Friday, June 17, 2016

Cruisers We Are Not

Look at me following through with a promise to blog about our cruise! I'm pretty sure this is the first time that's happened over here in the last couple of years. Life of Lacey = broken blogging promises.

Before I start telling you all what we thought of the cruise and what we did and all that, let me give you this for your frame of reference. I have done a total of SIX "big" trips. Meaning saving up, flying there, and usually passports are required. I only consider this cruise a "big" trip because we went to another country. Of those six trips:

(3) were to Europe - (2) bus tours, and (1) I just planned/didn't plan myself.
(2) were to the Caribbean - (1) all-inclusive resort and this (1) short cruise.
and
(1) was to Alaska - which I planned myself.

So that gives you an idea on how much you should rely and trust my extensive travel knowledge. (::whispers:: you shouldn't!) It is very clear that I spend most of my vacations in a trailer, after all.

So, with all that said, we went on a 4 day cruise courtesy of my place of employment. It was a Carnival cruise out of Charleston, SC on their ship Ecstasy, with one port day in Nassau, Bahamas. So, days 1 and 2 were boat days, day 3 was in Nassau and day 4 through the morning of day 5 were boat days.

Beware - there are a ton of selfies in this extremely long post. You've been warned.

DAY ONE

On the night before we left, we got a message that the cruise ship was late in returning from the previous cruise to Bermuda due to a storm, so our cruise would now be delayed as well. Instead of a 12:30-2:30 boarding time, we were now being told to board from 3:00-5:00. That was a bummer, but nothing you can do about the weather. The next morning we woke up and tried to get all of our remaining things together, as well as get everything together for Charley and Laney's weekend. They were bouncing from house to house while we were gone (my sister's, my parent's, my other sister's, then back to my 1st sister's) so packing for them was a bit difficult too as I had to make sure each house had what it needed as well. It was a very frantic and frazzled morning. Finally though, we dropped Charley off at preschool, took Laney down to my sister's and we were on our way. Later than we originally planned, but that was still more than okay since the boarding time was delayed anyway.

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It looks like John is saying "DOH" about his passport right as I took this.

We get maybe 15 minutes down the road and I say something about our passports. John immediately panics and says he forgot his. I sort of laugh and tell him not to worry, that I packed his for him earlier in the week. We both think it is a good idea to pull over and double check though and I was right - I DID pack his for him earlier in the week. BUT, I didn't pack my own. Idiot. Our passports were in two different locations when I grabbed his because he recently had his out when booking a flight for a different trip. I'm thinking that after I grabbed his I got distracted and never made it to get my own. So, we turned around and headed back home to get mine. Again, not a huge deal since the cruise was delayed anyway. It takes 3 hours to get to Charleston from Charlotte so we still planned on arriving around lunchtime.

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Finally - we are on our way and feeling slightly less frazzled than we were that morning. I did realize that I left my phone charger at home, though, so we made one more stop to pick a new one up and arrived in Charleston with plenty of time to spare. We found a restaurant for lunch which ended up being SO DELICIOUS and left there to arrive at the cruise terminal at 2:45p.m. We followed the signs and ended up in a huge line of winding cars in a giant parking lot.

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Right when we got into the winding line - we probably wouldn't be smiling if we knew we were going to be in this line for 2 more hours.
   
We followed this winding path and the huge line of cars for TWO HOURS. I'm not sure if this is the norm for a cruise departure, but it sucked. It was rainy and grey and it wasn't until 5:09 p.m. that we finally got to our stateroom.

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Not so bad, really!

There were so many misconceptions I had about cruises in general coming into this trip. I'd venture to say that most people I know have been on a cruise so I'd heard lots of things about them. One thing I'd heard many times was how incredibly small the rooms were. And sure, it was small, but not as small as I was expecting. We weren't tripping over our things or anything like that. There was enough space for both of our suitcases and plenty of closet space also. Maybe I'm used to smaller vacation spaces with our camper and having traveled to Europe and all, but I was pleasantly surprised in this aspect.

In particular, I'd heard many people talk about the itty bitty bathrooms, also. So naturally I went to check that out next. A coworker was just telling me how one of her friends who happened to be 6 foot something and 200+ pounds really could only fit half of himself in the shower at a time. Just went on and on about how small the shower was. But, again, I didn't think it was so bad once I saw it for myself! I've told you before our shower at home is terrible and is so small so maybe that clouded my judgement, but I thought the shower size was just fine for a small bathroom. Plus, the smallest shower I've ever used was in a bathroom on a train from Prague, Czech Republic to Stuttgart, Germany and that shower shared the faucet with the sink so I don't think "small shower" will ever compare to that one. This cruise ship was so large that it even had separate faucets for both the sink AND the shower! Wow! Ha. So again, pleasantly surprised here too.

After we dropped our things off we went to explore the boat and all that there was to do. We stopped at the pool deck to get a drink at one of the bars there and sit under the covered area because it was still rainy and yuck outside.

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I was less than impressed at the beer selection offered. But I managed to find something to drink to sit and people watch for a bit. Afterward, we continued walking around the boat to see everything and made our way back to the center of the boat where we started. I stopped right there and said to John "that's it!?" I wasn't sure WHAT we were going to do to fill up the next 3.5 days.

Dinner than night was delayed too thanks to the delayed boarding and was open seating instead of following our assigned table number that was listed on our little on-board credit card thing. We found one of my coworkers and her boyfriend luckily, so we at least had someone at our table we knew and we were sat with 5 other people that we didn't know. All 5 people ended up being pretty great and we continued to talk with them anytime we saw them over the next few days. Yay! Socially awkward me didn't ruin it for everyone!

Dinner though was only okay. Again, based on what I'd previously heard, I was expecting great food. That food was definitely NOT great. I wouldn't even say good, really, just okay. The chocolate lava cake for dessert was pretty good, but not so good to make me forget about the rest of the meal. Since dinner didn't begin until after 8:30, it was close to 10:00 when it was complete so we called it a night and went to our room to sleep.

