Kirsten Grace – Month 2

Dear Kirsten Grace,
Sweet daughter of mine,

I am so thankful God chose to give me a gift I could never deserve. Each day His goodness keeps unfolding like a glorious flower, petal after petal, in the beauty of who you are. I pray I will never cease proclaiming His glory, never forget to live out eucharisteo joy over your life. He created you, knit you together in my womb, purposely piecing together every fiber of your being. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, sweet girl.

Jesus Christ is crazy about you. He loves you just as you are, not as you should be.

That quote from Brennan Manning’s All is Grace (by his friend, Brother Dominique) is shaping my perspective of my own life right at this moment. I pray you grow up knowing deep in the center of your being the truth of those words.

*Kirsten Grace 2 months old

This month has been so much fun. Your personality is forming and we are getting to know you more and more with every passing hour. The grins are real now. You stop in the middle of nursing sometimes and just gleam that gummy smile up at me, staring right into my eyes. It’s transformative, really. I can’t fathom the depth of the connection God has given us. I love you, Kirsten, and I tell that you that a million times a day. I pray you believe me, today and always.

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I have made a conscious effort to be present with you, soaking up our moments together, knowing time races by too quickly. I believe it when others tell me how quickly you will grow up. Spending five years waiting for you gave me five years to grow up a little more myself. Perhaps because of that time, I’ve developed a deepened sense of being, convicted that what people need most is the gift of presence. I don’t want to spend my time documenting your life as much as I want to be a part of your life. I apologize in advance if you’re disappointed that I don’t have every momentous occasion written on my calendar. But I do hope you’ll remember that mom and dad were with you, loving you, loving each other, doing life together.

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February 26

In your second month these are some noteworthy moments:

one. You have officially been to Panera more than most people ever have. Wendy and Megan know you by name and are excited every time we walk in. (Yes, we’re on first name basis with baristas too!) Want to know why you’ve been to Panera so much? Because your mom and dad do ministry in an every day place like Panera Bread. I have had three coffee meetings a week for the past three weeks with individuals who are willing to share their lives with me. That time together is totally worth a $2 cup of coffee. (Plus, I can drink coffee again…hooray for no acid reflux!) Depending on who I’m with, we talk about dating and marriage and music and Netflix and education and the Bible…and it’s real life discipleship as we seek to become more like Christ in those seemingly mundane moments.

two. You started sleeping in your cradle on Feb 18, just a couple days shy of 8 weeks. I wrap you up in your Halo swaddle sleeper after nursing you. You might be asleep, you might be awake, but it’s the same time every night and you just go to sleep. No crying. I won’t jinx myself by saying anything more about that little gift.

three. You don’t cry in your carseat anymore; it probably helped we loosened the straps on your shoulders. Yeah this parenting thing is figure it out as you go.

four. We have been exclusively cloth diapering and loving it! I can’t really express why, but your dad and I both are genuinely stoked about our decision to use cloth. (We use BumGeninus all-in-ones in case anyone’s wondering. And side note, a huge thank you to my Albion friends for asking what I really wanted off of our registry and actually going in on a group gift to buy all of our diapers – and a few extras. Seriously, thank you.) The clean up isn’t bad, thanks to your dad’s installation of the sprayer on our toilet, and I’ve gotten into a pretty good washer routine. Plus, your little bum is happy with it which is really the most important part.

five. You still love bath time! I take you right in the shower with me most every day and it works wonderfully. I leave you in the bouncer right outside the shower in just your diaper while I bath myself. Then, I dry off my hands and step out to bring you in with me. You love the warm water and don’t mind it running in your face. You started getting some baby acne during the couple days when I didn’t bath you so back to the routine that seems to work! You happily watch me do my hair and makeup when we’re done because you get to bask in the warmth of the overhead bathroom heater.

six. You’ve been staying in the nursery every Sunday morning while mommy and daddy lead the church service. Only once were you wailing so incessantly that I had to go rescue you before the end of the service, leaving the last hymn unsung. The congregation seemed to understand just fine. :) (And side note, special thanks to the long list of volunteers from MFMC who care so well for you each week. Second side note, thanks to the guys who ran HDMI all the way to the nursery so the workers could watch the service!)
seven. We’ve been going for lots of walks in carrier Lynne made. (She is a brilliant seamstress!) Sometimes you scream and struggle for a moment, but inevitably you fall to sleep all snuggled in next to my heartbeat. It’s good exercise and fresh air for us both (although I keep you covered up because it’s still a bit too nippy for you to be exposed.)

