Introducing Emma Irene

Hey guys! New Mom here. That still feels weird to write but it provides me with a new excuse for my delay in posting to the blog so I’m going to run with it.

Cool?

If you’ve been following along on social media, you’d be crazy not to know that Matt and I were greeted with an early Christmas present last month in the form of 6 pounds 5 ounces of sugar and spice and 20 inches of holy crap now we have a lot of pink clothing.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene
Definitely not a boy despite nearly every stranger and friend’s prediction, Emma Irene Zalewski joined us at 1:20 a.m. on Christmas Eve and our world has been brighter ever since.

Emma Irene, newborn, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl

Leave it to me to bring you on a roller coaster of a journey of life and death in just two blog posts, but if you’ve followed our story for any amount of time you’d know that timing isn’t really our thing so it’s no surprise that these two major familial changes happened just a few weeks from one another.

If I told you we were a few weeks away from buying a new house too would you believe me?

It’s tradition in our family to tell your birthday story each year somewhere between when the plates are cleared from dinner and the cake is served. You may think this sounds redundant and in some cases it might be, but in our family, each year provides a new opportunity for relatives to share their perspectives from the day and bicker over ‘alternative facts.’ And if you play your cards right, each year provides you the opportunity to fine tune your birth story for oversharing with friends and family in the future.

I’ve also heard its tradition in the blogosphere to share a child’s birth story as a token post shortly following their birth.

So in an effort to make sure Emma is equipped from the get-go on both fronts, I thought I’d share a few details from the day she decided she’d like to share a birthday weekend with Jesus.

#blessed.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

The Friday before Christmas, Matt and I drove up to Springfield to celebrate the holiday with the Murphy/Bosch side. My mom was hosting her side of the family on Saturday and if all went well, we could stay and celebrate Christmas Eve with my family the next day. If we’re being technical, Springfield was just outside of the recommended distance for a 37 week pregnant lady but I was feeling good and had no indications that she would arrive early. In fact, I was fairly certain that she would be late, likely 8lbs and a boy so that just goes to show how good I am at this kind of thing.

Disclaimer: I’d like to clarify that my gut is typically right on nearly everything except apparently babies.

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I woke up around 4:30 Saturday morning with what I thought was just a reaction to the rich food we had the night before. (Shout out American Harvest for your labor-inducing seasonal handmade short rib ravioli). At this stage in the game the wake up time was not unusual nor was the random discomfort, although I hadn’t had any contractions previously. It wasn’t until the 30 minute mark of consistent every 5 minute cramping that I determined they might be contractions so I did what any wife might do, I let my husband continue to sleep and downloaded a contraction timing app on my phone and laid there and tracked them for the next hour, absolutely sure with each one they would eventually stop and Christmas could go on and we wouldn’t have to drive back to St. Louis and we’d have two more weeks to finish work projects and we’d get the tax break next year and my child would never come early unless it’s just like his or her father so it’s for sure a boy if this is for real and so on.

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After about an hour of consistent every 5 minute contractions I finally woke Matt up and brought him up to speed. I would tell you we rushed out of the house to get back home but once again convinced labor would either 1) stop or 2) take a really long time so instead we had breakfast, called the doctor, helped my mom set up for the party and then finally came to terms with the fact the contractions weren’t stopping and packed up to head back mid morning.

For the sake of time, I’ll fast-forward through the labor portion of the day which consisted of little more than a drive back from Springfield, a car seat installation, some present wrapping and hospital bag packing with a side of 7-minute apart contractions before we decided to head to the hospital around 5:30 pm. once again convinced they would tell us to go back home and come back another time.

Here’s a tip for all you winter Moms-to-be. Go into labor on Christmas Eve Eve and you practically get the entire labor and delivery floor to yourself.

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I don’t know why I was expecting more noise and urgency when we arrived at the hospital, but I was. Not so much for me but for another mom-to-be who I pictured rushing past me in a wheelchair while yelling at her husband just like the movies.

Instead we arrived on an eerily quiet labor and delivery floor to ‘susan’ who pressed the copy button slower than that frog lady from sing.

