Henry’s First Christmas Photoshoot

Christmas for us is CRAZY this year. I’m talking driving about 750 miles total when its all said and done, all in the span of about 6 days, but we are so excited about seeing lots of friends and family during this holiday season. We are so looking forward to Henry’s first Christmas and all that will include.

Also on our plate right now is starting up a photography business! In 2017, Open Hands, Open Home Photography will officially be up and running. I just got a new to me camera with two  lenses and have been practicing shooting in manual and editing RAW images. If you have any photography tips or resources, please let me know!!

The first “client” I had to shoot was Henry. He is the perfect combination of cute and reasonably still, so taking pictures of him in his cute Old Navy 2016 onesie today was the perfect opportunity to really see what I could do with my new equipment. Continue to check back here and my Open Hands, Open Home Photography Facebook page for more details on the photography business and to see more of my work.

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Mini Home Tour + Christmas Decorations

The past few days weeks at our house have been crazy. Not only is it Christmas time, but we moved to a rental house, had the stomach bug (all three of us), and had our septic tank have issues (which made the stomach bug even more unbearable than it already is). We missed Sam’s company Christmas party, my parents came and stayed with us, and my dad even got sick from us too. It has been absolutely crazy, and with all of that going on, it took awhile for us to get at least mostly unpacked and the house decorated. My mom came to the rescue and helped me all afternoon Friday and all morning Saturday to finally get everything in working order and looking presentable.

I’m also about to get a photography business off the ground in the coming weeks, so we have been preparing for that. While practicing shooting in manual, I decided to take some pictures around the house in order to capture some of my favorite displays and corners of the cozy place we are calling home now.

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Probably my favorite little corner of our house so far.

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A close-up of the Nativity

This bookshelf sits in our sitting room next to a very large window that looks out to the street. Both my grandmother passed away in May after my grandfather passed away in October 2012, so they were cleaning out their house in order to get it put on the market. Before I even went over there for the last time and picked up a few things to take with me, I told my mom that the deer picture was one thing that would always make me think of Mama Pat and Pop. She told me that no one else wanted to keep it and that I could have it if I wanted it from her house, so I jumped at the opportunity to have it in my home. I love how unique it is, and I love that it reminds me of my Mama Pat and Pop. It is something I will cherish for a long time. The Nativity here is one of Willow Tree’s, and my parents gave it to Sam and me. I don’t have a stable to put around them yet, but I think they are beautiful. I’m not exactly sure what will take their place when Christmas is over, but I’m sure I will find something.

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These are two groupings we did in the hallway that has all three of our bedrooms and the guest bathroom. The top grouping is at the end of the hallway by Henry’s room, and the bottom one is between the master bedroom and the guest bathroom. A lot of the things we included in these groupings were wedding gifts! We are still so incredibly thankful for all the people that contributed to our life when we got married in August 2015.

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The windows here crank out. I love the character they add to the guest room and Henry’s room.

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The bed is from the bedroom suite my parents bought me in 7th grade. It has a bookshelf built into the headboard for some extra storage.

I still need to get a few things to complete the guest room, but this is what I have so far. The windows let in a lot of natural light and provide a great place for the “be our guest” chalkboard I lettered. The bedspread incorporates the colors from the bed and the walls perfectly, and my mom bought it without even seeing the room! I’ll continue developing this room, but I’m really pleased with it so far.

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I found that gorgeous shower curtain at HomeGoods for only $15. SCORE.

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Our hall bathroom has plenty of counter space for our guests!

After some septic tank issues, this bathroom got a good scrub and a facelift with the shower curtain, rugs, and towels. We based the bathroom off the rugs that we found on clearance at HomeGoods and went from there. In total, it cost less than $50 to get this bathroom looking the way it does now. I love the pop of color from the green towels and shower curtain. I just need a couple small things to hang on the wall to complete this room.

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Henry’s first Christmas crafts that we did at Nana’s house are proudly on display in our foyer.

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These Michael’s finds and Kroger flowers made the perfect little centerpiece for our small table.

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We’re pre-lit, fake tree people, and I am not ashamed.

Finally, I thought I would show off a little bit of our Christmas decorations. The three piece wall hanging includes two precious crafts we did at Sam’s mom’s house showcasing Henry’s footprints from this year. I got the “Be merry!” sign out of the dollar section at Target last year. Our little three-piece center-piece includes two Michael’s finds and some Kroger flowers. I just got into having fresh flowers in our house, and it is now one of my favorite ways to freshen up at room. We got a fake, pre-lit tree at Michael’s when it was on sale earlier this month, and I’m very pleased with it. It holds all of our ornaments so far and fits perfectly in the corner of our living room.

