networking event, and a perfect “date night” to boot complete with live bands playing for music!

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My husband is not really a picture-taking person, but man he took a ton of pics and videos that night, a lot of them selfies of us together ❤  Really romantic 🙂

My only jewelry were two pearl and diamond pins in my hair, and of course, his badge necklace.

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When my husband smiles like this, I KNOW something is going right 😀 ❤ ❤ ❤

He was so happy that night.  He doesn’t drink either, and the drinks were all free!  So this was a real, natural high on the joy of the moment ❤

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A better picture of the dress I wore. It’s actually a dress from when I was 16 or 17, but it still fit and I thought it would be gown-appropriate, floor-length attire.

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Everyone’s dresses were so beautiful – I LOVED seeing all the girlfriends and wives dressed up 😀  What a nice way to celebrate together… someone remarked, “We all clean up pretty nice!”  LOL

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Merry Christmas readers!  Hope you all find joy and meaning in the spirit of Christmas this year!

Stephanie