DAY TWO

We woke up the next morning refreshed! We slept pretty great on the rocking boat and woke up a little before 8, I think. Another thing I was worried about was getting seasick due to the location of our stateroom. It was on the highest floor of staterooms, and was towards the very front of the boat, maybe only 4 or 5 rooms back. I read that those rooms can be the rockiest so even though we have sleeping-on-a-boat experience, I was still a little worried. So far, so good though. Neither of us felt nauseous at all.

We headed down to the breakfast restaurant and some muffins and bread were brought to our table. The muffins were DELICIOUS. SO delicious. There was one chocolate muffin that is tied for one of my two favorite things to eat on the whole boat. My pancakes however, weren't very good. Instead I ate all of the things in the bread/muffin basket and all of my bacon and that was enough. John had an omelet and seemed to like it.

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We went out to do some more boat exploring and wound up outside at the front of the boat. It was a very pretty day out and the wind felt great. I remember thinking this was the best part of the boat I'd seen yet. We stayed out there for a while before deciding to head to the pool deck.
 

Everyone on the boat is around this pool it seems. There are no chairs available at all except some regular chairs (not the lounging type) at tables near the bar. We sit here for a while and get a bucket of beers while we chat and people watch. The people watching on this boat was.....interesting, to say the least. At some point we had lunch (I had chicken fingers/fries covered in cheese sauce - which wasn't as good as I'd hoped and John had some Asian noodle something or other which he said was great!) and we eventually see a couple of people I work with and make our way up to the deck where they were sitting and had found chairs. We spend the rest of the afternoon drinking and talking with them and a couple other coworkers as well.

At some point we all decide to head to our rooms to rest some before dinner that night at 8. I want to say it was a little before 6:00. When John and I got back to our room and realized we had 2 full hours to shower and get ready for dinner, we said "forget that!" We don't need that long to shower and get ready so we put on our swimsuits and headed to the hot tub. We had hoped that since the first dinner began at 6 that the pool deck would be cleared of most people - and we were right! There was only one other couple in the hot tub. And calling it a hot tub is being generous, it was definitely more of a "warmish tub". We had yet another drink and sat in the hot tub for a while before going back to the room to get ready for dinner.

Our dinner was at 8. Our table was assigned to us and was among all of the rest of my coworkers on the cruise. We got our menus and decided on our appetizer and main course. I was not impressed with any of the choices, but eventually decided on ordering some crab ravioli for my main course. It was a little adventurous for what I normally order, but I just went with it. I was the only one at my table of 10 that chose that dish, but, I was NOT the only one that deemed our meal inedible and didn't have another bite. Several of us just couldn't eat what we had chosen. Y'all - it was awful! Even John - who is basically Mikey and will eat ANYthing - tasted my food and said "Nope. You cannot eat that." So, I had some bread and butter and waited until the main course portion was winding down before we made our escape. Dessert wasn't even worth waiting for, and that's saying a LOT coming from me.

And the dinner show that the waiters participate in left a lot to be desired. Cheese with a capital C. Like, not even the entertaining kind of cheesiness, either. Another thing I was told prior to this cruise was that the service would be impeccable. Yeah. Not at all. As we left and made our way to the pizza place, we decided we were not coming back to the dining room again on this cruise. We ended up eating there that night and the next 2 nights as well - pizza ended up being my other favorite food item on the boat.



We had some drinks with my coworkers that night at the casino bar and were in our beds by midnight. I just read back everything I wrote about this first full day, and it is full of negativity, especially about a cruise we were on for free. Y'all know I'm the furthest thing from negative, so just know that even though there are lots of complaints, we actually did have a lot of fun on the pool deck and at the casino bar that day. I'm just so glad that we had fun people to hang out with because they really made this trip for us.

DAY THREE

So the next day was our port day in Nassau. I had told anyone that would listen about the place we were headed called The Tiki Bikini Hut. In my informal surveying of people on Facebook and by word of mouth, it became really clear to us that we did NOT want to do the Atlantis thing while in Nassau. Eventually I went on trusty Trip Advisor and saw that this place was the number one thing to do in Nassau and I was sold. It wasn't expensive, we could walk there, it gave us a casual, relaxing beach day and had free wi-fi. That covered my entire wish list of what we wanted to do while on the island. Done and done.

Since we had no way to communicate with any of my coworkers, we weren't sure if anyone would be joining us at all. We were up early enough for breakfast and to get ready for disembarking by 9:15. The skies, though, did not look promising.



We got off of the boat and made our way through the pack of people trying to get us to do this excursion and that excursion. They were annoying, but once you told them "no thank you" they left you alone. I didn't have exact directions to the place we wanted to go, but I knew it was on the beach so that narrowed it down quite a bit, and I knew the general direction it was in. So we decided to just mosey our way through the town and a few shops on our way to the beach. It was pretty early to go to the beach and have a beer, plus the skies were still looking pretty bad so we didn't want to be stuck on a beach with no roof over our heads in a downpour.

We went into some t-shirt shops to find a couple little souveniry things and before we knew it, the bottom completely fell out. It POURED down rain. We left the shop we were in and tried to decide what we would do to wait out the rain.



We  passed a bar that advertised free wi-fi on our walk to the shop we were at, so we decided that was the best place to go until the rain stopped. Apparently 9:15 was too early to go to the beach and drink, but 9:47 was perfectly fine. I mean, we HAD to buy something (in my opinion) so we could use their free wi-fi, after all.



I was pretty happy sitting there in the open air bar catching up on my children through messages with my sisters and catching up on Facebook as well. Eventually, the rain stopped so we started to make our way to the Tiki Bikini Hut.

We were about halfway there (I think the walk straight from the ship would have been 15-20 minutes to get there) when my coworker and her boyfriend spotted us. Yay! The four of us then made our way to the beach.

