American Girls

During the Christmas trip to visit my family, we found time for a side trip the The American Girl Store. We had been planning this for months, and the girls weren't disappointed! We all had so much fun! The girls had been saving their money for months, and each one had a nice amount accumulated. We first visited the doll salon where they all had some of their dolls' ears pierced and where Joy and Grace got a doll's hair styled. The stylists were so nice and did a great job, even on the doll that has lost a great deal of hair!
The girls each bought a pet for their dolls. Faith, Hope, and Joy bought the calico cat because, of course, our cat is a calico. Grace bought Kit's basset hound just because she liked it. Faith and Grace also bought outfits. Faith had been needing a new dance bag, and I bought her a really cute one on sale for $10! She likes it a lot, and all of her stuff fits!

After our shopping, we had a snack at the Bistro. We had some ice cream, a milkshake, and cookies and milk. The milk came in the cutest container! It was a little jar with a small cup on top. Joy and Grace had so much fun pouring the milk into the cup and drinking it! Of course, their dolls joined us for our snack.

Elizabeth, in her new hairstyle, and Kit

Josefina, Hope's Kit, and Faith's Kit

Samantha, with her lovely hairstyle

Finally we sent Hope's beloved Josefina to the doll hospital. Much of her hair had fallen out, and Hope had asked for her head to be replaced as her main Christmas gift. We won't get her back for a few weeks, but when she returns, she'll be as good as new!

We had a fabulous time at the American Girl Store, and the girls want to return there some time. I'm sure we'll be back!

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Over the River and Through the Woods

Christmas came early in our house this year. My sister and her family were in from overseas during the week of Christmas, so we opened our gifts before we left to go see them. (Since the girls and I are rather fond of presents, this was really quite fun!) The girls each got an American Girl doll outfit. Faith got a bike and a CD. Hope got a certificate so her American Girl Josefina doll can get a new head and a purse. Joy and Grace got scooters, princess "piggy" banks, and wallets. They all got some Legos the share. I gave Paul a cool shirt and a photo book I had had printed. I got lots of Godiva chocolate covered pretzels (which are fabulous!), the A & E DVD set of Pride and Prejudice, and a really nice and beautiful ring! (I was expecting some costume jewelry and got a cool ring from a jeweler!)

(In the picture the stone looks blue, but it's really a white topaz.)

The next day we packed up to go to my mom's house. Food was a major theme of our visit. Whenever we go home there are certain restaurants my sister and I want to eat at. So we went out to eat 3 times in less than 5 days. And we were not disappointed. (Except when we stepped on the scale!) And my sister made a terrific chocolate chip pecan pie which I think I'll have to try very soon.

The cousins all had a great time playing! Her daughter and my girls hit it right off even though they hadn't seen each other in a year. And her son is a little over a year old and such a sweet, happy, and busy baby. The weather was nice for playing outside most days, and the girls had a lot of fun in the yard I grew up playing in.

Of course, there were LOTS of presents to be opened! The girls really enjoyed their gifts, and the baby enjoyed the paper! The dads made sure we opened the big tub of Lincoln Logs when the baby was asleep! And, of course, we gave the can of possum to my sister and her husband. We added a package of Larvets (The Original Worm Snax)to make it even more fun!

(I'm sure we'll get something even weirder next year! Living in another culture has its advantages!)

Our trip was completed by a trip to the American Girl Store, which was so cool it will be getting its own post.

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Hope had her first piano recital the week before Christmas. She was so excited! She had practiced her songs and said she wasn't nervous at all. She had chosen to play 3 Christmas songs as duets with her teacher. It sounds easier than playing alone, but I think it was really more difficult because she had to stay on tempo.

The recital was held in the music room at church. Hope and the 6 other students played for their families. Then their teacher played, and we had a small reception.

Hope did a fabulous job. We could really tell that she has natural musical ability! (And she practiced.) She also had had a solo in the children's Christmas musical, and did a great job with her singing. I'm so glad that Hope has found her "thing" in music. She has already told me that she wants to teach piano when she grows up, and that she thinks God wants her to play piano at church when she is grown. I love seeing how she is wanting to use her talents to serve Him!

