Mar 23

Children’s Aquarium: Perfect for the Wee Ones

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The Children’s Aquarium in Dallas was one of the highlights of our spring break Texas trip because our little 2 year old loved the place.  Seeing her face light up at the different aquarium tanks as she ran from spot to spot makes the trials of a road trip with a 2 wee ones worth it.  Hearing “daddy I touched a sting ray” with a squeal of delight followed by “I touched it again” warmed the heart.  It was more about the experience we were able to have at the Children’s Aquarium versus what they had that made it a great stop on our trip.
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Designed for little kids in mind, the Children’s Aquarium in Dallas is great for little kids in the age range of 10 and under.  The aquarium tanks are built at a height for them to see without somebody holding them up and my 2 year old loved that.  M is a travel-veteran but most places that we go she constantly has to look through bars or be lifted up.  She enjoyed having the freedom to go from tank to tank getting to see everything.
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The Children’s Aquarium is divided into 3 sections.  As you walk in towards your right there is a freshwater tank area filled with animals like an albino alligator, piranha, tetras,  electric eel, and alligator snapping turtle.  In the middle, there is a short hall to the best exhibit at the Children’s Museum where they have 2 large tanks one being a touch tank where visitors have the chance to touch stingrays.  A second larger tank is home to animals like the bonnethead sharks, leopard sharks, and sea turtles. The third area which is just to the left when you enter is for their saltwater fish.  In this part of the aquarium, you will see a variety of ocean going creatures like jellyfish, seahorse, lobster, batfish, clownfish, eels, and turtles.  There was enough variety of animals and fish to make it a nice aquarium.  To describe it I would say it is more in the scope of something you might find at a zoo compared to a standalone aquarium.
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None of the exhibits are earth shattering or will make you want to visit time and time again (unless you have small ones and get a season pass), but for what it is and who it is designed for the Children’s Aquarium does a great job.  So do not expect a walkthrough tunnel with fish swimming all around you or a 500,000 gallon tank filled with hundreds of species of fish.  If you go in with the right expectations that this aquarium is designed for the 10 and under crowd you will have a great time.
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At the time of our visit there was around 2 other families there so we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves which was nice.  The next day we visited the Dallas World Aquarium which has great exhibits but standing in the long lines and behind the different school groups hampers that experience.  Being in a place in Dallas and not fighting crowds or standing in line wherever you go sure made the Children’s Aquarium a nice trip for us.
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The Children’s Aquarium is just one of those places that if you have toddlers it is great place to go.  The price was not bad for us because both our kids got in for free, and like I mentioned before getting to touch the sting rays and her excitement from that experience was priceless.  Not having dozen of kids and parents cut in front of you to see inside a fish tank made it much more enjoyable for us.

To see our reviews of other aquariums click here

16911591591 de4ae8229c z Children’s Aquarium: Perfect for the Wee Ones
Children’s Aquarium
Located at 1462 1st Ave (Fair Park), Dallas, TX
Hours of Operation 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 7 days a week closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Cost as of this Posting Adults 12 and over $8.00 Seniors 65 and over $6.00 and Children 3 to 11 $6.00
For more information visit their website at http://www.childrensaquariumfairpark.com/

