Dear Gracie: Happy 6th Birthday

Dear Gracie,

Oh Gracie girl. How has it already been 6 years since you first made me a mama!? You came into this world with a loud and forceful presence and you really haven’t change much! And you know what Gracie? You are teaching me that that’s ok! I think sometimes I see a lot of my childhood and present self in you, and sometimes I get frustrated with you too easily. But Gracie girl, you are your own person. You are uniquely created by God and given your own gifts and talents to glorify Him. That fire, spunk, and energy that at times seems so exhausting is a special gift. Use that fire and that spunk to point others to Jesus and love others well. Don’t let your fire be squelched, but feed it with the grace, truth, and love of Jesus. You are made for big things girly. Don’t let anyone tell you or make you feel otherwise.

A little bit about life for you as a 6 year old. You currently are working on one loose tooth and are very determined to get it out as soon as possible! You absolutely LOVE school and hate delays and snow days! You are learning to play violin this year and are not a fan of practicing. You are learning to read so well, even though at first it was very frustrating. You are learning when you stick with something, that it can end up being something enjoyable. You love crafting and creating. You got your hair cut a few months ago and donated it. You are a great big sister to both Lillie and Reu and often help me without complaining when I ask. You feel things very deeply and often seem emotional or dramatic. I’m in the process of learning how to help you grow and work through all those emotions and sometimes, just let them happen! You have a kind heart and are very friendly and inviting when playing with other kids.

You are a gift. A sensitive soul with a fierce joy for life!

We love you Gracie girl! Happy 6th birthday!

Love, Mama

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Dear Lillie: For Your Fourth Birthday

Dear Lillie,

You are four now! I don’t know quite when it happened, but you are growing up! You are still my baby in so many ways, but you also have learned to do so much on your own. You love to gather all your toys in one area to play. Basically, you’re a hoarder…we’ll work on that.  You easily go into your make believe world and love to move around your small dolls and figures to play out your own story, but you always want me to be close by. You often require that I sit beside you or play with you. You give me the story line and words to say, I just have to move them.  You love listening to music and dancing and singing. You want to sing all the main parts, I’m not allowed. If I do decide to chime in during an especially dramatic moment of “Let it Go,” you tell me I’m not allowed to sing-you’re Elsa! You are all about textures. Anything especially soft is a major draw! You love being read to and cuddled with. Your favorite foods are sausage and macaroni and cheese. Your favorite color is green, and you love anything that is green, including Rocky from Paw Patrol, turtles and frogs.

You have a kind heart and are often very generous. With out being prompted you will offer half of your treat to your sister, or a stick of your own gum to mommy and daddy. Your personality shines bright wherever you go! I love your spunky spirit and strong will.  You have the special ability to keep us all laughing and on our toes. I never know quite what you are going to say, and I kind of love that about you. You are a great friend, though there are definitely times you would rather play alone, or are a bit shy at first when meeting new people. That’s ok, I get that. Just keep being kind.

You are a difference maker girly. You have the ability to draw people in and lead them, while also having the ability to be generous to those people. When you got money for your birthday, the first thing you said was that you wanted to put some in church offering. Mommy and Daddy pray that you keep that generous spirit. That you love with the love of Jesus. That you continue to march to the beat of your own drum and keep standing up for what is right. That you stand up for those that might be looked down on. That you walk alongside others that might not have a friend.

It sounds like a lot, yes. You’ll make mistakes and that’s ok. We know you’re going to make mistakes. We make mistakes all the time.

Just know that when you make those mistakes you are still loved. You are forgiven. There is grace to try again.

We’ll keep working at giving you the room to grow into the woman God has created you to be. Sometimes it’s hard, but we know that you aren’t truly ours. You are a gift from God. We are so grateful to have been entrusted to help you grow and watch you use your gifts to glorify Jesus.

Right now your days are filled with an awful lot of Paw Patrol play, imagination, and concerns about when your next snack is. I know it won’t be long until your days are filled with much different things…grown up things. You won’t need me to sit so close while you play. For now, I’m so glad to hold you as my four-year-old Lilliebug. I’m going to try to get in my snuggles for as long as I can.

