Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dear Carter, This Is Four.

My Carter, 

  Today you are four. 

  You are four years old, going on fourteen and I swear every day is one day closer to you turning into that teenage boy who thinks his mother is the most annoying woman in the world. As much as I'm nervous for those years, I am excited for them too. Because if they prove to be even half as fun as the past four years have been, I know we're in for even more fun, a wild adventure for certain. 


  Every day I am in awe of you. Of your soft heart, bright eyes and kindness beyond your years. You play hard but you love even harder and as much as I want to take credit for your sweet soul, it's truly of your own doing. We can only show you love- we cannot make you love others but you do it so, so well. 

  You are the coolest person we know. 

  You are quick to make jokes, quick to make people laugh and you've realized, at a very young age, that people love to laugh. The more they laugh, the more they love you. You are the funniest little boy and you will go out of your way to make people, on their best and on their worst days, laugh until their sides hurt. 

  You greet everyone with a smile and a cheerful hello. Whether we're walking the aisles of the grocery store or traipsing through the neighborhood blocks, with every newcomer we pass, you shout a hardy "hi there!" Your Dad and I jokingly call you The Mayor for this very reason. As soon as they say hi back, you immediately launch into introductions. "My name is Carter Me-----. This is my Mom, and my two brothers, Mackie and Baby Collins. How are you today?" 

  We're so proud of you. 

  Being the oldest is tough and what's even tougher is that sometimes your Daddy and I forget just how little you truly are. Sure you're older and bigger than your two little brothers and sometimes that means that we expect too much from you. But you handle the pressure we unintentionally place on you with a grace beyond your years. I know some days it may seem like you can't do anything right but know that sometimes your Daddy and I don't know what we're doing when it comes to raising the three of you and we make mistakes. We yell. We hope you always know how much we love you, even in those moments when we seem frustrated and upset. Three was tough. Four might be just as tough, if not tougher. It also might be awesome. Regardless of what lies ahead, we love you more than you will ever know. 

    I remember the very first minute we met. That moment when we locked eyes four years ago and you were forever mine. I know I won't forever be yours and I will admit, that stings a little. Okay, a lot a lot. But even now, I pray for the partner who gets to love you and be loved by you. Next to me and your Dad, they will be the luckiest person in the world. 

  I remember holding your tiny hand in mine- praying for you. For us. That we would figure out this crazy ride together. I look at those same hands today, your long skinny fingers, your palm in mine, spanning a greater breadth than it did back then- the lines of your hand dirty and sticky with sidewalk chalk, marker, Oreo cookies mixed with a touch of little boy sweat. I try to imagine where those hands will take you. I squeeze your hand tighter.    

  I remember, as most new parents will, that we had absolutely no idea what to do with you when we brought you home. We knew the basics of course but for the majority of the time, we were flying through parenthood by the seat of our pants. You broke us in. You changed us. You showed us what it meant to love someone other than ourselves. To love someone so much that it literally steals your breath away when you think of them. 

  I still have those breathless moments and I'm sure I'll have them for many, many years to come. When I see the way your eyes crinkle at the corners when you smile. When I see you rush over to a fussing Baby Collins and rub his cheek, singing him Twinkle Twinkle  and reassuring him that "everything will be alright, Baby Collins. It's okay. I'm here." When I see you give up, albeit unwillingly, your most beloved toy because Maclane begs for it. I am breathless. 

  When you stop whatever it is you are doing, when I beckon you to come over for a hug or a quick snuggle, I love that you don't think twice about me because, again, I know those moments will look much different in a few more years. It's okay though- I know deep down you will still love me, I hope. You just might not want anyone else to know. Remind me of this when you're, oh, say six. Okay? 

  There isn't a shy, reserved bone in your body. You want to be everyone's friend and I hope against all hope that this incredible, selfless trait won't ever be taken advantage of. If it is, I pray to God above for the one who abuses it. I worry about you because you are so kind. So sweet. So mindful of others feelings. But I'm your mama. It's my job to worry over you (and your brothers) and I will continue to do so for as long as I'm living. 