Mar 18

Turner Falls: Oklahoma

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Turner Falls located in the Arbuckle Mountains of Southern Oklahoma is nestled in a beautiful park, one that you will appreciate more the less people that are there.  If you do a quick search of the park on Tripadvisor you will see that people love it or hate it and the reviews seem to have one underlying point which is the size of the crowd.  On our particular visit there was 1 other car in the parking lot and we had a great time and loved the falls.  Of course, we went when the water was too cold to swim, got there right when it opened, and left before 11:00 a.m. so the crowd was at a minimum.  We loved our time there.  Our little 2 year old enjoyed looking at Turner Falls for about two minutes and was on to the playground area.   This worked out great for us because we were on our way to Dallas so Turner Falls Park was a nice little spot for us to get out and stretch our legs and burn off a little energy.
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The water drops about 75 feet making Turner Falls the tallest waterfall in the state of Oklahoma.  It is a gorgeous waterfall dropping into a light aquamarine color pool that you can swim in during the warm summer months.  There is also an overlook that gives a bird’s eye look of the falls.  We were there in early March and after a good rain so the water was really flowing.  The weather was on the cool side so we basically had the waterfall to ourselves for a good half hour.  About the time we were leaving around 10:30 there were several families making the short walk up to the falls.
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Besides being the home to Turner Falls, Turner Falls Park boasts 2 swimming holes, hiking trails, caves and other interesting geological features.   It also has a walk-in castle, cabins, and camping opportunities.  For more information about the park visit their website at   http://www.turnerfallspark.com/.   We were only there for a short time, so we cannot give a full review of the park itself, but from what we saw the park was clean, the lady at the admission area was real friendly and the waterfall was better then what I thought it was going to be.
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Turner Falls
77-Foot Waterfall
Located near the town of Davis Oklahoma exit 51on I35
Short paved Hike from the Parking Lot
Paid Admission to see the Falls.

To see our reviews of other waterfalls we have seen click here

Feb 24

McKayla’s week 12

16638379551 979d080b69 McKaylas week 12

12 week photo

TWELVE weeks!! That seems like some sort of milestone… I think it was with McKenna at least.  We are having such fun times.  McKayla is growing like a weed and really starting to show her little personality.  She smiles so easily and you can see the sparkle in her eyes just before a big ole grin spreads over her face.  She is making more and more noises, little squeals and coos.  McKenna can’t wait for her to start talking.  Kenny had his first Soccer game of the year on Saturday.  It was pretty cold so we three girls didn’t get to go but we were cheering for him from the living room.

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Seeing McKenna and McKayla ‘play’ together more and more.  They can lay on a little blanket on the floor and McKenna will bring toy after toy to show McKayla.  It’s so neat to see them interact.  McKenna was so excited when she handed McKayla a little soft ball and she grabbed a hold of it with her little hand.  ”Mommy she’s HOLDING it!!!”

Kenny- We had a snow day on Monday and I had a great time sharing a lazy day at home with my girls.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- We really get a lot of use out of our leachco pod cushion.  It’s a little pod pillow that McKayla can sit in and it props her up a bit so she can see more of what’s going on around her.  We use it a ton.  McKenna calls it McKayla’s “seed pod”.

Kenny- Books!  This little girl is already a bookworm like her big sister. She pays good attention to lots of different board books.

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McKenna and McKayla Week 12 Picture

Struggle:

Karen- My house is a wreck… I need to get everything more organized so its easier to “tidy up” quickly.  It is so hard to use my free moments cleaning when McKenna wants some Mom time to play or its nighttime and I’m ready to drop.  I try to make the girls the priority, we can live with a mess for now.

I’m also struggling to get an exact schedule down for McKayla, I know she can be awake about two hours before she’s tired and wants to nurse every three hours or so, but each day is different.  Thats hard because McKenna was more scheduled and that helped me so much.  I’m sure a pattern will start to emerge soon.

Kenny- no struggles right now, we’re doing pretty good.  I wish there was no crying ever but that’s part of life.

16449309648 b5d6e55408 McKaylas week 12

Picture of the Week

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- There is nothing sweeter or softer than a precious little baby head nuzzling under your chin.  I could do that for HOURS!

Kenny- McKayla is getting pretty good at tummy time.  Before we know it she’ll be rolling over.

Quote of the week:

Karen- It’s snowingggg!! (McKenna looking out the window)

Kenny-

16635867612 2109781d74 McKaylas week 12

McKayla vs Bear Week 12

for comparison, HERE is our update from when McKenna was 12 weeks old.

Feb 17

McKayla’s week 11

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11 week photo

I’m so sorry for the lack of posting and/or updates.  We have been taking McKaylas weekly pictures, just can’t seem to find the time to blog lately.  We will try to remedy that.