In the assessment room we found out 1) my OB just so happened to be the on call for the holiday weekend so he would come in and say hello and then 2) how loudly he could laugh when I asked if we were going back home after he checked me.

Instead he told us we’d likely have a baby somewhere between midnight and 3 am on Christmas Eve because we were already halfway there.

Um. Say what?

I would tell you the next few hours were spent killing time until I progressed enough to push but let’s revisit the fact this child clearly has her father’s sense of punctuality so we had just enough time to say hello and thanks for leaving your Christmas parties to come sit in a hospital waiting room for us to both sides of family before (as predicted) Emma Irene Zalewski arrived at 1:20 a.m. the morning of Christmas Eve.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Key accomplishments in her first few minutes of life:

1. A solid set of locks. Perhaps our first and only indication that she was a she was our OB noting that her hair was at least an inch long just prior to her arrival. #hairgoals

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2. It’s a…girl! I had a feeling after point number one was established late in the delivery but we were both shocked and delighted at the surprise.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

3. An escape attempt by Emma when the nurses tried to weigh her. All staff and parents quickly learned that this girl could not only roll over to her side from birth but she had the potential of pulling herself out of an incubator if not monitored closely.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

4. Future middle hitter-sized hands and center midfielder-worthy feet, much to the joy of her sports-enthusiast parents.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma ireneEmma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

5. A strong will and a surprisingly cute face. Disclaimer: I never doubted Matt and I would have cute kids but the baby portion of the journey I was a little doubtful on. Fortunately God gave her a deflated version of my cheeks and Matt’s hairline so she’s off to a good start.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

It’s hard to believe we’ve had this sweet girl in our world for 4 weeks now. Provided I haven’t already overwhelmed all of you with Emma photo overload, we’re looking forward to sharing monthly updates with you as we continue on our new journey as a family of three.

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We can’t thank everyone enough for the kind words, meals, flowers, gifts and did I mention pink clothes? It sure is easier bringing a new life into this crazy world knowing she’s immediately surrounded by so much love and support.

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

Emma Irene, birth story, newborn photos, baby girl, christmas eve, newborn, welcome emma irene

With love, Sarah, Matt and Emma Irene.

To Finn, with love

I’ve tried my best to fill this blog space with happy moments, decent recipes and bad jokes over the years, often leaving out some of the more serious sides of life for in-person updates in an effort to keep this space upbeat and positive.

But last week we lost a part of our family and key content contributor so I’d be remiss if I didn’t spend a little time sharing the update with you as he played such a big (and often loud) role in our lives.

Last Thursday we said goodbye to our sweet Finn. For those of you who didn’t know or who hadn’t visited our home to see the Grandpa-sized (no offense Grandpa) day-of-the-week pill sorter that we used, Finn was diagnosed with canine epilepsy (seizures) when he was just over one year old. And while he lived a seemingly normal life (see posts about all the things he ingested-namely the cashmere scarf) in the four years since he was diagnosed, we knew this was a progressive disease that would likely end his life earlier than any of us had planned.

greater swiss mountain dog sad dog diary

I could spend hours updating you on the specialists, medications and treatment of epilepsy in dogs, but if it’s ok with you, I’d rather just focus on the love and laughter he brought to everyone who spent time with him over his 5 years and all the adventures we had together.

swiss mountain dog puppy, west loop, chicago, mary bartelme park

The truth is, I probably don’t need to spend a lot of time telling you about Finn. He was my number one blog content contributor, by far the most photographed and overgrammed member of our family and the topic of many conversations with both strangers and friends.

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He started out as ‘my dog’ just a few years after Matt and I started dating, but he quickly became ours as he won the heart of a former ‘not so sure about big dogs’ guy in Matt.