  You are four. You are a bright light and an indescribable joy to love. As much as we love you, you love your brothers, construction trucks, painting, drawing, fishing and racing your bike up and down our street. As quick as you are to love, you are stubborn. Indeed you are your mother's child. It's good to be stubborn though- sometimes it's your determination, your passion for something that is misconstrued as such. Don't lose that. 

  Carter Michael, you are one of a kind. God knew what he was doing when he chose us as your parents. We are the luckiest. Happy 4th Birthday, sweet boy of ours. We love you more than carrots. 

  Love Always, 
       Mom and Dad (as you have lovingly taken to calling us this year). 


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Monday, July 28, 2014

#DocumentingLifeChallenge, A Fun Instagram Photo Challenge!

It's no secret that I love taking pictures, and not just pictures, but pictures of my kids. As moms, we know all too well how fleeting the moments are and how quickly children grow up. We struggle on the daily to capture them as they are before they get their first tooth, before they grow taller, before they stop saying their L's as W's. 

Before we know it, we're in line for kindergarten registrations and signing them up for sleep away camps. 

But in the mean time, we take pictures. If you love taking pictures just as half as much as I do, if not more, then you'll love this challenge that originally began with one of my favorite mothers, bloggers and mom-tographers, Jenny Collier

What originated on her blog a few years back has now transformed into an Instagram challenge with the help of myself and Erin, from Hello Erin. Since we spend most of our days in the trenches, picking up our digital SLRs isn't always the easiest, despite how often we wish out loud that we had "just a few more 'nice' pictures of our kids." Instead, we grab whatever is nearest and 9 times out of 10 that's our iPhones. 

So grab your camera phone. Be inspired by our prompts. Take more pictures of your kids and share them on Instagram with us, using the hashtag #documentinglifechallenge. 

If you're looking for a few good editing apps, I recommend PicTapGo and Adobe Photoshop Express. For those "sweet extras" like fonts and designs, should you want to add them, check out Rhonna Designs

Be sure to follow myself, Jenny and Erin on Instagram. With each new month we'll be sharing the photo prompts and encourage you to do the same! Then take one photo each week using that week's prompt and upload it to Instagram using the hashtag #documentinglifechallenge

Here are the August prompts for the challenge: 

We really hope you'll join us in this little challenge. Get creative- we can't wait to see what you come up with! I plan on taking this challenge and turning it into a photo book at the end of the year! 

You can also see the rest of the years' photo prompts below, just in case you like to be extra prepared: 

Week of August 4:  Summer Treats
Week of August 11:  Swimsuit Fun
Week of August 18:  Barefoot
Week of August 25:  Favorite Summer Activity

Week of September 1:  At the park
Week of September 8:  Ready for School
Week of September 15:  Favorite Book
Week of September 22:  The Whole Family
Week of September 29:  Fresh out of Bed

Week of October 6:  Helping in the kitchen
Week of October 13:  Favorite Fall Activity
Week of October 20:  Pumpkin Fun
Week of October 27:  Your child in their Halloween costume

Week of November 3:  Favorite article of clothing
Week of November 10:  Playing
Week of November 17:  Fall Weather
Week of November 24:  A Thanksgiving Tradition

Week of December 1:  Decking the Halls
Week of December 8:  A typical breakfast
Week of December 15:  Snow
Week of December 22:  A Christmas Tradition
Week of December 29:  Close Up

Week of January 5:  Their favorite toy
Week of January 12:  A quirk that you want to remember about your child
Week of January 19:  Tackling a challenge
Week of January 26:  Mom & Me

Week of February 2:  Creating art
Week of February 9:  Laughing
Week of February 16:  All bundled up
Week of February 23:  Some place you always go but never think to document

Week of March 2:  Dress up
Week of March 9:  Holding hands
Week of March 16:  Your child’s bedroom
Week of March 23:  With friends
Week of March 30:  Upset

Week of April 6:  Easter Fun
Week of April 13:  Spring Weather
Week of April 20:  Playing with Dad
Week of April 27:  Funny Face

Week of May 4:  Family Fun
Week of May 11:  Getting Messy
Week of May 18:  At the dinner table
Week of May 25:  Sidewalk Chalk Art

Week of June 1:  Water Fun
Week of June 8:  Family Pet
Week of June 15:  Mom in the shot – bedtime story
Week of June 22:  Favorite Snack
Week of June 29:  Celebrating America

Week of July 6:  A part of your morning routing
Week of July 13:  Your choice – what do you want to remember about your child at this stage?
Week of July 20:  Summer Nights
Week of July 27:  Smile

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Not Tonight Honey.