We have had another great week around here.  Our girls are growing and changing everyday!  I find myself still spending a lot of time at my mom and dad’s house, especially on days when Kenny won’t be home until late.  It is so nice to have an extra set of hands ready and happy to help with the girls.  It’s nice just to have some adult company also.  We have had some great weather, sixties and seventies and even got to take a family walk at the lake on Valentines Day.  I love my sweet family, we are so blessed.

Highlight of the week:

Karen- my parents watched BOTH girls on Sunday and I got some one on one time with my sweet hubby!

Kenny- we had a lot of fun walking at the lake. McKenna was running and laughing away while McKayla slept on my chest in the Bjorn.  McKenna really had fun throwing rocks in the water.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- we bought a Mamaroo swing a few weeks ago and it has really been helpful.  McKayla is pretty happy to play in her swing for a bit while I scurry around the house trying to get a few things done or while I get lunch together for McKenna.

Kenny- we have a big nice tote bag that my mom gave us, from 31gifts.  It’s the perfect thing to haul around library books in.  Especially when we get about 30 a week for our little book worm.

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McKenna and McKayla Week 11 Picture

Struggle:

Karen- Early mornings are sometimes a struggle for me.  Kenny has to get up about 5:45am for work.  If I am up nursing McKayla back to sleep and McKenna happens to wake up then we are all just awake in the wee darkness of the morning… Hmm… Not ideal but we get through it.

Kenny- There is always something going on, that can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Even when we have down time there is always a house project, work or cleaning that needs to be done.

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Picture of the Week

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- Being a Mom is a tough job!  Being completely in charge of two little lives can run a girl ragged (and I’ve got a lot if help!).  Just trying to get food, naps, potty training, diapers, reading, learning, discipline, everything, there isn’t enough of me to go around sometimes.

Kenny- McKayla can blow a raspberry now.  It may have been an accident but I’m going to go ahead and say she’s advanced.

Quote of the week:

Karen: Out of the blue one day McKenna stretched out her arms and said “I love McKayla thiiiisss much!”

Kenny- McKenna is really into rhyming right now.  So often she will snuggle up close to McKayla and singingly say “Kayla, Mayla, Gayla”.

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McKayla vs Bear Week 11

for comparison, HERE is our update from when McKenna was 11 weeks old.

Jan 23

Book Review: Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow

Berlin Boxing Club Book Review: Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow
“Today you had a very important lesson on taking punches. A lot of people will tell you that the first thing you have to learn is how to take a punch. But I believe the first thing you should know is that you can take one and survive. A punch won’t kill you. Conquering your fear is the first step to becoming a powerful fighter.”

 Berlin Boxing Club is a nice work of historical fiction, a book to get those reluctant teen boy readers to read.  The story follows a young teenager named Karl Stern, a non-practicing Jew living in Germany at the start of the Nazi takeover.  Luckily for Karl he does not possess the typical physical characteristics of a Jewish person and escapes most of the ridicule and abuse other Jews including his little sister face on a daily basis.  Eventually his secret is exposed and when his fellow classmates bully and beat him at school Karl becomes ashamed at his inability to defend himself.

Fortunately for Karl his life takes a dramatic change of course one evening while helping his father in his art gallery.  Max Schmeling, champion boxer and German national hero, who is on friendly terms with Karl’s dad, asks about a special painting that he wants, but is not for sell.  In order to get Karl’s dad to give up the painting he offers to train his son.  Karl’s dad reluctantly agrees and Karl starts to see himself in a completely different light and grasps with both hands the chance to reinvent himself.

Over time Karl becomes a strong, self-reliant young man and with the help of the greatest boxer in his country a well-respected amateur fighter, but Schmeling and the other boxers he trains with does not know Karl’s family history.  And as Nazism takes hold in Germany and Nazi violence against Jews escalates Karl finds himself struggling with his rising fame as a boxer and keeping his secret safe.