A HUGE thank you to my mom who really helped me out with the cleaning and decorating our house. It definitely makes it feel more home-y. Now all we have to do is finish our Christmas shopping, get our apartment cleaned and our keys turned in, and have a merry Christmas!

Top 16 Books of 2016

Disclaimer: The links below are affiliate links. That means that if you purchase something through my link, I will make a small percentage in commission. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home! 

In February of 2016, I set a goal of reading 50 books by the end of the year. Since it was already February, I had to make up for some lost time in January, but I quickly got on track. As we moved to Atlanta, had Henry, got situated over here, and just moved again, my reading slowed down a little bit, so I didn’t read all 50 of the books I wanted to. I got about 75% of my books read though, by reading 37 books total. I think setting a goal just encouraged me to read more, which is something that I want to continue doing in the new year as well.

According to GoodReads, I read 11,342 pages (some of the books I read were on my Kindle though, so they were “e-pages” if you will). The shortest book I read was 120 pages, and the longest book was 560 pages. The average length of the books I read was 307 pages. My average rating for books was a 3.8 out of 5 stars.

After reading 37 books, you realize there are some really incredible books out there, so I am going to list my favorite 16 books (in no particular order) that I read this year. I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk about these books and all the other ones people are reading!

 “I couldn’t have explained then how the oak tree lives inside the acorn or how I suddenly realized that in the same enigmatic way something lived inside of me–the woman I would become–but it seemed I knew at once who she was.” // The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the most recent book I have read that made the list. It is historical fiction, which I never realized I liked until this year and a few books. This book is about Sarah Grimke (who was a real person) and one of her family’s slaves, Handful. It is told in alternating points-of-view between the two of them. It is a story of friendship, determination, and equality. There are parts that will make your heart ache and parts that will make you laugh out loud. I was satisfied with the ending and found it to be beautiful. This was one of my six 5 star books from this year.

We need different eyes, a different mind. One that lifts us above the seen and our short time here, above the fears that invade our lives, above the snapshots in our scrapbooks.”  // Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul by Jennie Allen was one of those books that keep you thinking about it long after you read it. She is a fantastic writer who bares all in the name of Jesus. Her story makes her relatable, and I love that her heart for Jesus is so evident. My favorite part of this book was part one in which she talks about what is keeping us from praying “anything.” This book encouraged me, inspired me, and challenged me in the best way.

“What the color is, who the daddy be, who the mama is don’t mean nothin’. We a family, carin’ for each other. Family make us strong in times of trouble. We all stick together, help each other out. That the real meanin’ of family. When you grow up, you take that family feelin’ with you.” // The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom is a book that I could. not. put. down. It was similar to The Invention of Wings in a lot of ways, but because the main character is an Irish girl who gets orphaned on her way over to America and, therefore, becomes an indentured servant who lives among the family’s slaves, there are some major differences. This is the book that made me realize I was interested in historical fiction. I haven’t read the sequel to this yet, but it is on my to-read list.

But if, sometimes, an unspeakable horror arises from the smallest error, I choose to believe that it’s possible for an equally unimaginable grandeur to grow from the tiniest gesture of love. I choose to believe that it works both ways. That great terror is the result of a thousand small but evil choices, and great good is the outcome of another thousand tiny acts of care.” // We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride is told from the perspectives of the four main characters. For awhile, you are wondering what these people even have to do with each other at all, but then they all collide in a beautifully, tragic coincidence. Set in Las Vegas with lovable characters, this was a great read. It was another book I thought about long after I was finished with it.

“Dear goodness, the things I learned. I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy–it’s a matter of balance.” // Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was one of the books I loved this year, but I heard that not everyone had the same opinion… Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout” you may remember her as, stays true to herself and her beliefs, fighting the very people that she loves when it comes down to it. I am disappointed by the number of people who didn’t like this book. SPOILER ALERT: I understand that people did not like Atticus Finch’s character to be tarnished, but this book is real and raw. Like my friend Sara said, “the reader becomes disillusioned alongside Scout, realizing that her father isn’t perfect.” This one may not be your cup of tea, but I thought it was great. (Review from my What I’m Into (November 2016) post)

“I am a sometimes-believer, in love with Jesus. I am a mystic who can’t grip tight enough to the mystical. I long for order but can hardly make a list. I need something ancient, not ruled by the culture that rules me, to tell me what to do when my boy is throwing a tantrum on the plane… I need to know how to love God when all I have to offer is my daily chaos. Mostly, I long to know a quietness in my soul, true contentment, despite my spiritual unimpressiveness. I need believe that my simple life really is a gift and really can be holy.” // Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer by Micha Boyett was a memoir of sorts. I loved the vulnerability and truth that Micha Boyett wrote about in this book. I didn’t really know anything about monks or St. Benedict before reading this, but I thought that she did a great job relating everyday prayer, motherhood, and simple truths about the Lord and His character. I underlined a lot of good stuff in this one!

