Holiday Weekend

07.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We were riding a high all week following our fun-filled long holiday weekend. And we leave for Florida in two days, so there’s no need to rejoin reality just yet.

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We celebrated July 4th with a trip to a local arts festival.

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The setting was pure Americana. White tents and food booths lining the lake.

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Red, white, and blue popsicles; berry pie and vanilla ice cream; funnel cake coated in powdered sugar.

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And live music over the water.

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Sam loved it — the food, the entertainment, the energy.

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Though he didn’t quite make it back to the car before passing out in his stroller.

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The next day we headed to Idlewild with some friends, and I do believe Sam thought we had entered toddler heaven.

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I visited Idlewild with my parents over 25 years ago, and some things were exactly as I remembered. Like Story Book Forest.

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In fact, I have this same photo of me and my brother as kiddos. Oh, the memories.

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Despite the hot, hot, hot day, the boys did great.

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And Sam rode his first amusement park ride. I’m pretty sure he loved it more than Mommy and Daddy — I believe we’re too old for rides that go round and round and round.

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But the absolute highlight of the day was the choo choo train. Honestly, I have never seen Sam so excited. When he heard the whistle and spotted the train approaching the station, he squealed and clapped and screamed “yay!”

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Look at that smile. Gosh, I love him and his enthusiasm.

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Again, we kept the kid out past his naptime. But it was well worth it, especially when he fell asleep on my shoulder.

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The fun continued on Saturday with a neighborhood picnic. Sam loves our neighbors as much as they love him.

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And there was a bounce house!

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We played and ate. And played and ate some more. And we all slept extremely well that night.

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Finally, we capped off the weekend with a certain Momma’s 31st birthday! We enjoyed breakfast, followed by outlet shopping.

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And later that night, Nick and I went out for dinner and a movie.

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I think we may have a new favorite restaurant: The Headkeeper!

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Lobster pizza. Oh my.

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I love my boys, and I love the weekend we spent together. I suspect 31 is going to be a good year.

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Letter to Samuel: 21 Months

07.09.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Samuel,

All of the sudden you seem so big! Maybe because we have started to picture you as a big brother?

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And, oh, what an amazing big brother you will be. You are so nurturing and such a love bug. You freely give kisses to anyone who will accept them, and I just love to see you cuddle your Mr. Ribbit. In fact, your fondness for him continues to grow. He often accompanies us to the grocery store, to playdates, to gymnastics class. He has tumbled down the mulched garden bed and taken a swim in the pool and dipped his frog legs into Lucy’s water dish more times than I can count. Honestly, he could really use a bath every night, but we’ve tried to minimize his trips through the washing machine in hopes of keeping him in tact as long as possible. Though I think it may soon be time to buy a replacement — and sneakily make the big switch, of course.

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Your new favorite word is “baby,” and you often point to Mommy’s belly when you say it. One night, you lifted Mommy’s shirt and said “baby.” Then you lifted Daddy’s shirt and said “uh-oh.” We thought that was just hysterical.

Your other new favorite phrase is “I want.” We’re trying our best to tag “please” onto the end of it (which comes out as “pee”). You also say “thank you” (day do) when prompted. You say “uh-oh” “oh no” and “whoa” all the time. And I must hear “mama” at least 50 times a day — that is no exaggeration. You also say “dada” consistently, and we are working on “Sammy” and “Lucy.”

I would guess you say about 20 words now. And while you may be slightly behind other kiddos your age when it comes to your vocabulary, you make up for it in many other ways.

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You have no fear when it comes to climbing, running, sliding, rolling, swinging, etc. And you have become very brave in the swimming pool. I have finally convinced you that your “turtle wings” (a.k.a. puddle jumper) are cool to wear, which means you can “swim” all by yourself. You also took at least five trips down the sliding board and thought it was just about the coolest thing ever! You even threw a fit because Daddy wouldn’t take you to the very top. You kept saying “up” and “more.” So he obliged. Then your neighbor buddy, Jerry, caught you at the bottom — but not after you went under the water. But you giggled and clapped and said “yay!”

Speaking of water, I took you to a splash park this month, and you were obsessed. You ran through the sprinklers with the big kids and didn’t flinch when the big bucket of water fell on your head.

You are also evolving into quite the social butterfly. You still like to have Mommy nearby, but you approach strangers with smiles and waves and don’t mind being the center of attention. You are so confident and courageous, and I hope you never lose those qualities.

