Christmas in Mexico, 2013

Christmas 2013 was a bit of a change for us. We decided to stay in Mexico and spend the holiday season with just the four of us. We had a great time relaxing and playing together while taking in the holiday spirit.

Nicholas had his Christmas presentation at school about a week before Christmas. We were instructed to have him dressed up in a Santa costume and back at school by 4:30 for his big performance. We were a little anxious to see how he would do this time around given the performance that he came out with for the Dia del Muertos Celebration.

He came through in the end! He even looked like he was having a good time up on stage singing, dancing and jumping around

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Having a good time

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Walking around a giant donkey pinata

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He just loved those pompoms

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Big smiles

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Not all of the kids were happy to be on stage

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The 5 year old class put on an amazing presentation, once again

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Before the Kinder closed down for the holidays, we decided to do something special for all of the teachers. Nicholas was keen to help make cookies for all of his 13 Misses, but was less keen to actually part with all of the cookies in the end

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Helping make cookies

We hosted a dinner party about a week before Christmas to celebrate our friend (and Spanish Teacher) birthday. When she arrived at our place, she gave both of our boys mini piñatas to help celebrate the season. We managed to convince Nicholas that he had to wait until Christmas Eve to open the Piñata. In retrospect, we probably could have left it up all week and let Nicholas work away at it until Christmas Eve. . .

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Using a mop to try to and break the pinata

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When the mop didn’t work, the Halloween Scythe made an appearance

20131224-Boys-0017 In the end, Adam had to step up to the plate and finally break it open

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Final weapon of choice. . . a feather duster

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As per usual, Bennett was right in the mix

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On Christmas Eve, we hosted a dinner party with some of the other ex pats that were sticking around for the holidays. Good food and good times were had by all.

Christmas day was a quiet day for the four of us. Nicholas had a great time opening his presents and playing with all of his new toys. Bennett on the other hand, he was more interested in chewing on the wrapping paper and playing with the Christmas lights than anything else.

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Santa Came!!!

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Checking out the new kitchen that mom and dad stayed up until 2:00 in the morning building

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Opening the first present

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The new fire truck. Thanks Larry and Saule!

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Bennett in his new Christmas Jammies

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Bennett testing out the hockey nets and sticks. He may have been born in Mexico, but he is still Canadian at hear!

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The mayhem!

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Warming up breakfast

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Taste test

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Nicholas wearing the shooter tutor. Maybe one day he will want to be a goalie, just like papi??

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Cooking up a storm

After presents were all opened, we sat down for a nice Christmas Breakfast complete with Santa Pancakes.

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Out attempt at festive Santa Pancakes

After it was all said and done, we all had a great time spending some quality time together as a family.

As Nico would say, “stay cool”. All the best in 2014 from the Phillips’.

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Dia de los Muertos

The end of October marked our 2nd Dia de los Muertos here in Mexico. We embraced the celebration for not one but two days. On Thursday, there was an event at the office that involved teams of people dressing up and acting out famous legends surrounding the holiday. Adam’s team put in a valiant effort in their interpretation of a legend that has a nun who fell in love with an 1800’s French Military Captain (played by Sir Adam Phillips).

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Nico and Papi just before the big presentation.

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Nico not sharing his Strawberries with Tanya – It was probably because he didn’t recognize her in her Catrina Costume

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Bennett taking in all of the strange costumes, and trying to figure out what kind of getup his mom had placed in this time.

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Our little Penguin having a little rest on the grass

After all of the short plays were complete, the kids all had their turn at hitting a giant Catrina piñata.

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Adam helping Nicholas with the Pinata

Apparently the piñata was of high quality because it took several adults to finally break the piñata and release the candies (or dulces and Nico calls them).

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Nico posing with Erika or shall we say Dracula posing with Catrina. . .

After a tasty pizza dinner, we rushed home to partake in the trick or treating festivities. Since our new house is located on the main street of San Gil, we were unsure of how many kids we would see. Apparently the 2 kilos of candy that we had on hand was nowhere near enough though! We were cleaned out of candy in about 45 minutes, and could have easily used twice the amount. Nicholas had a great time handing out candies to all of the kids that came by the house, and was none the wiser in the fact that he too could have been collecting candy from all of the houses nearby. Next year will likely be a different story for us!

Friday marked the day of Nicholas big school presentation. We were instructed to have him dressed up as Catrin (the male version of the very famous and ionic symbol of Dia de los Muertos) and returned to the school for his presentation. After searching the local costume market, we managed to come up with a costume that we were mighty proud of. . .

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Nicholas in his full Catrin Costume

There are some resemblances to the models that we were working from, right. . .