I had a Red Bull and two Madeline cookies for lunch today if you've been wondering how life with three under four is going. With a near nineteen pound three month old, you'd think I'd be skinnier than I am and my arms (well, at least my right arm) more toned than they currently are. I'm here to tell you that neither is the case. In fact, I've still got twenty pounds to lose despite my short stint with weight loss snack bars. I mean, I'm sure the Madelines and copious amounts of caffeine and high fructose corn syrup aren't helping matters but come on now! 

Despite having washed my face and brushed my teeth for the night only moments earlier, here I am sitting on the couch, laptop popped open having just grabbed a Hershey bar from the fridge. We're the Millers is playing on TV and serves as semi-adequate background noise. I also totally just lied to you- I definitely didn't wash my face before and rarely ever do before bed, it just made the sentence flow a bit better so I decided to throw it in there. I need to get better at that. 

Washing my face, I  mean. Not the lying part.

My husband is trying to lure me upstairs with the promise of wine and a hot shower. The wine sounds tempting while the shower certainly is not. It's one of those strings-attached showers, if you know what I mean and those sorts of things lead to babies and we're maxed out in that department currently and forever, thankyouverymuch.

I'm pretty sure he just wants to see my new tattoo. After all, who waits until they're in their late twenties/early thirties to starting making poor life decisions and permanently inking their body? I'm kidding about the last part there. It's no secret that I put a lot of thought into my ink and the same rings true for my latest addition. Even though his first remark upon seeing it was, "shit, that's bigger than I expected," he quickly sang a different tune when he decided to start telling me that he "read somewhere that girls with more than one tattoo like to..." Well, you can just fill in that there blank yourselves. 

If you're wondering, the answer is, "they don't' like to do that" so unfortunately my husband was sorely misinformed. It does have me questioning his current choices of reading material, that's for sure. Girls with more than one tattoo and three children under four love to sleep. That's what they love. They love to sleep and eat Hershey bars long after everyone is in bed so that she doesn't have share a single goddamned piece. 

Speaking of pieces, I have to clean our house before the house cleaners come tomorrow which is the dumbest fucking thing in the entire world. Now, let's pause for a minute so that the Internets can rip me a new one for hiring a house cleaner because whine, whine, whine, cry, cry, cry, woe is me and I can't even clean my own house and take care of my children. See what I did there? I did it for you. Asshole thereupon ripped.

The reality of that is that I can, in fact, clean my house but when the kids tear it apart thirty-six seconds later, I want to throw things, lots of things, just like they do. Instead, when someone else cleans my house and the kids tear it apart thirty-six seconds later, I've wasted not my own time but rather my money and I'm okay with that. Now, when the cleaning crew comes, I throw the kids into the car and we go out to breakfast. We bring donuts to the park. It's the best $120 I spend every month. 

If you don't count the large iced cookie dough coffees from Dunkin Donuts and Spicy Chicken Deluxe sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A.  

Seriously though, I'm about to break up with our current house cleaner. I'm new to this "luxury" if you want to call it that (previously we had our home "deep cleaned" a couple of times per year but when they're coming on the regular there's literally a "de-clutter clause" in my contract that says I must de-clutter the house before they arrive. 

Clearly they have no idea what it's like to live with small children because, hellerrr, they are the epitome of clutter. So before I brushed my teeth and lied to you about washing my face, I was de-cluttering my house which really meant I was moving one pile of shit from the floor in one room to another table in a different room and maybe shoving some of it in a drawer. 

I'm about three months and a baby behind in my writing. I don't have much else to say about that other than I have the words. I really do. I just don't have the time to write them. How do people have the time to do these things? I think I'm on the verge of figuring it out... 

