Thanksgiving!

For our first Thanksgiving back in Florida, we decided to host dinner at our new home. We had my Aunt, cousin, his girlfriend, my mom, and Chris’s brother and his family join us. It was a very relaxing day full of food, football (Thank you Jesus for letting the Cowboys win for Chris) and fun. The kids played outside in the bounce house while we got to have adult beverages and play corn hole and enjoy the perfect weather.

Here are some pictures from not only Thanksgiving day, but also a few from the Thanksgiving celebrations at the kids’ schools.

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Please note the little turkey in orange and blue who is blowing kisses to his mommy and daddy before his performance!

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Look at that little Indian! Side note: Nolan put down an embarrassing amount of chicken nuggets at his school feast.

 

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Thank God he used the non-Fitbit arm. Ain’t nobody got time for a fitness tracker in their turkey.

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It just doesn’t feel like Thanksgiving without Grandma Dot’s pumpkin bread.

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Me, Aunt Claudia and mom

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Brady all tuckered out after a day of food and fun. (Again, obsessed with sleeping pictures!)

The day after Thanksgiving we went to Savannah to spend time with my dad and Pat. We got to hang out downtown, see Santa, go to our annual Christmas light event at the Botanical Gardens, and watch the Gators get destroyed by FSU (boo.)

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The only Santa lap Nolan will be sitting on this year!

 

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So much to be thankful for, today and always!

 

 

 

 

Halloween!

This Halloween was one of my favorite with the boys. They got SO into it! Trick or treating was super enjoyable because the boys are finally at an age where they can walk on their own and go up to houses without our help. (We stood on the sidewalk sipping our adult beverages reminding them to say thank you.) We also got the benefit of having my mom nearby so she was able to participate in Nolan’s Trunk or Treat event at his school and hang out on Halloween night.

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Our not-so-elaborately decorated trunk. We’ll step it up next year! (Maybe.)

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We loved spending the morning at Nolan’s school on Halloween. Little stinker.

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Spoiler alert: the boys have already been talking about their costumes for next year. Nolan wants to be a, wait for it, mosquito.

Hurricane Matthew

Our first few months back in Florida have been quite adventurous. Between the chaos of all that goes along with a move, starting new jobs, beginning new schools, throwing in a couple hurricanes really spiced things up! Thankfully our new home did not sustain damage during either of the hurricanes, but we did have lots of time together (without power!) and made some fun memories in spite of what was a scary situation.

 

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Look at all that fun Chris was having!

 

We spent a big chunk of our time off of school celebrating “Dinosaur Day!” All things dinosaurs took place on this day. From Dinosaur Cookies to seeing how far we could throw toy dinosaurs, we did it.

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Dinosaur day was quite exhausting. (I’m obsessed with sleeping pics of my kids.)

 

Once the roads were good enough to drive on, we got out of the house as much as we could (We were running low on food and were without power a few days.)

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God bless restaurant employees who fed us poor, stir-crazy, hungry people.

A few days after the storm the boys and I headed to the beach to check out the damage… Nothing like a hurricane to make you realize how small you are in the world and how powerful Mother Nature can be.

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The ocean was ANGRY that day. So much foam!

 

 

First Day of School- Kinder & PK3

This summer has been full of excitement and change for our little family. All in all our boys have been such troopers. Their whole lives have changed and they’ve really done great adjusting to all the newness (they are practically pros at it at this point.)

One of the biggest changes for any kid that moves is starting a new school. Brady was going to be starting a new school regardless with entering Kindergarten, but Nolan was quite happy at his old pre-school and not at all wanting to change what took months for him to become comfortable with. We were not sure how the first day of school would go for either kiddo, but they both did super well.

Brady has been excited about Kindergarten for months. He was all smiles and energy until the moment he walked into the classroom. He quickly turned around, ran back out and had tears in his eyes. He told me he “was a little bit worried.” A few hugs, kisses, and reassurances later, he walked back in and never looked back. He came home from school on the bus and reported that he had a great first day. He is loving it!

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Patiently waiting for brother’s bus that was SUPER late!