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February 1

eight. You ate from a bottle for the first time on February 23rd. I had been considering a bottle for a while but have no desire to rush it. We still plan to nurse exclusively, leaving the freezer stocked with momma’s milk for whenever Dad or someone else is home with you for a few hours if I need to be away. It’s a relief to know how easily you took the bottle – whether I was holding it or Daddy.

loved watching your Dad give you a bottle today. It was incredible to see him experience that connection for the first time. I couldn’t wipe that smile off of his face if I tried. We both think you were a little confused by the fact that mom is over there, but I’m eating. what the heck? But you didn’t let that stop you.

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February 26

nine.  You got to go with us on our first Family Valentine’s Pizza Date. Every year since college, your daddy and I go on a hunt for a new pizza place. We decided all those years ago that Valentine’s would be a family dinner date, so along you came. We ate a Nick & Nino’s and because we went at 4:30 like the old people that we are, we scored half price appetizers. Best chicken tenders ever, btdubs. We even saw Alisha – the receptionist from my chiropractor’s – and she was so excited to see you! She rushed over to give you a cuddle.


And here are a few more fun shots from this morning’s 2 month old photo shoot. We had a blast with you. I think you like the click of the camera!

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Your hair is long enough for a little spout!
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Big stretch! And WORTH THE WAIT. Amen. Thank you, Amanda, for this most thoughtful gift.

bonus footage from your second month:

January 30th
One of our many Panera trips

 

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Being a Pastor’s Kid means napping next to us while we plan worship services. (January 31)

 

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Sunday, February 7, hanging out with daddy after church.

 

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This was your first time in the Boppy, practicing your neck support (February 9)

 

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Sometimes you nap on my lap while your Daddy and I play chess on the couch and try to keep the cats from batting the pieces. It helps that they’re magnetic. (February 13)

 

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This is my view every night as you fall into sleep. February 16

 

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I love the intensity of your blue eyes. February 18

This particular Sunday (February 21) you had an inordinate amount of energy left after a long morning at church. We snapped some adorable photos of you in the sunlight of your bedroom. I can’t get over the red glints in your hair, your rosy lips, and those bright blue eyes. Plus, can we talk about that baby tunic-style top. I’d totally wear that. (You hit the nail on the head, Kenz.)

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that little tongue of yours. So cute.

And during your second month this has become your typical day:
nighttime
9:45pm In bed to nurse
10:30pm Asleep
3/4:00am Awake to nurse
4/5:00am Back to sleep

daytime
6/7:00am Awake to nurse and get up for the day
7-8:30am Spend time with momma in the living room, in my swing or on her lap, while she does devotions & then yoga.
8/9:00am Bath time with mom or dad. (Bathing is my favorite.)
10am Nurse and read my Jesus Storybook Bible with momma
10am-Noon is morning nap time, for at least an hour, maybe two. Sometimes I play for a bit.
12pm Nurse
1-3pm is afternoon nap time, for an hour or two. Sometimes I prefer to just chat for a while.
3pm Nurse
3-5pm awake and play or nap again
5pm Nurse
5:30-8:30pm Nap and play or Nap and fuss
8:30pm Nurse. Nap on momma’s lap until bedtime nursing.


 

And with that, dear child of mine, I leave you with this prayer from I Thessalonians 5:23-24

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus. He who called you is faithful and he will do this.”