Last week I hired a Mother's Helper. She's a high school graduate who comes to my house four hours a week and plays with my kids. She does this so that I can do things like write, cook, or fold a load of laundry without having to get up 1,589 times to break up a fight, put someone in timeout, fill a sippy cup, spread peanut butter on a sandwich, roll the baby back over to his back, change a diaper or really, tell my kids, "wait one more minute." The truth is they really love our new helper and I'll be sad to see her off to college in a couple of months. 

At this rate, by then I will have outsourced every single one of my domestic responsibilities. 

I will also be broke. 

If only I could hire someone out to satisfy my husband.

I kid. I know what I signed up for when I got married. I'm pretty sure there was something about that in my vows or something. 

I know. I know what you're going to say.  This is just a season. How much do you want to kick a kitten every time someone says, "oh, but it's just a season," or "give yourself some grace." I'm pretty sure that if it wasn't for the blog world, those two sayings would be all but obsolete, no matter how very true they might be. The blog world is a funny, funny place. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more chores to do. Not tonight honey, I need to wash my... face.  

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

That Place, That Place Will Always Be Home To Me...

I crawled into bed, although different than the one I slept in as a little girl, in the very same corner of the very same room in the very same house I grew up in and at one point, I squinted through the darkness to see all three of my boys asleep in the very same space. 

I still have a hard time believing that I have three. Three sweet and sometimes sour, beautiful, kind and precocious boys. Selfishly they are all mine and I do, at times, have a hard time sharing them. But how could I not? How could I not want to keep them all to myself forever and ever, even in those sour moments?  

As I squinted through the dark, I could see my oldest was asleep on the travel cot in the far corner of the room, his eyelids fluttering with dreams full of the day's earlier adventure. Adventure that included fishing in the same nook of the same pond that I grew up fishing in and what's more, my Dad was by his side helping him reel his very first catch in. My mind flooded with memories of emptying my Dad's tackle box in the very same nook- as I was never any good at being patient waiting for the fish to bite- while he taught me how to cast a line and reel in The Big One. 

I glanced over to my middle baby, asleep on the trundle beneath me to my right, the wildest sleeper of the three, he was mumbling something, something about a police car and he looked so small there on that bed. If I squinted hard enough, I could still see the baby in his face, something that is barely but a trace on him in the daylight. There's just something about turning two, about thinning out so much that your little boy neck appears and you are no longer the baby when the next baby arrives... 

And the baby, oh, my sweet nearly three month old baby. As he slept in the play yard at the foot of my bed I wondered how we got to this place, this place of having him here, earth side for almost three months now. I blink and he grows. He's on the verge of giggling now and just when I thought his sweet coo's couldn't melt my heart any more, he starts to giggle and just like that I am putty in his hands.

It doesn't take much to make my knees go weak. One giggle, a sweet cuddle from my middle baby and a "this was the best day ever" from my oldest, even on the most mundane of days is enough to make me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. 

But this place. This place will always be my home, even though I haven't lived here since graduating college more than nine years ago. Even though I'm kind of grown up, married with three boys and living a life in a house far away from here, living a life that is all our own, I will always come home to this place. When I say "I'm going home for a few days," it's here that I'm referring to, the hometown I grew up in, never ever the house I currently live in. That's just "going back." 

The house I currently live in, the house my husband and I saved for, planned for and hoped for, the house that we poured ourselves into making a home, one that welcomed our three babes with open arms and warm nooks and crannies to rest their sleepy souls in, is just that to me, a house

And in a way that makes perfect sense to me. 

I am who I am, the way I am because of the way and the people who raised me in that original place. It's the only home I've ever known and it's where my roots took hold. Its walls spill over with memories. Memories of birthday parties, broken bones and bruised hearts. Of sleepovers, backyard camp outs and college acceptances. Of defeat and joy and unexpected endings. Of new beginnings and the kind of laughter that makes you laugh so hard you weep big fat tears and can hardly stop laughing or crying. It's the place that taught me what it meant to be a family. What it meant to grow together, to love each other unconditionally, to extend grace, to struggle together but at the end of the day to love one another and be grateful. 

And although I've lived in many places since then, truly lived in them, experiencing heartache, new life, loss but always overwhelming love in them, they never feel like the place where my roots began.

That place, that place will always be Home to me.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Cleanest, Friendliest Amusement Park There Ever Was.

