Holiday Mother & Daughter Cookie Contest & Exchange

April 3rd, 2017 in About Me, Parties, Uncategorized

The girls and I have been floating around this idea of doing a holiday cookie contest for a few years. I don’t know what made us finally do it this year but it sure was fun! I learned a few new things I’d like to do next year, ways to changed it. I guess you really don’t know how to do an almost 100 attendee cookie contest unless you’ve done it before!

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A week before the party Daybreak called to tell me that they double booked the clubhouse and that I couldn’t do my party that night. I don’t know why I was the one that decided to kick out. They even admitted that I was the first one to turn in the paperwork and payment. They must have called me on an extra sassy day because I wouldn’t let them get away with it. Then let me have the “Glass House” building which they don’t allow people to do parties in. But that way I could still get it done. It took a lot of work to put together–I didn’t want to have to cancel it!

I had four categories of cookies that a Mom & Daughter team could sign up to compete under–Spice, Sugar, Old Fashioned or Mint. For each entry they had to pay a $10 fee. This went towards the prizes and also platters. At the end of the night they received a platter to keep and got to grab other teams’ cookies to take home.

When they came in they submitted their cookies on a clipboard and sat down at a table to do Mother & Daughter games. I have little white boards and games printed out for them to connect with their Moms.

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I had four trees that were decorated in a theme. One tree was a Beanie Boo tree, another tree was an Art supply tree. The third one was a beauty tree and the last one was a baking supplies tree. Each winner of each CATEGORY got to go home with one of these trees.

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But the GRAND WINNER, the best cookie of the night got to take home a grand prize tree. The grand prize tree had all of these things on it—art supplies, baking supplies, beauty products, and Beanie Boos.

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It was such a fun night! I owe my judges BIG TIME! Abby’s two guy friends were judges, my mom, and a wonderful neighborhood friend. Look at all the cookies they had to try!

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We announced the winners and they were so so excited, it was too cute.

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After that we had tables go do the cookie exchange, such lucky moms & daughters! There were SO MANY great cookies!

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I think I’ll do it again! Next time I will have the judges only judge one cookie category and then bring their top two or three to have the other judges try. I will also make sure we are in the clubhouse because there is SO much more room–we were squished. Also, I will do it in November, because December is just too over booked.

Thanks everyone for coming! Check out the video to see all the delicious and beautiful cookies.

 

Christmas Cookie Contest 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Holiday Excursions

April 3rd, 2017 in About Me

 

Salt Lake City has a lot of fun things going on during the holiday season. The museums, symphonies, theaters, etc. have fun holiday events to go to. I tried to be better this year about picking and choosing. Normally I just want to make it to everything! So this doesn’t look like I scaled back but I really did!

Tyler and I like to attend the Lower Lights concert together each year, I think I have been every year they have had one since the beginning (except for the year we lived in Costa Rica). Tyler went out of town last minute so I brought some of the girls with me. You know last December was one of—no probably the worst–most awful times for my mental health. I remember feeling not even human, like nothing inside last year as this concert. I didn’t realize how far I had come until I was sitting at the concert this holiday season and felt like a human again.

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Lower Lights 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

The girls and I went to see Ballet West’s Nutcracker with my mom. I don’t think we will stop that tradition, everyone really enjoyed it again. This was the first year that we brought along all my girls. It is fun that for some things they are all old enough to go to. The sweetest older couple were sitting behind me and gave me a good mom boost. They were so impressed at how good they were and told me so a few times. This does not happen all the time, or even regularly, so it made me feel nice. Well at least for that night, ha!

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I wanted to give the symphony another try with the girls. Last year we went but I don’t think I chose the right type of performance. This year we went and heard the Utah Symphony accompany Cirque. It was so cute because at one point during the performance Cameron yelled, “I am flabbergasted!” It was a hit with them.

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Abby & Cameron attended a cooking class at Salt Lake Culinary Center and each brought along a friend. Last year they did this and also with the same friends! They learned how to make macaroons and Whoopie Pies.

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One night we decided we wanted a little live tree in our house to decorated with our ornaments that are special to use. We live right by this family run farm that we love. We were able to pick a cute little Charlie Brown tree perfect for us.