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Big boy getting off the bus for the first time (bus driver carrying his lunchbox that he has forgotten every single day.)

 

Nolan’s first day was so much more nerve racking for me. He is so social and outgoing in some ways, and so painfully shy in others. Historically he does NOT like being away from me and took his sweet time getting used to preschool drop off last year. I was anticipating the worst. Thankfully, he was quite brave on his first day. There were a couple whiny moments of not wanting me to go, but ultimately after about 10 or 12 hug/kiss/fist bump/high five routines, he said good-bye to me and let me walk away (with no tears.) We survived! Now, I’m not getting cocky just yet. I know 2nd and 3rd days can often be way tougher, but we at least had a great start.

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He was a hot, sweaty mess when I picked him up!

Overall, we are super proud of how these boys have handled so much change in their lives recently. We’re so excited to see how much they grow and learn this year!

Back in Florida!

Remember when us Smiths moved to Raleigh, built our dream home, and decided we would stay forever? Yeaaaa, about that. We freakin’ loved North Carolina. In fact we were 99.9% sure we would never leave. We made great friends, loved the city and proximity to mountains and beaches, and really felt at home there. The only thing missing was family. And, that’s a big one. Chris and I always said we knew we would stay put in Raleigh unless something huge came along that could potentially bring us closer to family.

We always sort of half joked that it would take the perfect job in the perfect location to make us move again. We didn’t want to just move anywhere, we wanted to have family super close to make it worth our while. We said the perfect job would have to be in North Florida or South Georgia for it to make sense for Chris to leave his position at a company he’d been with for 11 years. So, when a company that Chris has admired for a long time came to him to let him know they had an opening in their North Florida/South Georgia territory, it completely caught us off guard. We didn’t think that kind of opportunity existed. We felt like he had to at least apply. We said if it was meant to be, it would happen.

As Chris got further and further into the interview process it began to sink in that this might actually be happening. Chris began to fall in love with the company and realized how much he really wanted the job. However, the idea of moving again seemed daunting and the reality that we may be leaving the life we had created in North Carolina was super bittersweet. By the time Chris found out he got the job, it was a surreal feeling of “YAY!” and “what did we just do?!” All along we just kept reminding ourselves that this was God’s plan. This job presented itself for a reason. Not only was Chris about to embark on an exciting new career opportunity that was such a perfect fit for him, the job was located right smack in the middle of my mom and dad. We are closer to Chris’s aunt and brother, my extended family, our old friends, and of course, Gator games!

Our journey back to Florida has been a whirlwind of selling our house, quickly buying a new one, saying good-bye to friends, packing, cleaning, staying in a hotel for a week (with the kids and pets), paperwork, phone calls, more cleaning, unpacking, starting a new job, and getting settled into our new life. In the short term, it’s hectic and crazy. In the long term, Chris is beyond happy with his new position, our kids get to spend time with family whenever we want, and our decision to move back to Florida is turning out to be so great.

I’m slowly starting to make my mark on our new house and it’s beginning to feel like home. We’re loving that we are super close to the beach and there is GATOR stuff everywhere!! The kids are enrolled in their new schools and I’m working on applying to be a substitute teacher for our county (side note: miraculously I still have 2 years left on my Florida teaching certificate so I can go back to teaching full time sometime soon!) I’m sure I’ll be posting more once we get the house finished, but in the meantime, here’s some pictures of the last month of moving fun.

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Nolan on the morning that the movers came to pack up our Raleigh house. He was all, “nope.”

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Thankfully Chris was able to perk him up with a quick apple bite.

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I snapped this pic from our neighbor’s house. I was in full panic mode looking over like, “what have we gotten ourselves into again?”

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Kissing NC goodbye!

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The definition of a bittersweet photo for me. The last picture of the boys on our front steps. So sad to leave, but ready for our next adventure.

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Our last night in Raleigh was in a hotel. Brady spent the evening writing “notes” to all his friends he was leaving behind. (Tear!!!)

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Rise and shine! Who’s ready to hit the road for Florida?!!! Guys?

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Our first night in Florida- had to get a flip flop cookie to commemorate it!

