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Chicken Shawarma Pizza

It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe, but this was an inspired idea (I’m absolutely positive it’s been done, so I don’t claim to be original). We made this pizza tonight and it was delicious and satisfying. It was easy, too, since we had all the parts ready to go yesterday. If you haven’t made muhammara, you really should. It’s one of my favorite dips.

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Chicken Shawarma Pizza

Ingredients
Shawarma marinated chicken (see below)
Muhammara (see below)
Pomegranate molasses (for muhammara and topping the pizza, see below)
Sliced red onion
Crumbly salty cheese (like feta)
Melty white cheese (like mozzarella)
Pizza dough

For the pizza dough, you can use your favorite recipe. We make ours a lot of times, but lately we’ve been buying the dough balls at Sams Club (the ones they use for their pizza). They’re cheap, good, and super convenient to keep in the freezer. The cheeses are completely up to you. We’re flexible, and use what we have on hand. Make the pizza however you like – in the oven or on the grill. We barbecued this one because it’s too hot to turn the oven on. Start with some corn meal on the pan (you can throw the dough straight on a hot grill too, but it’s hard for us to do that they way we made this pizza, so we put it on a perforated pizza pan first). Oil up your hands and stretch/throw/push the dough into roughly pizza shape. Top with a generous layer of muhammara, then chicken, thinly sliced red onion, and cheeses. Grill until the crust is crispy/chewy and the cheese is melty. Drizzle with pomegranate molasses. Some chopped cilantro would be good here, but we didn’t have any.

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Pomegranate Molasses

I can’t get pomegranate molasses here, so whenever I want to make muhammara I have to make my own. Fortunately, it couldn’t be easier. You just boil pomegranate juice until it’s reduced to a thick syrup. Kind of like thick sticky cough syrup, but tastier.

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A quart of pomegranate juice makes maybe 3/4 cup of pomegranate molasses, depending how thick you let it get. It keeps forever in the refrigerator, so you can make extra if you want.

Muhammara, aka the best dip ever

I’ll tell you a secret, and I bet it will shock you if you’ve read my recipes before (not, haha): I don’t really follow a recipe here. I add things until it tastes right and is the right consistency. This time I used pecans instead of walnuts because I didn’t have walnuts. This recipe is a good starting point, though.

7 oz. jar of roasted red peppers, drained
2/3 C fine fresh bread crumbs
1/3 C walnuts, toasted lightly and chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/2 tsp of salt
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice, or to taste
2 tsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

Combine everything! Best if you let it sit overnight. I don’t bother chopping anything finely because I put it all in the blender. I grind the cumin and red pepper flakes in a mortar because I use whole cumin. I usually end up adding more olive oil. This recipe makes more than you will need for the pizza, but once you make it, you’ll find yourself dipping vegetables and crackers in it, eating it on pita, and smearing it on sandwiches.

Chicken Shawarma

Again, I don’t really use a recipe for this, just kind of throw things in. You can use whatever boneless chicken you like. I used chicken breasts this time. I cut them into small (maybe 1/2″) pieces and let them marinate overnight. I cooked them today before assembling the pizza. 2 breasts was more than I needed for this pizza.

2 chicken breasts
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbl of salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 C plain yogurt
1/2 chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
Pinch of turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon

Happy 3rd Birthday, Lucy

I started writing this days ago, and meant to publish on her birthday, but I couldn’t finish it. I can’t imagine why it felt so much harder this year.

Dear Lucy,

Happy third birthday, sweetheart. It’s hard to believe you would have been such a big girl by now. Time keeps passing, but you’re still just a baby. It’s so wrong and heartbreaking that you don’t get to grow up. What would you be doing now? Would you be an outgoing little chatterbox? That’s how I imagine you. I see you as a little adventurer. You would have loved to go exploring with William, I think. He loves to be outside, and he’s not afraid of anything. You two would have scared me during your explorations. You would have loved your little brothers. I have two little brothers too, and although we fought a lot growing up, I love them very much. Would you have been a daddy’s girl? I suspect so. You had your daddy wrapped around your tiny finger from the moment he first saw you.

As we enter the season of your life, I feel like I’m in limbo. For these next two months, my mind will flit back and forth between two alternate realities – the one we live in now, without you, and one where you are alive. Every day, I look at pictures of you from that day and try to remember what we were doing. Easter – the day you had to have steroids, and we missed Easter dinner with a nice family who’d invited us over because I couldn’t stop crying. Every memory I have with you is a memory that I cherish, but so many of them are sad or scary. I try to focus on the others: May 3, the day I first held you, my beautiful girl. April 18, the day we first got to take down the walls of the isolette and give you kisses and nuzzle your neck. April 19, the day you looked at me and I knew you saw me, and I knew that I would die for you.

