Gratituesday: God is Stronger Than a Hail Storm

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In early June, our garden looked like this:

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Full of plants protected by buckets looked like this:

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A few days later, a hail storm came through, and our garden looked like this:

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It seemed as if we had lost everything.  Our rows and rows of green bean plants had no leaves left.  Our pepper and tomato plants were completely broken down.  It looked like nothing had survived.  We decided to replant a few green bean seeds, and consider the rest of the garden to be a loss.  It would be a small garden this year, and we would just make do.

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But guess what?  God is bigger than any of our gardening efforts, and He is most certainly bigger than a hail storm!!   We left our broken, leafless plants alone.  Within a few weeks, they had turned back into thriving plants again.  Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only that, we had a lot of rain this summer and fall – so much so that our garden and all the fruit trees around this area have been kicking out the produce like I’ve never seen before.  So now, our garden looks like this:

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So many beautiful peppers!

Our green bean plants have provided bucket after bucket of green beans.  We’ve eaten them to our heart’s content – 4 months of fresh-from-the-garden green beans!!!  And we’ve frozen many gallon-sized bags of beans too.  We’ll be enjoying them all winter!

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Our tomato plants are still giving us many tomatoes every day.  Plus we’re picking spaghetti squash and honey dew melon.

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An orchard nearby has had the best “apple year” I’ve ever seen.  These bags keep making their way into my kitchen (and the kitchens of my friends).  We’re eating all we can hold, and making jar after jar of Homemade Applesauce.

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All this to say - we thought we’d be done enjoying garden produce by June after the hail storm was so destructive.   The joke’s on us.  We started canning and freezing produce in July.  Here it is the end of October and we are still going strong.  I usually have my canning supplies packed away by now.  Not this year.  There’s still applesauce to make and green beans to pick.  I am amazed!  I shouldn’t be though.  Isn’t it just like God to show us in such mighty ways of His love and care for us?

Here’s a fun peek into our pantry and freezers.  We have over 50 jars of applesauce, and I’ll be making more this week and next.  This batch turned out so pink, it looks like I added food coloring!  Nope, just straight empire apples.  So pretty!

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Some friends gave us cucumbers, so I made about 40 jars of dill pickles.  It was a fun experiment and they turned out great!

dill pickles

We bought sweet corn at a road-side stand in August, and froze about a dozen quart-sized bags.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to defrost my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

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I’ve stuffed bags of green beans in our freezers as I’ve found room.  Pay no attention to the fact that I desperately need to re-organize my freezers.  I would if I wasn’t so busy canning and freezing produce.

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Our peach tree did pretty well this year, so we canned about a dozen quarts, and froze several bags of sliced peaches for smoothies.

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Next you see a mixture of Sweet Pickle Relish (from the cucumbers our friends shared with us), Homemade Salsa, and more Applesauce.

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As you can see from the above picture, I’m no longer organizing the jars as I fit them into my pantry.  I’m at a point of simply trying to find room for it all.  Dozens and dozens of full jars of produce!  It is so exciting!!

I’m so grateful for the bounty and for God’s sense of humor.  There may have been a hail storm, but that didn’t stop God from giving us one of our best garden years ever!  Go God!

What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for!

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Gratituesday: Summer to Winter Clothes (Plus our Lilla Rose Winner)

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It used to be one of my most dreaded projects.  We have several tubs of clothes up in our attic.  Every fall and every spring we lug them down, finding what fits which boy each year.  While I’ve been ridiculously thankful for the amount of clothes we’ve had for our boys – most of them hand me downs – the chore of switching out clothes for the season was always long and exhausting.

This year though?  I am reminded how nice it is to have children old enough to be such a huge help.   We had the entire job done – from lugging down containers, to switching out clothes, to lugging them all back up – in one hour.  One hour.  Hallelujah!

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This job used to take me two entire days.  That was back when the kids “helped” by resorting my piles thirty times, throwing shirts at each other, trying on clothes that were way too big or too small…you know the drill.  I loved that everyone just got right to it, got it done, and moved on with the day.

