Monday, March 30, 2009

Staring Down the Barrel of a Smoking Gun

Over the last week or so I have been working on the mother of all blog posts (from my trip to D.C.). The post is getting so long (I'm still working on it) that I decided to copy this section out and make it a separate post. So here we go!....I attended a Screen Out workshop. The AMAA is part of an important coalition (which among others includes the American Heart Association & American Medical Association) demanding that the movie industry act responsibly with its influence regarding smoking and its effect on children. Hollywood is being asked to refrain from including smoking in movies unless they have an R rating (with the exception of necessity in accurately representing a real historical person, or if the movie clearly demonstrates the dangers and consequences that arise from that smoking). Existing movies wouldn't be required to adjust their rating. We're not asking for censorship, simply that movies be rated responsibly. Guidelines are already in place regarding language, violence, and sex - why should there not be guidelines regarding smoking in movies?...particularly now that studies have scientifically proven the affect on children who watch smoking in movies is even greater than that of any other form of tobacco promotion or advertising - including whether a child has friends or parents that smoke. This is not a moral issue, it's a public health issue and here are some of the facts:
  • Researchers estimate that smoking in movies influences 390,000 teens to start smoking each year, of whom 120,000 will die from tobacco addiction.
  • The U.S. CDC lists smoking in movies as the primary reason why the decline in teen smoking has stalled in recent years.
  • Tobacco is featured in 3/4 of all PG13 movies (those teens are very likely to be watching)...as well as more than 1/3 of G & PG movies!
  • Exposure to on screen smoking starts 1/2 of all teen smoking. Big Tobacco needs these new smokers in order to replace the 438,000 adults killed by tobacco annually.
  • It is statistically very likely that if a child doesn't start smoking before age 18, that they will remain smoke free for life (the tobacco companies are obviously aware of these facts also).
  • Tobacco kills more Americans than criminal violence, drunk driving, suicide, illicit drugs, and HIV/AIDS combined. It is the number one cause of preventable death in our country.
  • 1 in 3 kids who try smoking become a regular smoker - 3/4 of them try to quit, but only 1 in 6 succeed.
  • After the U.S. banned TV smoking ads in the early 1970's tobacco companies began systematically using product placement and other techniques to boost smoking in Hollywood movies.
  • Time Warner, Sony, and Disney (which owns Touchstone & Miramax) account for the majority of all U.S. movies with smoking.
  • Paid product placement (by major domestic brands) of tobacco became illegal in 1998, but studios still refuse to certify that nothing of value was gained by their movies where use of tobacco was displayed. This certification should be required during credits of movies (which will hopefully be R-rated) by all producers.
I'm sorry to include such a long list...I could keep going. The more that I write about it though, the angrier that I get. Nobody likes the idea of a child smoking. However, I must say that now that I am a parent...even the idea of someone quietly manipulating and tempting my child into doing something dangerous and potentially fatal really makes me furious. Of course I still feel a huge responsibility to teach my children myself about how to keep their bodies healthy and to avoid things that are dangerous to them, but the facts are rock solid - movies have an influence on our kids! And if there's something that I can do to protect my kids (and children in general) from trying something so addictive and potentially deadly, then you bet I will! I'm not saying that smoking should be outlawed (although due to the health risks, I wish people wouldn't smoke), but I do think that it should be an adult decision. Let the subtle, but strong influence of smoking in movies be left to audiences (of R-rated movies) who are at a point in their lives where they can make that adult decision...not to impressionable, moldable minds of children.
  • Click here to sign the global petition for this effort (it takes less than 30 seconds)!
  • Take a look at this list of links that show you how to take a proactive stand on this issue!
  • There is a website that shows which movies currently in theaters contain smoking. Check it out before you take your child!
  • The Screen Out website has plenty more information. Get informed!
This is the last year that the campaign will be receiving funding. Make sure that we're able to get this message out. If Hollywood knows that movie-goers are demanding this then, well, money talks! For an official guide with more comprehensive information on the campaign itself and the studies that support it click here. The information in this guide also gives specific information on how you can make a difference in supporting this initiative (where to send letters, how to engage local theaters, etc)! And - if you have an idea of how to get this message out to a large audience and want somebody to partner up with in your efforts, then I'd love to (and the campaign is happy to send us free supplies...banners, shirts, whatever)!