I really enjoyed reading the Berlin Boxing Club and thought that this was the perfect book to get some of my reluctant students reading.  I enjoyed the internal struggle that Karl faces with standing up for his Jewish faith while at the same time realizing that letting people know that he is Jewish could jeopardize every relationship that he has.   Telling the story from that point of view I thought was very creative and original way to look at Jewish experience in pre-World War II Germany.  I give the Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow 4 shells out of 5.

Jan 14

McKayla’s Week 6

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I remember week six being a milestone with McKenna.  The first five weeks were so challenging and by the sixth week things were FINALLY starting to settle into place.  It has been so much easier this time around with McKayla.  I don’t know if that’s because she’s a more mellow baby or if it’s because this isn’t my first rodeo.  Either way, things are going pretty great.  I seem to be visiting my parents house pretty regularly now a days just as a treat to have some company and they are also such a help with my girls.  Eventually I’ll be able to do it all by myself all the time but for now I am so thankful for the help.  Kenny taught Saturday school and did some work with my Dad on Sunday so it didn’t seem like much of a weekend but that’s okay, we have this coming weekend to look forward to and it’s supposed to be really nice weather.  Maybe a trip to the zoo is in store (McKayla’s first).

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Going to my Mom and Dad’s is SUCH a highlight for me.  It brightens my day and is such a blessing to me.  I am thankful they live close and are willing to help me.

Kenny- Coming home from my busy days is always a treat, I miss my girls.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- I am really loving this new nursing bra I bought.  It is super comfortable and easy to operate (I can hook and unhook it with one hand when necessary).  I even bought one as a Christmas present!  It’s a Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra.

Kenny- We bought a new sound machine to use with McKayla.  It was inexpensive, can be battery powered if you need it to be portable and it makes great sounds.  We are really liking it.  It’s a MyBaby Sounds Spa Portable.

McKenna and McKayla Week 6 Picture

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Struggle:

Karen- My main struggle right now is trying to get both girls and myself ready and out the door.  Just the last minute little things like getting McKenna’s coat, shoes and hat on….getting McKayla in her carseat….gathering up my purse, diaperbag, coat etc…. I’m usually sweating and we’re all kind of in a tizzy by the time we get settled into the car.  Whew!

Kenny- Both girls have not been sleeping well this week.  We had been doing so great the last six weeks and it all just kind of fell apart this week.  Hopefully we will get back on track quickly.

Picture of the Week    

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Something we’ve learned:

Karen- I have to keep reminding myself that this stage of my life isn’t permanent.  I won’t always be changing diapers and nursing around the clock.  I won’t always be so busy I don’t have time to shower or clean my house.  I won’t always have a little two year old begging for my attention and I need to step back and treasure these memories, I’ll miss them one of these days.

Kenny- As long as I keep rocking McKayla’s little Rock ‘n Play she will keep sleeping… it’s a great little calf exercise.  (We may have to get this girl a swing).

Quote of the week:

Karen-
Mom: (trying to soothe McKayla while simultaneously getting us ready and out the door) “shhhhh”
McKenna: “Shhh…shhhh…no Mommy you’re not shushing her, I’m shushing her….shhhh”

Kenny-
Dad: “McKayla, how was your day today?”
McKenna: (Looking at Dad quizzically) “Daddy she can’t talk…she’s just little”

It has been a great sixth week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 6

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for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 6 weeks old 

Jan 10

School or Education

soe home School or Education

As a public school teacher we are placed under a lot of pressure to provide an education for our students, and rightly so.  That is why I choose that career and have persevered doing it for over a decade.  Unfortunately it gets tougher every year to stay with it.  Do not get me wrong, I love being a teacher, getting my students to think for themselves, care about the subject I teach, and go forth looking to further their education.  So why, from time to time, do I think about giving up my room key and start looking for a different career?  It is because every year it seems like I become less of an educator and more just a school teacher.