Best news of all:  I did not have to be the one to go into the attic.  I’m not a fan of the attic.  It has a little something to do with a bird attack I experienced a few years back.  I now put on my pitiful face and beg one of my boys to do the dirty work.  Love these boys!

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This pile of clothes is heading to our bi-annual clothing exchange this weekend.

I’m so thankful God continues to provide plenty of clothing for my family – especially as their legs keep getting LONGER.  Wow.  I’m thrilled to have this task behind us for the year, and as much as I love summer, I will admit that it’s fun to pull out warm sweaters for this fall season!

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While I’ve got you, I wanted to announce our Lilla Rose Giveaway Winner:  Jill: ferryfam5@ – email me and I’ll put you in touch with Paula at Lilla Rose!

Hues set giveaway

Don’t forget:  Special offer for Heavenly Homemakers readers only!  Get a FREE SURPRISE FLEXI when you place a $40 order between now and Oct.18!!!*

*Place an order of $40 or more (excluding tax and shipping) through Paula’s website, then message her to redeem your free surprise flexi! Offer valid for U.S. customers only and expires Oct. 18, 2014. This is for both new and returning customers, but if you already have another Lilla Rose consultant, please stay with her; I’m sure she’ll appreciate it! Thank you!

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Please leave a comment to share what you’re grateful for this Gratituesday!!!

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Gratituesday: Women of Faith

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No thanks.  That’s what I told my friend Emily who, last October, was signing up ladies in our area for the Women of Faith conference that was to be in Lincoln, October of 2014.

Fall is our busiest season, I have no idea what is going on an entire year from now, I’m not really big on conferences like this…

I was full of reasons I couldn’t and shouldn’t go, and even though my reasons were legit, Emily still pushed me.  “I think you need to go to this.”  Okay, fine.  Sign me up.

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A few days before we headed out last Friday, I told another friend who was leery about going, “This better not be some fru-fru chick thing.  I want meat, and I want it to be rich.”  I hadn’t even looked at who the speakers were going to be, what was on the agenda, and I really had not had time to even think about it.  I just planned to show up with an open heart, hoping maybe I could gain a nugget or two from what was shared.

Well.  There we were, in an arena filled with 8,000 women.  I laughed, I cried, I was pricked to the heart, I was fed, I was convicted, I worshipped, I found refreshment, and I’m not sure how many ways I can say this:  It was incredible.

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Some of my favorite Christian sisters are in this selfie. :)

Nichole Nordeman was there, Matthew West was there (one of the only men, bless him), and the five speakers were amazing.  Nothing about the weekend was fru-fru chick stuff.  All of it was scripture-filled, hard core Truth.  Did I gain a nugget or two?  Oh my.  I don’t think I can even measure how much I gained from sitting in that arena for the weekend.

I praise God for always putting me exactly where I need to be, teaching me exactly what I need to learn, and helping me hear exactly what I need to know.  We serve an amazing God.

Have you been to a Women of Faith conference before?  What are you celebrating this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: Practicing Our Spanish With Gladis

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Our older boys have been learning Spanish with Rosetta Stone software for three, going on four years.  It has been fantastic!  Asa was really able to use what he’s learning when he went to Ecuador this summer.  We love it when these great skills can be applied to real life.

Last week, Matt took advantage of a perfect teachable moment.  We received a letter from Gladis, the little girl we sponsor from Honduras through One Child Matters.  It is written first in Spanish with help from Gladis’ teacher.  Then it is translated to English for us to enjoy.

I typically pull out the letter and start reading it to my family (in English, obviously).  But Matt started reading it, one sentence at a time, in Spanish.  The boys then got to have fun working together to translate it as he read.  They did really well!  It was a fun activity with our lunch, and hearing the phrases in Spanish made it seem as though we were getting to know Gladis more fully.

“The girl Gladis is very happy for your present, and is very happy for your prayers.”

gladis head shot

I find it amazing that I can feel so connected and love someone so dearly even though we’ve never met face to face.  Praying for someone will certainly do that for you!