I'm also really interested to hear what you think about this campaign, and if you do something about it (even if it's just signing the petition, or posting a link to it on your blog) then I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

February Wrap Up

Surprise, surprise. Less than a week left in March & I'm finally finishing up posting for February. *sigh* Anyway! I actually only have a few pictures that didn't make their way into a previous post. First of all would be a couple shots of Noah and Carter. Back at the beginning of February our good friends the Nielsens (who we knew from medical school) were visiting from Pittsburgh! I'm so glad that Amber got a hold of me while she was in Utah. We were able to get together, along with another med school friend (who's actually here in Utah for residency) to let our boys play together. I don't know how Jack didn't manage to make it into a picture, but I know that he wasn't in these two pictures because Carter & Noah were pretty wound up...and Jack is a pretty mellow kid (so he kind of stood back and watched them). I don't know what Lincoln was doing at the time either, but we did have a fun time watching our four boys run around and play together. In fact, at one point Noah and Carter had a full out wrestling match, and they were both laughing. It was pretty amusing...and so nice for Noah to be able to play with another boy about his size that enjoys doing that too!

This is just a random video clip from a morning about a month & 1/2 ago (if it were today, Noah would have on undies instead of a diaper - wahoo). I had just put the movie Cars on and Noah was doing his usual...acting out the movie along side it. So, here he is making his laps around the "track". I don't know which is more amusing to me - Noah running circles for 15 minutes, or how Lincoln just lays on the floor in the middle of it all.
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And here are a couple of quick Valentine's Day photos. I have to admit how pleased I was to find Pixar Valentines for Noah. Oh! And I have a question for anybody out there...while growing up did your friends leave valentines on the doorstep, ring the doorbell & run? That's what we always did growing up and I loooved it. Running away and trying not to get caught was the best part!...or trying to catch somebody that was leaving us one! However, I'm finding out now that not everyone does that. Bummer. That's how we're doing it anyway! (so Mark rang the doorbell and ran around the house & came through the side door)

Lincoln wasn't interested in waiting for the wrapper to be removed.

And I couldn't restrain myself from throwing this one in. Sorry Linc, but this good ol' finger up the nose picture was just too funny not to post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pay it Forward! *updated*

I'm doing this tag from my friend Megan's blog. Here's the scoop: If you decide to participate in this pay-it-forward, then leave a comment on this post. The first three people who leave a comment (and participate) will receive something handmade by me, but what it is and when you'll receive it will be a surprise! I'll email the winners for your addresses (if I don't already have them) and then you'll just watch for your gift in the mail! On your comment be sure to include a link to your blog, facebook, or however you're continuing the pay it forward tag! Have fun!

Monday, March 23, 2009

You know...

...you've been really focused on potty training your 3 year old when you (not your child) go poop on the potty, and afterward intuitively head straight to the "potty-treats" to reward yourself.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Thank you, Nicole!

I'm writing this post to share/document the birthday package that Noah recently received from Nicole. First of all though, can I just say that we have the best birthmother in the entire world? As I've said before, we refer to Nicole as "our" birthmother (even though she's obviously Noah's birthmother) because of the sweet relationship that Mark & I have with her also. There is a special bond that we feel with this beautiful girl that brought our son into the world, and so selflessly placed him into our arms...filling a hole in our hearts & making us parents. There will never be anything that we can say which could appropriately convey the love, gratitude and admiration that we have for Nicole, and yet when we communicate she so often expresses gratitude for us and the parents that we are to Noah. She is always thoughtful and considerate in our communications, and although she has never asked anything of us that has made us feel the slightest bit uncomfortable - the sweet way that she is so respectful of us and our feelings (and what we're comfortable with) only makes us love her that much more.