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The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker was an incredible experience! All those weeks of practice paid off. The girls were able to dance on stage with professional dancers in front of a packed audience. And they all danced beautifully!

My Mom came for the performance, and we'll buy the DVD to show my sister and our friends. (Since this is a professional performance, the ticket prices reflect that!) Even Hope enjoyed watching her sisters dance.

The days leading up to the performance were full of practices and last minute adjustments. The day of the performance, the girls had costume fittings, pictures, practice with the Russians, and the actual performance. They got to wear some make-up, which they all thought was fun. Faith did a great job doing her makeup herself.

I was a little concerned that Joy and Grace might get nervous being on stage with the Russian dancers, but they did great. ( I did do some serious praying in the audience!) They were snowflakes, which is the youngest group of dancers. They remembered their dance, even the part that was changed the afternoon of the performance!

Faith was a party guest. Since she is tall, she had to wear a boy costume (which no modern boy I know would ever wear, and which is fancier than what most of her girlfriends wear to church on Sunday!). The children were on stage for a long time and danced well.

Faith also was a butterfly. Her costume was gorgeous! This was a much harder dance than the party guest dance, and she was great! The girls danced on pointe and were beautiful. She was the youngest girl in this part, but she definitely held her own! I was so proud of her. She had to work hard to learn the dance, but she persevered. Since she's only been taking pointe since January, I was really impressed with her dancing.

At the end of the show, all the performers, adults and children, came out for the bow. After the first bow, the dancer playing Masha (Clara in the American version) took Grace's hand and the dancer playing Drosselmeyer (the toymaker uncle) took Joy's hand and the group bowed again. That was so cool! I wish I could have taken a picture, but that wasn't allowed, so I'll just have to imprint the image on my mind and make sure that they remember it.

The girls and I hope they have the opportunity to dance in the Nutcracker again next year!

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A Full Fall

This year we seem to go from one season of activity to another! Our church does a Trunk or Treat on October 31, so I spent several days that month sewing Hope's costume. She wanted to dress up as Susan from the second Narnia movie, which is not a costume you're likely to find at your local Stuffmart. Fortunately, I have used this pattern twice before - for American Girls Felicity and Elizabeth, so I knew how to make it. Unfortunately I forgot that the amount of fabric that the pattern states you will need is not enough to actually make the dress! The fabric store took back the insufficient fabric, so we weren't out any extra money. The dress looks great, and Hope enjoyed wearing it. Joy and Grace dressed as fairies using some wings we bought and old ballet costumes. Faith and her friends had their own "Pajama Party" trunk, and dressed in their PJs. Paul and I were the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. We used some 90% off inflatables from the dollar store, a dollar eyepatch, and were able to put together pretty decent costumes from our closet!

October also saw the beginning of Nutcracker practices for Faith, Joy, and Grace. All three were cast in children's parts for the Moscow Ballet tour. The little ones had practice on a weekday, and we were able to carpool with a friend. Faith had Sunday practices, so we were hurrying to get home from church, eat lunch, and get to practice on time. But this is an amazing opportunity and so worth it!

So November has been full of ballet! (And piano for Hope, who chose piano over dance this year.)

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Isn't It Pretty!

I've often wished I could go beyond the template suggestions in Blogger without having to pay a lot of money. But since I'm not all that computer-savvy and have really no idea how to do it myself, I contented myself with the Blogger options. Until now.

Sarah has a beautiful new blog design. And when she mentioned it was free, I headed right over to The Cutest Blog on the Block and got my own free blog background. It was so easy! Thanks, Sarah. And, thanks, Ashley.

I was even able to customize my font colors!

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The Flood

Sometimes we have a flood of activities. In the last five days I have :

*Made cute doll t-shirts and purses at Michaels (for free!)

*Brought Faith, Joy, and Grace to a total of four Nutcracker practices

*Attended a birthday party

*Attended a college ministry swim party in which the only people swimming were my girls

*Went to church

*Hosted our small group at our house

*Quickly cleaned up (as best we could) for small group

*Watched a friend's children

*Taken the girls to a total of three dance classes

*Eaten out with Paul and the girls

*Stood in line for 30 MINUTES at Stuffmart!!! (With all four girls!)