Love you,

Mama

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Dear Reu

 

Dear Reu,

How has a whole year gone by so quickly!? I’ll admit it, there were times, like the nights that you wanted to nurse A LOT, or just party in general, where it didn’t seem so fast. But baby boy, I wouldn’t trade any of those moments, because they are the moments that grew you into you! You are a JOY! You have such a happy, and mostly laid back personality. You kind of have to be laid back with your big sissies. If you’re wondering where that strong aversion to things being shoved in your face comes from or your assumption that toys magically appear in your hand…your sisters are responsible! You also know how to let us know what you want. Which is good, because you’re going to have to be able to speak up with those two big sisters!

It took you a little while to decide you really wanted to move. You didn’t roll much, and crawled a a little later than your sisters did, but boy, once you got moving, you just kept on going! You cruise around now and get to just about anything you want. You pull yourself up, stand on your own, and are so close to walking! You walk along the drawers in the kitchen and try to open all of them! You shove small chairs and tables around and basically think you’re the coolest, because you kind of are! You are starting to love looking at books. You’ll sit next to a pile of books and pull them all down around you. You then sit on the floor with a book on your lap and turn the pages, study them, and reach for another. It’s so fun to see you learning and growing!

You have one of the best cheesy faces I’ve ever seen…though I may be partial. You scrunch up your little nose, squint your eyes, and show your little chompers! Sometimes you breath heavy and sniff in and out for added effect! It almost looks like you’re in pain or angry, but really, you’re just trying to get us to laugh! You’re a good eater and eat just about anything! You feed yourself well and especially love frozen blueberries! You’re good at drinking water from your sippy cup now, but you still like to nurse a lot.

You’re a champ at going down for your naps and down for the night. You go down awake and put yourself to sleep easily…you’re just not so great at it during the night. You still wake up several times through the night and like to nurse a couple times too. You are a snuggler, which of course I’m totally ok with! You’ll often let me pop in your binky and cuddle you close to me, your head resting on my shoulder. I’m really hoping you’ll let me do that for a long time! You’re starting to babble more and sometimes say mama and dada. We can see the wheels turning and things clicking in your mind daily!

Before you were born, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be mom to a boy. I only knew girls, and figured that I would end up with all girls! Reu boy, I am so happy you are in our lives! You bring new surprises, challenges, prayers, and goodness, that will only continue to increase as you grow.

Our prayer for you is that you grow into a man of God. That you will seek Him and put Jesus first in your life. That you would grow in confidence in the gifts that you have been given and use them to glorify Christ. That in your weaknesses, you would lean into Jesus. Your name means shepherd and friend, and we believe we’ll see these things in you as you grow Reu boy. You are precious and purposed for good things. We can’t wait to watch God use you!

You are so loved, Reu boy.

Happy first birthday, baby.

Mama

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DIY Wizard of Oz Costumes:Sibling Edition

I’m not really one that has ever gotten into Halloween, but when you have the chance to dress up your children in adorable costumes and take pictures, you better believe that I am ALL OVER that  opportunity! Last year I was pregnant with Reu when we took the girl’s to Boo at the Zoo. We had just gotten back from Uganda, and they were really looking forward to dressing up as princesses. Somehow during the course of that day, I decided that next year they should be Dorothy, Glinda, and our baby boy could be Toto. Fast forward a year later and we have Dorothy, Glinda, and not Toto, but one VERY adorable munchkin. I have literally had this planned for a year guys. And seriously, look at them. It turned out awesome! Now mind you, when I say I had this planned for a year, that does not mean I had their costumes for a year. Costumes were more of a week (or day) before kind of deal. No worries. These easy DIY costumes can come together pretty quickly, and certainly don’t break the bank!

So here’s the breakdown folks:

Glinda– Find yourself a frilly pink dress. Chances are, you already own one. If you don’t, thrift for one or make a pink tutu with some tulle. The Glinda crown is made from cardboard paper. I followed instructions found here. I omitted gluing on jewels and just went with a few silver beads, because it’s what I had on hand! It’s literally just cardboard, rubbed on pink chalk, glitter glue, and a few hot glued beads! The Glinda wand is made from cardboard, embellished with some glitter glue, and hot glued and taped onto a small plastic rod. We  already owned the sparkly shoes, but you could thrift for some, or buy some that your child can still wear after Halloween!

