Ashley and the Tale of the Red Balloon

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I got my first tattoo when I was a freshman in college. It was small — a tiny little star with rainbow stardust, on the side of my right ankle.  I was about a week into school, on my own, 3 hours away from my parents.  My first attempt at being a rebel.

A rebel.. one who gets a tiny star with rainbow stardust tattoo.

My second tattoo was the one that would change my life. And, it was completely random. Unplanned. Ironically enough, that’s what made it so magical.

I went with a group of friends who were going to get tattoos.  We spent about an hour in the parlor, looking around. Going back and forth on whether they were going to do it or not.  Eventually, both friends decided against getting one.

“What!?” I exclaimed. “We literally spent all this time here, and no one is getting a tattoo?!”

They shuffled their feet and mumbled under their breath, obviously still debating, but ultimately deciding it was best to wait before permanently marking their bodies.

“Well, I mean.. we’re here. So, maybe I’ll just get one.” I said, trying to act way more confident than I actually was.

“What? What would you even get?” My taller friend was attempting to call my bluff.

“I don’t know.. maybe I’ll just get a red balloon or something.”

“Why a red balloon?” asked my other shorter friend.

“Why not?”

30 minutes later, I walked out of the tattoo parlor with a fresh red balloon tattooed on my left calf. It was simple, a red balloon with a black string. No muss, no fuss. It didn’t need any.

There were a few days afterward where I secretly questioned why I got it. A red balloon? Of all the things to get tattooed, I chose a red balloon?! So strange.. At that point I didn’t have the same affinity for balloons as I do now. It had no meaning, no significance. It was really just a spur of the moment decision that would eventually mean everything to me.

The randomness, the “spur of the moment” decision, the “giving no fucks” attitude, the impulsivity.. that wasn’t really my style.  I’m known to be very type-A: a planner, a to-do list maker, a thinker, a high-expectations-of-yourself-and-everyone-else overachiever. The split moment impulse to get a red balloon tattoo was one of the more spontaneous things I had done in my life to that point — and I did it without much thought or contemplation. As the days, months, years passed since getting it — of all the tattoos I have, that one gives me the most joy.  It gives me life.

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The red balloon is such a great reminder for myself of important life lessons.

  • Sometimes the best parts of life are unplanned and unpredictable. And that’s okay!!
  • It’s all about the little things.  Take time to appreciate the little things, for one day you will wake up and realize all the little things were actually the big things that make life so wonderful.
  • When life throws challenges your way, pick yourself up and rise like a balloon.
  • Smile. Just smile.
  • Every little thing is gonna be alright.
  • When everyone else is finding joy in bursting your balloons, don’t let them. You are stronger than you think.
  • Fear can be two things: Fear Everything And Run — or — Face Everything And Rise.  Choose to rise.
  • You will rise by lifting others. So lift up with your whole heart and let them go.
  • “If one wants to rise like a hot air balloon, one must cut the wires and let go of the weight that hold back the true potential.”

As I’ve grown older, the balloon has become such a happiness boost for me. A muse. A hope.  I eventually added in the word “Hope” into the string of the balloon — again.. a reminder. Don’t lose your hope, don’t let it break — it can be fragile, it can get twisted, knotted, cut-off. Cherish it, and keep them high.

“Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.” — Winnie the Pooh.  Preach, Winnie. Preach.

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Friends, your life is like a balloon. If you never let yourself go, you will never know how high you can rise. Da Vinci said, “Once you have flown, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return.” You’ve seen my descent, now watch my rising.

Ain’t nobody gonna burst my balloons anymore. I am in control of how high I rise. And the sky is limitless.

Fuck the haters, love the lovers, and rise above.

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Ashley: reinvented.

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Life has a funny way of teaching you things you never knew you needed to learn.

At the beginning of 2016, I chose a one word theme for the year — something to help keep me motivated, something to drive me and my decisions, something BIGGER than resolutions that are notorious for being broken time and time again.  I chose growth.  Growth.

Growth –  noun.

  • the process of growing.