*Went to and helped at our first 4-H meeting

*Helped Paul lead a class for engaged couples in our home (and cleaned up and made a dessert for that)

*Homeschooled the girls

*Went to Wednesday night church

*Witnessed this last night on the way home

The picture doesn't do God's creation justice. And there was a second, fainter rainbow above it that disappeared by the time we got home. As I was thinking about the rainbow today and what it means, I realized that not only does God promise never to flood the earth with water, but He also promises never to allow my life to become flooded with more than I am able to bear in Him. Psalm 142:3 says, "
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path."

God does know my path, and when I am following Him, He will lead me beside still waters and restore my soul, even in the midst of what may seem overwhelming.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. ~Phil. 4:13

More Excitement!

Like many others, we kept a very obsessive close eye on Ike as it entered the Gulf. The track varied widely before finally seeming to be headed for Galveston. That was only somewhat of a relief for us. Since Ike was such a big storm, our area was still forecast to have strong winds and flooding from the storm.

We knew the evacuees from the Galveston/Houston area would make an evacuation to my mom's house a very long journey. And since we would have to bring our pets anywhere we went, we decided to ride out the moderately bad weather we were likely to experience. And if the power was out for too long, we could always go later.

We spent Thursday and Friday making our preparations. Paul boarded up our businesses and our home (a task made far easier because we saved the wood he had cut in preparation for Gustav). We purchased food, water, flashlights, and batteries. I filled the tubs with water and gathered our candles. Then we waited. The wind blew. It rained some. Just as I was thinking that we would probably not lose electricity, the power went out. We had no power from about 12:30 am on Saturday morning until about 2:30 pm on Saturday afternoon. It wasn't the heat that was so bad, it was the humidity. Everything felt sticky! We were so thankful when the power came back on!

Other than the relatively brief loss of power and a few small limbs down, we had no damage. I feel extremely blessed, and I am praying for those in Galveston, Houston, and the other areas that had severe damage from Ike.

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We've definitely had some exciting times as of late. I got to go to Living Proof Live in San Antonio in August. I had had my ticket for months, but the friends I had planned to go with were both unable to go. God provided another sweet group of ladies to ride to San Antonio with, and He totally blessed me! I loved hearing God speak through Beth that I am His heiress!!

I came home to a really painful throat infection. As I tried to recuperate, I had to get our family ready for Family Camp the following weekend. And in case that wasn't enough, it appeared that Gustav might be coming our way, so I had to prepare for a potential hurricane! Thankfully, the Z pack worked quickly, and I was able to pack for our trip and pack up for the hurricane without too much trouble. As we left for Family Camp on Friday, we still didn't know if the hurricane would come to our town, so we really looked like the Beverly Hillbillies - a Suburban packed FULL of stuff including 12 American Girl dolls, a box of pictures, a few momentos, a dog, a cat, and a gerbil! (The folks who ran the camp were nice enough to make an exception to the no pets rule!!)

We kept abreast of the hurricane via our laptop at camp, and shared the news with others who worried about being in Gustav's path. On Monday, we went to stay with friends who live about an hour away from the camp before heading home on Tuesday. The storm had not struck us, so we had no damage. However, as we settled back into our normal routines, it appeared that Ike might cause us some trouble. More about that next time!

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What Time Is It...

It's summer time! We're on vacation! Life around here has been a great balance of activity and rest this summer.

We started our summer at the end of May with a family vacation to a nearby big city. We visited museums and the zoo and had a great time. My girls really enjoyed the space exhibit since we have studied space this year. Another favorite was the jewels and gems exhibit. All but Joy enjoyed the interactive butterfly exhibit. She was scared of the butterflies landing on her. The butterflies liked Paul best.

This one stayed on him for ten or fifteen minutes!

One landed in my hair, too.

We brought home some yummy snacks, too!