Examples of Catrin and Catrina Dolls

Examples of Catrin and Catrina Dolls

We lined up outside the school and waited for them to open the doors for the parents to enter, and were very excited at the prospect of our location in the line permitting us to be in the front row. Once they opened the doors and gave us our numbered tickets, we were thrilled to find out that the number on our tickets corresponded to the two front row center seats. Perfect! Now to wait for the presentations . . . Nicholas’ class was about the 4th group to go on stage, and we nervously exchanged glances when we heard who we thought was Nicholas crying on the other side of the door that lead onto the stage. Our fears were confirmed when our sweet Nicholas came on stage with only half his costume, and most of his face paint missing due to the tears.

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Some of the kids from Nicholas Class – including Abby (in the white dress), Regina (in the purple dress), and Mateo (in the middle)

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A rather sad looking Nicholas at the end of his “presentation”

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Nicholas and his beloved orange balloon.

The group went through the actions of their dance while Nicholas held on tight to his orange balloon that he managed to score along the way. Needless to say, we were a little sad that our little man had such a hard time that night. It happens though. We look forward to the Christmas Presentation in hopes that he redeems himself in front of the large crowd.

Since the night of the presentation, Nicholas has asked repeatedly to watch and re-watch the video of his presentation. He has watched it so many times now that he is able to complete the correct actions to not only his classes dance, but also the choreographed dance of the preschool class where a bunch of his friends are now!

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The 3 year old preschool class with Alonso (front left), Max (beside Alonso) and Karla (not in photo)- three of Nicholas friends

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Karla – Nicholas talks about her on a daily basis

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The 3 year old class

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The 4 year old girls

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The 4 year old class
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The 5 year old girls

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The babies – under 2

One year later . . .

Exactly one year ago today, we embarked on an adventure. We packed up our entire lives and moved our little family to Mexico.

Luggage pile.

Since then, we have lived in two different apartments in Mexico City, and two different houses in a small town called San Juan del Rio.

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We have welcomed a new addition to our family with the birth of our Mexican son, Bennett (aka Benito), and watched our first born son flourish into a chatty and charismatic 2 year old.

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We have visited numerous sites around where we live, and have attempted to learn the local language.

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We have become accustomed to numerous “Mexican-isms”, but still find ourselves shaking our heads from time to time (on a regular basis) when we witness yet another Mexican way of doing things.

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All in all, this past year has flown by in the blink of an eye. We have experienced the highs and lows of living in a foreign country, and have become a stronger family in the process.

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Baby Bennett

It has been almost 8 weeks since Bennett officially joined our family. Since then, he has grown (and grown and grown some more), and has settled in nicely to our family. We are in a groove that most would consider complete chaos, but we now consider being our lives.

We are all sleeping a little more every night, and adjusting to our new routines. Bennett is still getting up a few times in the night, but they are generally quick and we are back asleep before Adam has a chance to notice that we are up.

A few weeks ago, Bennett went to the doctor for his well-baby check-up (I am thankful every day that we have been blessed with two healthy children). We knew that he was gaining weight, and he seemed to be a lot bigger than Nicholas at the same stage, but we had no idea what we were going to be told. . . Bennett had managed to go from the 25th percentile for weight when he was one week old to the 75th percentile at 5.5weeks. Yup, our little tank managed to gain almost 4.5 lbs in just over 4 weeks! This definitely confirmed the feeling of being a 24 hour a day short order cook with Bennett. He sure likes to eat, and he is apparently good at it! Yeah for baby rolls (which we never experienced with scrawny little Nicholas)!

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10 days old

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11 days old

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11 days old

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6 weeks old

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6 weeks old

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7 weeks old

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8 weeks old

 

One concern that we had with bringing Bennett home was dealing with jealousy and a regression of some sort with Nicholas. Nicholas proved us wrong. Dead wrong. In fact, Nicholas seems to have excelled in several areas since Bennett’s birth. His language abilities, albeit mostly in Spanish, have flourished in the past 8 weeks, his listening skills have improved 110%, his playground playing abilities are night and day – there isn’t a climbing apparatus at the park that he hasn’t been able to conquer, and the love and affection that he shows not only his brother, but anyone that will give him the time of day is amazing. On top of it all, he has taken to potty training without blinking an eye. We couldn’t be more proud of Bennett’s Big Brother!

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Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all butterflies and flowers around our house. We do have our challenges between juggling a VERY active toddler, a new born, a busy work schedule and dealing with the isolating feeling of being alone in a foreign country. And then there are the temper tantrums. . . Good Lord! Even with the sleep deprivation and constant activity, we have to remember to sit back and reflect on our two precious kids, and realize that we wouldn’t change a thing.

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Nico turns 2!

For Nicholas` 2nd birthday, we decided to host an ex-pat party at our house, and tailor it towards the kids.

The yard at our current house is excessively large at about ¾ of an acre, but it was perfect for this type of event. We set up an imitation Toy Story bouncy castle for the kids, Nicholas’ new water table, his play pool and several futbols for the kids to play with. All in all, the activities kept the kids happy, busy and out of trouble.