The servers were very accommodating as soon as we got there. They weren't super pushy or salesperson-y, but offered us (2) chairs, (1) umbrella, (2) lunches, (8) beers and (8) shots for $65. (Looking on Trip Advisor, the reviews are all over the place with what you pay/what you get. So I bet you can barter a little bit, but I didn't feel the need to argue with that price.) I mean, sounds like a pretty great deal to us so we were sold. Apparently that was the VIP package so the beach boys immediately started setting up our chairs and umbrella right at the water's edge.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Beach day.



There were a couple more passing thunderstorms that we waited out underneath our umbrella, but overall the day was perfect. The shots did not contain much alcohol (thank goodness!) so we weren't completely drunk - because usually that much alcohol would for sure knock me out. And the water was just perfect. Crystal clear, NO waves thanks to a sandbar/peninsula thing, and the perfect temperature. It was also saltier than I was used to, so it was very easy to just float on top of the water. Truly - I loved this day! Had we been bused to Atlantis and been with the crowds (4 other cruise ships were there that day too) I KNOW I wouldn't have had a good time. I bet Atlantis is really cool, but maybe one day we'll actually stay there so we can enjoy it when thousands of other people are not also trying to enjoy it at the same time.

So! It was time to mosey our way back to the boat. The combination of sun and alcohol had me super happy (::coughmaybestumblytoocough::) so it was a pretty enjoyable walk back to the boat. We boarded at 4:30 and a nap was definitely in order for me. John, however, decided he didn't need a nap (he was wrong) so he went and found coworkers to hang with on the pool deck.

A few hours later John came back to the room and we decided to go get some pizza for dinner. My coworkers met us there as well. All of us were boycotting the dining room apparently.

After that, we went out to a piano bar on board and OH MY GOODNESS that was right up my alley. I loved that place. The pianist played my request (Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody) and that tiny little bar was so energetic. We stayed there for a few hours before going to meet other coworkers at the casino bar.



This was our latest night - I think it was just about 2:00 a.m. before we made it back to our room.

DAY FOUR

We slept really great again and I was SURE this time that I'd slept in. I was so proud of me! So I picked up my phone to check the time and....

7:30. Ughhhhhh. I think I laid there for at least another half hour and finally decided to just get up. John, however, was struggling this morning. He never took a nap the previous day like I did, just continued having fun and drinking, so he was paying for it this morning. He didn't want to eat. He didn't want anything but water and sleep. And lucky for him, we had already finished both giant bottled waters that they "gave" us in our room. We had the hardest time finding water on the cruise ship. The water in the bathroom was nasty tasting (we tasted it when brushing teeth) and bottled water was never offered anywhere. You could get a glass of water from the pool deck restaurant, but John and I both drink a lot of water so it seemed like a whole lot of effort to bring back one whole glass of water to the room that we would finish drinking in just a couple of sips. I did take our giant water bottle and fill it up in the restaurant, but ice wouldn't fit in it so it was warm water. Better than nothing, though.

So, since John was needing his rest, I went exploring by myself. I went to get some more of those chocolate muffins for breakfast and went outside to the front of the ship in the sunshine and wind for a bit. I went to the disembarkation instruction show thing that was going on so I knew what to expect the next morning. I considered playing some bingo, but ended up passing on that. I bought a couple little things for Charley on the ship. I just wandered around for a while. Finally I decided I'd grab my book and put on my bathing suit and go to the pool for a while. When I got back to the room, John was coming out of his funk and decided he'd go too. So we both made our way to the pool deck. He didn't want anything to do with any more drinks, though. I think I had a beer or two, and we found lounge chairs under an umbrella which was perfect for me and my pale skin.


Later we found a couple coworkers again, and then found lounge chairs near them too so we relocated. It was a very quiet day though, and the most exciting thing I did was to try out the water slide. Twice. It was pretty awesome!



That evening we did go to one of the live shows - it was something about the British Invasion so included some Beatles songs and Rolling Stones, etc. It........was just ok if I'm being honest. Then we went back to the piano bar, but the energy just wasn't what it was the night before. It was still fun, and the pianist did play my request again (Celine Dion's "It's All Coming Back To Me") but with the trip winding down, neither John nor myself really wanted to stay up late or drink much at all. We called it a night around 10 and went back to the room to pack up for the next morning.

DAY FIVE

Our disembarkation time was 7:30-7:45. We woke up at 7 and started to get the rest of our stuff together. The disembarkation instructions were on the TV, so when we finally turned it on around 7:10 we realized they were running early so we were actually able to leave right then. Hooray! We were more than ready to leave so we threw everything together and got off that boat. Boarding took us 3 hours, but they get you off QUICKLY. We were in our car by 7:30 and on our way to get our girls that we missed so much!

Snuggled them right up when I got home!

So. Would we do this cruise again? Yes and no. Here are the scenarios in which we'd say yes:

- it is free again, and there are fun coworkers going too.
- a big group of friends or family are going and want us to go too (although I'd still urge them to pick a different cruise/trip beforehand)

and that's about it. Would we cruise again? Again, yes and no, and here are our reasons for yes:

- Disney Cruise. Duh. If only I could get that one for free!
- A lovely blog friend suggested a cruise that leaves from Puerto Rico so you basically get a different Caribbean Island every day and not many at-sea days. THAT I would enjoy.
- To MAYBE try a different cruise line. Carnival is the Wal-Mart of cruise lines, as I understand, so we would probably enjoy a different cruise line much more.

But even with a different cruise line, if trying to decide where to spend my vacation money, an all-inclusive or a domestic trip to see another U.S. city or a trip abroad would all still beat out a cruise in our minds, hands down.

This got crazy long - didn't it?

Cliff's Notes version? Basically, we went on a free cruise. We had fun with my coworkers but didn't like the cruise much otherwise. We decided we were right about not being cruisers. The end.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Adverb-y

Eventually


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Eventually this basement will get finished. Our goal was to have it done by this coming Saturday June 11 for a baby shower I'm hosting. Well, that's not going to happen. We have all the flooring and paint and materials purchased, but unfortunately we haven't yet found a place to buy time. Well, plenty of places sell other people's time (painters, floor installers, etc) but we try to save money in that department since John is so handy. So, eventually.