Growing – verb

  • to become better or improved in some way

I’ve always been the type of person who had expectations of how my life would go, or plans on how it would all work out in the end.  By choosing the word “growth” this year, my expectations were that I would gain insight into different aspects of my life to live a little happier. I was seeking that “passion” in my career that everyone talks about when they say “living the dream” or “love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”  I was seeking that “drive” when it came to living a healthier lifestyle, becoming “fit” mentally, physically, emotionally. I was looking to find more sunshine and rainbows, even in the mundane “everyday” routinized activities we “have” to do. Talk less, smile more. Become a better “me” so I can be better in every other role I fill.
I had no idea how much “growing” I would actually have to do this year.

How much work I needed to do, not just in the areas I wrote above — but in areas I didn’t even know needed help.

Or did I know but refused to believe it? Or did I know but just was too blind to actually see it?  Was my heart confusing my head, or was my head telling my heart different things to protect it from getting broken?

Will I ever know?

Does it even matter now, at this point?

I’m not sure I believe in the adage “Everything happens for a reason.”  I believe that everything happens the way it is supposed to, whether there is a reason or not. I’m still trying to wrap my head (and heart) around the “not needing to understand reasons or lack of reasons” part, but I’m working on it.

Someone wise once told me, “Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.” I believe that. We have one life, one chance, one moment, one breath, one body, one mind, one soul. Now is the time, the time is now.

Remember. Stop crying in the corner of the kitchen. Pick up your pieces.  Dust off your shoulders.  Breathe in, slowly let it out.

Remember. Smile from your liver. Stop, Cancel Cancel. Everyday is another opportunity it turn it all around.

Remember. 10 miles, barefoot. Stronger than you think. Move forward. Look back, but only to enjoy the memories and then let them go.

Remember. 26 breaths per minute. Take another one. One foot in front of the other. One more mile ran. One more sad song. “How does it feel?”

Remember. “I’m not in love with you anymore, I’m in love with someone else.” “Eat. Workout. Clean yourself up.” Supernova. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

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mber. “Today is going to be a great day. The sun is shining, a few clouds in the sky. And today is going to be a great day.” “God, please help me.” Send me love and light, and drop it.

Remember. She’s looking to you. She deserves it. She is everything. She will learn from you how to get through the seemingly impossible. Find rainbows everyday.

Remember. “They will be lining up at your door.” Columbia. Afternoon movies and bookstores. Falling more in love with the city that never sleeps. Can’t start a new chapter when you keep rereading the old ones.

Remember. Prospect. Central. Try new things. Talk less, smile more. Move forward, with me. Everyday is another opportunity to turn it all around.

Remember. Just remember.

 

You’ve got this. Don’t you forget it.

Find rainbows everyday.  When you are living the best version of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves. Love the person you’ve become because you fought to become her. Sometimes the negative things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the BEST things that will ever happen to us.

Growth.

Ashley: Reinvented.

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Quick Update!

Hi friends!

Whoa, it has been TOO LONG! Here’s a quick update of what has been going on in our world:

About a month ago, Ella turned 2.5.  It’s almost as if to the DAY she turned 2.5, she’s gone kinda crazy.  I never wanted to believe in the phrase “Terrible Twos” because — well, I mean, she’s adorable, how could she ever be TERRIBLE?  But, alas — I’m in a constant state of learning, and there have been several moments over the past few weeks that weren’t exactly… great. Sometimes the tantrums are short lived and easy to manage, but those other times… phew!

It also appears that Ella has now hit a sleep regression period that feels like it is slowly killing me.  We’ve been extremely lucky in her short life so far — she’s been an excellent sleeper!  I’ve always hated telling people that she started sleeping through the night after about 2 weeks of bringing her home — but it’s true.  Now, she won’t fall asleep unless you are laying with her.  After about 3 hours of sleep, she wakes up, and either comes to get me to lay with her in her bed, or crawls into our bed.  Some nights, this is completely okay, because she actually sleeps.  Other nights, its a toss-and-turn-all-night-pillow-fight that leaves both Raux and I feeling exhausted.  Lately, it feels like that latter is becoming the norm — and most days I feel like a walking zombie trying to push through until bedtime, so we can do this dance all over again.