A month ago, you got a new little brother, Andrew. Maybe you already knew him. Maybe you chose him to be your little brother, because you knew he’d be the perfect fit for our family. If so, you were right, he is the perfect fit. Sometimes he looks just like William, but somehow he reminds me more of you. While I was pregnant with Andrew, I couldn’t think about you the way I wanted to. When the memories got hard and I cried, I got really sick and my contractions got out of hand. So, to protect Andrew, I had to stop thinking about you so much. It felt like a betrayal, and I’m sorry. After Andrew was born, it all came crashing down, and I’ve done a lot of crying. It seems strange to cry so much at such a happy time, but Spring will always be bittersweet for me. When I see the grass greening and the wildflowers blooming, I think of you. The daffodils remind me of your short bright life. When the magnolias start to bloom, I’ll know we’re nearing the end, and my heart will break all over again.

Lucy, your mommy and daddy and brothers have a beautiful life together, but we’ll always miss you. Now that we have Andrew, I keep thinking that maybe if we have a girl, our family will feel complete. Then I realize that our family will never ever feel complete without you. We’ll just do our best to keep you with us, and hope that it will be enough. Darling girl, your light and beauty changed us forever.

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For your birthday, we took William and Andrew for a picnic in the mountains, like we wanted to do with you. When we came home, we had Matilda cake and sang happy birthday. William sings “happy to LeeLee,” which is very cute.

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First cuddles:

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The last picture of happy, hopeful times with Lucy:

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Loving and missing you, baby girl.

I have an almost 14-month old! He’s such a little charmer (most of the time). I just love watching him grow. He has two molars now, bringing the tooth count to 10. He sleeps through the night (mostly). He loves his mommy and daddy (mostly, haha), but not as much as his grandparents. He also loves his cousin Hallie, but now she’s not so sure about him. Sometimes he runs after her screaming with his arms out (HUUUGGGS!!) and she either runs away or lays down and plays dead. It’s a lot of fun seeing them play together now. He runs, climbs on everything, jumps indiscriminately, and does a hundred other things that stop my heart. Lately he loves to close doors. He can open our outside doors too if they’re not locked, so that’s a new concern. He loves nothing more than playing outdoors, so we make sure to have outside playtime every day. We go on lots of walks, with and without the stroller. He loves to swing and slide at the park, and I can’t even get to the bottom of the slide fast enough to catch him before he’s sliding down gleefully. He says Mama, Dada (or “daadddYY”), woof woof (what the doggy says), brooo (what the elephant says), bloo (what the fishy says), rooooaaarrr (what he thinks lions, bears, and alligators say), hi, Lucy (“looozh” or lulu or lala), “there it is,” baby, and probably others I’m forgetting. It’s all very cute. He likes dancing to music and spinning around in circles until he’s dizzy. He was a good boy when we flew to Atlanta, drove all over the South, and flew back home – much better than I expected him to be. My baby looks like such a handsome little boy now. It’s amazing how much he’s grown. He may be a big boy now, but he still gives his mama hugs and kisses, and he likes his cuddles. I hope he stays that way forever!

Here are some later birthday pictures from 2 months ago.

The pre-birthday photo shoot:

These were all taken by my lovely sister-in-law Keshia, with help from my brother Jordan. Thanks for the great pictures, guys!

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These are a few behind the scenes pics that I took:

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And these are from the birthday party (it was woodland themed):

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He got more presents than any kid needs, seriously.

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Simple menu: mushroom dip with baguette, grilled teriyaki chicken and flank steak, pasta salad, homemade rolls, pineapple (plain and “grown up,” soaked in Malibu), and cake.

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William's Invite

I made William’s cake. The characters on it are my drawings from his invitation, printed on edible frosting sheets. I only had 10 minutes to cute them out and put them on the cake, so they didn’t look great. The other cake was supposed to be cupcakes from a local bakery. That fell through at the last minute, so my lovely brother and sister-in-law stopped and bought Costco cakes on their way to Ridgecrest. Thanks so much, Adam and Shelby! You guys were lifesavers (plus, they majorly helped with party prep). The roses that came on the cake didn’t seem theme-appropriate, so I scraped them off and redecorated with meringue mushrooms and acorns made of Hershey kisses, mini Nutter Butters, and a mini chocolate chip. I think it turned out pretty cute for a last minute salvage operation.

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This William banner (in chronological order from birth) was so dang cute that it’s still hanging up in our dining room.

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The birthday boy with his grandparents.

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Hallie and Uncle Jordan.

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Aunt Shelby!

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Ready for cake, Mama!

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Weird kid, he doesn’t really love cake. He liked the meringue mushroom on top most of all, I think.

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With his good buddy Talen!

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The kid always needs a bib. He is soooo drooly.

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With Auntie Sabrina. He had a lot of Aunties there – real and honorary – and somehow we didn’t get pictures of all of them. Scarlett and Autumn, we were so glad you could come too! He loves all his Aunties.