You might be thinking that an educator and a school teacher are the same thing, but I do not see it that way.  To me school is just a building, a place where young folks go and spend some time.  School is just something that you had to do.  Education on the other hand is something that lasts a lifetime, and an educator teaches students to develop those skills to make learning a lifetime passion.  Regrettably education has taken a backseat to schooling as an over reliance on standardized testing and teaching to those tests have taken the place of self-discovery, debate, and enjoyment of the educational process.

If the majority of the school day is spent reviewing standards and test taking strategies to pass those standards then school just becomes a place to spend time.  In a lot of ways school is like prison, students buy their time in hopefully with good behavior and good work, pass some test to show they can be a productive member of society, and go on their way.  The idea of developing a life-long education is lost and thus students will fall farther behind their global peers because education becomes less of something that we want and more of something that we just have to do.

I urge you to go out and see what is going on in your local schools, ask your children, nieces and nephews, or other kids you know, see what they learning.  Ask them all how often they work on test taking skills, or spend time doing math and reading but miss out on science and history.  Are they working on self-discovery of material or is just standard after standard?  Are they learning to work in groups, debate, finding their own solutions to problems, learning to think quickly to overcome obstacles skills that will help them in whatever career path they chose or are they just able to answer questions from a test?

To see my other musings about education in the United States click here

picture via http://www.ferris.edu/HTMLS/colleges/educatio/media/soe-home.jpg (lol assessment driven all teachers are we have to be)

Jan 05

McKayla’s Week 5

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This has been SUCH a fun week!!  We celebrated Christmas with my (Karen’s) family and got to spend the week with my sisters, brother-in-laws, nephews and niece.  It was so much wonderful!  McKayla was a little sweetie pie, as usual, and met her family with lots of coos and smiles.  We had good meals, played fun games and just did a lot of relaxing. My favorite!

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Introducing McKayla to Uncle Neil and Aunt Julie (they live out of state and this was their first time to meet her)

Kenny- McKayla handled being in a noisy busy environment like a champ (she slept right through squeals and shouts of five kiddos playing and unwrapping Christmas gifts, wow!)

Product we’re loving:

Karen- We have recently introduced a little Nuk pacifier and McKayla has really taken to it.  I was surprised because McKenna never wanted anything to do with a pacifier, she always just sucked her fingers.  If McKayla is ever having a rough moment, like being in the carseat, having that pacifier seems to make it more tolerable.

Kenny- I have been appreciating her summer infant swaddle blankets.  It really helps her sleep more soundly when she is wrapped up like my little burrito.  We liked the HALO swaddle blankets with McKenna but the summer infant ones seem to work better for a newborn.

McKenna and McKayla Week 5 Picture

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Struggle:

Karen- The only struggle this week was trying to get everyone up and around and dressed and ready and diaper bags packed to go to my Mom’s to spend time with the family.  There is no more ‘wake up and jump in the car to go’… it takes a lot more prep work to get four people ready.

Kenny- Trying to get quality photos of my girls.  It’s hard when you just have a tiny window when McKayla is happy to sit still and have pictures taken, then trying to get my settings all right and the background nice , it takes more work than you’d think.

Picture of the Week    

Something we’ve learned:

Karen- Being organized is important.  It saves my sanity to have everything together and laid out and ready to go when I need it.

Kenny- work is much easier than home, but I’d so much rather be at home

Quote of the week:

Karen- My little niece (who’s two)  ”baby…baby… pat pat baby”  She was so excited to meet her new baby cousin.  She loved to come over and pat and kiss the top of McKayla’s little head, so gentle, she’s my sweetheart.