Dorothy-Lillie had some sparkly red shoes that fit her last year, and that may have sparked our Wizard of Oz theme passion! Unfortunately, her feet grew! Who would have thought!? We sprung for a pair of perfectly, glittery red “Dorothy” shoes. She wears them A LOT, so it’s totally worth it.  I brought some inexpensive gingham fabric and sewed together a simple Dorothy apron. You can find the pattern I used here.  I then put together a white tulle tutu to wear underneath. All I did was sew together some wide elastic, and then knotted the white tulle around it. *TIME SAVER TIP* If you want cutting your tulle to go faster, wrap your tulle in a continuous loop around a book length wise (pick a book that works for the desired length of your skirt). Then cut through ONE end of the tulle, and viola! Lots of tulle pieces all the same length! Tights under Dorothy’s outfit was a must with the see through tulle and backless apron! Add in those Dorothy braids, and you’ll have the sweetest little Dorothy around!

Munchkin-This little munchkin costume took no time at all! I pulled out a collard button up, some overall shorts, and borrowed a pair of socks from Reu’s sissy. Then all I had to do was slick up that amazing hair and apply some cute little freckles with my Young Living multitasker…it really is a multitasker! I put together a lollipop from the middle of a paper plate that I cut out and drawn on, and then hot glued to a straw. This was not completely baby friendly…as evidenced by the picture below, as Reu tried to chew on it once or twice…or a lot!

There you have it! Super simple DIY Wizard of Oz costumes! This worked perfectly for this sweet sibling trio, and no worries, we are already planning next year’s costumes. We’re thinking some sort of Peter Pan theme! Tinkerbell, Wendy, and oh the possibilities for Reu! Dustin thinks that he would make an adorable Smee to his Captain Hook! I guess we’ll just have to see what I can whip up a day before Boo at the Zoo next year!

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An Invitation to Jesus

In this day and age we spend a lot of time sharing our opinions with the world. We write blog posts, share on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and lots of social media sites that I’m not cool enough to even get into. We share what we are eating, where we are going, what we are doing and thoughts on just about anything you can imagine. In some ways, this can be empowering. To have connection with others at the click of a button. To find like-minded people. To research, learn, understand, and maybe even better ourselves in some way. In other ways, it can be overwhelming and lead to sharing things that really don’t need to be shared. When do we cross the line? When is there too much mindless sharing, scrolling? When is it OK to start picking fights or judging others over Facebook? (Let’s just agree never on that last one!)

I’m obviously one of those people that shares. I share the good things and try to keep it real. I don’t want to start any arguments, so I purposefully don’t post about certain things. I share my kids, our day to day lives, encouragement, ideas, essential oils, those sorts of things.  I share what I love, what I’m passionate about, and hopefully things that will inspire or encourage others.

The other day as I was sharing about an essentials oils class that I would be hosting on Facebook, I got to thinking about how often we share things we are excited and passionate about, and ask others to join us. I am obviously excited about essential oils. I’m passionate about helping others. I am encouraged and totally pumped when others find success on my team. So I share. I share my excitement and invite others to share in the excitement too.

So here’s something else I’m passionate about. Jesus. I’m sure from my posts here, on Facebook, and Instagram, you can tell I love Jesus. ( I truly hope you can tell). But have I ever invited you to join me? Have I ever invited you to be part of the excitement (and so much more) of knowing Jesus as your personal Savior? I’m not sure that I outright have.  And I’ve been feeling the nudge that if I can share excitement over my essential oils team and having someone become part of our awesome community, I should also be able to share excitement about Jesus and invite you to know Him too. Because guys, knowing Jesus has a lot more attached to it than an essential oils class!  Jesus died on the cross for each and everyone of us because of how much He loves us! He wants each of us to know this, to believe in Him, and ask Him to live in our hearts so that we can someday live eternally with Him. Knowing Jesus weaves in our every day moments with eternal moments. Knowing Jesus and inviting others to know Him too, is what we are called to do.