Gleefully


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We gleefully ran around that cruise ship and around Nassau on our cruise a few weeks ago with no children! We pretended we still knew how to drink (we don't, and/or we need many naps to do it) and pretended we still knew how to sleep in (we don't). I AM going to post about the whole cruise thing, so this is just one picture, and I'll photo dump a bunch of 'em in the separate post soon.

Brightly



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This desk lamp is the best desk lamp ever. A blog friend recommended them at Christmas when it went on sale so I grabbed one because Charley's desk needed some light. I am obsessed with it and how bright it is! But if bright isn't your thing, it even dims! I know that if we (eventually) get that basement done that (eventually) I'll have a craft desk down there, so I ran back to Amazon and ordered a second one for myself while they were on sale. (Paid $30 for the first one on a lightning deal, and then $36 for the second one.)

Dramatically

I messed up big time, y'all. I have let Charley play on my phone periodically throughout her 4.5 years. Mostly at restaurants if she finished eating before we did and we were trying to buy ourselves a few more minutes or something like that. It hasn't been a big deal until the last 6 months or so, where she has gotten into a routine of being allowed to play on my phone every other day on the way home in the car. Charley loves a routine and she follows them as much as she can. But, I was getting tired of listening to the stupid toy review videos and also was thinking ahead to the near future where I have two girls and just one phone and the drama that would cause. So, I started saying no. And, as dramatically as she could, she started letting me know how much of an impact I was having on her life by denying her my phone. On one particular ride home one afternoon:

Charley: Come ON Mama. You've got to do this for me. You've GOT to do this for our family.

And then later in the conversation...

Charley: I will never let you down Mama. I promise.

Fancily


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One of our camping trips lately was at a state park and the park had a bird event scheduled that same weekend. We knew nothing about it at all, but figured we would give it a try anyway, and it ended up being a cute little activity for children! Even better, my mom, Charley and I were the only participants in Bird Day so my mom and I got to play along too.

One of the activities was to color some birds on our bird books that were handed out. When Charley began coloring hers, she fancily declared, "The wings are going to be a different color and I think I'm also going to add some lipstick."

Nervously and Deliberately




Two good adverbs to describe how Laney has begun walking. She's very deliberate with her steps and she's working to get over her nervousness. She hasn't stepped more than maybe 6-8 steps at a time yet, but it is coming soon! Love the beginning walking stage!

Eagerly

On more of my part than Charley's, I'm eagerly waiting each night for my turn to read to her. I convinced her to let me begin reading chapter books to her and the first one we are trying is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We usually only do a chapter or two a night and we are up to chapter 8 and she hasn't given up on me yet, so hoping this sticks! I'd much prefer to read a chapter of a longer book each night instead of another picture book. Plus, I'm having a harder and harder time finding books we haven't read yet (and that are still something she's interested in) in our local library. So, tomorrow night 2 more of the golden tickets are claimed and I can't wait!

Promptly

Maybe, just MAYBE I can promptly post about our recent adventures. I really, really want to so I just need to do it. I miss it over here!

Quickly

Ok, time to quickly finish this up. John has decided our next show to watch together is Bloodline and he's waiting on me to begin the first episode. Thoughts?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Campground Review: Hickory Nut Falls Family Campground - Chimney Rock, NC

For a while now I've been meaning to document each campground we visit because unlike with hotels, the reviews and pictures and sometimes even a website for the campground are really hard to come by. Sometimes I even search for blog posts about a certain campground we are considering, but with blogging being a dying sport and those of us that enjoy camping being a smaller percentage also, those are really hard to come by. So, maybe there are one or two others that will stumble upon this in their searches and find it helpful. If so, hi! Welcome! Here's what we thought about...


Now, let me just start out by saying that we don't often go to the same place twice. There are so many different campgrounds to explore near us so rarely do we choose to go back to the same place twice. Given all of that, let me also tell you that we just recently returned from our second trip to this lovely campground.

We visited this campground from April 14-17, 2016. The weather during this time of year was chillier than I expected, but still beautiful! April is a tricky month in the North Carolina mountains...winter is still trying to hang on but spring is doing its darnedest to push winter out. Just the weekend prior to our visit there was a little snow shower, but luckily we had only clear skies and crisp cool mountain air during our visit. The highs were in the upper 60's, lows in the 40's which meant jeans/tees during the day, and dragging out blankets and jackets around the campfire at night.

Our family has a thing for water - so first we usually only choose campgrounds that have some sort of water in the campground or park. And then, if the water is in the actual campground, we are doing our best to reserve a spot that backs right up to the water. Luckily both times we've stayed in this campground we have had no problems getting a spot next to their body of water - this beautiful (SERIOUSLY - SO BEAUTIFUL!) rocky mountain river.

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That is THE ultimate as far as 'body of water we'd like to camp beside' as far as my family is concerned. It is pretty hard to top that. The river is LOUD and muffles out the volume of any possible louder neighbors and (who am I kidding) it muffles out the volume of MY loud family too. Nature's white noise.

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We chose the exact same campsite for our second trip as we did for our first trip also - site 67. We stayed in my parent's camper on this trip and this site accommodates a 35' camper very well. One or our favorite parts about this site, though, is that there is a tiny sandy beach right by the rocky stream which was the perfect place for Charley to play. The walk down to the beachy part is over some larger rocks, but Charley is 4 and had no problem getting down there on her own. The water isn't rushing right by that spot so she was even able to put on her rain boots and wade out into the river herself.

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Another favorite with any campsite on this river is that you can jump from rock to rock to rock in this river. Of course, this is at your own risk because there will be slippery rocks and the water is rushing downstream, but minus a couple of wet shoes and socks, we all enjoyed this too. There was one large flat(ter) rock in front of our campsite that was very easy to get to which provided a great spot for a family photo. It was also a great spot to lay down and read a book or catch a nap. No napping for me though while watching a 4 year old and an almost one year old, but it was a nice thought of something I may do on a future FUTURE trip. Ha.