I’m very thankful for One Child Matters.  Because of them, children’s needs are being met.  Most importantly, these children are learning about Jesus and finding hope.  While our family has the opportunity to bless this little girl, we are finding more and more that she is the one blessing us.  I love how God works!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: The Library

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Confessions:  I took a few years off from going on regular library visits with my kids.  What kind of homeschool mom am I, anyway?

A busy one.  One who works from home and finds that when she’s not home, it’s very easy to get behind on work.  (Imagine that.)  Something had to give, and committing to go to the library regularly was one of them.

Sad, I know.  But we have full bookshelves in five different rooms in our house.  Trust me - we are not without books.  Purchasing books to have for easy school access became much easier than going to the library once a week to get what we needed for assignments.  Books are a great investment, after all.  I don’t mind spending money on good books that we’ll use over and over again.

So here we are, with our full bookshelves, saving a fair amount of time each week on the chore of finding our resources at the library.  I’m grateful to check that off my list of jobs I need to do.  But what about activities we want to do?  Well now, that’s become a different story.

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The past few months, the younger boys and I have started going to the library more frequently again.  We go because we want to.  We go because the boys are older now and have new and varied interests.  We search the shelves, finding books that seem intriguing, and we go home with a big pile.  I love that these books are used in addition to our school books.  These books are “just for fun.”  (You know, because for some reason, we can’t call school “fun.”  Oh please.)

We’ve learned new recipes, become experts on volcanos, tried our hand at drawing comics, learned new card tricks – and by “we” I really mean “they.”  I love watching the boys take off with a book and come back full of new ideas and knowledge.

Today was a library day for us.  Looking at all the amazing books available to us made me pretty excited.  Yep, today I’m thankful for the library - one of the most basic perks of life there is.

And how about you?  What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Gratituesday: Filling the Pantry

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Gardening.  Canning.  Preserving.  Freezing.  Slicing.  It is so much work.

I really don’t have time for this.  But I also don’t have time not to do it.  So I make time, or somehow, as always, God provides the time.  The family pitches in to help, and eventually we get it all done.

The beauty of working so hard to get garden veggies and orchard fruit preserved in the summer and fall is that this winter it will all be convenience food for our family!  It will be super easy to pull these goodies out of the pantry or freezer and serve them quickly with our meals.  That’s why I make the time – that and because it saves us hundreds of dollars.  That’s pretty nice too.  :)

It’s been a few years since we canned any peaches.  We’ve only had enough to freeze some for smoothies.  This year, we got ourselves set for smoothies, and filled several jars to eat plain or with cottage cheese.  These peaches turned out so pretty!

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We’ve made loads of applesauce.  What you see below is barely a sampling.  Thanks to cucumbers a friend passed along to us, we are all set with dill pickles and sweet pickle relish for the year.  I also made a few jars of salsa (my mom’s recipe).  Sometimes, I just open my pantry to stare at all the pretty jars full of food.  That alone makes the hard work all worth it.  :)

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It was ironic that I was gawking at my jars of home-canned produce and taking pictures to share with you today.  Just as I was doing that, the UPS man showed up on our porch with part of our Amazon Subscribe and Save order.  FUN!!  (See many of the specifics here.)

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I snapped a picture of the packaged food (and household items) too.  I thought it would be good to show you those along with my home-canned produce.  Yep, sometimes I rely on packaged cereal on busy mornings.  Sometimes we like chips for a treat.  It’s all about balance, right?

I just LOVE a full pantry, and thank God that he has provided so much (mostly) free produce to preserve.  I also thank Him for the great deals I find online that are delivered to my door.  How fun that I got to stare at so many household blessings for my family today.  Thank you, God for the bounty!

How about you?  What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?

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Whoa.  One more thing to be thankful for:

SO many people were trying to buy the Healthy Living Bundle yesterday afternoon (the last day) that the site crashed, preventing many from completing their purchase.  Boooo!  Because the site wasn’t working properly for several hours, the team has given you a few more hours today to complete your purchase.  That is so nice of them – the team has worked HARD this week, so for them to extend this is a true blessing.  You have until noon today, September 16.