“The Thief comes only to steal and kill and Destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

Simply put,  here’s my invitation. If you want to know Jesus, if you want to invite Him into your heart, if you want to say Yes to Him-Let’s talk! Do I have all the answers? Nope! I am learning and growing in my walk with Christ daily and if that’s something you want to do too, I’d love to walk alongside you.

We all have different platforms and ways of sharing. This is one of mine. If you’ve been waiting for an invitation, here it is.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:10

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I See You: To Stay at Home Mamas, and Moms Everywhere

Hey Mama.

I see you over there. You’re a stay at home mom. Some days you feel like you have the absolute, hands down, best job in the world. Approximately 2.5 seconds after you feel that, two tiny people are whining to be fed, while another one needs help wiping after going to the bathroom.

I see you over there. I see the work that you put in and how you feel proud, unsure, and like you’re messing it up all at the same time. The littlest accomplishments make your heart sore, while sometime you look back on the day and think, “What did I actually get done!?”.

I see you over there. Spending your days raising your children is amazing. But it’s also long and hard. How many hours are in each day? How long are they going to nap? When was the last time I went to the bathroom alone? You can calculate that by putting in the age of your oldest child. Five you say? Ok. Five years ago you went to the bathroom alone.

I see you over there. You want the best for your kids. You love helping them grow and learn. You love getting to be the one that gets to take care of them. You also feel like there are times when you just want everyone to stop touching you, stop needing you, maybe be a little more independent. Then you instantly take it all back and snuggle them all…hard.

I see you over there. You have so much passion for your kids. For helping them learn to use their gifts. To help them grow in their passions. You also have other passions. Sometimes those passions get pushed to the back burner. Sometime they are the ones that you are hustling to complete at naps or bedtime. Sometimes you make it work, and sometimes those passions wait for another season.

I see you over there. You are praying for your kids. Praying for their spiritual growth and their walk with the Lord. You are doing your best. Sometimes it’s hard to set aside that quiet time for yourself. To reconnect with the Lord. To dwell and dive into His word. The Lord is so faithful, and  you keep trying, because you know they are watching.

I see you over there. What you do is important. Sometimes you aren’t sure how to answer people’s question of what you do, or what your job is.  You are raising and loving children, and that’s hard to sum up.

I see you over there. You are important. What you are doing is important. You won’t get it all right, but you’re given new grace each day. You are loved and you are enough. I see you.

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How To Take Pictures of Kids… That Don’t Suck

Now that I’ve totally pulled you in with that catchy title…here’s my number one tip! Just keep snapping! Just pull out that little tune that, Dory, in Finding Nemo keeps repeating to the front of your mind and instead of thinking “Just keep swimming,” think, “Just keep snapping”. But seriously, take lots of pictures and something good is bound to happen! All of my photos were shot using a Cannon Rebel T3i in raw. I also took some with a regular lens and others with a macro lens. Other than taking pictures like a mad person, here are a few other tips from a very armature photographer who has a husband that knows how to use photoshop and gives me pointers from time to time!

  1. Use natural lighting. I try as much as I can to take pictures outside, or in a very bright room close to a window. Just make sure you position yourself in a way that you aren’t creating too many weird shadows if possible.
  2. Shoot in raw. This will allow you to easily edit photos. You can virtually erase shadows, increase contrast, sharpness, highlights and so on.
  3. Have fun! You may think that your photo shoot with your kids is turning out all wrong. No one is cooperating, everyone is crying, and someone is probably picking his or her nose. Right? Read that first paragraph again. Got it? Yup, that’s right, just keep snapping! Even if everything is turning out wrong, snap away! The pictures where no one is cooperating can sometimes be the very best pictures, and years from now, could create some very funny memories.