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The campsites are spacious and flat and are mostly gravel and grass. They do have a nice, large picnic table at every site, and many sites had a ring that helped contain the campfire as well. All sites had a spot for a campfire, but only some had the ring. They have campsites that have water, electric and sewer and also some with just water and electric where most of the tenters stay. They also have some sites that are not near the river if that is what you'd prefer. They are scattered among (what I assume are) permanent sites.

The campground has a playground with swings (two big kid swings, one baby swing) and a big kid slide and a baby slide. There is also a balance beam and a bench swing for parents to sit on while the kids play. Although we did not utilize them this second trip, we did utilize the horseshoe pits the first time we visited. I don't remember who won but I'm sure it was me.

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There is a bathhouse too and although we didn't use it often, it was very clean and an easy walk from our campsite. We didn't use the showers though, so can't comment on those. I can't imagine they'd be bad though - the family that runs the campground are very sweet and keep the place in tip top shape! They can be found running the camp store which is in an adorable A-Frame building. The camp store has ice cream in the warmer months, but it wasn't quite warm enough when we were there so we settled for candy bars. Other than the treats, they also have some groceries and other basic camping items you may have forgotten. Next to that is a spot to do laundry if needed (we did use that to dry a wet shoe or two from a misstep in the rocky river) and also a game area that we haven't used yet. There's also a secret staircase behind the store that goes down to the same river, but around the bend from where the campsites are. Just another little spot to explore!

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As far as location goes - if you want to go to Chimney Rock Park and hike - you truly can't get much closer. The little downtown area and Chimney Rock Park itself are about a half a mile away. This trip we didn't go to hike at Chimney Rock Park, but found another hike to do at Chimney Rock State Park which was only 2.6 miles away from the campground. On our other trip here that was during fall, there were plenty of orchards close by to visit also. There's tons to do in the area though if hiking isn't your thing.

What else can I say? We really love this campground and I know we will be back in the future. We've done an early spring and a late fall trip, so now we need to find a way to get there in the summer when the ice cold mountain river would feel refreshing and not like we may lose a couple of toes to frostbite.

I doubt I'll ever need to comment on campground rates as they are all very reasonable and this place is no exception. A bargain if you ask me! (For those that aren't campers, most campgrounds seem to range from $20-$40 a night.) Pretty amazing considering this view!

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I hope someone found this helpful, and if you aren't campers or aren't in this area, then hope you enjoyed the pictures.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Darn Lillian, Biopsies & Backup Cameras, For Short

Another bulleted list type post because I have several short thoughts swirling around in my head that I want to share.

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Let's start with Lillian. Remember in school in French or Spanish class you had to pick a French or Spanish name for yourself? I took French in middle and high school and my French name was always Lillian. So, it is pretty ironic that for the last year or two I've periodically gotten phone calls over and over and over asking for Lillian. Mostly seem like telemarketers (and not my previous French class classmates) so my theory is this - there is a Lillian somewhere that has a junk phone number she gives out when filling out surveys or the like. Much like my junk email address I use for the same kind of deal, Lillian's junk phone number is likely one digit different from her regular phone number so it is easy for her to remember. But listen here, Lillian. Unless you purchase a burner phone and use that number to give out instead of your real number, it's not the same as using a junk email address. There is actually a person with that phone number you are giving out getting really annoyed with your brilliant idea!

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Recently I had to go get a biopsy of a nodule or two that have developed on my thyroid. They caused me mild discomfort for a few days when they first developed so I went to get them checked out by my general practitioner who sent me for an ultrasound. Ultrasound confirmed they were thyroid nodules that were mostly fluid filled, but also had some cells in them as well. So then they sent me on to an endocrinologist who STABBED ME WITH A NEEDLE TO THE NECK to drain them. But I'm being dramatic. It sounds worse than it was. The needle was smaller than the one they use to do blood draws so I didn't feel the stick at all. I did feel some discomfort while the needle was in my neck, but I wouldn't even call it painful. I think I made one wincing noise and that was it. Much better than I expected. I already got the results back too and there were no signs of malignancy. I really wasn't too concerned though - another family member also has these nodules and has had many biopsied before with no scary results, so I was hoping for the same.

Thinking back to the throat discomfort that caused me to go get them checked out in the first place though - it felt sort of like my throat was constricted a little. It was just something I hadn't felt before and the doctor is so close to my work that I thought "oh why not?" and just scheduled a quick visit during lunch. I'm not one to even go to the doctor often so I was actually surprised at how quickly they knew what it was and how the ball got rolling from there. And had I waited it out - that discomfort that I felt those first few days completely dissipated by the end of that week. So I would have gone on thinking I was healed and never thought about it again. What I'm saying is - I think I may run to the doctor for every mild discomfort from now on! This whole process has me feeling like I'm turning into a hypochondriac. How will I know whether or not I should go to the doctor for the next mild discomfort I feel?

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In other biopsy news, I also had a skin thing biopsied earlier this year. I go to the dermatologist twice a year for a full body check (twice a year instead of the usual once a year because I had Basal Cell Carcinoma on my face 10 years ago or so) but that full body check really only covers about 95% of the body. You keep your underwear and bra on, so those portions of the body don't really get checked. Soooo, for the last couple of years there's been this spot on my butt. It wasn't a pimple and it wasn't irritated or anything, but it came out of nowhere and then just stuck around. It really only bothered me after a shower when it would sometimes be itchy. (Isn't that a great visual? Naked Lacey scratching her butt after a shower.) Every appointment I'd chicken out from telling the doctor to take a look at it because the whole pulling your underwear to the side to expose your bare butt cheek makes an already awkward appointment awkwarder. But I finally did it back at an appointment in November. He just took a little piece of it to test it but was feeling pretty certain it wasn't nothing.