We really did buy a pack of Larvettes. The cheddar cheese variety. We've offered them to several friends, but so far, no one has eaten any! Go figure! We think they will complement the possum quite well. (What goes better with a can of "road kilt possum" than a pack of cheddar cheese Larvetts?!)

We recuperated from our vacation, worked on organizing our home (still a work in progress!), and then it was time for VBS. VBS week actually went smoothly, and no one got sick! Since then we've hosted and attended birthday parties and 4th of July parties. We've had a visit from Nana. We figured out Skype and talked to and SAW my sister who lives overseas! Way cool! Faith had a week of dance workshop at her ballet school, which was both challenging and rewarding.

And, of course, the girls have enjoyed swimming in our above ground pool and spending lots of time with friends. And we still have over a month of summer left!

I am so thankful for times of refreshing, like summer. These times help me rejuvenate and relax so I am ready for the busier seasons ahead. God is good!

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Heart-Breaking News

It was our second night of our vacation. We were watching the local Fox station's newscast because they said they might have an interview with newly crowned American Idol David Cook. When the breaking news announcement came on I thought it would be something political or maybe a local happening. What came next wasn't just breaking news, it was heart-breaking news. We learned that Maria Sue Chapman, 5 year old daughter of Steven Curtis Chapman had been killed in a tragic accident. While I was still teary-eyed Jack gathered us all together to pray for a family that I've never met but feel like I know.

To know more about Maria or to leave a message for the Chapman family, go here.

And please keep remembering the Chapmans in your prayers. Because even though Maria is whole and happy in Heaven with Jesus, her family is still grieving the loss of their beloved daughter.

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Time Flies

April flew by, just like I knew it would. We actually had a great month. The ladies' conference at our church was uplifting and challenging. God is continuing to heal me from past hurts, but it's a long and on-going process. We were challenged to spend time with God first thing in the morning for two weeks, and I did it! My time with God has been rather hit and miss lately, so seeing how I could get up and have time with Him was a good thing. I wish I could say those two weeks set the pace for the rest of my month, but I have found myself waking up late far too often, so I need to get to bed earlier, so my mornings can start earlier!

My friends and I had a fun-filled whirlwind shopping day in the nearest big city. We hit an outlet mall, a regular mall, a great stand-alone department store, and a Tex-Mex restaurant. All in one day! I bought a few things and got some really good deals. But the best part was the fun we all had!

We capped off the month with the girls' dance recital. All four of them looked beautiful and were so graceful! This will probably be the last recital that all four girls dance in. Hope wants to take piano instead of dance next year. She really has not been fond of dance lessons the last couple of years, but she does like dancing at home. She is very graceful and would do pretty well if she continued, but her heart is not in it. Faith is a beautiful dancer! She has a natural grace and poise that shows in her performance. And she is a natural-born performer. Joy and Grace also enjoy being on stage, and they seemed to be having a lot of fun performing. My mom was able to visit for the weekend and the girls especially enjoyed having Nana watch them dance.

I can't believe May is already over one-third of the way through! Time is certainly flying!

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Two Blogs Are Better Than One!

I have created another blog! I know that I have been a sporadic poster on this blog, but I wanted to have an on-line record of the things my girls and I are learning. And I thought it would be nice to have all the educational posts in one place.

So ... Introducing ...What We Have Learned...Thus Far!

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Time Marches On

Wow, I can't believe it's already April. March flew by!

March was a BUSY month for us. Paul's dad was released from the hospital and went home. Because of his dementia, we have to have someone stay with him 24/7. Paul's brother has graciously taken the night shifts, so Paul justs spends some time with him during the day.
Paul's mom is still in the hospital, but she is improving. We are now faced with the decision of where she should go after she is released.

We celebrated a Special Occasion this month. Some of our friends had all four of our girls over for a sleepover, and Jack and I ate at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. It was a FANTASTIC meal!!
Paul gave me a fabulous gift - a convection oven! I've been wanting one for a while, but I was TOTALLY SURPRISED! Because our old oven was a drop-in oven, we had to wait a couple of weeks for Paul to get the right tools to install the new oven. It is now in, and we are definitely enjoying it.