Despite everything though, I must say that I’m grateful for this opportunity to grow through these challenges.  I know it may sound silly — but in reality, things could be much worse.  I know the world is big and she’s two, so these changes are just a natural progression of growing up for her — and I’m thankful that I get to be here to help her through it.  Plus, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to progress in my own growth, and patience training. 😉

Other than our sleep struggles and attitude adjustments with Ella, we’ve just been pretty busy lately!  I’ve been consistently working out at least 5-6 times a week, and have been incorporating more runs into my regime for marathon training.  We also have added on two upcoming side projects — both are fitness related and super fun.  More details soon!

I’m hoping to balance out my crazy a little better in the next few weeks, and make more time for writing on here.  Ideally, I want to get back to posting 2-3 week — and I’m looking forward to sharing all the exciting happenings with you all soon as they continue to develop!

If you don’t follow me  on IG or FB — please do!  I’m constantly adding amazing pictures and fun stuff on those pages, moreso than on here. Let’s keep connected! 🙂

Hope everyone has a fantastic weekend!

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We’re back!

Ahh, friends!  We are back!

I spent a week trying to figure out how to transfer my sweet little blog from a .com to a .org hosting — and made a complete mess of things!  Can you believe it? 😉  However, finding the silver lining — I’ve learned so much more about how to run this page — and am excited for more changes in the near future.

Meanwhile, as this mess unfolded.. here are some pretty cool accomplishments our little family made in the past two weeks (with some pictures!):

  • We are in full force potty-training mode!  Because of this, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep clothes on this child — she wants to be naked ALL.THE.TIME.
  • I have two special projects I’m currently working on that are almost near completion — both are creatively based, which is SO awesome!  One of the projects was supposed to launch last weekend, but we ran into a few bumps along the way — technology 1, Ashley 0. I’m hoping for a June 1 launch for (at least) one of them.
  • My Granny turned 80 last week!  That is so incredible to me — and she’s my hero.
  • Ella went on her first slip-n-slide! She loved it — and so did we!

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  • We are experiencing a bit of 2.5 year old sleep regression — that I’m learning is because of her two year old molars coming in.  Seems the little girls only wants to fall asleep with one of us in her room with her — and she sneaks into our bed in the middle of the night.  I’m still not 100% this is the best decision, but I’m enjoying the extra snuggles while I have them.
  • I failed Whole 30 this month — but I’m already starting to meal plan for June!  Plus, this month we tried out Hello Fresh, and holy-tasty-food!  I’ve been REALLY enjoying every meal I’ve made so far, and they are fairly healthy for you — bonus!
  • Ella’s language has been EXPLODING — she’s definitely made it to the “Mockingbird” stage. She’s growing up — which makes me so incredibly happy and sad at the same time.  Oh, and did I mention we visited her potential preschool — yeah. I cried.
  • We were super lucky to have a DATE NIGHT (well… it was more of an afternoon, but still!).  Raux and I went to see one of our friends in a show, then went to check out the new Town Center area of Disney Springs.  Even got to hang out with “Auntie K” and enjoy some delicious food and cocktails.  “MOM ON THE LOOSE!” Really, though — it was a blast.  And, we waited in line for 30 minutes for a cupcake, which was silly — but worth it! 🙂

I’m so happy to have the blog BACK up and running!  We are currently working on changing up the appearance, so look for some changes coming soon!

Happy Monday!

Body Back: Week Eight Recap — The Final Assessment!

It’s hard to believe… but my first session of Body Back is over! Wow.

8 weeks of early mornings, intense workouts, and BURPEES.  I feel I’ve grown so much in the past 8 weeks — I’ve learned so much more about myself, and the direction in which my future is heading.

So, you’ve waited and waited for 8 weeks — so let’s get to it!


Week eight started out rough — I caught a silly cold over the weekend, so I managed to miss the last class before the assessment!  BLAST!  I really wanted that final workout in — but really, I knew this was it and one more workout before the assessment wasn’t going to make or break me.

The morning of the assessment was here before I knew it.  I was so excited for it, I barely slept the night before — and felt super pumped when I arrived to our workout area at an earrrrlllllyyyy 5:30AM.  The first thing we did was take our “After” photos, followed by weighing in and doing our measurements.