So! Those are some of the reasons that I feel so horrible that it's taken me so long to get this (and the previous post) up for her to see! Right after Noah's party I got horribly sick, and I was on the tail end of that as I left for a conference in Washington D.C. (blog post on that is pending). Soon after I left, her package arrived for Noah's birthday (and Mark set it aside for Noah to open after I got home). So, not only had I still not emailed Nicole from Noah's birthday and his party, but she was still waiting to see if we'd received her package! So, I felt so badly when I got an email from her following up on the package and seeing if we were all ok. She didn't say anything at all to make us feel bad - I just feel so regretful for leaving her hanging, and not sending a thorough email & pictures sooner to the person that made our little miracle (Noah!) possible - especially during a time when we were celebrating his birth.

So, there is a little background on the way that I'm feeling as I put this post together. I did email Nicole after I finally finished the last ginormous post (on his party), and let her know that I'd be posting this entry soon. So here we go!

I'm going to include several short clips, here is one as he anxiously gets started on opening the package...
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And pulling out the fun balls that she sent...
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Opening the beautiful shadowbox that Nicole made...
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Looking at the adorable scrapbook that Nicole sent (so cute!)...
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He couldn't have loved any birthday card more than this one (it was perfect for him)...
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Thanks, "Cole"!

And, as I'm sure one could anticipate, the packaging was about as fun for him as the gifts! Here is Noah exploring the joy of bubble wrap. A tiny bit reserved at first, but not for long...
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Both Noah & Lincoln loved playing in the box with the styrofoam peanuts (and throwing them, of course)! And, as one could expect from Noah, it reminded him of Toy Story (he can relate everything in his life right now to one of the Pixar films) . If you're familiar with Toy Story and aren't sure why a box of styrofoam was a fun "prop" for Noah, then just ask him & he'll tell you all about it!

Here's a clip of Noah enjoying his Toy Story bliss...
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Even the clean-up was fun for him. After the excitement of the styrofoam began to wind down, we began to sweep and vacuum the little pieces from every corner of the house! Being 3 years old, Noah still thinks helping with that kind of stuff is lots of fun - especially when he can use the vacuum hose...and particularly when he's allowed to use that vacuum hose to suck little pieces of static-styrofoam off his little brother...
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Thank you again, Nicole for the wonderful package. Noah has been having lots of fun with the card, as well as playing with all of the balls - he and Lincoln have actually been throwing and chasing them together. It's been lots of fun to watch them interact like that. Also, the scrapbook and shadowbox are beautiful...and even more of a treasure since they were made by you. I know as the years go on that it will mean so much to Noah to have those from you, so thank you for that.

Last night when Noah said his prayers he said (all on his own), "Thank you for Nicole and that she knows I like balls..." so that was his sweet way of sharing his gratitude right now for your package! We're thankful for you too, Nicole. Obviously for what you have done for us...but also for the person that you are. We love you, and are so proud that you are our birthmother.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Noah's 3rd Birthday Party (Buzz/space)

Over the last six months or so I've had a lot of fun planning Noah's birthday party! Noah has been fanatical about Toy Story for a long time now, so this was an easy choice...last year we did the cowboy theme (like Woody), so this year we did a Buzz Lightyear/space theme. I know that I won't always be able to be the one to choose the theme (especially so far in advance)...so, all more the reason to take advantage of picking the party theme way in advance the first few birthdays!

So! This is going to be a very thorough (long) post...you've been warned! Here are the invitations that I made. Thanks to Mark for his help in cutting out some of the Buzz characters that I printed out. The silver stars are brads, and the Buzz Lightyear was raised up from the rest of the paper. I'm not a scrapbooker, so the invitation part of parties is always a feat for me! Here you can see the front & back of the invitation...

I bought Buzz Lightyear sucker molds online and tried a few different methods of adding the details. Ironically, this little system that I rigged actually worked the best. I melted the candy that I was using & mixed it to the right color. Then I put them in these metal containers that we had, and put them on our good ol' George Foreman (on low) to keep the candy warm and melted while I worked. It worked like a charm. Of course it took me several hours of trying different things before I figured that out...and after spending 10 hours making a measly 16 suckers - I opted to just make the last dozen solid purple.

Here's a quick snapshot I took while working on the suckers. I've decided that I won't ever choose to do a character (or anything with so much detail) again. Besides, it's hard to make a face look perfect enough that it's not goofy. The boots & hats I did last year were sooo much more simple.