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Once we got to Florida we had a week in a hotel before we closed on our new house. We did a bunch of stalker drive by’s of the new house before we could get in.

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This is what a week of living in a hotel with 2 boys, a dog, and a cat, does to you.

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The boys went to stay with Grandma and Aunt Claudia for a couple days while Chris and I closed on the house and started the cleaning and unpacking process. Such a lifesaver! (and perk to being close to family again!!)

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Our final walk thru of our Florida home

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We were those people who brought their dog to closing. He sat like a statue in the corner for an hour and a half.

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We are moving pros by now. We know to have solo cups and screw top wine on hand for when you can’t find your wine opener. Now, where’s that coffee maker….

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A 3 and 5 year old boy are excellent unpacking helpers.

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Brady is officially going to start Kindergarten (again)!

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Coffee maker is found! Enjoying the new backyard view 🙂

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Oh hey, Florida. How I missed you!

We don’t quite feel like we are done with North Carolina. We are sure we will be vacationing there as much as possible and hopefully one day have a second home or retire there. That time in our life will always have such a special place in our hearts, but this new chapter in Florida is looking pretty good so far! Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

Brady-boo is 5!

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It’s hard to believe our little B-Man has been with us 5 years already. We’re so incredibly blessed that this is the boy God chose to be our introduction to parenthood. He’s sweet, funny, so smart, and just plain easy to parent.

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We’re constantly amazed by Brady’s abilities to analyze situations, think about how the world works, and question everything. He loves to learn, build, and create. He’s even tempered and genuinely innocent at heart.

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He loves to please and cares so deeply about others. We couldn’t have picked a better big brother for Nolan and are so thankful for his loving nature.

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We did a little 4 year old exit interview for Brady and here’s how he answered:
How old are you going to be?
5
When is your birthday?
June 21
What’s your favorite color?
Red
What’s your favorite food?
Hot Dogs
What’s your favorite show?
P.J. Masks
What’s your favorite movie?
Firefighter Dusty (Planes Fire and Rescue)
What’s your favorite book?
“Rescue Vehicles”
What’s your favorite song?
“Cake by the Ocean” and “Bubble Toes”
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A police officer
Where is your favorite place to go?
La Cocina (Mexican restaurant by our house)
What’s your favorite animal?
Gato
What about Albert?
I love them both.
Who’s your best friend?
Sophie
What’s your favorite number?
5

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We’re so proud of Brady and his unique little personality. While it’s bittersweet that our first born is becoming such a big boy, we can’t wait to see what big things are in his future!

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Happy Birthday Brady! Thank you for making our job as your parents so fun and rewarding!

The End of the School Year 2016

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Recently the Smith family made the big decision to move back to Florida for a new job opportunity and to be closer to family (more on all that soon!). While we are excited for this new adventure, unfortunately it means saying good-bye to many of the things we love about North Carolina. One of the harder things for us to leave is the boy’s pre-school. For the last 2 years it has been such a wonderful, safe, and loving place that our boys have grown and learned so much from. While Brady will be starting Kindergarten in a new school either way, I was still looking forward to two more years of Nolan attending First Baptist Pre-School. While we’re confident we will love the new schools in Florida, the end of the school year here in North Carolina was very bittersweet.

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I can’t say enough fantastic things about Nolan’s teacher this year. This was his first experience in school and Miss Beverley made it so memorable. He was not an easy kid to transition into school (a whole lot of separation anxiety in the beginning!) but her patience and loving nature was life changing for all of us. I am forever grateful for all that Miss Beverley taught Nolan and I even gained a little knowledge myself on how to handle pre-schoolers! By the end of the year, Nolan had so much confidence and grew to love school!

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Brady has absolutely loved school this year! The 4 year old class was so much more like “big kid school” and he thrived. I am so pleased with how his pre-reading and math skills have come along. He also had a teacher who encouraged his love of building structures and engaged him with open ended science activities. It was so fun to see how Brady’s little personality developed this year as he began to foster new friendships and become more outgoing.