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” // The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows was a quirky little read that was high up on my to-read list up until I read it. I was extremely impressed by this book. I usually get annoyed with books written entirely in letters, but this one was different as it let me into the minds of the characters and created a love for the friendships they had between them! I did not see the ending coming and was very pleased with the characters.

“Parents almost always want what’s best for their children. They just don’t always know what that is.” // The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall was a fun, YA read! This is about a family made up of four sisters, their dog, and their father who go to live at an estate called Arundel for the summer. Their adventures and run-ins with the estate’s owner, Ms. Tifton, kept me reading. The girls are unique and lovable. This is a charming read that gave me a sense of nostalgia while reading it. I would absolutely read this to my kiddos one day.

“Your memory is a monster; you forget–it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you–and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!” // A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving took me awhile to get through because it is very long and a little slow at the beginning, but it’s been awhile since I have read a book that has been so thoroughly and perfectly wrapped up at the end. Throughout it, I was thinking, “What does all this random stuff have to do with anything?” but at the end, it all came together in a way that was terrific. Just a heads up, there was some risqué content that I wasn’t expecting, but it didn’t change my opinion on the book.

“I look back at the road and am reminded that when we are confronted with difficult change, time doesn’t heal all wounds–time with the Healer does. Time with him spent giving up what I think I want for what God knows I need.” Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong was a book I would recommend to anyone who has either just gone through a change, is about to go through a change, or someone who knows how much they dislike change. As someone who has always said I like change, but then realized it was only when it was my own idea, this book hit home for me. Reminding me of the truth of God’s Word and stories from people she knows, Kristen Strong did a great job articulating the way change affects us and how we can respond in a way that allows us to trust the Lord. Some chapters were extremely timely, and I underlined quite a few quotes.

“And while all those shallow qualities I listed on paper are obviously essential to finding someone who is socially competent and well groomed, what you really need is someone you’d want next to you in battle, someone who can make you laugh even in the tough times, someone who will encourage you to be the best that you can be.” // “In that moment, as I looked at my little girl lying in my arms, I realized this whole process was such a striking picture of how Christ works in us. He takes our disappointments, rejections, and hard times, and he makes something beautiful. He creates life and shows us what beauty looks like in places where we look and see nothing.” // This is a 2-for-1 including The Antelope in the Living Room: The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life and Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn by Melanie Shankle. These are the kind of books that make you want to be best friends with the author. She does a great job telling stories that make you laugh out loud and remind you of Jesus and all He has and does for you. I couldn’t include one of these and not the other, so that’s why this is a 2-for-1. She also has one about friendship called Nobody’s Cuter Than You that I need to get my hands on and read.

“I’ll tell you something, something important. Write this down. You ready?’ ‘Yes, yes, I’m ready.’ ‘Love is a decision.’ ‘Love is a decision?’ ‘That’s right. A decision. Not a feeling. That’s what you young people don’t realize.” // The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty is a quick read with an interesting story. It is part mystery, which makes it a page-turner, as I was wanting to figure it out the whole time. It was a bit risqué at some points, and I didn’t love the ending, but it did make me more interested in reading more of Moriarty’s books!

All we are, all we can be, are the stories we tel…Long after we are gone, our words will be all that is left, and who is to say what really happened or even what reality is? Our stories, our fiction, our words will be as close to truth as can be. And no one can take that away from you.” // Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin is about a 12-year-old boy who has autism. The story documents him making his first real friend through the internet, and he finally gets a chance to meet her. It’s a YA novel with a unique and interesting perspective. I found it raw and real and beautiful.

“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood.” // A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith is a classic and for good reason. It is a coming of age story about the main character, Francie, and her life as she grows up in a poor family in Brooklyn. When looking back, it’s hard to remember what really happened in the book, but it leaves you with a feeling of nostalgia for the things that led you into growing up. France is a lovable character who is easy to root for all the way through.