But, yay me! It wasn't nothing. He said it was an atypical spitz tumor that they couldn't 100% say was cancerous or non-cancerous, so the recommendation was to take the whole thing off. So I had to go back a second time for him to take the whole thing. And, yay me, again! The tumor went pretty deep so to get it all out he had to cut a large football shaped hole and then give me 5 stitches to close it all back up. It was pretty darn painful for those first couple of days, but I survived. And I have a lovely Frankenstein scar that I'll never show a soul but I'll tell the entire internet about.

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I'm still going strong(ish) on the whole Weight Watchers thing. To date I've lost 16 pounds and my ultimate goal is to lose 5.8 more. The deadline I gave myself for the goal is exactly two weeks from today so realistically I could actually make that. Two pounds a week is pretty standard, so that's just being extra good for a mere 14 more days and then I can switch to just maintaining. It sounds so doable, right!?

So doable in fact that I didn't DO it at all today. We had lunch brought in at work today from Firehouse Subs. Their subs are very high points, so I knew before I ordered that I'd get no chips and eat just half of my sub. And then I got it and ate the whole thing. That was all of the points I had remaining for the day.

At dinner, I truly wasn't that hungry (likely because I ate so many points at lunch) so I decided I'd just snack on something if I got hungry. I never got hungry actually, but then as I'm cleaning up dinner (Charley had a leftover piece of pizza as part of her dinner) I see that Charley left about three quarters of her piece of pizza untouched on her plate. It would be a shame to toss that pizza, and it wouldn't make much sense to save the last piece of pizza that had been eaten 1/4 of the way already. So. I ate it. Of course.

But all is not lost! If you eat too many points in the day, just exercise to earn some points back and get out of the hole! Easy peasy! We've got a gym in the basement!

And yet. Here I sit. Blogging.

TOMORROW. TOMORROW I jump back on my wagon for a strict two weeks! I can do this!

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A couple weeks ago John got some work done to his truck which took a while and left us with just one car for a week and a half. My mom very graciously allowed us to use her car as often as we needed to, so many days I took her car to work with me. I really loved driving her CR-V except for one thing - no back up camera! Isn't that so ridiculous?! When I bought my Pilot almost 5 years ago now, that feature was a cool-to-have feature, but by no means did I consider it a must-have. But I had no idea how reliant I've become on the feature! I was so confused with just where to look when backing! It sounds so dumb - I know - but it really threw me for a loop. On top of that I've been back-up anxious ever since I backed into that van after dance class so I was doing my best to find pull through spots every time I drove her car.

Speaking of car features though - isn't it funny how with each car you own you develop a new must-have-feature? Maybe it is just me. But I feel like with the six cars I've owned since I started driving at 16, each was an upgrade and each one added something to my must-have list for the next car. I gained a sun-roof from my first car (Civic) to my second (Celica). Then when I got the next one (Scion TC) I gained auto-shut off headlights and boy - definitely cannot go back after that unless I like dead car batteries. With the next (Trailblazer) I gained, well, not sure what I gained there. It was more of a lateral move because we needed a vehicle that could tow a boat. From there I got another Civic and got in-dash navigation and blue tooth capabilities. Thought I couldn't go back on those two things. They were must haves for sure. And then baby came along and compromises had to be made and I lost both of those things. Womp womp. I thought they were must haves, but the must-haviest thing at that point was more space, so I compromised on not having those but I did get leather upholstery! And a back-up camera! And a bigger (coughmoreexpensivecough) car to carry my babies around! So. Yeah. Where was I going with this again?

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I mentioned dance above. Charley was trying out dance this year and we were just about through with it. She really wasn't enjoying it much (besides the candy they passed out every single week at the end of class, which coincidentally was right at dinner time. Ugh!) so I was just determined to make her stay and finish it out. I had several things happen over the year (season?) that made me very irritated with the dance school so if we continued on with dance, I knew it wouldn't be at the same place. But, then they announced the recital for the recreational classes and it was on the Saturday of freaking Memorial Day weekend. Ughhh. Noooooooooo. NOooooooooooobody has plans on that weekend. Especially those with parents that both work and like to take advantage of holiday weekends. So, more annoyed.

Then a couple weeks ago the dance teacher calls in the parents after class to tell us about the recital. We'd need to buy new tights ($8) on top of the UGLIEST OUTFIT OF ALL TIME that I'd already purchased ($75), and here are some "optional" things we could buy, but we were strongly encouraged to buy these things because the ones that didn't receive these things on recital day would be very upset when everyone else WAS getting these things. First, was an ad in the program ($40) similar to the senior advertisements placed in year books. My kid can't even read, so no. Then, a message could be purchased ($2) and placed on the chair where they get ready. Again, kid can't read - no thanks. And then there are personalized frog stuffed animals in tutus ($12) available to order. And of course flowers bouquets after the recital was over ($15). And pictures (price TBD)! And the video of the recital of course (another price TBD). That may be it, but I swear it went on and on and on. My head was spinning. So all of that, on top of Charley not enjoying dance, on top of the stinking recital being on a weekend where we had planned to go camping as a family and we decided we were done. It just wasn't for us. We of course let Charley decide and not surprisingly, she chose camping over the recital.

I do feel like we have no closure since I never got to see a recital (but did see mini-performances in class a couple of times) but oh well. She's four. She's got plenty of time to find something she likes (or something else she doesn't like) where I can make her stick it out until the end. This wasn't it for us - we are not dance people. Just ask my friends after I've had a few drinks.

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We do have a super adorable (lies!) hot pink, zebra print and polka dot dress if anyone wants it! That thing is too ugly even to keep in the dress up box. Bleh!

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And a picture from tonight. Laney found a cheerio on the floor from who knows when. (Well, likely from within the last 5 days since the house was pretty clean before her birthday party last weekend.) Anytime she sees food she says "mmmmmmmmmmmm" and I think you can almost hear her saying it by looking at this picture. Love it.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Laney Bug is ONE!

I have a 1 year old and a 4.5 year old yet it feels like I have a 6 month old and a 3 year old. Time is weird, y'all.