I got a really bad sinus infection in March. It not only made my face hurt, but it made me really tired and weak. It took several days of antibiotics to begin to feel like myself again.

Paul got to speak at a breakout session for a conference our church was having. He did a great job, and he actually got paid. Real money, not just a gift card!

We had company twice. Some of our best friends came for a visit during part of their spring break. Because they have four kids and we have four kids, they decided to stay in a hotel. We didn't get quite as much visiting time this way, but it was definitely easier! The kids had a great time playing. Their second daughter is still Faith's best friend, even though they moved away over six years ago. I was still feeling bad from my sinus infection, so I don't know that I was very good company.

My mom came for part of her spring break. The girls love seeing their Nana, and we had a good visit. She was here for Easter, so she got to do some fun Easter activities with us - going to the Easter Festival at our church, dying eggs, and making Easter cupcakes.

We had our spring break in March. We actually had a couple of field trips to a local museum that was offering some educational classes. We had a party with friends, and the girls had some of their friend sleep over. I had planned on getting a lot done, but we mainly rested and had fun. But after seeing how busy this month has been, I think rest and fun are just what we needed!

April will be busy, too. We have a dance recital, a ladies' conference at our church, 4-H awards night, a deacons' retreat for Jack, and a shopping-with-the-girls day for me. But once April is finished, we have a break from most of our activities. Summer is on the horizon!

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And Then I Fell Flat on My Face

The fits and crying that I mentioned last time, they happened. After praising God for His sufficiency, I totally crashed and burned. Not that God wasn't still sufficient. But I think I began to think I had something to do with the victories God had won. So He allowed me to see just how weak I really am! But since I realized my weakness, I can now depend on His strength!

We have had even more challenging times with
Paul's parents. A few days after his mom's surgery, his dad became ill. Paul thought he could deal with it at home, but a wonderful physician friend said that he really should be in the hospital - which is a VERY DIFFICULT place for a person with dementia to be. He has pneumonia and has been in the hospital for over a week now. A VERY LONG WEEK!!! Because of the dementia, someone has to stay with Paul's dad 24/7. Because three of Paul's siblings have chronic health problems and his younger brother had the flu, Paul has stayed with his dad every night but three since his mom was admitted to the hospital. And some of those nights Paul's dad did not sleep. (So Paul didn't sleep either!) He's weary. We're weary. We're hoping that Paul's dad can go home tomorrow. (We were really hoping for today, but the doctors said maybe tomorrow.) When Paul's dad gets home, one of his brothers plans on staying with him most nights. I hope that goes as planned, because I don't think our family can continue with this schedule for weeks on end!

On a good note,
Paul's mom is out of ICU! However, she does have some water in her lungs and had to have a blood transfusion earlier this week. We really don't know a whole lot about her condition. The only way to learn anything is to see the doctor during his rounds (which are at different times every day!). And even then we're likely to get only vague information! There's got to be a better way for doctors and patients/patient's families to communicate!

I need to remind myself to cherish the times of peace and normalcy. Because, as we've seen this month, trouble can invade suddenly and turn our lives upside down.

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Sufficient Grace

If I had known last week what we would be going through this week, I would have broken down and cried. If my girls had known last week how often Paul would need to be away this week there would have been much weeping, some pouting, and maybe even a fit or two.

But this week has gone as smoothly as it could have. God truly does give us the grace to handle the need of the moment when the moment arrives, and not before. Not that we've handled everything perfectly. But we have managed to get through the first part of the week without stressing out or breaking down.

Ironically, Friday was a breakdown sort of day for me. I began the day out of sorts and my sour mood did not abate during the day. As I began to journal and blame my mood on not enough quality adult interaction, God totally convicted me that the problem wasn't a lack of interaction with other people, my problem was lack of quality time with Him! So I immediately stopped my journaling, downloaded the first video session of Beth Moore's A Woman's Heart, God's Dwelling Place, and watched it. And this week I've been faithfully spending time with God through the workbook. I know that God has used my time with Him to strengthen me. I really don't want to think about all the ugly flesh & self that would have come out of me this week had I not been in the Word!