However - Noah really loved the Buzz suckers, so it was worth the time.

Now on to the cake! Over the weeks prior to the party I had a lot of fun going over ideas with my friend Claire about the cake. She has made some beautiful fondant cakes & wanted to teach me how to use fondant icing. And, Claire's mom Ann (who did wedding cakes for 12 years) ended up being in town during the days prior to the party - so that worked out great too! The two of them gave me a bunch of tips and I went to baking. I made enough cakes to make a 3 tiered layer cake - two tiers chocolate, and one tier lemon. Later, Ann taught me how to make the most delicious buttercream frosting, and showed me the proper way to frost a cake. We ended up making each tier 4 layers, and I did end up frosting it a bit too thick, but it didn't cause too many problems...and it tasted good! Here's a quick shot of the top tier after I got done frosting it.

Next, Claire taught me how to knead and roll out fondant and to cover a cake. It was so cool! I really loved it. In fact, I'm already excited about doing it again in November for Lincoln's 2nd birthday! How great is it that I was able to get a one-on-one tutorial on cake decorating? I had a great time doing it too, and it was even nice that we had a few hiccups during the process. That way I was able to learn a few tricks about how to fix some common problems, plus I was also reminded that doing things like this can often require improvisation. I could never have pulled off this cake by myself & it turned out exactly like I'd hoped it would - thank you so very much, Claire & Ann!

Anyhow! Back to the cake creation. As we covered a tier, we would put it down on the dryer. It was nice and cool down there, and it cleared up more working space.

After the cakes were all covered it was time to try out Claire's new toy! She had gotten a pressure sprayer that she'd never used before, and we were excited to use it. We mixed black into the blue until we got the perfect shade of night blue that we were picturing, and then it was time to spray!...
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After the spraying was all done, we were quite pleased with the way things turned out! Claire turned around and smiled at me, and I tried not to laugh too hard - her teeth were blue! Then she pointed out that mine were too! Aaargh. I guess that we should have been wearing those paper masks like the ladies in the nail salons do. Anyhow, I wasn't thrilled at the idea of breathing that fine blue mist into my lungs...and then I thought back to when I lived in Taiwan. I would go running in the mornings, and after I would come home I'd always blow my nose & my snot would be a grayish-black color. Gross! So, with that thought in mind, I suggested that we blow our noses & see what it looked like. Yup. Blue. And we continued to have blue snot not only that whole night, but the next day too! Gotta document that.

Claire also showed me how to mix colors into fondant by kneading it, and then we used some cute little cookie cutter shapes that I found to make stars, planets, and a moon.

Now, we recognize that the shower isn't the most glamorous place to spray and decorate a cake. However, after dealing with that fine blue mist we're even more glad that we did it there. And thank goodness for that cake turner of yours, Claire!

After the color was all dry it was time to hold our breaths and transfer the cake to the stand. Then the last steps for the cake were putting the rocket (which was completely Claire's creation) on top and adding the stars on wires that we made! It was so fun to see it all come together. We put three silver candles on the top tier, draped star gossamer (that we also hung over the windows) behind the cake, and ta-da!! Also, I suppose this point in the post is as good as any other to mention that no I did not lock my children in a room for several days prior to the party...Mark took vacation time for the three days prior to the party (what a sweetheart, huh?) and other than the birthday celebrating that we did with Noah on the 25th, Mark took care of our boys while I focused on party stuff. Even though I was up until 1:00 or later for 3 nights straight working on stuff, I still couldn't have pulled things off without his help with the boys. I'm sure there are women that could. Not me. So, I'm grateful to have a husband that doesn't mind using vacation time for stuff like this.

Noah's cake in all it's space-like glory.

And, then to add a bit more 3 year old appeal to it...we added some little green men (courtesy of Claire) and a Buzz Lightyear that Mark's brother's family was able to bring fresh from Disneyland that week! Thanks, guys! Noah had been talking for weeks about his cake (even to complete strangers), so I was glad that it lived up to his expectations. He loved it!