Laney turned one last Friday, and we celebrated with a bug themed party on Saturday. But I'll tell you about that in another post. This is my last monthly post...EVER. While I'm glad, because these things can feel like a chore sometimes, I'm also like "welllllll, at least that was one gimme' prompt a month where I can barely squeak out 2 posts a month lately". 

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I chose that picture because I loved that I finally got a picture where you can see her teeth! She has those 4 up front, and then randomly one molar has broken most of the way through too. I thought the molar was a canine, but doesn't seem that way in the 2.8 seconds she allows me to look and feel around in there. She is not following the proper teething order!

She's starting to talk more and more. She can say dog (dah!), more (dah!), that (dah!) and cat (dah!). Ha. But seriously, even though she does say dah! for many many things, she does throw in some actual words/sounds here and there. Mmmmmmmmmmm means she wants to eat, or wants more. She says awwwwwww when she lays her head down on your shoulder or when she cuddles. She makes barking noises for any animals, which as I said are mostly dah, but she will actually say cat sometimes. She says hi and bye bye. She definitely knows yes and no and shakes her head appropriately for those responses. And just today I about melted when she pointed to Charley and said "Char-yah". I mean, close enough, right? A couple other family members had heard it before, but this was the first time I heard it and I melted into a puddle right there on the spot. She also says Mama, Dada, Gaga and sort of Gran-da-da.


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She still loves playing in Charley's room whenever she can. She pulls up to stand and cruises still, but is now also standing unassisted for longer and longer periods of time. (nooooooooooo!) I give her a couple weeks before that first step is taken.

She's wearing some 12 month stuff, but moving more into 18 month stuff. Still a size 4 diaper and I've started putting shoes on her more lately and it seems she is a size 3, but she also has some size 3-6 month shoes from Carter's that fit great too. Itty bitty feet for her age I guess. I don't have official weight and height - her 12 month appointment is still a couple weeks out.


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She went on her first theme park ride on her birthday and mostly loved it. No tears, but no smiles either. Mostly her face read "what in the world are you guys doing to me?" She was more amazed at the people watching and the lights and sounds. Other firsts this month - whole milk! I ran out of formula a week before her birthday so I made the switch. She also had her first sweets (cookie cake on my birthday) and first ice cream.

Speaking of that first milk though...I know I shouldn't expect the same out of two different children, but when Charley switched to whole milk it went like this: that first time I put some cold whole milk in a bottle where she was used to having warm formula. She immediately pushed the bottle away so I then poured the cold whole milk into a sippy and gave it to her. She took right to it and that was it for bottles with Charley. I mean, could not possibly get any easier than that. So it was some extreme wishful thinking that I thought Laney would do the same. While she has taken her milk in a cup a few times, most times she is pushing the cup away and crying for a bottle instead. Soooo, I may actually have to do something to help this transition along.

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But besides all the stats and the things she's up to now, she's just really, really great, y'all. She is full of surprises and full of snuggles and I cannot stop kissing those cheeks and that soft head of hair. She nuzzles her little face right into the crook of my neck and says "awwwwww" and it is in moments like that where I just plead with the universe to freeze, even if just for a couple minutes. Her and Charley are so close to being so close if that makes sense and it just warms my heart. She is just perfect for our family and we are so glad she's ours.

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Laney - thank you for the year full of new challenges for us all, but most of all thank you for the additional smiles, giggles and love you brought into our home. And my parent's home. And my sister's home. You share your sweetness with us all and we all soak it up.

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Last of all - Laney started out looking pretty similar to Charley but as the months have gone on, the similarities are getting a little harder to see. We are starting to see more and more John in Laney and Charley is more me, we think. I know they change a million more times between now and adulthood, but that's what we are thinking as of now. Both cute & both ours, but looking less alike. What do you think?

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Charley, Laney

Happy birthday sweet Laney! 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Charley Lately

Hey guys - guess what?! I'm blogging...FROM WORK! At lunch, obviously. I'm so excited. Flickr is still blocked though so I may resort back to using the ol' Blogger photo uploader tool. Anyway, high five IT guys!


So, it has been a while since my biggest girl Charley had an update post. (Oh wait just realized I did do a 4 year old post too.) I haven't done one since before Laney was born and she not only looks so different to me now, she is so much more mature too.  Excuse me while I have a little cry over this.

Anyway, this is Charley at age four (and a half).


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Some little Charley funnies lately.


John is finishing up loading the dishwasher and was about to add the Finish tablet to the dispenser when Charley asks if she can do it instead. He hands her the tablet and upon walking up to the opened dishwasher gets a whiff of the dirty dishes.

C: What's that smell!??
J: That's the dirty dishes.
C: ::drops tablet and runs away:: Get me outta this smell!


C, while pointing to a valentine hung on the fridge: Mama this one was yours!
Me: Yes I really liked it!
C: Then why did you throw it in the trash?!
I've GOT to learn to bury stuff in the trash can better.


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The AT-TI-TUDE of a four year old. Whew. Charley is as sweet as she can be most of the time, but when that switch flips and the attitude comes out, watch out. This morning I was lucky enough to witness a bit of this attitude.

We were attempting to get dressed for the day when the incident occurred. Per usual, because MANY of our issues come during this time or task. We have some workarounds to avoid this, but this morning none of those things happened so I knew even last night that this morning would be rough. (we got home late last night and she was already exhausted, she laid in bed for over an hour before falling asleep, we didn't pick out clothes last night, she ate breakfast BEFORE getting dressed, to name a few)

So, her and I are standing in front of her wardrobe trying to decide on an outfit. I have a dress picked out that is perfect for today's weather (short sleeves for the warmer afternoon, but not sleeveless where she'll be cold in the morning) so I'm trying to convince her of that dress. She will NOT wear something I pick unless she deems it a "Mama pick day" which is rare. But I'm trying to hurry us along. Finally she decides on a short-sleeved shirt. But of course now we need something on the bottom. Leggings are the obvious choice but she doesn't love wearing leggings without a skirt or dress over them so then she wants to pick a skirt. There's just one that would match, but she says "that one makes walking harder" so that one is out. I say something trying to hurry her along and she says "THIS TAKES TIME, MAMA" and I go on to explain that it doesn't need to take time - Daddy, Laney and Mama had clothing picked out and on our bodies in minutes so I didn't think it needed to take this long. That struck a nerve so the tears started to flow and she shouts "YOU ARE THE WORST THE WORST THE WORST MAMA AND DADA EVAH!". (I can't even remember what poor John did to get lumped in there with me.) This is her go to lately when she feels defeated. I just go along with it and tell her that even if I'm terrible, I love her an awful lot. Eventually she comes around after getting herself dressed in the tee and just leggings, but it was touch and go.