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Aunties Cris and Sabrina spoiled him rotten.

Piñata time!

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There’s Scarlett!

Okay, this piñata was impossible to break. Auntie Autumn had to beat it to death to get it open.

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Silly Uncle Justin!

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It was a fun party, and it was really great to see everyone there. I can’t believe it was already almost two months ago!

Happy Birthday, Lucy.

Dear Lucy,

Two years ago, at 12:23 am, you made your unexpected debut into our lives. Until then, and even after, I didn’t know what it meant to be a mother. You taught me so much. Two years later, not having you here with me doesn’t hurt any less. We’ve sort of learned how to live with this gaping hole in our lives, but in some ways, it feels more painful than ever. I think I’ve only just begun to realize what it means to have an entire lifetime of missing you ahead of me. As we’ve watched your cousin Hallie and your little brother grow into beautiful little people, all the things that we’re missing with you have finally started to hit home. The birthdays and cakes, the milestones, the cuddles and kisses are all so sweet, but so painful too. Every event and holiday feels like it’s taking me farther from you. Sometimes I hate that time passes, because it passes without you. I never wanted to leave you behind.

You’re still a huge presence in our lives, of course. We have pictures of you everywhere. We talk to William about you. He knows your name and your face, and when I say “Lucy” to him, he smiles and waves at your picture. I see you in him a lot of times; I think you two would have looked a lot alike. He just turned one, he’s already getting so big. Recently, your ashes finally found a new home in a small pewter heart. It took us so long to do anything with them because we couldn’t bear to think about it. I don’t know if all of your ashes will stay there or not, but for now, I’m glad they’re there. It’s small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, and it warms up as I hold it. It’s heavy, and solid, and more inviting than the plastic box the mortuary gave us. I know it’s not you in there, but I’m still glad your ashes have a nice place to rest now. They’re sitting on a bookshelf in William’s room (and your room too), along with some of your other things. I like to imagine you watching over your little brother there.

Lucy, I’ve struggled a lot this year. I didn’t think I could ever have a harder time than I did when we said goodbye to you, but it’s even more difficult to try every day to be the kind of person I want to be for you. I struggle every day with guilt and shame for my failings as your mommy. A lot of people have told me that I was strong, but I know in my heart that I wasn’t the kind of strong mommy you needed. I could have and should have done better. You deserved the very best me possible, and I didn’t give it to you. I was too focused on the wrong things, and I didn’t know until it was too late. You are so sweet, though. I know that you would know all that and still forgive me and love me. I hope that you know that even with all my failings, nobody could love you more than I do. There are so many things I wish I could change about that time, and I can’t change any of them. The only way I know how to deal with that is by trying harder every day to be the kind of person who would make you proud, and to be the kind of mom who would deserve the precious gifts she’s been given in you and William. I fail a lot. Most days I fall short. I try and try, and I just keep failing. But continuing to try is what it’s all about, right? I know, nobody is perfect, so I’ll just keep on trying to be better, and trying to forgive myself at the same time. Because really, this isn’t about me at all. It’s about you and all the lives you touched. Hopefully, it’s about making the world a little bit better in your honor.

Some days are very dark for me, Lucy, but you are still my little light, and you always will be. I love you, darling girl, with every bit of my cracked, imperfect heart.

Love,
Mommy

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This is the elephant Uncle Justin gave her. He wears a bandaid that she had on when she died. The heart is the urn that her ashes are in.

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Twilight beach print by CarlyMarie.

William’s Eleventh Month

Oh no, I only have two hours left before William turns ONE! I’d better hurry up with this post! This month involved lots of walking, laughing, playing, and just generally being cute. Oh, and climbing, jumping, falling, and getting hurt. Giving mommy’s heart a workout.

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Walking

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Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a popcorn tin?

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No clue what that face was about.

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Shadow puppets with Daddy.

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Oven Drawer

He discovered the oven drawer.

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Eat your hearts out, ladies.

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One of my favorite times of the day: bath time.

Run to the Bath

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Not amused in his bubble bath.

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Naked time happens after bath time. It’s all fun and games until somebody pees on the floor.

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Grandpa, cousin Hallie, and William.

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He really wants his books.

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Look how skinny he looks now!

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He split his lip, but he was still happy.

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Poor lip.

He super loved his Valentine’s Day balloons from grandma and grandpa.

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Balloons

I love it when he fake cries:

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Okay, by then he was actually crying.

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Very serious about reading with his papa.

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And helping his papa with the manual labor.

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Valentine’s Day William!

He’s been doing this weird thing when he’s tired:

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You can tell he’s tired because he’s still. He’s almost never that stationary.

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He really didn’t want Daddy to stop the train.

Playing with Daddy

Really, I think he’s got Daddy wrapped around his grubby little finger.