God was so faithful to prepare me to be in His Word when He knew I would need it most!

When It Rains, It Pours

Sometimes life is smooth and, if not exactly easy, at least comfortably predictable. And I seldom appreciate those times while I have them. We are not currently enjoying a time of peace and rest. Jack has felt a lot of pressure regarding an investment he made last year. What seemed at the time to be an incredible opportunity to enhance our income has become a major headache! One of the other people involved has had various family distractions, and others have just been dragging their feet when it comes to moving forward and resolving things.

If that weren't enough, a couple of weeks ago, Paul's car was broken into and thieves broke in and stole! The thieves took his bag which contained some business items that will be expensive to replace, his wallet, and, worst of all, his Bible and journal. The police have not been able to catch the thieves, and don't expect to recover any of our stolen property. We are praying for God to use Paul's Bible to save the thieves or someone else. (It would be great if the thieves would get saved and then RETURN OUR STUFF!!!)

Then on Sunday, instead of watching the Superbowl with some friends from Sunday School, Paul sat in the waiting room at the hospital waiting for his mother to get out of emergency surgery. The surgery went well, but she is fighting infection, so she is still on a ventilator and sedated. She knows the Lord, so we aren't worried about her eternal destiny, but we sure would like to have more time with her! Paul has been dividing his time between visiting at the hospital, helping to care for his father (who has some dementia), ministering to his siblings (some of whom do not know Jesus), and all the regular stuff of life like working and spending time with us.

God must have some great things in store for us, because He sure is allowing some situations that are causing us to stretch our faith and rely on Him and Him alone! Since we know He wastes nothing we can be sure that He is working even in these awful things. (Now if only I can keep that perspective all the time!)

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It's January, So It's Still the New Year!

Wow, I can't believe January is almost over and I haven't updated the blog! I had great intentions of sitting quietly and praying about what goals God would like me to achieve this year and then blogging about all my good intentions. But in our house, sitting quietly doesn't happen all that often. And when it does I usually would rather read a book. Or take a quick nap. Which I read yesterday in my issue of Southern Living is good for you.

I have spent a little bit of time thinking about what I want to change this year. Mainly this time was when I was getting ready in the mornings, so my thought processes were interrupted by thoughts about whether I had moisturized or not and which leg I had just shaved.

The good thing about waiting until January is that I can give an update of my progress in my goal areas. (And maybe not mention any areas of complete failure!) This year I knew I needed to be more consistent in teaching Faith and Hope science and history. The fall was more hit-and-miss than I would have liked. And we have really done good this month! I even learned how to use the interlibrary loan system so we can have an expanded pool of books to use for history!

I also NEED to become more organized. I have several areas of my home that REALLY need work, so I came up with a mental schedule of which area to work on which month (with a month or two of catch-up or rest built in). January I wanted to organize the linen closet by the girls' bathroom. I just have the top shelf left! I also organized my MANY e-mails, either deleting or archiving the old ones.

I wanted to cook more and eat out less, and we have done pretty well here as well. The times we have eaten out have been planned times and not just because I didn't have a plan for supper. I have also been getting back in the habit of using coupons. If I were organized I would know how much I have saved so far, but I know I have saved close to ten dollars in addition to using a fifteen dollars in gift cards that came as bonuses from prior purchases. And everything I used coupons for was stuff I regularly use. So not too bad.

The thing I've struggled most on is actually the most important thing! My Bible study and prayer time has been sporadic lately, and I NEED to be consistent in spending time with my Father. Sadly, I haven't seen much change here. But I know God is faithful and He will enable to do this. Since I'm not a part of a group Bible study at church, this requires more self-motivation on my part than I needed in the fall. But my relationship with God should be motivation enough!

Now I'm off to read God's Word before reading a story (which I got through an interlibrary loan) to my girls!

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Who am I?

I a Jesus follower who is trying to teach my four girls at home and be a wife to my minister husband. I prefer reading to cleaning and have a crazy Border Collie and the world's best cat!


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