On the way out of the house she did tell us she is just kidding when she says that and that she still loves us. I sense a bit of her Mama's guilty conscience, especially before separating for the day, in my little mini me. She's got my sensitivity AND my guilty conscience. You're welcome, baby.

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The 2016 Spring school picture

Charley has done really well in preschool these last two years. She's in the three year old class this year and they did parent-teacher conferences that I really enjoyed. It's not often that someone else gets to tell me about my daughter, especially in instances that are different than ones I know her in. Her teachers love her; I could just tell from the visit. They mentioned how mature she was and that she stayed away from some of the three year old drama that occurred with some of her classmates. This very well could be because she's the oldest in the class, but it made me proud anyway.

She's got a handful of "best friends" that she talks about all the time. She doesn't tell me a whole lot about her school days unless I dig and dig, but she's getting better about it. The thing I seem to hear most often is that she tells her teachers when a classmate is not following the rules or if they hurt someone else...even if the person that got hurt doesn't tell the teachers. She's leaning towards being a tattle, but I don't want to discourage her from talking to her teachers if she feels the need to, so I'm going to let that sort itself out. She's just a rule follower that maybe doesn't always want to follow the rules so she gets a little jealous when so and so wears sandals to school instead of tennis shoes and socks like is recommended, for example. I have to do the whole "well, their Mom and Dad make decisions that they think is best for their child, so we have to make decisions on what is best for Charley and those things may differ." Does she get it? Probably not, but I'm going with it.

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Speaking of making decisions that others may not deem as good for their child(ren), I strapped Laney into the passenger seat of Charley's little car last weekend and Charley thought it was the BEST. THING. EVER. She's been begging to do it again ever since.

Laney may not have agreed with Charley that this was the BEST THING EVER.

I used our Beco carrier and tightened the straps as tight as they'd go, and they just so happened to be just the right length to go around Laney's torso and the back of the seat. So since there are three buckles (one over each shoulder and one around the waist) I felt that the triple buckle was secure enough to let her ride around in the grass while I ran alongside them. I am positive that Beco designed their carriers to be able to double as a seat belt. ;)

Anyway, again, Charley just loved it. She gets so darn excited that Laney is starting to be able to be included in play. While Charley does get jealous of snuggles if she feels Laney is getting more than her, she is still pretty great with sharing toys with her. When she isn't in the mood to share, or she's worried that the small pieces of something may hurt Laney, she just shuts her bedroom door to play. She's very concerned with helping us keep Laney safe and Charley will just SOB if she accidentally hurts Laney.

So far so good on the sister thing.


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Gaga (my mom) remains one of Charley's very favorite people on the planet. They share dirt soup together, they go on walks in the woods together, they pretend to be Fred and Daphne together (my moms favorite activity to do with her - ha!), they plant flowers together. I struggle with keeping Charley at our house on the weekends so that Gaga can have time on weekends to do as she pleases too because if we step foot outside Charley immediately starts walking in Gaga's direction. 

I love their close relationship.

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I just love my girl. 





Saturday, April 2, 2016

Laney: 11 Months

Welp. The countdown to the first birthday is on. I can't believe ONE is just 4 weeks away.

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The biggest change this month as far as milestones go is that Laney is standing up all over the place. She is pulling up and standing up as often as she can. She is getting more steady on her feet, but she can't stand without holding on to anything just yet.

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Nothing changed size wise - 12 month clothing, 18 month pajamas, size 4 diaper. I realized the other day that I have absolutely no clue what size shoe she wears because I never put her in shoes. I think over these 11 months I've put her in shoes exactly 3 times.

Laney is generally a pretty happy baby, but so very serious. She really makes you work for a smile most of the time & bubbles were not doing the trick this particular day.

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She really loves to swing (despite appearances), loves to eat, loves Charley and hanging out in Charley's room, loves her Grandaddy, loves to crawl around outside in the grass and dirt, and loves her bunny loveys.

She doesn't like getting strapped into her carseat, having her diaper changed, being told and forced back into a sitting position (from standing) in the bathtub (goodness how long did this stage last?!), and that's really all I can think of on the dislike list. She's pretty agreeable!


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We are up to TWO teeth now. Charley had 7 or 8 by this point so I don't know what the hold up is. Haha. She doesn't seem to be as easy a teether as Charley was, so maybe I shouldn't be wishing for more teeth at this point. She eats perfectly fine with just those two.

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"Charley's Kitchen" needs an upgrade to include baby sister, AND all the kitcheny stuff we've acquired over the years. Possible birthday gift in the works.

I don't think she's saying much new from last month - Mama, Dada, cat, dog, ::barks::, bye bye, hi. She mimics sounds - like if Charley shouts something she mimics the tone and volume. She holds objects up to her ear to pretend they are a phone, shakes her head no, and points in the directions she wants you to take her.

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She also celebrated her last first holiday, Easter, this month, though John looked at me like I was crazy when I told him that. It's a big deal! How often do you realize when it is the LAST of something, ya know? The baby book doesn't care about any holidays from this point forward, after all!

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Laney, Charley

Just 4 weeks until we get to celebrate the first year of Laney bug's life with a bug themed party. I can't wait to tell you all about it!