Last weekend and on a whim, friends of ours asked us if we'd be willing to make the hour forty-five minute trek up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to spend the day with them at Dutch Wonderland, a 48-acre amusement park that caters primarily to families with small children. 
Having never had much experience with carnival-type rides, I was a little weary bringing the boys, 2 and 4, to the park. I was afraid that they'd hate the rides and our adventure would be a bust. Thankfully, that wasn't nearly the case. I mustered up every ounce of adventure in my bones, packed the car for what felt like a week away rather than just one day and loaded everyone, including the baby and my husband into the car.

I had seen commercials for the park on TV and will admit it did look pretty awesome. The kids were super excited to "go out on a ba-venture" and I wasn't sure at this point who was looking more forward to our day away. With over 30 fun-filled rides, Duke's Lagoon water play area and live entertainment, deep down I knew we would all have a really great time. 

Being that it was a Sunday, and one soon after schools had let out, I braced ourselves for some traffic and long lines once we arrived at the park. We arrived promptly at 10:30am, only thirty minutes after the park had opened. The parking lot was FULLER than FULL but thankfully parking was free.   

Once we parked, sprayed ourselves down with sunscreen and made sure to pack a few extra bottles of water for the long, hot day ahead, we donned our swimsuits and headed straight for Duke's Lagoon. Immediately upon crossing the threshold of the park, I swear I saw each of my boys begin skipping merrily together, hand in hand. The park and all of its amusement glory seemed to have that effect on them. We didn't make it very far as it was just minutes before they started begging to ride some rides. 

From bulldozers to monster trucks to the classic potato sack ride, any reservations that I had prior to attending the park were immediately put to rest. The boys had a blast. Dutch Wonderland, truly is, a Kingdom for Kids. Once they had their fill of rides, we continued on our quest to meet up with out friends at the water play area.

Even though I was sidelined with our two month old for much of the time, this was hands down my favorite part of the park. With varying degrees of water spray based on your child's comfort, there was splash pad-type fun for everyone. The boys loved chasing each other around the water park, sliding down the tube slides and standing beneath the drenching buckets, waiting for water to rain down on them. 

After an hour of water fun, it was time to towel off and track down some lunch. Dutch Wonderland has numerous eateries including two open-air dining areas as well as the air conditioned Mill Stream Eatery and Merlin's Restaurant. It was clear, by show of sweaty heads and rosy cheeks, that air conditioning it was. 

Fifty-eight dollars later, (for Cafeteria-style food for four), our bellies were full and it was off to ride some more rides and see more attractions. Brand new in 2014 is the park's attraction, Exploration Island. It was here that the boys dug for dinos, rode a Gondola and wandered down a Prehistoric Path complete with animatronic dinosaurs.

Needless to say, it was an absolute blast. We wound down our day with a stop at the Dole Whip ice cream stand and enjoyed a refreshing treat before boarding the very popular Wonderland Special choo-choo train. After a spin around the park, we waved goodbye to all of our favorite rides and promised them that we'd be back again some day soon. 

It's been a little over one week since our visit to Dutch Wonderland and the boys still talk about their favorite rides and how much fun they had, especially on the Road Rally monster truck ride and the family-oriented Turtle (Tilt-A) Whirl. I think my stomach is still spinning from that last one! 

My final thoughts on the park if you're considering a visit are as follows: it is a pre-schooler's dream. The park is most definitely designed to entertain kids ages 2 to 6 and I guarantee they will have more fun than you could ever imagine. Be prepared, however, to spend a pretty penny. Entrance to the park is not cheap, rivaled only by the price of food. Not to mention that games, toy and snack stands abound and you cannot exit the park without wandering through the gift shop. Last but not least, this was, hands down, the CLEANEST, FRIENDLIEST amusement park I have ever visited. Guest Services were out walking the park grounds and extremely helpful when it came to locating the nearest restroom, snack stand, etc. And for a park that caters predominantly to children, it was cleaner than clean. 

It was absolutely worth the hour and forty-five minute trip from our home in Maryland and we will undoubtedly visit again. Thank you, Dutch Wonderland, for hosting our family for a day of fun!