Next...decorations and other buzz-themed stuff. I collected decorations bit by bit from a wide variety of places. The banner, gossamer, silver star & Buzz balloons were all from Shindigz. The buzz confetti & favor bags were found in a 50 cent bin of a party store that was going out of business. OTC supplied star confetti, table covers, LGM streamers, glow sticks, solar system kits & silver cardboard stars. The pinata & colored balloons were from Celebrate Express. The paperware and Buzz stickers were from Pretty Party Place. Buzz goggles were on a clearance on Disney's website. And, since I gave myself so much time to plan the party, I was able to wait for sales & watch for online coupons. Bored yet? Sorry to document all these random details, it's more for myself than anything else - I find that I actually do refer back to them for future parties. Moving on...

A photo of the front room - notice the picture displayed on the television. Mark had the great idea of putting together a slide show of pictures of Noah that could play on the tv during the party. It was a lot of fun and I think we just may make that a new birthday tradition. Oh, and since there always has to be something that I don't get done because I run out of time...I had tons of silver stars that were supposed to hang all over from the ceiling. I think that 4 or 5 got hung. And we were going to wrap the liters of soda pop and add fins to make them look like rocket ships. Didn't happen :)

Here is a picture of the suckers, the space ice cream, and glow bracelets that everyone got to take as a party favor.


Finally! On to telling about the party itself! As guests arrived, the adults were given a survey with questions about Noah - his first word, favorite zoo animal, etc. (my mom was the only one to get all of the questions right, but a couple others were close). The kids were given these personalized "coloring books" that I made.



Noah was more interested in running around pretending to be Buzz Lightyear, or in this case...giving this Buzz balloon a ride on his shoulders.

Noah and his friends Drew & Michael...all in their "space ranger" shirts! Cute boys!

Next it was time to hand out the space goggles. I don't know who was more excited about them, me or the kids! I bought them months ago & thought they were so cute. They slide up and down, and when they're in the down position the lights on both sides of the goggles automatically turn on. Sweet, huh? Anyway, this picture of Drew cracked me up...

...and so did this one! Drew and Michael both have such funny expressions on their faces, and Noah is just about to take off "flying" while yelling "To infinity and beyond"! It was so fun to see all the kids in their goggles and I was particularly glad that the birthday boy liked them so much.

Again, "To infinity...."

We tried to get a group picture of all the kids at the party (Ava wasn't there yet), but it's more difficult than you'd think. These two pictures were as good as we could do.

Lincoln, Drew, Michael, Isaac, Noah, Jacob & Spencer (back-front, left-right).

Then it was on to present opening. This clip is of the first present that Noah opened. I didn't get my camera rolling until after he shouted out the names of each of the little figurines in the box (from Toy Story), but he was pretty excited...and had no interest in opening any of the rest of the presents. In fact, when we suggested opening more he adamantly declared that he was "All done!"...and emphasized his position by clearly signing that he was done. Pretty funny.
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As you can see, Noah was pretty excited to get his RC. He's always called RC by the right name (before the party & since), so I guess the fact that he called it ECR, ARC, and a variety of other acronyms just shows how excited he was!
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This gift was obviously not the same thing the box said it was, but I thought that Noah was pretty politely excited considering...
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He loves his etch a sketch, Matt! Thanks!
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More present opening.

Grandma Mary & Grandpa Mont gave Noah a cute book and a "Bath Blizzard" and play dough soap that has been a huge hit! The blizzard blows bubbles into the bath and Noah requests it every bath! (this is him opening it)

Noah abosolutely loves this flying Buzz Lightyear that Josh & Emily gave to him. It has a tether that you attach to the ceiling, then you turn his fan on and he actually flies in a circle!

Claire made Noah this cute art box with a bunch of fun art supplies in it AND an adorable smock (she used my favorite sock monkey fabric)! I seriously don't know how she does everything that she does. Thanks, Claire! Super cute, as always!

Cousin Henry sent a couple of books that Noah has been enjoying reading. One can never have too many books! Thanks, Henry :)

I got such a kick out of this gift from my friend Allison (and her cute son Isaac). They gave Noah a set of cool Lincoln Logs (that he loves), but just to be clear that they're Noah's (not Lincoln's) she put Noah's name over "Lincoln" on the box.