Weight and Measurement Results:

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Overall, I lost 1.6lbs and 3 inches.  However, I also gained 1.5 inches in my arms and hips.  After doing these measurements, I have to admit — I was feeling a bit down about it.  I worked my tail off — I was expecting to have a bigger difference.  It just wasn’t in the cards for me this time. But…..then we did our actual physical FITNESS assessment.

Here are the results and comparison from the fitness assessment:

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Yes… You read that right.  Although I was bummed about my measurements — I kicked butt on my physical assessment — and that’s really what mattered most to me.  I knew I had areas to work on from the initial assessment — and I worked hard on all of those areas.

When I started this, I could only hold a wall-sit for 1 minute and 34 seconds.  8 weeks later, I held a wall-sit for TWENTY FIVE MINUTES.  TWENTY FIVE!!!  And, truth is — I think I could’ve held it longer!  Directly after, I ran my mile in 5 seconds quicker time than I originally started.  That’s incredible — and man, my legs were JELLY!

I do feel a little bummed about my planks and side bridge– I know I can hold longer than this.  But, honestly (and not to give excuses…) I did side bridges LAST — you know, after I held that 25 minute wall-sit, bicep curls, etc.  So, only improving a little from the first assessment is okay with me.  C’mon.. twenty five minutes! That’s insane.

And, last but not least… the photos:

I don’t see a huge difference in the photos — but the huge difference is beyond what the photos show.  The girl in the grey tank is STRONGER, more CONFIDENT, and HAPPIER. And that, my friends, is worth every single second, every single sweat bead, every single burpee.


One evening last week, on our walk, Ella fell asleep — so I took a few minutes to just sit and think by a lake that sits behind our neighborhood.  I couldn’t help but smile, thinking of how far I’ve come — not only just in these last 8 weeks, but since we moved here.  It’s an incredible difference.

The girl I once knew was struggling.  She had forgotten who she was, what she loved to do. She was so consumed by working and being a mom in her non-working time, that she let herself come second .. third.. last. She would constantly be told she looked “tired” or that she needed to smile more.  And, truth is .. I was tired.  I did need to smile more — I just was struggling to find balance that reminded me of all the beautiful things I had in my life to smile for.

But now, it’s completely different.  I find myself laughing more, crying less.  I’m beginning to recognize myself again.  I’m getting to meet such amazing new people who have become instant friends!  I’m remembering all of the things I love to do. I’m making time for myself — and time to appreciate the little things.  I’m getting out of my comfort zone. I’m GROWING.

I’m proud of myself and how far I’ve come.  I’m a constant work in progress, for sure — but you know, I’m definitely moving in the right direction. 🙂

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May: the Month of Health and Wellness

Happy May, friends!

I just love May — Spring is in the air, beautiful blue almost-Summer skies, flowers, Mother’s Day, and warm days that still have a bit of a nice breeze — before the Florida death-heat takes over!

This month, in conjunction with my year of GROWTH, our little family will be focusing on Health and Wellness.  We have BIG goals for the month, and I’m so excited to share the journey with you.

Raux and I are fairly healthy people — we are active and usually eat pretty good, but this month, I want to take it a step further.  To fill our month of Health and Wellness, we’ve set out these goals for May:

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Garage gym.  I’m so pumped for this.  For YEARS, we’ve been talking about having our own  workout space, equipped with a pull-up/dip bar, but never had the space or resources to get it going.  We would just go to our local park and use their bars, or modify using playground equipment.  But not anymore — we finally ordered our bar, and it should be delivered this coming Thursday. I’m so excited! I have some big goals to be able to do a single pull-up and a handstand push-up by the end of the year, and this will definitely be put to good use!  We have also planned to buy the mat flooring and a medicine ball this upcoming week to start building it out further.

Body Back wrapped up last Wednesday, and I’m beginning the next session (only 4 weeks) on Tuesday.  I’m officially addicted to it, and I can’t wait to jump back in.  Oh, and the final assessment post should be up on the blog soon, so you can see how much progress was made in the first 8 weeks!  I’ll give you a hint: TWENTY. FIVE. MINUTES. Stay tuned…..