I say we try to go crash the site again, what do you say?  The package is worth it – take advantage of these bonus hours!

bundle extended

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Gratituesday: Apple Time

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At church yesterday, a dear friend stopped me to say, “Laura, if you want apples, I’ve got a tree full.  Come help yourself!”  And so, as soon as we got through the majority of our school work today, three boys and I headed out with bags and boxes.  Below, you will see a big apple tree…and three sets of legs.

apple time

We didn’t have much time, but the four of us picked fast and furious.  Within a half hour, we had 2 big fruit boxes and 5 paper grocery sacks filled!

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You can guess what I’ll be doing the rest of this week.  Applesauce, apple pie filling, apple crisp - oh yeah.  Our house will be smelling good.  Our Victorio will be getting a workout.  Our cinnamon supply will dwindle.

What a blessing to be supplied with so many apples.  Having the chance to pick them with my boys on a bright sunny day was glorious!

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: Restarting With the Newsboys

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One of our family’s favorite Christian bands is Newsboys.  Elias got their latest album for Christmas last year, and wouldn’t you know it?  The title of the album is Restart.  Have you heard this song?  It fits perfectly with our plans to Hit the Restart Button, right?

These song lyrics are great.  The Truth is that no matter what, God can and will always hit the restart button in our lives at just the right time.  He knows what we need.  He knows what is best.  He knows. 

I love that He is so gentle.  I trust Him.  A fresh start with Jesus is just what we need.

What are you thankful for this Gratituesday?  Leave a comment to share!

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Gratituesday: Swimming Season is Over – How I’m Coping

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We have friends who have a beautiful swimming pool in their back yard.  For three years now, they have been so sweet to let our family come enjoy the pool.  Here’s a picture from three summers ago.  The boys were so timid in the water then…

Now?  They are all over the pool – diving, having contests, and playing swimming games.  It’s awesome to watch.  We’ve been away from home most of this summer, so we haven’t had as much pool time as we would have liked.  Now that we’re home and settled into some sort of routine, we’ve gone swimming every chance we could grab.  It’s been great motivation to get our schoolwork done each day.  Ahhh, a fantastic, refreshing reward for hard work - and P.E. at it’s finest.  :)

I love sunshine, heat, Vitamin D, and pool exercise.  But alas, all good things must come to an end, at least for a time.  Tis the time of year for our friends to shut their pool down for the season.  This week we’re experiencing cooler weather – and by cooler, I mean that temps are what most people consider perfect.  Mid to upper 70′s.  Who doesn’t love that?  (me, maybe?)  I do - really I do.  This weather is gorgeous.  I just like 90° best - because I do.  ;)

Recognizing that swimming just wasn’t going to happen today, or tomorrow, or again probably until next summer – and because our house was actually a bit chilly (who knew?) I coped the only way I knew how.  I baked. 

I love everything about summer (like, I crazy love it) – but I do miss baking.  So yay for chillier weather (she said with a half-smile and a shrug).  Today I got to bake!

Malachi and I had fun making Chocolate Graham Crackers.  I’ve been pretty intentional the past few weeks about teaching him cooking skills.  He did most of the mixing and measuring himself, then decided that shaping crackers with cookie cutters would be way more fun than simply cutting them into squares.  But of course.

chocolate bunny graham crackers

Eek, a few got overdone.  My apologies to the blackened bunnies.  We will eat you anyway.

Justus and I made a double batch of Dark Chocolate Almond Granola.  This is so great to have on hand for quick breakfasts and snacks.  The house smelled so good while this was baking!

Dark Chocolate Almond Granola - A Great Make-Ahead Meal

Summer’s not over yet and you can bet I’ll be soaking up as much sunshine as I can during the next few weeks before…oh, I can’t even say it.  La, la, la, I am in denial in my happy, warm place - and that is where I shall stay for now.  But yay for all the blessings (like baking!) that come with the change of seasons.  I love how God shows us His goodness through everything.