Now I don't have a picture of each gift that Noah opened - and unfortunately Noah got quite hasty with how quickly he began opening one before moving on to the next (oh, the social graces that one must learn), but he really does love each of the thoughtful gifts that he received at the party...so thanks to each of you that brought such nice gifts! He really does love them! Here's an example. I thought that this Buzz Lightyear spaceship that he can wear would be one of the highlights of the party for him (yes, it was another ksl.com find - and it ended up taking so long to be able to get it from the lady that she just gave it to me for free! wahoo!). Anyway, Noah didn't give it much attention at all and just sat on it while he opened a few presents before just leaving it behind. He has enjoyed playing with it since the party however, and I remain convinced that used is the way to go for a decent majority of kids toys!

The last gift that I wanted to be sure to include a blurb on is this blanket that we made for him. I love how soft this fleece fabric is, and I think that it turned out pretty cute. Noah loves his space blanket and sleeps with it every night. He was excited to point out that Andy (from Toy Story) has a space blanket with planets and rocket ships too!

The next thing that we did was the birthday cake! Noah really cracked me up too. The entire time that we sang he stood there with one hand on his hip, and his other hand on the bar - all casual and cool. I think he appreciated having the little practice run that he had on his actual birthday, so he felt all confident that he knew what to expect while he was the center of everybody's attention.

Noah trying to blow the candles out. A bit too far of a reach though...

...so Grandpa helped a bit.

Then, immediately after he blew the candles out Noah went straight in for a bite right out of the cake! I didn't really care about Noah taking a bite out of the cake, but aaaah that blue (it took a good 24+ hours for the blue to come completely off of his lips)!

The chunk Noah bit out of the cake.

Before serving the cake, Claire showed me how to peel the fondant off the cake (it doesn't taste very good, just looks pretty) and we served it all up. There certainly was plenty of cake! Here's a picture of Claire and I serving the cake.

And I forgot to take a picture of one of the more beautiful plates of cake before serving it...so here is a picture of my plate at least. The lemon cake looks a bit sloppy here, but it sure was yummy if I don't say so myself!

My beautiful niece Ava enjoying some cake.

Michael. What a cutie.

Grandma Shirlene & Grandpa Paul.

Jake, Grandpa Mont & Ava (Grandma Mary would've loved to have been there, but she was in South Africa volunteering her skills working with deaf children).

Mark & I showing off our shirts (that Claire printed at her house for us...thanks again, Claire)! Mark's has Zurg on it, and quotes the line "I am your father" from Toy Story (obviously a play off of the line in Star Wars). Mine has the LGM (little green men) on it, and it says "ooooooh...Noah is 3!" (since they say ooooooh in the movie). Noah thought it was so cool that Mark and I wore those shirts. He talked for days about that Dad was Zurg and Mom was an alien at his birthday party!

My dad with his father & my grandma Dorothy. We're so glad that they were able to stop by for a while despite a prior engagement that they had to attend.

This is a picture of the goodie bags that we handed out for the kids after they collected their pinata loot. When the kids left, each goodie bag contained: pop rocks candy, a glow stick, a Buzz backpack clip, a sticker solar system project, Buzz stickers, a Buzz sucker, astronaut ice cream, a glow bracelet, space goggles, and their pinata loot (little toys & candy...including milky ways - get it?) Too much fun!

The pinata was a pull-string. Besides it being an easier, safer option for kids this age...there's something just strange about teaching kids not to hit and then handing them a bat and telling them to go to town on an astronaut. Hmmm...maybe we'll at least hold off for a few more years on that (I will admit that I loved swinging a bat at a pinata as much as the next kid).

A picture of the kids going after the pinata's goodies. I don't know how my good friend Allison, and Mark's brother Matt, and my mom managed to avoid being in any pictures (grrrr), but that's Allison in the bottom right corner of this picture with Isaac - how cute is that little hat he has on?

Emily & Josh with Noah.

My brother Matt with Noah.

My dad taking Lincoln on a walk as the party finishes.

Dad. Noah. Mom.
We're glad that you had a good time at your party, Noah! We love you...to infinity and beyond!