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You still love trucks and tractors and trains and airplanes. One night, we went for ice cream and counted at least 20 motorcycles drive by — you were in heaven. When you see a fire truck, you say “woo woo woo.” You love bubbles, play-doh, your lawn mower, and books. We now read at least five of them every night before bed. Current favorites are “The Diggingest Dog” “Go, Dog, Go” and our family picture book.

We finished our first full year of music class this month and started gymnastics class. You absolutely love to run across the spring floor and jump on the trampoline, and you’re able to hang from the bar for a solid 10 seconds. Strong man!

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Sam, we just adore the little person you are becoming. You are such a joy to be around, and each day gets better. Love you to the moon and back, kiddo!

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{Photos Credit to Mudpies N Butterflies)

The First Trimester, for the Second Time

06.29.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

First, thank you all so much for the response to our announcement last week. We are very excited to share this next adventure with all of you!

Now onto the details.

The News. We knew in January that we were ready for our little family to grow, and we started to make a deliberate effort to do so in February. The next two months passed with no news. We were disappointed, but not discouraged. The day before Sam and I left for our Alabama trip, I took a pregnancy test. But it was negative. And so I had a glass of wine with my in-laws. But as the week progressed, I suspected that test may have been wrong. And so less than 12 hours after returning home, I picked up another test at the local pharmacy. Sure enough — two lines appeared almost instantly! Sam and I danced around the kitchen and pumped our fists in the air, and then we called Daddy. He could hardly get home fast enough to join the celebration.

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The Due Date. We reached the 12-week mark last Wednesday, which makes our due date January 8th. However, little bean measured a week later during our first ultrasound (which completely fascinated Sam, by the way). Following in big brother’s first steps already! See, the doctor had set Sam’s due date for September 17th, but he measured small on all three ultrasounds. So, it should have come as no surprise, that he arrived “eight days late” on September 25th. I suspect little sibling may join our family closer to mid-Janaury.

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The Same. This pregnancy has progressed almost identical to our first. I’ve experienced very similar symptoms so far — fatigue and headaches topping the list. Which means I have heartburn and leg cramps and lower back pain to look forward to!

But Different. Of course, this time around feels much different. Instead of commuting almost two hours to and from work every day and spending the majority of eight hours sitting at a desk behind a computer screen, I’m chasing our toddler around the playground and following him down the sliding board. I’m playing fetch in the yard with our puppy and pulling weeds from the garden. And I’m trying so very hard to keep a clean house and prepare a balanced meal for my family every night. Needless to say, my plate is full! It’s more difficult this time to remember to take my vitamins and to take a break for a glass of water. Also different this time? My belly by week 8! I’m barely through the first trimester, and I’m almost exclusively wearing maternity clothes.

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Moving Forward. We are all very excited for Nick to have an 8-week break from school. He deserves it! And I can’t wait to have his helping hands around the house. Also, we leave for Destin, FL in less than two weeks, and oh boy, are we ready for a change of scenery. I must admit, it’s much more enjoyable to have a small summer belly this time around. Of course, that means I’ll have to invest in some new maternity clothes come winter.

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I anticipate the documentation of this pregnancy will be much less frequent than our last, but I plan to take belly shots at least every two weeks. Perhaps I can even convince Nick to do an occasional post from “his perspective” because we all enjoyed those so much last time! And how about Sam’s perspective, too? Because he is currently obsessed with all things baby. This kiddo is going to be one heck of a big brother.

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Thanks again for all the love!

Sam’s Secret!

06.26.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam has been very good about keeping our news a secret. But he’s ready to share it with the world!

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You may have noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet. Well, it’s not only because we’ve been busy with park dates and picnics and splash parks, it’s also because I’ve been sleeping straight through Sam’s afternoon naps and going to bed shortly after he does. Which doesn’t leave much time for blogging — not to mention cooking or cleaning.

Chasing a toddler (and a puppy) while growing a baby is hard work! Of course, I couldn’t be more thrilled or more thankful to be doing it. Details to come!

Summer Is

06.24.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

90 degrees before noon. The sweet scent of baby sunscreen. Sun-kissed cheeks. And generous neighbors who invite us over to swim.

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Running through sprinklers with friends. Then picnicking under the shade of a maple tree.

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Hot dogs and hamburgers and sweet corn on the cob. A tall glass of lemonade. Dinners al fresco.