Kenny- McKenna talking to Dad, “want to know a secret…I love you!” (she’s going to make her Daddy cry one of these days)

It has been a great fifth week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 5

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for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 5 weeks old 

Dec 26

Christmas in the Park: Yukon

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Christmas in the Park in Yukon was much bigger and better than we were expecting and it was free! The trifecta of a good family outing, in our minds, (bigger, better, and free) was in effect the other night so we had a wonderful time.  We left being really impressed with the city of Yukon and their holiday display and it is something that we will definitely add to our holiday traditions going forward.  Karen and I are always looking for something fun and free to do and what better way to spend a Christmas evening than looking at the wonderful display put on by the city of Yukon, Oklahoma.
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Yukon, a suburb of Oklahoma City has been putting on their holiday light spectacular since 1995.  Their “Christmas in the Park” celebration has close to 4 million lights on over 400 displays in 2 different city park locations. It is a drive through as well as walk-through Christmas display.  They have a train ride nightly as well as horse drawn carriage rides during the weekends.
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Last year our daughter was just about a one and half years old and never a big fan of the car seat so we bypassed taking her to see any Christmas lights.  Now we have a second daughter and she actually enjoys her car seat (on most days) so we thought we would go looking for Christmas displays.  It ended up being a great night.  Our two year old McKenna loved the displays and wanted to go through a second time.  Our youngest daughter McKayla, who is just a few weeks old, slept through the whole thing so a great drive all around.  Next year we hope to get out of the car and walk around a bit.  Yukon has a good thing going and we hope it just keeps getting bigger and better.
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Christmas in the Park: Yukon
For more information about the Holiday Display visit
http://www.cityofyukonok.gov/city-departments/parks-recreation/christmas-in-the-park/   

Dec 21

McKayla’s Week 3

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I can’t believe it’s been three weeks already!  Time is just whizzing by and Christmas will be here in just a few more days. Kenny is off work now for two glorious weeks of Christmas vacation and we are soaking up the time with him already.  It is so nice to have another set of hands to help with everything.  Sometimes it feels like I am nursing around the clock (which is good because it means my milk production will be good), it kind of chains me to the couch for a big chunk of the day so it is hard to get much else accomplished right now.  I know it won’t always be like this so I’m trying to just enjoy the time with my little muffin.  McKenna is being such a sweetheart, so patient with me and her little sister.  She is usually content to sit beside me and listen to me read her books while I nurse.  My sweet girls!

Highlight of the week:

Karen- Friday rolling around (meaning it was Kenny’s last day of work so he’s ALL OURS!)

Kenny- I’m finally off work and I get to spend time with all my girls.

Product we’re loving:

Karen- I have used a Moby wrap carrier (borrowed from Aunt Julie) several times on outings and even just around the house so I can use my hands more and McKayla has really loved it.  She usually just snugs right in and goes to sleep.  This is such a blessing if we are out and about like at the grocery store or library.

Kenny- Our rock ‘n play is working great for evenings for me.  McKayla will sleep in it or even just hang out in there while I rock her and interact with her.

McKenna and McKayla Week 3 Picture

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Struggle:

Karen- While I’m nursing for hours on end my mind is usually racing about all the things I need to be doing.  I’m trying to just give myself some grace and focus on my girls for now.

Kenny- Soothing McKayla when she’s wanting to nurse and I have nothing to nurse her with.  It’s usually just for a few minutes while Karen is wrapping up what she’s doing.  Bouncing her on the ball works the best for now.

Picture of the Week    

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Something we’ve learned:

Karen- It helps to get a few minutes to myself every once in a while.  Whether it’s a nice warm (uninterrupted) shower or a quick car trip to pick up some dinner, a few minutes of alone time to clear my head and recharge is so wonderful every once in a while.

Kenny- Once you’ve lived through it once it’s easy to live through it a second time.

Quote of the week:

Karen- I was asking McKenna what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas and she quickly responded “I would like another baby just like Kayla”…. oh dear, she may have to wait a while for that wish to be fulfilled.

Kenny- Karen was changing McKayla’s diaper in the other room and I heard her making some funny noises.  Then suddenly she shouted out “Kenny, she just smiled right at me!”.

It has been a great third week and we are looking forward to many, many more!

McKayla vs Bear Week 3

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for comparison HERE is our update from when McKenna was 3 weeks old 

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