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When in Mexico, you must have a piñata for birthdays, so we made sure that we had one to suit Nicholas’ current tastes – Buzz Lightyear. The kids had a great time smashing the piñata apart in order to gain access to the candies hiding inside

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After the candy was all scooped up, one of the other ex-pats decided that Nicholas should wear the remains of the Buzz Pinata, and it may well serve as a Halloween costume for next year!

20130518-NJP-Party Weekend-0326When all was said and done, we were all exhausted, but everyone had a great time. Nicholas is growing like a weed, and we are really only in the opening throws of this stage of life, wherein the next ten years will likely flash by before we have time to really think about it.

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A Mexican Mother’s Day

Family is a big deal in Mexico, and Mom’s are perhaps the most revered. Because of this, Mother’s Day is a formal holiday in Mexico where the family gets together to celebrate Mom – the way it should be, right!

In honour of Mother’s Day, Nicholas’ Kinder put on another presentation. This time, the theme was the 80’s, so neon clothing and big hair were out in full force.

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As is only fitting in Mexico, the presentation was laced with music that was horridly age-inappropriate for the 0-5 year old kids. Prior to the first performance the audience was placated by the Salt N Pepa classic, “Short Dick Man” in which the primary lyrics are, “Don’t want no short dick man.” That was perhaps the most abhorrent of music selections, but there is still something quite wrong about watching toddler-age girls hoochied-up and flailing on-stage to the lyrics of The Spice Girls (“I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want”) and Aqua (“I’m a Barbie girl, touch me here, touch me there”). Fortunately the Mexicans were generally oblivious to all of this and as such it served primarily as excellent entertainment for the two Canadians in the audience.

Before the presentations started, all of the kids came onto the stage to sing a mother’s day song. We had to laugh at the fact that Nicholas was the only blond haired kid in the entire group – can you pick him out?? It’s like playing Where’s Waldo, Mexican Style!

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Nicholas’ class got up on stage fairly early in the show. Unfortunately Nicholas was far more interested in the silver disco ball hanging from the rafters than actually dancing to the music.

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The next day this Mom was spoiled rotten by her boys with flowers, gifts, good food, and cake.

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Our Little Ripper

Nicholas has officially taken after his Papa in the biking department (not to mention the general adventurous nature and lack of focus departments…). When we were back in Canada last September, we bought him a Strider Bike in hopes that he would grow to love biking from a young age. He has been improving with every attempt, and enjoys ripping around on his little red rocket.

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In addition to his riding abilities, he is quick to help out with cleaning and fixing Daddy’s bike with him. His favourite task is to ensure all of the bubbles are washed off with the water from the hose. At this rate, Nicholas will be qualified to clean Mom’s bike for her when the time comes, or at least put it back together when she takes it apart piece by piece.

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Of  course, things don’t ALWAYS go as planned. . .

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Driving in Mexico

About a month ago, we finally broke down and went to get our Mexican drivers licenses. After going through the process of obtaining a driver’s license, we totally understand how 99.9% of all drivers here in Mexico are so unbelievably horrible. The process involves three steps – half of an eye exam, a written exam with 10 questions that are not checked, and a driving simulation that would rival driving video games of twenty years past. In theory this process should be able to discern your driving capabilities. However, after completing these three steps, we have determined that this process is a complete joke. Some of the questions on the written exam included `

Where is the safest place for a small child in a moving vehicle?”

  • Buckled into the front seat of the car
  • Being held in back seat of the car
  • Free to roam in the back seat of the car
  • Buckled into a car seat in the back seat of the car

What of the following activities are illegal?

  • drag racing
  • driving above the posted speed limit
  • consuming alcoholic beverages before or during the operation of a motor vehicle
  • all of the above
  • none of the above

And so on and so forth. You get the point. . .

After completing the written exam, we were then sent to a room with a driving simulator where we were instructed to drive at 35km/hr along a straight road. No turns, no parking, no dealing with other cars/pedestrians. Just driving at 35km/hr, in a straight line. There were several traffic lights along the way that we had to deal with however. Before either of us had figured out the simulator, we both managed to run a red light. Oops. Apparently that isn’t grounds for failure here in Mexico because we were both granted our drivers licenses shortly after we finished the 2 minute driving simulation. Rumour has it that it is even easier to obtain a license in Mexico City. All you have to do is prove you have a Mexican address, and after paying your fees and getting your photo taken, you are licensed to kill. I mean, drive. Scary, eh?

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Giving Birth in Mexico

After giving birth in Mexico, we are often asked how our experience was, and how it compares to giving birth in Canada. One word comes to mind when answering this question – different. There are aspects of the labour and delivery in Canada that I preferred, and aspects of my labour and delivery in Mexico that I preferred. Neither one was better than the other, rather different.