Love,

Momma

The Look in My Eye

Dear Child of Mine,

Over the past decade together, your mommy and daddy have done a lot of growing up. Life experiences force growth and pruning and newness we didn’t know possible, and yet the results sometimes go unnoticed. It’s like watching a flower grow. You plant the seed, you watch the green seedling push its way through the soil. You notice its increasing height, the leaves forming. And soon, somehow, as if you hadn’t been watching, it’s tall and hearty and blossoming beautifully.

That’s what has happened to Kevin and I in the years since we just 17 and 18, high school graduates, college freshmen, new love birds. The look in our eyes speaks of smitten admiration, purest joy, sincere commitment. We were children, really. Mature, yes. But still children. We hadn’t yet bought our own toilet paper, chosen a life insurance policy, settled into a home, decided which side of the bed to sleep on. Yes, we’d stay up late talking about our dreams for the future, contemplating marriage, watching moves like Hitch and Tommy Boy and The Sandlot. Yes, we even discussed (and sometimes argued) theology and the age of the earth and the reasons to go to church. We learned how to let one another be an individual, doing things separately, not having to be a “couple” all the time.

More than anything those 4 years of college dating left us deeply in love and certainly a little (or a lot) smitten.

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And now, six and a half years into marriage, I look at him like this. My eyes tell of an unspeakable depth, fervent commitment, and unabashed respect. There’s a decade worth of experiences, of church ministry together, of arguments and debates, of lingering kisses and long walks, of dreams faltered, and God’s faithfulness acknowledged. The look of contentment shines, a steadfast covenant of marriage. We can share an entire conversation with just a look; flowery words of “love you forever” now superseded by the day-in-and-day-out faithfulness of a husband and a wife.

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I liked us then, the joyful looks we exchanged after 11 months of dating.

But I’m so thankful for now, the time-tested foundation formed after 10 years.

Whatever you do, Child, don’t forget that your Daddy and Mommy are always going to be working on their marriage, to be more unified, more respectful, more loving – more like Christ – than we were yesterday.

always,
Mama

PS – I want to thank our good friend, Amanda, for selecting these photos (largely due to those glances exchanged) as poster-sized portraits we now hang in our bedroom. Thanks, Amanda, for noticing the difference a decade can make.

PPS – Another thank you to Brittney for taking our photo (this and many others) in college, and to Dad Eccles for capturing this moment at ordination service in May 2014.

We Should Get Jerseys

’cause we make a good team
but yours would look better than mine
’cause you’re out of my league.
And I know that it’s so cliché
to tell you that every day
I spend with you is the new best day of my life.
And everyone watching us
just turns away with disgust
it’s jealousy; they can see that we’ve got it going on.

Must Have Done Something Right by Relient K

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Child,

I just wanted you to know that your Daddy and I really like each other. We made a covenant to love one another no matter what. But the cool thing is, we deeply, truly LIKE one another. Sure there are days when we get on each other’s nerves. There may even be moments of every single day when we annoy one another; at least momentarily. The truth of the matter is, Kevin Michael & Melanie Marie have a blast together. Whether it’s on a coffee date, watching the latest Netflix addiction, playing a game after dinner, or going on long trips, we’d rather be TOGETHER. 

This is reassurance that even if you catch us in a moment of frustration, it’ll pass. I hope and pray your dad and I will continue to exemplify true sacrificial love to you, but also convince you of our genuine LIKE for one another.

We’ll like you too. Come join us!

Mama

Location Matters

Dear Child of Mine,

In August of 2007, your daddy led me out to the most romantic corner of our favorite place – “The Point” at Somerset Beach Campground. It was there he asked me to be his wife, committing to love and cherish me forever and ever. The look in his eyes, the sights and sounds of that quiet evening, every moment still rings vividly in my mind’s eye. I am so thankful I said, “Of course!” (Apparently a simple “yes” just wouldn’t do.)