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The last big thing we did was spend the night at the Grand America. Where we get pedicures, go swimming,  and have breakfast with Santa. It is the most gorgeous, delicious buffet. And I swear it is the easiest and most comfortable way to meet Santa!

 

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Holiday Piano Concert

April 2nd, 2017 in About Me

Abby & Cameron had their holiday piano concert. They were rushing from a dance performance and Cameron chose to play her piano piece in her dance costume. Abby did not want to so had a dress packed. It was a busy day so I am proud of them for being able to pull it off!

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Cameron Piano cmas 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Abby piano cmas 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Shae & Reagan also take piano lessons but are not quite ready for a recital. Their teacher did host a holiday Mickey Mouse Club party for the kids that practiced for a few months in a row 5 times a week. They loved being rewarded for their hard work!

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Party & Present Time!

April 2nd, 2017 in About Me

I have always wanted to make homemade vanilla and had a friend make a batch that she was raving about. She gave me good directions and I decided to do it for teacher & neighbor gifts. It didn’t make as much as I thought or maybe I should have bought smaller bottles. So only about have of our neighbors got this gift. Tyler was excited for me to make homemade vanilla too. But he did find it funny that as the ward’s Young Women President that I was dropping off essentially bottles of alcohol to everyone’s door. I didn’t care if they thought that. But what I DO care about is that the vanilla was used! That was good vanilla, I hope it didn’t get thrown out. Because I would have wanted it back!

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The girls all wrote thank you letters to all the teachers in their lives. From dance to piano to church to their instructors at their math school. It sure is quite a lot of teachers! Here is a snapshot of all their letters guarded by Chip.

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We handed out our bragging Christmas card this year as well. Next year I think I should list how awful each of us are to make up for it.

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This holiday season was full of parties. Each of my daughter’s host a “book club” with neighborhood girls. Since they are homeschooled it helps them still have fun “classroom parties” with their friends. I think this is our third year doing book club and we have always done the same Christmas party. Each of the girls brings a copy of their favorite book and candy wrapped up to exchange.

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Our ward always does such fun ward parties. My friend Alex and her committee threw such an out of this world Christmas party.

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Favorite Thing Parties are really my favorite parties to throw or attend. I love to hear what other people’s favorite things are and take some of them home with me. I was so excited when a friend of mine hosted one and invited me. Look at the fun stuff I came home with!

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During the holiday season Gilmore Girls came out with new episodes (I didn’t enjoy them too much–I need to give them another try & re watch them). A couple friends and I threw a viewing party. We forgot to take very many pictures but it was so great! We did breakfast diner food, hot chocolate, a raffle for Gilmore Girl prizes, and watched the first episode together. I invited Abby to come with me, but the new episodes are way too adult, whoops!

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I also helped a tiny bit with my friend’s daughter’s sweet 16 party. She did a masquerade Ball and I offered to be the palm reader. I know nothing about reading palms but soon learned. It was a hit and it was cracking me up because the teenage BOYS loved it more than the girls! I also had tons of mints at my table, so maybe that is why it was a hit. Can you recognize me as a palm reader?

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The Brown family we have that live in Utah dropped off a present for the girls for Christmas. It was such a cute idea! Their favorite candies along with their favorite animal in plush form. A big hit :)

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My grandparents also stopped by. I didn’t know they were and was so glad I was home! And that my home was somewhat clean. It was nice to see them even if they only stayed a couple minutes.

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Deck the Halls & Our Company’s Party

April 2nd, 2017 in About Me

Last holiday season I overdid it and wasn’t feeling very well from it. During the winter months I have been over looking and coordinating the remodel of a building for our business in Salt Lake. It was very intense so I wanted to do one thing to help me during the holiday season. I have a lot of friends that were friends with a manager at a beautiful interior design shop in Salt Lake. So I asked him if he would do it for me and thankfully he said yes! He did such a beautiful job and it was a helpful to take this job of my plate. We hosted our company’s party at our home this year so he did the dining room for me as well.

Christmas Decor 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

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Speaking of the company dinner, I took that off my plate too. I had my friend’s husband, who owns a catering company (Rockwell Catering), do all the cooking. We served one of Ty’s favorite things–Prime Rib. Handed out Christmas bonuses, did a silly white elephant exchange, and stuffed ourselves full. Our company has grown a lot employee wise since the party. Not sure what we will do next year!

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Our company is TY THE DOG GUY.