So there you have it, short and sweet. In today’s Pinterest perfect world, it is sometimes easy to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to take the perfect picture and capture every moment. I capture a lot of moments on my phone, which is great because I don’t have to lug around a larger camera and worry about it getting damaged while trying to play with the kids. It’s nice though, from time to time, to get out our nice camera and capture some shots of the kids. When I do take the time for this, I don’t want there to be so much pressure that I stress about it the whole time. In following these simple tips, I hope you too can capture some wonderful memories, without all the stress!

Take some times to looks through these photos and read my suggestions for how to edit your photos. Remember, I’m an amateur, so this may not be the text book way, but for this mama, it works!

These photos were taken in a room with lots of natural lighting. While editing these photos, instead of increasing the clarity like I usually do, I turned it down. This created a nice soft glow on the lights and gave the whole photo a soft, lovely feel.

These photos were taken by my sister-in-law and then I edited them. I increased the contrast to really bring out the colors in these photos. She also knows the beauty of just keep snapping! They didn’t cooperate for all of them, but in taking enough pictures, we still got some great shots!

With these shots you get a chance to see exactly what I did in the editing process.I play around with most photos until they look how I want them to! Notice that in the first picture I’m trying to capture the small details of tiny baby feet. In the second photo I’m capturing real life! Even though Reu is crying, this picture is an awesome photo, and one I’m sure we’ll enjoy looking back on! I usually go up on shadows and white, and then play around with the highlights, contrast, and clarity to get the type of look I want.

Happy Snapping!

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What To Buy In Your 20’s: Thoughts From A 29 Year Old

As you grow older, you begin to realize the importance of making quality purchases. It may mean a bit of investment, but if it’s going to be something that you use a lot, the investment is worth it! Today, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of my wisdom! My last birthday ushered me into the last year of my 20’s, so I’d say I’m pretty qualified to share!

  1. Quality Shoes-Whatever your job is, you’re probably going to be wearing shoes. If you have a job where you don’t wear shoes, I want to know what you do!? Granted, I spend a chunk of my days out of shoes as I wrangle kiddos, but I still need some quality shoes for when we’re out and about. Whether we’re going to the play ground or running errands, quality shoes are important. I love Keen Shoes because they give me great arch support!
  2. A Good Mattress– A good mattress kind of runs along the same line as a good pair of shoes. You spend a lot of time in your bed each night…even if you’re up with kids a few times a night! Casper  is one company that offers an affordable option, and has an 100 night trial! If you don’t like it after 100 nights, they give you a full refund!
  3. Tool Kit- My husband’s tool kit list would be a lot more extensive than mine, but getting yourself at least a basic tool kit is important. You’ll want to have things on hand to make at least minor repairs…because you probably shouldn’t resort to duck tape or hot glue for everything! I will admit though, my kids think mommy can fix anything with hot glue! It’s kind of like my super hero power.
  4. Young Living Essential Oils-I invested in a premium starter kit three years ago, and it has definitely made such a difference in our lives. While you might be able to find cheaper essential oils, you aren’t going to find any higher quality! We use essential oils every day in our household! From cleaning, to personal care, to general health and wellness maintenance! Being a distributor for Young Living has even provided me with a way to earn a little extra income while still being at home with the littles!
  5. A Good Blender, (or other quality appliances that you use a lot!)- If there is an appliance that you are going to use all the time, why not invest in one that actually works well!? I’ve had my fair share of trying to blend rock-solid frozen things in blenders that just don’t cut it. We love to make smoothies around here, (hello kale and spinach, I can’t even taste you with all this other goodness!), so a good blender is a must. Lately we have been using the Ninja, and it seems to be working great!

So there you have it! A few ideas for things you should buy in your 20’s…right after you figure out a way to better pay off that college debt! What are some of your musts? Join the conversation, and let me know what you would recommend!

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored!

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Dear College Self: About that College Debt

When Jamie from Earnest reached out to me, and invited me to join the conversation on what I would write in a letter to my college self, I wasn’t sure where to start. What tips and advice would I share with my college self? What things would I do all over again the exact same way, and where would I have done things differently? When it came down to student loan debt,  Dustin and I actually came out of it pretty fair. But I remember that as I prepared to go to college, I figured, a massive amount of student debt was just a part of the deal.  So here’s where I would start…and enjoy the college photos you’ll see along the way!