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Gah, I love this little goofball. He fills my life with so much laughter and love (and exasperation).

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Even if he is a little faker.

William’s Tenth Month

The first birthday is fast approaching, so I only have a few days to get the last two months of blog posts done. Let’s see, what did we do during William’s tenth month? Christmas and New Year’s were the most major thing. We also visited Great Grandma Anne, and went to the Kern Audubon River Preserve twice. Lots of fun. Oh yeah! He started walking for real this month. At 9 months old. And as soon as he started walking, he started climbing. He’s now constantly got bruises all over himself.

 

First steps by himself:

First Steps

 

First trip to the preserve:

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Second trip. We saw 3 does, 3 fawns, and 1 buck, plus an eagle:

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A pack-rat’s magnificent nest.

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Hanging out at the beach and at Great Grandma’s house after Christmas:

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Beach

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For some reason, he loved playing on the beds in the hotel room.

 
 

William loves to play, and he NEVER STOPS MOVING.

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We’ve since replaced the cardboard box with a prettier toy receptacle.

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I found my old dolly Jessie and cleaned her up. Her clothes were pretty tattered, so I dressed her in some of Lucy’s preemie clothes. I gave her to William, and cried as he kissed her over and over again. He still kisses her all the time.

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I guess he was stashing his water for later.

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He’s constantly going where he doesn’t belong. It actually took me a minute to find him there.

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He LOVES to play in the bath.

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David tried to put him in the walker, and he was having none of it. This is as close as he would get. Now it’s just a climbing toy.

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Playing with his new toy from Autumn, Aaron, and Talen.

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And, as usual, playing with Daddy.

 

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Boy, he really loved this balloon.

 

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I have no idea what was so funny here.

 

Waving out the Window

In this one, he was kissing his puppy, dancing, then waving out the window because he knows when Daddy should be coming home.

 
 

He’s been pretty stubborn and naughty at times, and he’s way too good at saying no:

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Trying to get him to say Mama. He only says it when he’s hurt or tired. Otherwise, it’s all Dada all the time.

 

No no no

No no no!

 

Being Naughty

In fact, almost every time he does something he knows he’s not supposed to do, he shakes his head “no” while doing it anyway.

 

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Being told “no” makes him sad. Poor baby.

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He gets good and irritated.

 
 

He’s a big fan of eating:

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Hiii

He doesn’t really have great manners yet, but he does say Hi!

 

Sleepy

But one time, he just fell asleep.

 

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Yep, he’s out.

 
 

Turns out, he did a lot of cute sleeping this month:

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Well, that one’s more ridiculous than cute. But still cute.

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But really, he spends most of his time charming his mama.

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Playing games with Aunt Keshia.

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Kung fu kicking.

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Totally bored in his stroller.

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Just generally brightening my world.

There’s nothing like having babies around to make Christmas feel even more special. William didn’t really care this year, but it was fun to celebrate with him for the first time anyway.

He got to visit Santa Claus twice, and even saw Mrs. Claus when they visited the Ronald McDonald House (and we got to see Autumn and Aaron and Talen!)

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Mommy tried to take some pictures of him for our Christmas card, but he wasn’t feeling very cooperative that morning:

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Then Uncle Jordan took some family pictures for the card:

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Much better.

In the middle of December, some cute cousins played in front of the tree at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in their jammies:

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On Christmas Eve, we all went to church then came back to open presents at Grandma and Grandpa’s house:

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Somebody was tired.

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This was one of Uncle Justin’s presents for the babies. Thanks a lot, Uncle Justin.

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William got a rocking caterpillar! He likes to stand up on its back nowadays.

Then we spent Christmas morning at our house, opening stockings from Santa.

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Christmas breakfast: Dutch baby pancakes, sausage, and mandarins.

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He got a piece of gingerbread and a mandarin, and he wasn’t sure which he wanted to eat more:

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That’s not how you eat a mandarin!

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He got gingerbread all over everything.

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He played on his new rocker.

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Then decided he’d had enough.

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How many toys does a baby need?

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A lot, apparently.

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He loves the hammer from his pounding table. Here, he took it over to Daddy’s new step ladder to test it out.

And that was about it! We had a great Christmas, and we loved spending it with William. The only thing missing, of course, was Lucy. We hung her stocking on the mantle, just like we will every year. We wrote letters to her and put them inside, a tradition I hope we’ll continue every year. Maybe when William gets older, he’ll want to write her a letter too.

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Blurry, but those are stenciled from Lucy’s actual footprints, life-sized.

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Here’s the Christmas card we sent out, by the way. I was so pleased with how cute it was when I ordered it – our very first family photo Christmas card. As you can see, I overlooked one important thing. I forgot to change the default name, so all of our cards were sent out from the Copeland Family. Oh well, live and learn. I actually thought it was kind of hilarious.

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