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A sip of water straight from the garden hose. Rinsing sticky orange popsicle fingers and removing the blades of grass from between our toes.

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Our favorite strawberry cake made with strawberries picked that morning.

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The promise of homegrown tomatoes and peppers. Multiple basil plants. And our first attempt at cucumbers and eggplant.

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Concerts in the park. Folding chairs and blankets spread across the grass. Koozies and a bottle of wine on ice.

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Summer is … pure joy.

Kindermusik: Toddler Edition

06.18.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We have officially completed our first full year of Kindermusik.

We started with a class for babies up to age 18 months. (How was he so little just one year ago?) We held our babies and encouraged them to clap their hands and hit the drum, and sometimes they crawled off the music mat, but they mostly just sat with us and giggled and babbled while we sang silly songs.

My, how our Wednesday mornings have changed.

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Sam was completely overwhelmed earlier this year during our first class with the 18 months – 3 years age group. Miss Uta no longer gently placed the instruments into his hands — he had to wait in line with the big kids and choose an instrument from the basket. He was slightly intimidated by their size and confidence and chose to stand at the end of the line until his classmates were seated.

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But the instruments were much more fun — wooden blocks, bells, an xylophone, a whistle — and it didn’t take long for Sam to “become a big kid.”

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Which also meant he was no longer content to sit on the music mat with Mommy. He ran around the room with the other kids, tried to open the cabinet doors, crawled under empty chairs, and sometimes did somersaults. But Miss Uta encouraged every form of interaction.

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We bounced on rubber balls and jumped through hula hoops and waved silk scarves. We hopped and skipped and tip-toed to the music. We practiced fast songs and slow songs and made all sorts of animal sounds.

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We held hands and danced in a circle and waved a parachute for the kids to run under.

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Every class included storytime and “gentle rocking,” which meant the mommas got a few brief moments of snuggle time before the kiddos were off and running again. And every class concluded with stamps for all the little toddler hands.

Thanks, Miss Uta, for a great year! Sam has loved every class. We’re taking the rest of the summer off, but we’ll be back for more fun this fall!

Picking (and eating) Strawberries

06.11.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Last week we visited Triple B Farms, which is located just outside of Pittsburgh. If you live in the area, you must check it out! I’m not kidding when I say that it is the coolest place we’ve been to since we moved to western Pennsylvania.

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We met up with a few other local moms and kiddos for a morning of strawberry picking.

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Which, to our toddlers, meant strawberry eating.

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It didn’t take Sam long to figure out that the biggest and reddest strawberries tasted the best. And he seriously must have eaten two dozen while traipsing through the field.

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The berries often went straight from the vine and into his mouth. But he also didn’t hesitate to raid the basket that I was trying so hard to fill. I don’t blame him, though, there really is nothing better than sweet strawberries ripened by the early June sun.

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He’s just like his momma when it comes to his deep love for summer produce.

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It was the perfect way to spend a Tuesday morning.

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And there were tractors! With steps for Sam’s little legs to climb and a wheel as big as his body. He was in heaven.

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There were also slides and a petting zoo and a cute farm store. Triple B Farms, thanks for your hospitality! We will definitely be back.

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Letter to Samuel: 20 Months

06.08.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Sam,

You are our comedian, our explorer, and our little love bug. And I can’t believe you are twenty months old!

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Summertime has brought with it many new adventures: first visits to the science museum and the zoo, first tractor ride, and first trip around the merry-go-round. You are only slightly timid when encountering new things, and as soon as you successfully do that thing, you want to do it over and over and over again (i.e. the tractor and the big slide at the community carnival).

Seemingly mundane tasks like loading the dishwasher, pulling weeds, and vacuuming the couches are lots more fun with your little helping hands. You have even figured out how to operate the Keurig, which means we have to double check that it is always turned off when we’re finished brewing our morning cups of coffee.

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You have loved your Little Tikes car and your giraffe bike this month. And you are so fast on both! You have finally figured out how to more forwards and steer, and you cruise around the house like it’s your own personal racetrack. You also love to have company on your little road trips. You hold Ribbit and Tiger and Baby and sometimes your sippy cup. You’re pretty fast with your lawn mower, too. And you easily go up and down the hills in our yard.

Speaking of up and down, you have officially mastered the stairs. No more crawling up and sliding down, you now prefer to walk while holding the railing and, occasionally, our hands. You can even go up and down the single steps of our sidewalk.