Fit4Mom (the company that runs the Stroller Strides and Body Back programs I’m obsessed with) is celebrating May by empowering all Mommas to run 26.2 miles over the course of the entire month.  This made my heart super happy — I love running, and feel I’ve been slacking on this part of my fitness regime lately.  So, I volunteered to help out by leading a running group for any of the Mommas in our village that want to hit this goal by running their mileage.  We will be meeting every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings and covering between 2-3 miles per day — but I’m also going to reach out whenever I’m planning to do extra runs to see if anyone wants to join in.  It’s so awesome to have a group of people who love to run and workout as much as you do  😉

I can already check one goal off my list — registering for my first FULL marathon.  Running a full marathon has been a dream — but after running 15Ks and halves, I’ve never been brave enough to jump into registering for a full.  Well, not anymore!  I registered for my first full this morning — I WILL BE a marathoner come January 29th, 2017.  What a great start to my 30th year — gonna crush 30 like it’s my job!

Whole 30 has also been a goal of mine for a while.  While I normally eat pretty healthy, I have a hell of a sweet tooth.  I’ve had friends who have had great success with Whole 30, and I figured since Body Back is only 4 weeks this session, this is the perfect opportunity to do Whole 30 for the month of May!  It’s going to be challenging, but I’m hoping it will really shake me into a better eating routine, being even more mindful of my choices, and honestly — I just want to feel better!  I want to be a reflection of the fuel I put into my body — satisfied, healthy, and clean. I plan to do weekly posts focusing on my meal plans and nutrition as I work through this process — and would love all the accountability and cheerleaders I can get!

Lately, I’ve been falling into a TV rut, and haven’t been giving my books much attention.  I seriously have my nightstand and bedside filled with books that I’m yearning to read — but will find myself re-watching old Grey’s episodes instead.  NO MORE!  I’m challenging myself to read through 2 personal development books this month.  First, I’m going to read “Happier at Home” by Gretchen Rubin — I adore her SO much, she’s like my spiritual master!  I’m going to save my second choice for when I finish “Happier at Home” — which will hopefully be added motivation. 🙂

I really enjoy Stephen Covey’s 7 habits principles, especially his work on motivating people to spend time “sharpening their own saw.”  I need to do this more in my own life — I find myself getting wrapped up with the day to day, making sure everyone else’s needs and wants are met, and not giving enough time for me to do something for myself.  This month, I want to spend a few hours one day a week (at least) to sharpen my saw: go to the bookstore, write, go see a movie, take myself out to lunch — SOMETHING.  Something where I just go piddle without having to worry much about anything except enjoying MYSELF.

So that’s it, friends!  May’s goals.  I’m so excited for each of these, and am already getting started on crushing them — went for a 3 mile run this morning, registered for the marathon, received notification about our bar getting here on Thursday, feeling good so far on Day 1 of Whole 30, and I’m starting my 1st book tonight.

It’s going to be a FANTASTIC month!

Do you have goals for May?  What are they?!  I’d love to hear all about it!  Drop me a comment below, or check me out on Facebook or Instagram!

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6 Grown-Up Lessons from a Toddler Playdate

Hi friends!

Yesterday was a beautiful day for our little household, as we held a playdate for Ella with her new friend Quinn.  This was very exciting for us (all three of us: Me, Raux, and Ella), as we haven’t really had too many “playdates” since Ella was born.  We don’t have many friends that have children yet, and since she isn’t in daycare, the only real interaction she gets with other kids her age is at our Stroller Strides class or the park.

So, when one of the Mommas from SS texted me asking if we wanted to get together to let the girls play, I was stoked and said YES right away. Little did I know, this playdate would teach me more about MYSELF than I’d realize, and that’s an added bonus for my year of GROWTH. 🙂

6 Grown-Up Lessons from a Toddler Playdate

Be Open. 

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Like I mentioned before, Ella hasn’t had a lot of interaction with other little ones. So, when Quinn and her Mommy came to our place for our playdate, I was a little nervous how Ella would act. Once Quinn walked in the door, Ella took right to her.  It was like they were old friends — they started playing right away without hesitation.  Here was my beautiful little girl being all social, and I realized.. the nervous one wasn’t Ella, it was me.  I was nervous not how Ella would act — she’s a kid — I was nervous about how I would act.  How would I be judged? What if I was awkward or too quiet or too loud or too weird?  I was already judging myself before anyone came over.  But, in the end, it doesn’t matter. I am who I am, and I really need to lighten up. Be more open to new experiences.  Meet new people.  Play right away, without hesitation.