Be sure to check out Dutch Wonderland for events, trip discounts and more!
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Birth Announcements + $100 Custom Stationery Giveaway!

I'm a relatively brand loyal consumer. That is to say that once I find a brand I love, you can bet I stick with it for years to come. This applies to many facets of my life, especially custom stationery, prints and, specifically birth announcements. In previous years I've always used one of the "big box" paper retailers and have always been highly satisfied. 

That said, when Kim, brand new mom and mompreneur behind uh oh pasghettio reached out to me and offered to create custom birth announcements for Collins, I decided to give her shop a try and I'm so, so glad that I did. After perusing her website, I was immediately impressed with her wall art designs, stationery and custom design work. She is also pretty awesome and an absolute blast to work with. 

After much thought, I was able to narrow down my print selection to three favorites and, believe me, it wasn't easy. As for the final decision, Kim and her team were able to help me select the best print for the photo that I had chosen to use on the announcement. When it came time for final drafts, Kim and her team sent over a few different layouts to make sure I was 110% satisfied with the finished product. 

And the end result? Even better than I imagined. I absolutely love how Collins' birth announcements turned out and cannot wait to shop uh oh pasghettio for even more custom nursery prints to hang in Collins' nursery. You know, when I actually get to start working on that nursery...

Kim has kindly offered one reader of ILYMTC the Blog a $100 gift certificate to uh oh pasghettio to be used on whatever custom paperie their heart desires. From birthday invitations to shower invitations, custom prints and graphics and beyond, I guarantee you'll find something to love on her site. Entry is easy. Open to US residents only. No purchase necessary to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Collins Mason :: Month Two!

Collins Mason, you are two months old! I'd like to sit here and say to myself how I have no idea where these last two months have gone but the truth is, I know exactly what we've been up to and why the weeks are flying by! Part of me feels like that's the trouble with summer babies- you're so busy out and about enjoying the warm weather and sunshine, having fun unlike the winter months full of static boredom and horrible weather. It's been a busy month for you, that's for certain!

At two months you weigh 15lbs. 10ounces and are a little over 23inches in length. Your hair is turning strawberry blonde and your eyes are changing from dark navy to green! You comfortably wear size 2 diapers and have outgrown all of your 0-3 month clothes. You are wearing 3-6 month and 6 month clothes respectively.

Nursing exclusively on demand and we've developed a pretty decent "schedule." You nurse about every three to four hours during the day and snack once or twice in between. You continue to be a very efficient nurser and wake only once or twice overnight to eat before you fall right back to sleep. It's evident you don't miss a single meal and we love every single one of the resulting rolls and dimples.


Sleeping is much the same as it was last month. You're definitely awake for much longer periods of the day but will take one or two decent long naps for 2+ hours. You've started catnapping in between for 20-30 minutes and go down for the night around 8:30pm. You wake only once or twice overnight to nurse and quickly fall back to sleep. You are an excellent self-soother, something neither of your brothers were. You're sleeping in the Rock N' Play next to our bed and in our bed after your second wake-up around 4am.  Around 7am I lay you back in the Rock N' Play so that I'm not clinging to the edge of the bed for the last hour of sleep. You were sleeping in the bassinet portion of the Breeze but kept waking yourself up as you would try to roll over.   

Loving strolling around the neighborhood in the 4Moms Origami, cooing and smiling like it's going out of style, taking naps, "talking" to your brothers, taking baths and when your Daddy holds you like a football. 

Not Loving tummy time. 

Going lot's of places! As the third and tiniest member of our family, you don't have the luxury of a schedule or a routine and you're much more of a "do as you go" kind of baby. You're an excellent rider in the car- on daily errands and running your brother to and from school, all the way to your very first trip to the beach!  You've been to the beach twice now, Dutch Wonderland and we're gearing up to take you on your very first trip to New Jersey in the coming weeks!

Doing exactly what you should be doing at two months old. Tracking, smiling, independent movements, holding your head up and sucking your fingers! 

You've been an "outside baby" for just two months now but it truly feels like you've been a part of our crazy family forever. I almost can't remember our days before you were a part of them. In just two short months Collins you've brought more love and laughter into our family than we ever could have imagined! We love you more than carrots little man!  

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