Child, the good Lord got plans for all of us that we don’t know–and he always got his reasons. He want us to learn and rejoice in the good that come from his design.” // Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall had been on my to-read list since I made the list and decided to stick with it, but I just got around to reading it this past month. When I saw it at the library, I grabbed it, and it did not disappoint. This book is set in 1963 Mississippi. I loved the main character, Starla, and while there are some heart-breaking parts of the story, they are balanced with Starla’s laugh-out-loud comments.

“I realized that my determination to make things perfect meant I was chasing an empty obsession all day long. Nothing was ever going to be perfect the way I had envisioned it in the past. Did I want to keep spending my energy on that effort, or did I want to step out of that obsessions and to enjoy my kids, maybe allowing myself to get messy right along with them in the process?” // The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines is the story of the Gaines family from the time Chip and Joanna met up until the pretty recent past. I love Chip and Joanna, so reading their story was such a treat. After reading this, I feel inspired to go do something – whether it’s start a business, fix up my home, or just take a risk of some kind. I liked feeling like I was just talking to them and getting to know them better!!

So, there’s my top 16 of 2016! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Do you know of a book I may like?? Comment on this post or email me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com.

What I’m Into (November 2016)

Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links (unless otherwise noted), meaning if you make a purchase from them, I will make a small percentage in commission. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to talk about some of the things I’m into this month.

Okay, so November flew by faster than I ever remember it flying by before. Maybe it is because I’m getting older and no longer have a Thanksgiving Break to look to for rest. Maybe it is because I have a baby who seems to be growing and changing so much every. single. day. Or maybe its because Christmas is right around the corner and now that I’m an adult I am fully responsible for getting good gifts for everyone on my list. Regardless, November is over already.

It was a great month here in the Roberts household though! We had lots of big things that happened, and we have been soaking them all up, or we’re trying to at least. We had the opportunity to see lots of friends and family with Thanksgiving. We got to travel to Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; Decatur, AL; and Alabaster, AL. Lots of miles, lots of people, and lots of fun. So without further adieu, here are the things I am into this month:

Reading-Related

 “Some of the best things in life come when you’re not planning on them. It’s important to see them for the gift they are.” // “Child, the good Lord got plans for all of us that we don’t know–and he always got his reasons. He want us to learn and rejoice in the good that come from his design.” // “We family; they ain’t all about blood, you know. Families is people lookin’ out after each other, not hidin’ behind secrets.” // I got Whistling Past the Graveyard from my local library this month. It has been on my to-read list pretty much since I decided to make a to-read list and stick to it at the beginning of this year. When I saw it at the library, I grabbed it, and it did not disappoint. This book is set in 1963 Mississippi. I loved the main character, Starla, and while there are some heart-breaking parts of the story, they are balanced with Starla’s laugh-out-loud comments. It reminded me of The Kitchen House: A Novel a little bit, which I read earlier this year and loved as well.

 “Any man in this world, Atticus, any man who has a head and arms and legs, was born with hope in his heart. You won’t find that in the Constitution.”  // “You said, in effect, ‘I don’t like the way these people do, so I have no time for them.’ You better take time for ’em, honey, otherwise you’ll never grow.” // “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.” //  “Dear goodness, the things I learned. I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy–it’s a matter of balance.” // Another book I got from the library this month and finished was Go Set a Watchman: A Novel. I am a little late to this party obviously, but I just got my hands on this one and loved it too. Maybe I was already in the mindset after reading Whistling Past the Graveyard since their settings are similar. Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout” you may remember her as, stays true to herself and her beliefs, fighting the very people that she loves when it comes down to it. I am disappointed by the number of people who didn’t like this book. SPOILER ALERT: I understand that people did not like Atticus Finch’s character to be tarnished, but this book is real and raw. Like my friend Sara said, “the reader becomes disillusioned alongside Scout, realizing that her father isn’t perfect.” This one may not be your cup of tea, but I thought it was great.

 I’m still reading A Prayer for Owen Meany: A Novel. It is a long book, and I went to the library while I was in the middle of it, so I have a little bit more of a “deadline” to read those books, since I own this one. Like I said here, the characters are great and make me want to continue reading the book, especially because I am not sure exactly where it is going at this point. It has been a great read so far, but there are some parts that are a little risqué and some language too (just a heads up!).

I’m still reading the other two books I mentioned in my November Reads as well, but those are going to take time, and I don’t want to talk about them every month.

Also, reading related, my favorite way to buy e-books is after getting Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Kindle Deals sent to my e-mail everyday. She sends out great books that are marked down for Kindle and sometimes audiobooks as well. I hardly ever pay full-price for an e-book thanks to these e-mails.