He spent his puppy years in Chicago learning to pee on command on a 3-foot-by-3 foot wood chip pile outside my one-bedroom condo and frolicking in the snow through polar vortexes. His teenage years were spent trading snow for sand and air conditioning during our time in sunny Sarasota. He was just as uninterested in squirrels as he was armadillos but give him a doorbell (on tv or in real life) and he pretended to be the toughest dog on the block.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

He shared my love for loving people, almond butter and brushing off clumsy encounters with sidewalks, door frames and tables as if no one saw them. And he shared Matt’s strength, stubbornness and ability to look photogenic no matter the situation.

greater swiss mountain dog puppy simply social blog

He was a stage-five clinger, an expert napper and the most narcoleptic car rider I’ve ever seen.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

He helped Matt and I announce just about every life change we’ve experienced over the past few years, which looking back now is quite a few.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd

And while he wasn’t quite sure the extent to which our family was beginning to grow, he made sure to stay as close as possible lest we’d leave him out of this important milestone.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd, maternity, puppy

For now, the house is deafeningly quiet but it will soon be filled with welcome noise again when the baby comes in just a few weeks. And while we had visions of the two of them together over the next few months or maybe even years, we find peace in knowing Finn decided it was time for him to go ahead of this big life change we are about to encounter.

If you’re looking for a way to give back this holiday season, I encourage you to consider donating to your local shelter or to one that’s close to our heart, PAWS Chicago. Finn was a huge fan of sharing (mostly in the form of anything we were eating or drinking) so we’re honoring him this year by helping out those dogs and cats who weren’t as spoiled as he was.

Finn, greater swiss mountain dog, finnegan, swissy, gsmd, puppy

 

Mummies, Monsters and Sweet Little Pumpkins

You may be wondering where this post is going based on the dichotomy of a title, huh?

Me too.

Don’t worry we’re all in this together.

I sometimes wonder what it’s like to plan out blog posts. To have them be strategic and organized versus a brain dump of the tiny elements of creativity or life updates I’ve managed to throw together last-minute in an effort to get them out of my head and onto your smart phone.

In reality it would take far more monetization of this blog and likely the hiring of an assistant to ever get to deliver you the content strategy you deserve.

In the meantime (aka always and forever) you are stuck with my random frequency and rogue content. Chances are if you’ve stuck around this long, a small part of you may even appreciate them.

Moving on.

If there’s one thing to get me back on track with blogging it’s a holiday. There’s a voice in my head in the month leading up to said holiday that starts to whisper:

“So, what are you going to make for Halloween this year?”

Soon, the whisper turns to a normal speaking voice that says:

“Only a few weeks left to decide. Better get some supplies just in case.”

It’s not my fault that this voice comes out more frequently whenever I’m near the baking or holiday aisle at Target. It just does.

By the holiday week, the tone gets an attitude and says things like:

“Well you might as well pack away all those new Halloween cookie cutters and sprinkles you bought for this year because there’s no way you have time to make spiders and cauldrons and headstones now. Don’t blame me, I’ve been bugging you for weeks to decide.”

And then, like most things in my life lately, I decide to throw something together last-minute after Matt suggests we just “buy some cookies at the store or something.”

“Blasphemy. Doesn’t he know we have a reputation to uphold?” 

So in the spirit of upholding reputations as we enter into another holiday season, I present a simple way to make a “homemade” Halloween treat fit for kids and adults alike.

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Mummy & Monster White Chocolate Oreos

  • 1 package oreos
  • 1 package vanilla almond bark
  • green gel food coloring (I used wilton leaf green)
  • candy eyes (wilton-baking aisle)
  • Edible food marker (black)

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In a large ceramic bowl, melt half of almond bark brick in microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir.

Using a wax paper covered cookie sheet as your landing spot, dip Oreos into white chocolate until covered and set on paper. Once all are dipped, place candy eyes and then put cookie sheet in refrigerator to set chocolate.

In a separate bowl, melt the other half of almond bark until creamy. Add a few drops of gel food coloring (water-based food coloring will stiffen your chocolate) and mix until you get your desired monster green.

Repeat chocolate dipping process on another wax paper covered cookie sheet. Add eye and sprinkles or any other monster features you see fit. Or add another eye and now that I look at them you have a pretty close resemblance to a Ninja Turtle.

Cowabunga.

While green monsters are cooling in fridge, pull white mummies back out and use remaining white chocolate to make mummy wraps. This works best if the chocolate has slightly stiffened but feel free to re-melt in microwave for thinner gauzing.