From the get go, in Mexico, you are instructed to call your doctor directly when your labour is starting. In my case, the doctor that I had been seeing for the past 9 months was out of the country on vacation when I went into labour. Thankfully, I was placed in contact with a back-up doctor while he was gone. The only issue with this set up was the fact that my new doctor was not as proficient in English as my original doctor.

My labour started just before 3:00am on Friday morning. I was really hoping that I wasn’t going to have to call Elisabeth, another expat who had graciously offered to come over and look after Nicholas while we were at the hospital, in the middle of the night. Elisabeth had expressed several times that I shouldn’t worry about what time of day or night I needed to call her, but I was still hesitant to make the call and wake her up. So I quietly dealt with my early labour while continually watching the clock and hoping that my contractions weren’t getting too close together as the hours went by. By 6:30 in the morning it was obvious that things were starting to happen and I was going to have to prepare for the next step. I emailed Elisabeth to give her a heads up that labour was starting, but I was still not convinced that it would be moving very fast since my labour with Nicholas was over 42 hours long.

Around 8:30am I contacted my doctor, and explained to him that I was having contractions every 5 minutes since about 3:00am. He instructed me to come to the hospital to meet him at 9:00am. Since the hospital is 30 minutes away, we had to get moving to be able to make our appointment on time. Elisabeth came over to hang out with Nicholas, and he was thrilled. As soon as she got in the door, he had her by the hand and was pulling her around the house to show her all kinds of random things. It sure made it easier on us that Nicholas was so comfortable with Elisabeth and we were able to leave the house without any meltdowns – only kisses and an “Adios!”

Adam and I got to the hospital just after 9:00am, and met with the doctor. After a quick consultation, he informed us that we were 5cm, and we were to go to the admissions desk in the hospital to be admitted. He told us that he would come and meet us in 20 minutes. After stumbling through all of the paperwork required to be admitted to the hospital, we were finally lead to the same ER where we spent several hours with Nicholas 3 months before. After a few minutes, I was wheeled to the labour area in the hospital. As soon as we got to the labour area, Adam was instructed that he wasn’t allowed to come with me. WTF???? I am in labour, and my husband wasn’t allowed to be by my side? I was assured that he would be able to join me shortly as the door was shut behind him.

By this time, it was going on 10:00am. I was wheeled into a small room that had a bed, some monitoring equipment, a stool and a floor fan. By now, my doctor had arrived, along with our pediatrician. My doctor informed me that he was going to call the anesthesiologist so that he could come and give me an epidural. This is when I informed him that I didn’t want to have any medication. My doctor stopped in his tracks and looked at me like I had two heads and proceeded to ask me, “Why would you want to do that?” Apparently in Mexico, natural births are rare (70% of women elect to have a C-section), and natural births without any form of pain management is unheard of. Shortly after this conversation, Adam finally showed-up wearing a full get-up of hospital scrubs. I guess the doctor was still in shock with my desire to go medication free because one of the first things he said to Adam was along the lines of “your wife doesn’t want any pain medication – she doesn’t have to labour in pain.” I think that he was hoping that Adam would be able to convince me otherwise. He was wrong.

During the next 60 minutes, I continued to labour in the tiny room with my contractions coming fast and furious. Luckily, the tiny room didn’t feel as tiny as it could have due to the fact that the door was open the entire time. Yup, everyone walking down the hallway was able to experience my medication free labour along with me. Awesome.

After labouring in the tiny room for about an hour, we were frantically moved to another room where the delivery was to take place. After what seemed like forever, the doctors were set up and ready for me to deliver my baby. 5 pushes later, Adam announced that we had another boy!

The hospital that we were in had a policy that all babies be placed under the heat lamps after being born. Therefore, Bennett spent the first hour of his life bundled up under the heat lamps. After spending an hour in recovery (where Adam once again wasn’t permitted to stay), Bennett and I were moved to our very large private room. Unlike in Canada, Adam was given the option to stay the night with us in the hospital, but elected to go home to spend some time with Nicholas instead.

The next day, after a visit from my doctor, and Bennett’s paediatrician, we were permitted to leave the hospital and start the next stage of our adventure as a family together.

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Baby Belly Update

Well our due date is FAST approaching! We are currently 37 weeks along, and growing more and more every day. It is hard to believe that we are this close to meeting our precious bambino, but are still amazed at how quickly this pregnancy has gone. Shan’s last day of work is on Wednesday, and then will be trying to get some rest and relaxation before Baby makes its debut. Last weekend, we tried to get some updated belly photos, but our overly adventurous son made it difficult to get very many completed. At any rate, this is what we managed to accomplish. Hopefully we can get a few more photos done before Baby comes!

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Nicholas loves to give Baby hugs and kisses, but there was no way that he was going to put his broom down first!

 

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