Watching-Related

As most of you have probably heard, This is Us is absolutely fantastic in the most family nostalgia, heart-wrenching, tear up every week kind of way. John Mayer even likes it. If you haven’t given into the buzz and watched it yet, I, along with a bunch of other people, encourage you to take the plunge.

Sam and I are also watching Survivor: Millenials vs. Gen. X. I know that “no one watches Survivor anymore,” but we do, and we like it. Also, can I just say that I do not like being a millennial? The way the represented us on the show is both typical and disappointing. I don’t know who my favorite is this season still, but I will continue watching until I do.

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy after catching up (finally) on Netflix, but now we are at a break until January, which makes me sad. The winter break finale or whatever its called definitely left me hanging, as Shonda always does, so I’m looking forward to its return at the beginning of 2017.

Other than that, I’m making my way through One Tree Hill on Netflix. I was flying through at the beginning, but then I implemented a rule of no Netflix or TV in general until noon, and my pace has slowed a bit. Either way, its pretty good in the guilty pleasure kind of way.

Baby-Related

The Angelcare Bath Support is something that we have used with Henry since he was like a month old, but since this is my first What I’m Into post, I thought I would include it here. This is one of our very favorite baby gear items. We even gave it as a gift to some of our friends who are expecting. It sets in the bath tub and holds your baby while letting the water in as well. This has been a great solution for washing Henry since its part of his bed time routine every night.

I don’t know if y’all have walked by the baby/toddler section in Target recently, but holy cow, Cat + Jack clothes are so cute. Our favorite ones for Henry are the Baby Boys’ Lined Jogger Pant in Sandstone (not an affiliate link) and the Baby Boys’ Denim Jeans in Dark Wash (not an affiliate link). We love the elastic waist band on both of these, they have been durable and haven’t faded in the wash so far, and they are just cute. I’m probably going to have to sneak some more of these clothes for Henry for Christmas (shh, don’t tell Sam).

I saw this book at Publix, of all places, while grocery shopping and picked it up for Henry’s first Christmas. Goodnight, Ark is such a cute book, and I just saw there is a Goodnight, Manger as well that I might have to order. Its about all the animals getting scared and/or woken up, so they all come sleep in Noah’s room. Super cute, the words rhyme, and the pictures are really well done.

Food/Drink-Related

Yes, I succumbed to the La Croix trend. I tried the La Croix Pomme Baya Sparkling Water, and to be honest, I did not like it at first, but after making myself drink a couple, I found them really good. Weird, I know, but you can’t help what you like and don’t like, right? I’m going to try more flavors and see how I feel about them as well.

This Sausage and Cream Cheese Breakfast Casserole from Plain Chicken is delicious. I have made it for overnight guests, my parents when we stayed with them, and for breakfast for dinner potlucks at church, and there is never any left over. It’s delicious.

Oh, and if you like iced coffee/cold-brew coffee, try the Spiced Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. It was really good when I tried it.

Listening-Related

When I went to the Belong Tour with some friends this month, I heard Nichole Nordeman for the first time, and she is fantastic. I even linked her video to the song “Slow Down,” which is a tear-jerker for the mamas out there in the blog post I linked above. After hearing her speak at the tour as well, her heart is just as beautiful as her voice and music. Here’s another one of her songs, for your listening pleasure.

Internet-Related

Amy Lynn Andrews sends out a Useletter once a week, which has a lot of good internet tips in it! I have also referred to her page for a lot of blogging questions that I’ve had about affiliate links and whatnot. Her website is a great resource.

She also recommended the website Workflowy, and I have been using it for everything since then. Once you get the hang of it, it is a great tool for notes, to-do lists, and anything else you need to keep track of.

As I mentioned above, I also love getting Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Daily Kindle Deals to my e-mail. It is one of my favorite things I subscribe to.

Blog-Related

I wrote a post about adoption that really shows my heart about the topic. The rain that we finally got in Alabama and Georgia sparked another post. I also did a post about the way that we are keeping up with pictures and family memories with something I’m calling the Family Memory Catalog.

Life-Related

We kept up with what we were thankful for this month, and it was great! We filled out notecards and drew little pictures to go with them. It is a Thanksgiving/November tradition we plan on continuing.

This month was a busy one for us! At the beginning of this month, we went to Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA on a business trip for Sam that Henry and I tagged along on. It was a lot of fun, and we ate lots of yummy food.

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We got to see a lot of family and friends because of weddings, Thanksgiving, and Henry getting dedicated at church. It was good to spend time with people we love.

Lastly, we are about to move!! We will no longer be living in the third-story, back apartment. We are moving to a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom rental house that is next door to some of our new friends. We are really excited about it!

That’s it for this month!!