And now I want to hear from YOU.  Tell me how you are, how God is working in your life, and what you are thankful for.  Go!

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Malachi’s Lego Party On the Cheap

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Malachi has been planning and dreaming of a Lego party with his friends for no less than two years now.  We didn’t schedule it in though, because I figure, why act in haste?  Also, there is the fact that planning and throwing parties is really not my gift and I very much do not enjoy it.  As a result, every few hours during the past 730 days, Malachi would throw out a new Lego party idea to which I would respond with a look on my face as if he had just suggested we go lick the spoons of people who were currently running high fevers.

Poor kid.  Such great ideas.  Such a boring, non-party type mom.  714 days after Malachi’s party planning brainstorming began, I finally got over myself.  He and I sat down, looked on Pinterest, found some fun ideas, and got to work.  Surely there would be a way to make a Lego party fun, but keep it simple and inexpensive.  Yes, indeed.  (For the record, there are also many ways to make it complicated, elaborate, and spendy – just in case you feel like the 8 and 9 year old boys in your life will appreciate all the time you spent coloring individual, personalized placemats and notice all the tiny details on a cake which you have carved and decorated into a replica of a life-size Lego spaceship.)

One of Malachi’s biggest desires for his party was that we have a piñata.  We agreed to fill the piñata with some of the Legos from his collection that could be played with together once the piñata broke open.  Cost?  Free.  (Okay fine.  Already paid for.)  We also agreed that it was a wise idea to put the Lego pieces into a ziplock bag so that they wouldn’t fly all over the yard with the final blow of the piñata.

Did you know that it’s very possible to make a Lego-looking piñata out of one shoe box, 8 bottle lids, and three pieces of tissue paper?  Malachi decided I was a genius for thinking of this.  I had to agree (with great humility.)

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Who doesn’t love putting on a blind fold and swinging at air?  Every boy got exactly two turns each, and then…

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…the rope I had strung through it popped out and the piñata flew into the grass.  Did you know that if you blind fold a child, give him a wooden sword, and set him lose in the yard, he will eventually make his way to said piñata and give it a whack?  We thought that was perhaps a better plan that having Asa hold the piñata in the air while the kids swung the sword.  (You’re welcome, Asa.)

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We spent a few dollars on colored sacks, cups, and plates.  My artistic ability is very limited, but drawing Lego people faces on cups I managed to pull off well enough.

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I am well aware that little boys at parties are not super interested in “come on to the table, children, and let’s make a craft!”  Still – Malachi and I thought it would be fun for everyone to make a personalized container for their Lego projects at home.  94¢ per container, plus some stickers and contact paper?  No problem.

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The boys had lots of fun and turned out great Lego storage containers.  I’m very sure that now that they have these, they will each and every one do a very good job picking up all of their Legos after working on a project so no one in their households will ever step on a Lego.  Again.  Ever.

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Party food included popcorn served out of a very thoroughly washed Lego bucket, and pieces of pizza that tried very hard to look like 1 by 2 Lego blocks.

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See the jar full of Legos below?  Each kid wrote down guesses as to how many Legos he thought filled the jar.  The boy who guessed the closest got to take the first swing at the piñata.  In case you ever need to know the following recipe conversion:  128 Legos equals 1 quart.

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And possibly my favorite free game/activity:  Malachi gathered all of the pieces of two small Lego sets.  He divided them evenly into 10 plastic eggs.  Our older boys hid the eggs around the yard, then the party goers got to enjoy participating in a L-egg-o Hunt.  It was super fun!  Once all the L-egg-o’s had been found, the boys worked together to put the sets together.

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Malachi was flying high the entire week.  Planning, creating, and executing the party was so much fun for him.  I’m so thankful we were able to do this together. Maybe I shouldn’t wait so many hundreds of days next time to work with him on a fun project like this?

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But wouldn’t you know it.  Our party guests had been gone precisely 3.75 minutes when Malachi, gleam in his eye, asked, “So when should we have the next Lego party?”

Share what you’re grateful for this Gratituesday!

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