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In October 2013, for his birthday, I purchased a set of these leather bracelets for each of us. I loved the concept that this creative Etsy shop had — commemorating that special place, where Forever Memories were made. And so, I zoomed into Google Maps to the precise location of our engagement, and VOILA! GPS coordinates. Sure, the bracelet could speak a message with words. But I married a NUMBERS GUY. And I knew he would resonate with this message.

Within a moment of the revealing of his gift, he had picked the point! He knew. That’s the place our love was truly committed, even before the altar and the pastor and our friends and family. We made a commitment and we’ve kept it.

Your daddy and I love each other, even more now than on that humid August night. And we look forward to expanding our love when you join us.

Come quickly, little one.

Mama

Craving Campfires

Dear Child of Mine,

As I look out from our cozy little apartment, I since inches upon inches of fluffy white snow. It’s beautiful, it really is. And I’m so thankful for the loveliness of each unique flake. It has been years since I last experienced a true WINTER – one filled with snow days and ice storms, snow plows and frightening roadways, knee-deep snow and crunchy sounding sidewalks. I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed the excuse to drink way too much hot chocolate topped with far too many marshmallows. I love snuggling with my husband on cold nights, craving body heat and loving his nearness. I’m even a lover of winter runs, an activity most people would highly dislike. But if the morning is refreshingly brisk and the winds are low, there really is nothing like the calm, quiet, crunchy run of winter.

I say all this because I want you to know I REALLY DO LOVE WINTER. No joke. I can’t wait to teach you to downhill ski, to  take you sled riding every chance we get, to take picture of the epic snowmen you’re bound to build with your dad.

But I’m craving spring. I’m needing a moderately warm camping trip. I’d love to sit around the campfire and roast marshmallows (rather than watching them dissolve in my steaming mug of cocoa.) I want to eat a perfect s’more made by your daddy. I want to hear the crickets and see the fireflies.

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Maybe in a few months…

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But for now I’m choosing to be thankful for our toasty hobbit-hole. I’m thankful for all that cocoa. I’m thankful for bowl after bowl of homemade soup. I’m thankful for snuggles.

Waiting for spring. Waiting for you. Always.

Mama

How Many Will There Be?

Dear Child of Mine,

I thought it important to emphasize that these letters, aren’t just for you, the firstborn. You are not the only desire of our hearts. Should God grant us just one child, then certainly, our words are for you alone. But should He allow us to parent two or three or more children, our hearts remain the same.

So here’s to you, Second Born, Adopted Ones, Baby of the Family. Your Daddy and I love and crave EACH of you, even now, when we can hardly imagine seeing a positive pregnancy test. Each one of you will hold a special place in our hearts. From what I hear, the love we share with our children doesn’t get divided up between of you, but it MULTIPLIES exponentially. WOAH! That’s a lot of love! :)

We seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit as we wait, pursue treatment, investigate adoption, consider all of the options. We have no answers, but we’re eager. And we await EACH of your arrivals into our lives.

Love,
Mama

Christmas Eve with Our Littles

Dear Child of Mine, 

I can’t wait for you to come play with the other littles in my life!  It was truly a joy to spend the second Christmas Eve service in the nursery with my love and my favorite little people. After a truly tremendous experience of serving on the 15 member extra special, combined worship team in the first service, I was ready to settle in with some building blocks and book reading. I waited for quite some time, all by myself, in the nursery and no one showed up. I was starting to feel weepy because…well, you weren’t there with me. I kept looking at this beautiful bracelet a kind friend bought for me. It says,

eventually

The prayer of my heart to be sure.

But then, my favorite person in the whole wide world showed up and said, “I just had to do announcements, so I’ll help you in nursery.” It was all I could do to not throw my arms around him. (Ok, maybe I did.) I needed him there in that moment. 

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We sat and sang along with the Christmas hymns piping in via the TV. And then our little friends showed up. After overcoming a few initial mommy don’t leave me tears, your dad and I sat on the ground and read books, pointed out shapes, rolled balls and generally enjoyed the snuggles.

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It was a beautifully, comfortable thing, being in the nursery with my husband. Sharing space with kids who know us well, silently dreaming about the day you’ll be there with us.