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You’ve become a bit more picky in your food preferences this month, which I know is common. You still like bratwursts and bananas and berries and cheese. But dishes I could always count on like eggs and grilled chicken are now hit or miss. And you’ve developed an awful snacking habit. You whine and beg for marshmallows and Goldfish and popsicles. But perhaps your favorite thing this month is sweet tea. The problem is Momma loves it, too, so I have to hide the pitcher in the back of the refrigerator!

Not only have your eating habits changed, so have your mealtime manners. You flat out refuse to sit anywhere but the big chair. Although you often manage to sneak yourself into either my lap or Daddy’s lap. Then you proceed to stick your hands in our food and help yourself to bites, even when you have the exact same thing on your plate. Hey, as long as you get some food in your belly, we’re not going to complain.

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Your bedtime and naptime routines continue to work perfectly well. So well, in fact, that you have a very hard time falling asleep anywhere but in your bed (or your pack’n’play while traveling). This means long road trips have become almost unbearable. You snooze for about 30 minutes — when your typical afternoon nap lasts more than 2 hours. And then we are forced to load movies into the DVD player (favorites are Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story) to minimize the inevitable whining from the backseat.

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You and Daddy had several opportunities this month for some real boy bonding. You spent a day at Hershey’s Chocolate World and a local pickle festival — chocolate and pickles … two of your most favorite things! And it’s quite common to find the two of you huddled together in your circus tent reading books and giggling. You have always been Mommy’s buddy, but it has been so wonderful to watch your relationship with your Daddy really blossom.

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You continue to get better and better at communicating with us. You are constantly babbling and consistently say about a dozen words like no, up, down, go, out, ball, water (wa wa), more, milk, and bye. Sometimes you try to repeat our words, and even if they sound nothing like ours, we still praise your effort. You “read” to us and talk to your stuffed animals and tell us if Lucy is getting into trouble. You “choo choo” and “vroom” to your trains and trucks and “quack” to the rubber duckies in the bathtub.

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You are our sunshine, Sam. We love you!

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To the Zoo

06.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We took Sam to the zoo on Memorial Day. And I admit that we were more excited than he was. At first.

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The lions and leopards and giraffes were so far away, and Sam was more interested in trying to climb the railing — much to his mother’s dismay.

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But then we entered the elephant house, and he was mesmerized. We watched the baby elephant swing a bat with his trunk for at least 10 minutes.

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Laura and Stephen joined us for the fun day, and we were thankful to have the extra hands to chase our little monkey.

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Yes, our little monkey liked the real monkeys, but he loved the fishies. The aquarium was a huge hit.

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And I think we all loved the penguins as much as he did.

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Sam was even brave enough to crawl through the water tunnel — with Auntie close behind — to get closer to the stingrays.

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The polar bears were another favorite. So playful!

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Needless to say, Sam didn’t spend much time in his stroller.

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Personally, I would have appreciated a break from trekking through the African Savannah and Asian forest.

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Surprisingly, our little trooper lasted all day without a nap. And he had zero meltdowns. He was rewarded with a sweet little tiger.

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Before we left Pittsburgh, we took Laura and Stephen up the incline for our favorite view of the city.

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We will definitely be back to see the animals again soon!

Catch Up

05.23.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I have started no less than five posts since we returned from Alabama. And, yet, it has remained awfully silent around here. So let’s play a little catch up, shall we? Because we all know those draft posts aren’t going to get finished anytime soon.

It’s been hot here. In fact, it’s felt more like July than May. I’m not complaining, though. And neither is this guy.

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Hot means corn on the cob. And running through sprinklers in barefeet.

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And it means ice cream and popsicles every evening.

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We celebrated Mother’s Day, and I was so lucky to not only be with the one who made me a momma …

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But also with the one who taught me to be a momma, as well as both of my grandmothers. I truly cherish moments like this.

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My boys spoiled me with a day at the Hershey Spa.

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And I was in wonderful company. We enjoyed massages and pedicures and, as always, an endless supply of Hershey’s kisses.

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And while we were away, Sammy enjoyed a day with Daddy. Chocolate and pickles — what more could a boy ask for?

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We’ve been having playdates …

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and celebrating college graduations.

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And, believe it or not, we’ve found time for yard work, too.

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Hope your May has been as eventful as ours!