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Brady’s graduation ceremony was a perfect example of how much his confidence has grown as he was chosen to be one of the flag holders during the pledge of allegiance and stand in front of all his peers. I wouldn’t have ever imagined he’d have been that brave before!

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We’re so proud of both boys and how far they’ve come this year. While we are sad to say good-bye to First Baptist Church of Garner Pre-school, we are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for our little men!

Here’s a little beginning to end comparison!

 

 

Winter Get-Aways

This winter has been surprisingly manageable. We’ve only had one weekend that gave us some cabin fever, but thankfully most of that crazy blizzard missed us (with the exception of a little snow and quite a bit of ice.) While we haven’t had to deal with extreme snowfall, it still gets a little dreary and boring in the winter. We find ourselves missing being able to play outside every day and let’s face it, wearing socks all the time isn’t this Florida girl’s cup of tea.

Thankfully we were able to break up some of the winter blah by taking two quick trips out of town. One was a tag-long work trip for Chris to Great Wolf Lodge in Charlotte and the other was a weekend get away to see the mountains in Boone.

Great Wolf Lodge was a much needed chance to get our bathing suits on and play without fear of freeeezing! The kids loved the arcade, bowling alley, and water park. They also had a blast in their own little wolf den, complete with bunk beds and their own T.V. (I’m telling you, these kids have got it so rough.) On this trip we learned that Brady is ridiculously fearless when it comes to really high water slides and Nolan is just cool with the really shallow kiddie pool area.

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My water baby in his glory.

 

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Our next adventure was a weekend trip to Boone. We wanted the boys to be able to play in the snow and check out the mountains in the winter. (And secretly we just wanted to go eat at some of our favorite restaurants.) The Boone/Blowing Rock area is quickly becoming one of our family’s favorite vacation spots and it’s awesome that the boys are becoming familiar with the area and making so many memories there.

Our first (and most important) stop when we got to town…Come Back Shack. Holy milkshakes!

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Traveling…I’m in it for the food.

Next stop, Grandfather Mountain.

 

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Cute lil’ mountain climbers!

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Family selfie before crossing the mile high swinging bridge.

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Brady was once again fearless on the mountain. He always wants to climb higher!

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Whatever you do, don’t look down. (MILE high!)

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first of all, he’s ridiculously handsome. second, he threw a snowball at my camera.

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Snowball fight!

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Sit on the side of this mountain. Don’t move. Don’t fall. Now, smile!

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The otters on the mountain really liked the boys!

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Ahhh those views. North Carolina rocks.

We also spent some time in Downtown Blowing Rock. One of the cutest little towns ever!

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More snowball fights!

 

 

 

 

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And, more eating. Like I said, we mostly travel for the food.

And Brady’s favorite part of the trip…the Jacuzzi tub in the hotel suite. Livin’ the life.

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I love our adventures, big and small. Anytime I can combine travel, food, and my sweet boys, I’m a happy girl. No winter blues here!

‘Tis the Season!

We’re loving the Christmas season around here. The Smiths are the type of people who listen to Christmas carols a little too much, decorate way too early, and head to the mall in the peak of crowds. We love spoiling our kids this time of year, but we’ve made a conscious effort to teach our boys the joy of giving. I’m not gonna lie-it’s a little tricky when so much focus is given towards, “what are you going to ask Santa for?” and “how many days until you get to open your presents?” Our hope is that they will learn that giving and doing for others can bring as much enjoyment as receiving gifts some day. After all, there’s nothing quite like putting a smile on someone’s face to make your heart happy.

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Like this charitable act. “Put your heads in those things so mommy and daddy can get a good laugh!”

 

Since the boys are only 2 and 4, it takes a little creativity to think of ways to get them involved in the act of giving or doing for others. Here’s some of the ways we tried to get them in the “giving” spirit this year…

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We donated money to the Salvation Army red kettles.

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We made cards and artwork for our friends who donated money to our St. Jude fundraiser for sick children.

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They delivered cards to all the kids in their class.

 

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They picked out and purchased a toy for the Toys for Tots bin.

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They each went shopping for a Christmas present for their brother. (Dollar Store finds- gotta love ’em!)