 

Share.

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This one seems like a given, but is often forgotten.  Watching the girls play, there were many times when Ella would give up her toy to Quinn, and vice versa.  They only needed to be reminded a small number of times (which, c’mon.. they are two!).  But honestly, I think there are some adults that need to be reminded of this from time to time — myself included! While there are some key points in your life where you can (and should be) selfish, there are just as many (if not more) opportunities to share — physically, mentally, emotionally.  Sharing teaches compromise — if you give a little to others, you can get some of what you want as well.  Sharing teaches us to “take turns,” negotiate, and how to deal with the emotions of not getting what you want at the exact time you want it. As adults, sometimes we need to be reminded, too.

 

Paint With Your Fingers.

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We chose to do an Easter painting activity with the girls, where they used cookie cutters and plastic eggs to “stamp” on paper.  After about 3 minutes, the girls were done using the cutters, and resorted to using their fingers and paintbrushes.  This reminded me that it is absolutely okay to choose a different way to do something.  Even though the point of this activity was to “stamp” and create a cute Easter themed print, they still created a masterpiece by going their own way and choosing their own painting utensils.  Sometimes it turns out better by going against the “rules” or “guidelines” set upon you.  And, of course.. sometimes it’s best when you get messy.

 

Keep an empty shelf (or cabinet).

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After painting, the girls played in Ella’s room for a bit, then returned to kitchen to play in Ella’s “clubhouse” — aka an empty cabinet area in our kitchen.  When we lived in Jacksonville, our kitchen was TINY — we barely had room to cook in it, much less have items or appliances that needed to be stored away. When we were looking for our current house in Orlando, I had one requirement: it has to have a bigger kitchen.  We were super lucky to find our home equipped with a HUGE kitchen — complete opposite of what we were used to — and we honestly, just didn’t have enough “stuff” to fill all of the cabinets we now have. So, one cabinet area has been left empty (minus some rolls of paper towels) for Ella to play in.  Plus, having an empty shelf or cabinet is exhilarating for me — it shows that there is always a possibility of expansion, that I’m not crowded in by too much stuff.

 

Dress Up.

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Ella has a lot of dress up clothes and costumes that she loves to bring out and wear.  When the girls were in Ella’s room, Quinn found Ella’s stash of costumes, and wanted to be Elsa. So, of course, Ella was Anna.  They were ADORABLE — and it reminded me, it’s so much fun to dress up — and to use your imagination.  I think as we get older and become more “adult,” many people forget how to use their imagination.  We get too logical, too reasonable, too … accustomed to running like a “machine.”  Albert Einstein once said,”Logic will get you from A to B, but imagination will take you everywhere.”  To that point as well, Carl Sagan said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it, we go nowhere.”  Somedays, you should just pretend you are Anna or Elsa — and see where it takes you.

 

It’s okay to miss your friends.

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As our day ended, both girls were very tired — but didn’t want to stop playing.  Quinn kept trying to reason with her Mommy that she should take a nap at Ella’s house instead of going home. Ultimately, it was time to say “bye bye” for the day, and both girls cried as Quinn had to leave.  Ella stood by the window connected to our front door and watched as they drove away.  My heart was so sad about this, but it made me smile.  It made me think of my own friends — near and far — and how it’s okay to miss them.  Saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s necessary.  We are all living our own lives, doing our own things — but yet, when we get together, it’s like no time has passed since we last saw one another.  Sure, there are days when you wish they were here with you to play, or talk to, or to cry with — and you may get sad, and miss their company.  And that’s okay, completely normal — and just goes to show you, the friends that tug on your heartstrings are the ones you want to keep.

 

All in all, we had an amazing day with our new friend.  We painted, played hide and seek, rode a bike down a hill, ran around outside, dressed up, ate lunch, colored easter eggs, and cried as we had to say goodbye.  And, the last lesson learned: Plan to do it again. 🙂

Hope everyone has had a great week so far!

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