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Come Quickly, Child.

Love,

Your Mama

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P.S. The cutest thing happened today. Our friend Anna  texted me to tell say little 2 year old Amelia (above in white shirt) saw a photo of me and said, “It’s Lemony!” how cute is that?!

Our First Cruise

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Dear Child of Mine,

Your Dad and I love each other very much. For realz. We’re currently in the “Act I” stage of our marriage, as the TV show Parenthood would say – the time in our married life before kids (Act II) and long before retirement/empty nesting (Act III). And as much as I want you to join the two of us and complete the circle of love (what’s that? a Friends reference? yeah…I do that a lot), I really do cherish the time we have just the two of us. It’s only been five years, but I can see the changes we’ve gone through together, growing up more and more each year. Experiences will do that to you.

Ok, ok, enough of whatever *that* was. On to the cruise!

Last year we took a November vacation to Washington, DC, so when April rolled around I was already getting excited about planning another trip. We had talked about taking a cruise but thought it would be WAY out of our price range. Come to find out, after a lot of number crunching and internet researching and vacation-staging (I LOVE planning), we discovered the cruise was by far the CHEAPEST way to get away for a week.

And so, at 3am on Sunday, November 17th, we loaded up our trusty ’98 Honda Civic and drove into New York City, Port 90 on 12th Avenue at 55th Street. We paid the $270 in parking for the week (and just who do you think you are, New York???? yeeesh), and wandered around the city streets to Time Square before checking into the Carnival Cruise. We boarded the 2008 Carnival Splendor and set sail around 6pm

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We spent two turbulent days at sea, cruising down the Atlantic Coast. (Can I just say, it was really not a good idea to try running on the treadmill with the waves crashing out the window and the sensation of changing incline? I almost fell off many times and finally resorted to holding on to the handrails at all times.)

The second night on board was the Elegant Dining Night which is why we were all dressed up in that picture up there. ^ Don’t we look charming and completely silly?

Once we reached the Southern States, temperatures continued to climb. After a few days, we sank into a beautiful routine – breakfast around 8:30, then sitting on the quiet deck until lunchtime, reading and soaking in the sun. Your poor father has extremely “English skin” (as he says), and burnt quickly on the first time in the rays. I, on the other hand, benefit from my one quarter Italian bloodline and was able to stay in the full sun almost the entire day without burning. (Here’s hoping for no skin cancer when I’m 50.)
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We did get off of the ship at Port Canaveral (though we didn’t get further than the parking garage….), and Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas. The ports of call were rather disappointing, though, as we weren’t interested in having to pay to get anywhere and do anything fun. We wandered around the touristy shops which really didn’t interest us, and then headed back to enjoy the quiet decks on the cruise ship. Those were the BEST days on board, because all of the loud crazy crowds were on their excursions. Many people may think we’re weird for not experiencing more, but the destination wasn’t really the point for us–just getting away together, reading, resting, napping, soaking in the warmth. And we accomplished that!

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The most involved we ever got on the cruise was during the 4 days of Team Trivia. On our first day at sea, we wandered in to check it out and were quickly flagged down by Mike and Allie (foreground on the left and right). They had formed a team with 2 Australian ladies (sitting to my left) named Mandy and Marie. The 6 of us had a blast together and won the first day’s round! We gathered a few extra teammates over the next 3 days of competition and ended up getting 2nd place over all.

My proudest moment was when I correctly defined and pronounced this word: hippomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. “HOW?” you may ask. Well, thanks to your dad, I knew that “sesquippedalio” means “big words” and when I added the “hippo – monstro” meaning “large or gigantic” to the “phobia” suffix, I got “Fear of Large Words.” Nailed it!

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While we weren’t impressed with this particular ship’s service or food or decor or entertainment, we achieved our goal of fun and rest together. It was a wonderful time and I can’t wait to plan another trip together. Maybe you’ll get to come with us sometime. I hear Disney Cruises are the way to go! (We’d better start saving now!)