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They went shopping for presents for Albert and Gato.

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We made cards for the mailman and trash collectors.

 

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The mailman’s surprise.

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The trash collector’s gift and card.

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We brought a small gift for each of their teachers. (Contemplated the ol’ alcoholic gift for Nolan’s teacher. Bless her patient heart.)

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They gave a small treat to each of their classmates.

And probably the biggest sacrifice this Christmas season was cleaning out their old “baby toys” and donating them to a local ministry thrift shop. This was the toughest part for Nolan- he insisted that those were HIS toys. He had a hard time letting go (but was more willing once he realized that made more room for new toys!) We also gave away all of their clothes that they outgrew recently and donated food to a food bank- thankfully that was done with a more generous heart. It was so touching to hear Brady’s thoughts about how much he cared that other children might not have all of the things that he has. Kids can be amazingly empathetic.

I hope this is the start of raising children who have a love of doing things for others. While I still fully intend on taking part in all the sparkly, indulgent, over-the-top Christmas traditions, maybe, just maybe, it will be done with a charitable mindset that rubs off on our kids!

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving! Our day was spent cooking, lounging, eating, drinking, golfing, watching football, and spending time with family.

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Now that we’re all fat and happy, I thought I’d take a moment to recap some of the things (big & small) that I’m most thankful for. After all, reflecting on your blessings is the key to happiness! (I’m not sure if I stole that from a decorative pillow or something, but you can quote me on that either way.)

In no particular order, here’s what I’m thankful for…

Our kids. (ok, I put them first for a reason.) They’re bright, healthy, funny, crazy boys. They epitomize all that is good and innocent in the world.  To know them, is to know true love. Simply put, they make me happy when skies are gray.

My hubby. He’s exactly what you’d want in a husband- perfectly imperfect. He never lets me down and I feel like I’m a better person when I’m with him. He loves me through and through and you can’t ask for much more than that from someone you’re sharing your life with.

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My parents. They always support my decisions and love me unconditionally. And now, they are the best grandparents to my kiddos.

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Extended family. While I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, I was blessed to be raised in a family where there was always lots of love (and food!) every time we got together. My Grandma Dot loved big family get togethers and around the holidays I am missing her more than ever, but I am so grateful for the memories and traditions that she created for us.

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Fur babies. Albert and Gato make life so much more interesting. Yes, they cause me a lot of headaches and laundry, but they also bring us joy in the form of excited, jumping up and down barking, and late night purring and snuggles.

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Chick Lit and Girly T.V. shows. As much as I love having my hubby around, I’m not going to lie, I kinda enjoy nights when he’s out of town and I get to catch up on episodes of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. And, I certainly couldn’t live without books. Shout out to anyone else who owns a book light that they attach to the top of their books!

Music. Country, classic rock, R&B, pop, Christmas music…you name it. We do not go a day without jamming out. Between dance parties with my kids, to listening to Pandora while I read, I’m so grateful for it.

Friends. I’m so lucky to have met my best friends in college. They know all my crazy stories, have seen me at my best/worst, and still love me. I’m also grateful for all the friends we’ve met over the last couple years as we’ve moved from state to state. Every place we’ve been, we’ve been so blessed to find people who have made us feel at home.

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Wine. Not sure if that really needs an explanation, but, it’s tasty and I think life is better with it. The same goes for alfredo sauce, doughnuts, birthday cake, fresh picked strawberries, champagne, and tacos.

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Faith. I’m grateful for the comfort of knowing my future is in God’s hands and that all of my blessings come from Him.

The University of Florida. It was my home for 4 years and still feels like it every time I go back. It’s where I got my college degree, where I “grew up”, where I found my best friends, and where I met my husband. Going there was most certainly the best, most life changing thing I ever did. (I should also add that I’m super thankful for college football!)

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These are a few of my favorite things! While every day is not perfect, there are certainly blessings all around us each day if we take the time to look for them.

We hope everyone had a blessed day that was full of the 3 F’s- Family, Food, and Football. HAPPY THANKSGIVING Y’ALL!