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So now that we got the spooky stuff out of the way, let’s randomly transition to the sweeter side of the season where pumpkins are growing and so is the size of my belly.

Last weekend we were fortunate to get together with our Chicago/Zalewski side of the family for a shower celebrating the upcoming arrival of Baby Z.

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All fall-themed decor credit goes to my sister-in-law and mother-in-law who created an adorable shower for Matt and I. Would you just look at those cookies?

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little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

little pumpkin baby shower, baby, party, little pumpkin, gender neutral baby shower

It was so nice to get together with everyone ahead of the holiday season. We can’t wait to celebrate with the rest of the family in just a few weeks.

 

hello autumn

Happy first weekend of fall! In case you missed it, yesterday we celebrated the autumn solstice with record heat in St. Louis.

Because nothing says autumn like leaves just giving up and falling because they are too dry to hold on any longer.

hello_autumn

But there’s hope for your weekend, still. Here are a few ways to make the most out of the new season even if summer won’t loosen it’s death grip just yet:

Step 1: Crank down your thermostat to 65.

Step 2: Wrap up in your giant blanket scarf and watch College GameDay.

Step 3: Boots still look cute with sleeveless dresses. Just don’t forget deodorant.

Step 4: Be thankful there isn’t a pumpkin shortage because both you and your dog are going through 2+ cans a week.

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Pumpkin Apple Muffins with Streusel Topping (Makes 18)

  • 1 C unsweetened canned pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 2 C peeled and chopped apples (Pink Lady or Honeycrisp)
  • 2 1/2 C flour (I used half whole wheat, half all-purpose)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 TBL pumpkin pie spice mix (cloves, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Streusel Topping (because streussel makes everything better)

  • 2 TBL flour
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 TBL oats
  • 2 tsp butter

pumpkin_apple_2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice mix, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer, blend pumpkin, oil and eggs together.

Add dry ingredients into wet and mix until just combined. Add apples.

Scoop into prepared muffin tins and fill about 2/3 of the way.  Top with 1 tsp streusel topping per muffin.

Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

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I make these nearly every year on repeat. They are a great excuse for a mini carb-load anytime of day and they freeze well if you’re afraid you might eat them all in the first few days.

Not that Matt and I would know what that’s like or anything.

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Happy fall!

greater swiss mountain dog, finn, swissy, gsmd,

For this child, we have prayed

It seems fitting that I begin any of my less-than-frequent blog posts lately with an apology. The intro is typically where I tell you how busy we’ve been or how sidetracked I’ve gotten with work or Finn or my success in developing a white chocolate chip cookie recipe with a texture hard enough to break records for Matt’s birthday this year.

The flavor was good, though!

So I suppose I should start this post by apologizing for my absence on the blog lately.

My bad.

The truth is I thought this would be one of the easiest posts I would ever write. After all, I’ve written this post in my head more times than I can count over the past two years. Drafting the words and willing the opportunity to actually be able to put them into print (or in this case digital format) to finally share them with our friends and family.

If you’re starting to worry, stick with me as this story has a happy ending, but given the road that brought us here, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the challenges we faced along the way.

Because as many times as I prayed for this outcome, I faced the reality of another month where the only draft I had was an alternate version that involved all kinds of tests and ‘it will happens’ and doubt.

I wanted to share the struggles we experienced because I know how many other couples face them too. I wanted to share them because I knew there were so many more that would continue to struggle even after our prayers were answered.

But I couldn’t find the words.

How ironic that when the time finally came where we felt comfortable enough to share our good news, I still struggle to find the words to actually share it with you.

For those of you keeping track, you can go ahead and mark this down as one of the few times I was ever at a loss for words in my life.

Ok, let’s move on.

And don’t think I was the only one. A lot of folks get prayer credit for this blessing. Bonus points to my mom for including it in her Lenten journey this year.

So without further ado as I just totally buried the lead by making you read this far, Finn has some news he’d like to formally share with all of you.

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Sure he may look excited in this photo, but that was only after we told him that he and the baby would share a love for frequent naps and meals.