I hope you’ll never question the deep love your daddy and I have for each other and how much we genuinely like spending time together. We’ll plan plenty of family trips to be sure, but you shouldn’t be surprised if we tuck you in safe and sound with grandparents or good friends while the two of us get away together.

Love,
Your Mom

[My Husband Is] Adorably Hilarious

This is what I received for our fifth year wedding anniversary. I love him, I really do. And I love that he knows exactly what will make me laugh and what I will think is irresistibly adorable. 

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*click on the image to view larger resolution (and actually read the words.)

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Photos From Our Fifth

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Our Fifth Anniversary Date Day was a wonderful success! Kevin arrived home on Friday (our actual anniversary) around 7pm from a two day church conference. I presented him with a small token of my love –  this vintage-esque Detroit Tigers shirt.

Saturday morning, we took 5 minutes to set up our tripod and camera for a photo shoot at my request. Thank you, Husband, for humoring me, for putting on your nice sweater, for smiling beautifully and for doing something just for me (because I know you do not enjoy being in front of the camera.)

We made it to Goodwill around 10:15am, called Kevin’s mom to sing Happy Birthday (complete with harmonies!) and headed inside for a shopping spree. This was another stop in our day that was mostly for my personal pleasure.  We found —

-a fantastic dress for me to wear on our November cruise – for $8.99
two pairs of Converse (shoes I’ve wanted but couldn’t spend $60 on – I got both pair for $13)
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-for $4.99 an Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer
a pair of shorts for Kevin
-jean capris and running pants for moi
-a folder filing system for the piano studio

Not a bad haul!


Thank you, again, Kevin, for being such a good sport (and for having really good taste in dresses – Yes, he picked out both of the dresses I’m wearing in these pictures).

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I love the style of this dress. And I wanted to show off my new pixie hair cut again. 

We had a delicious lunch at Java Junction! I was thrilled Kevin enjoyed the food and the atmosphere as much I thought he would. He loved his Avocado Mac and Cheese and Seafood Bisque, and I enjoyed a Mesa Chicken Wrap and salad. The Chocolate Raspberry Coffee I had was phenomenal and Kevin loved his classic iced coffee. We shall be back, JJ.

Lunch was finished just in time to take a stroll down to the Strand Theater for the $5.50 matinee showing of Star Trek: Into Darkness. This is the first movie in a long time that I haven’t been counting down the minutes till it’s over. (I just can’t seem to sit for two hours of focused attention any more. *sigh*) But it was a really great show! I mean, I heart Benedict Cumberbatch so it’s a winner for sure. ;) Kevin enjoyed it even more because he’s seen all of the original Star Trek episodes.

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I include this photo for proof that “We Heart Cumberbatch”

After the movie, we wandered around Main St. in Brockport and then headed to the Mini Golf course. We decided the course left a lot to be desired (and it was a bit chilly) so we drove away. We made it to Miller’s Amish Bulk Food and Bakery just before closing and man o man will I be back! I bought Cashew Butter, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Rye Flour and Kevin’s dates–all for great prices.

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On our way to Medina for dinner, we stopped at a yard sale and scored in the book department. Don’t ask me why we’re buying more books when we just purged our shelves a few months ago, but we couldn’t help ourselves. Kevin was excited to find a great selection of out-of-print Isaac Asimov books and I found a slew of Henri Nouwen books. The contemplative Phi-Rel girl in me was nearly squealing with excitement.

Thanks to a gift card, we enjoyed dinner at Avanti’s – splitting a pizza (with lots of leftovers!) and ordered Cokes for $19.

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Though to many people our daily lives appear to be one big long date (don’t get me wrong, we love living life just the two of us, getting to do and go whatever we want, whenever we want), but having an 8 hour day planned out on purpose was a true date for us. It seems low-key for a 5th anniversary, and it was. Because that’s us. We love time together, time to laugh, time to talk, and if we can do it on dime, even better!

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I love you, Husband of mine. 

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