About that College Debt

Dear College Self,

You’re doing it! You are out on your own. You’re going to experience a lot of new things in the next four years of college. You’ll meet new people, travel to new places, work, go to clinicals, get married, rent an apartment, and eventually graduate with an RN. Whoa! But I’m getting a little ahead of myself!

When you first head to college, you know there is going to be a lot of student loan debt. But that’s what is supposed to happen in college, right?  You got a few scholarships, and they help,  but there’s still a lot left over. But you’re going to a GREAT school with a GREAT nursing program. A lot of people you know were paying off their student loans for years! Sure, it took them a long time, but that’s just a right of passage…right?

Ok, college self, often going to college involves some amount of debt, but there are some ways you can help bring down that number to a less jaw dropping sort of amount. You found a part time job at the school, so that helps! Way to go! Spoiler alert…you get married before your Sophmore year…which actually ends up saving you a lot of money. Best advice, maybe get married before your Freshman year? Just kidding…kind of…

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Ok, but seriously, enjoying college and coming out of it without sky high student loan debt is all about balance. Explore all your scholarship options. Don’t be afraid to look at colleges that are cheaper, but still have great programs. Seriously look at colleges that are local and can help you save money. But if it turns out that the more expensive, out of state college you love is truly your perfect fit, find other ways to save!

Finding a part time job on campus is a great choice! Save as much as you can to pay off those student loans and buy your daily needs, but don’t be afraid to make a few memories. Go on that cross cultural trip even though it’s expensive. The memories you make and the life lessons learned go far beyond your savings account. Go out with friends, try new foods, go on date nights. Make the memories that you can only make now.  Just remember that it will all need to balance out some how! Go out, but don’t order the most expensive thing. Choose date nights to places that are free! Make the memories without breaking the bank.

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Take advantage of that college discount! Use the free gym, go to free college events, get the college discount with your student ID as often as you can. Little steps to save, can pay off!! Work to not spend beyond your means, and be aware of what that number means.

Take the little steps. Save where you can. Enjoy the moments that will only happen once and make some memories.

All right, college self, you got this!

Love, Future Mom self. Yup, that’s right. You have three kids now, and they’re pretty great…and kind of expensive too!

Now what to do after college! That would definitely be a whole different letter in itself, but if you still have student loans, a good place to check out would be the Earnest website. Take a look around and see how they can help you refinance your student loans!

What would you write to your college self!?

 

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Gracie of Chincoteague: Our Family Vacation to Chincoteague

Misty of Chincoteague. Little girls everywhere have read this book and imagined someday going to see the wild horses of Chincoteague. Gracie, and myself if we’re being honest, are no exception!  This year we wanted to take a vacation to the beach. Gracie very specifically had asked to go to the beach, and I’m not one to argue with a beach trip! Dustin did some researching and found that Chincoteague and Assateague looked to be a nice, family friend beach location to visit. Once that was decided, a trip to the library soon followed!

We checked out Misty of Chincoteague, read it over the next couple of weeks, and Gracie’s excitement grew. She was excited to hopefully see the wild horses and play on the beaches of Assateague. Lillie was excited too…but that excitement came with a three year old attention span and minor attention to the details of the trip!

We recently returned from our family vacation to Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, and I’m already treasuring the memories we made. It was a short two and half day stay, but seemed just the right amount of time for our family of littles. We went to the beach and enjoyed playing in the sand and waves, finding ocean creatures (we even saw dolphins!), and relaxing. We explored the island of Assateague and saw the wild ponies from a distance, climbed a light house, and started off on a trek that we almost immediately turned around on because of all the mosquitoes! We enjoyed our hotel on Chincoteague and swam in the pool, ate ice cream every day at Island Creamery, played at the park, saw a pony show, and watched the girls take a loop three times around on a pony for $7 each…it was worth it!

We had a great time on the islands and hope to go back in the future, and maybe even camp on Assateague! Enjoy these photos of our family explorations. We would highly recommend this trip!

 

 

 

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