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Reality soon set in once he realized all the attention would no longer be focused on him on a daily basis.

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We are overjoyed to be able to share our good news with all of you and we are looking forward to an exciting New Year. Thank you for your continued prayers. We can’t tell you how much it means to us to be surrounded by so much love.

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Red, White and Blue Roundup

Well lookie there. Another month or so has gone by and I’ve left you all alone, uninspired and wondering if I’ll ever get back a normal blogging schedule again.

Short answer? Maybe? Hopefully? Probably.

I had a Memorial Day post planned for you but then I forgot to take a picture of my triple berry crumble with the topping on it.

So all of a sudden, a delicious last-minute BBQ dessert became a topless triple berry something or other.

And since I’m not sure how WordPress handles nudity, I just decided against posting it all together.

But seeing as how holidays seem to inspire me to write blog posts more than any other time lately, I figured I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least show you part of the journey that was a pretty tasty triple berry crumble.

Provided my blog platform doesn’t block the photos for their content, of course.

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Triple Berry Crumble

  • 2 C blueberries
  • 2 C strawberries
  • 2 C raspberries
  • 1/4 Csugar
  • 1/4 C flour
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

crumble topping:

  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 C (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

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Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, toss berries with the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Place in a prepared pie plate.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, brown and white sugar and salt. Use a pastry blender, a fork, or your hands to cut butter until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the berries.

Place the pie plate on a baking sheet. Bake in the center of the oven until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown, about 1 hour.

Remove the crumble to a rack to cool slightly. Tasty on it’s own but you can also serve it with whipped or ice cream.

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There’s something about a patriotic holiday that inspires me to throw fruit and crust together last-minute and see what comes out. Take, for example, last year’s 4th of July when a late afternoon pop-up shower sent us back home from the neighborhood pool just in time to play iron chef with the ingredients in my fridge in an effort to bake something red, white and blue.

No party to attend, only two people to serve and a limited amount of pie crust, but a patriotic pie nonetheless.

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So what’s on tap for this year? I’m thinking of really going outside the box and revisiting a trusty Triple Berry Trifle.

Three cheers for fruit that matches the colors of our flag.

‘Merica.

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The year of cotton

Can you still count yourselves as newlyweds if you sit down to dinner the week of your second wedding anniversary and agree that neither of you have anything important on the schedule this week?

Oops.

The truth is year two was just about as full as year one, minus a few international soccer trips.

Let’s take a look back:

After learning of a great job opportunity back in the Midwest, we soaked in as many sunsets as we could during our last summer on the Gulf Coast.

 

Another week in the books

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

2 of 2.

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

We finally got around to checking a few items off our Sarasota bucket list:

Because #mangroves #sarasotabucketlist

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

We celebrated a new set of newlyweds back on our old stomping grounds.

We visited NYC. Separately but it still counts.

We said goodbye to great friends in Florida.

We survived Hurricane Hermine and multiple broken down Penske trucks in our attempt to leave the State of Florida. You can read more about that adventure here.

We moved into another new house and we (ok mostly I) obsessed over our first fall season back in the Midwest:

Dear fall, You're my favorite. Sincerely, Sarah

A post shared by Sarah Zalewski (@slmurphy) on

We loved being so close to friends and family for the holidays again:

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We attended our first Blues game and tried our best not to let on that we were Blackhawks fans.

St. Louis Blues Hockey, Blues,

We formalized our lunch dates and moved them outside the training room.

We finally got back on the slopes for a fun trip to Vail for some spring skiing.

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And we kicked off summer concert season by reminding everyone that even thirty-somethings can dress down up and have a good time every once in a while.

Eric Church, St. Louis

 

To my sleeveless pearl-snap buttoned husband on our second wedding anniversary,

In the past year, we’ve gone from celebrating in separate countries and working weekends to Saturday date nights and Sunday Costco runs. We’ve traded flat sandy beaches for a hilly Midwest river town. But no matter the circumstances or the terrain, sharing this journey of life with you gets better every day.

That being said, I believe the second anniversary is cotton so I bought us some new sheets.

Sincerely,

Your lucky wife.

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