Holiday Dance Season 2016

April 2nd, 2017 in About Me

Abby & Cameron are on a dance team called PEEPs at Utah Dance Artists. They have the most wonderful teachers (we love you Ms Heidi & Ms Leslie!) and such a fun group of kids to dance with. The holidays are fun because they get to perform their holiday dances at four places in the area.

They both are on different levels of the dance team and get to perform a jazz & ballet piece each. It is fun to go to a dance show and have a child in 4 out of the 6 dances. Next year when Shae is on the team, I will have a daughter in every dance!

Abby & Cameron worked so hard. It is fun to see how Cameron just turns ON during performances. One day when she was giving Abby some self esteem advice to do with dance she said this. “Abby, just picture how much better you are than everyone else, and you’ll kill it.” Hahaha. When you see Cameron perform you can tell in her head she knows that everyone in the audience is just looking at her like she is a SUPERSTAR. She has the best stage presence.

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Abby stresses about harder dances and worrying about perfecting things. I am always proud of her when she lets go a little and has fun when she is dancing. Usually it takes a performance or two for her to get comfortable, but when she does, she does so wonderfully.

 

Christmas 2016 PEEPs Dances from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Abby Ballet Peeps Cmas 2016 from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

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The girls performed at the Festival of Trees so we got to walk around and look at all the themed trees, wreaths, gingerbread houses, and quilts. They performed at the Dickens Festival where people dress up like they are from the Christmas Carol era. Every year they perform at a retirement home. Lastly they do a Holiday Magic show at a local high school. This year we had some special guests at one of the shows–which normally doesn’t happen. It was so cute to sit with them while watching the girls dance.

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Their dance teams also got to participate in a special photo shoot. They had each team take pictures celebrating a different holiday. Then they use these photos on their dance studio’s social media pages to celebrate holidays.

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I’m so glad my girls have an outlet to stay strong, learn, make friends, and grow.

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I also love that I get to fulfill my classroom mom needs by doing the dance team board. They even let me continue doing it after it doesn’t turn out the best. This Christmas one was not the best.

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P.S. All the girls go to perform holiday dance routines in their classes, links here 

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P.P.S. Reagan also attends the preschool that the dance studio has and I THINK had a really cute Christmas performance. I wouldn’t know because I was in an awful mood that day. And felt like every parent was blocking every other parent from seeing anything. Which annoyed me to no end and I just gave up like a little baby. Haha, but she does look happy doesn’t she?

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Thanksgiving in California

April 1st, 2017 in About Me

We haven’t been to California in a few years and got invited for Thanksgiving. So we hopped on a plane and went! It was nice to be on a plane without a crying child. I still have two kids that I have to watch their feet. And that somehow need to pee 10 times on a flight. But no crying, that is a big step.

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One of my favorite things about my in-laws house is that they live in a neighborhood that is one of my favorite places to walk around in. It is such a beautiful place with really wonderful trees, plants, flowers, etc.

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We always love to see the Brown California cousins. Nicole & Jacob we babysat all the time while we were dating. It is always so weird to see them adult sized. I’m glad they seem to still like to be with us.

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Zack & Allie are so great at playing with my kids and helping them relax and have fun. Allie is hilarious and Zack is the only kid I know that makes me sad I don’t have a boy. I rarely feel like that and he really is honestly the only one that makes me feel that way!

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My in laws have a fun tradition of taking their grandchildren out when they are kindergarten aged. They take them to lunch and buy them a back to school outfit. One fun secret about Shae is she rests her hand on you ONLY if she feels comfortable. So Mom, notice that hand?

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Tyler’s brother Troy is a principal at a local high school in California and had the girls come visit him at work. He gave them books from his current book sale and won major brownie points.

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One day we did some field trips and went to go visit butterflies! I’ve wanted to see that forever because don’t you know? Vanessa means butterfly. There are spots in California where you can see Monarch butterflies settled in for the winter. There weren’t tons of them there on the day we went. But you can see one of the branches and get the idea.

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Then we went close by to explore tide pools and got really lucky! Uncle Troy helped the girls find some cool things. And I helped Shae & Reagan not fall to their deaths off the side of the cliffs.

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One day just our family headed to San Fransisco. Tyler didn’t want to go and didn’t make it too fun. I think next time I will fly in a couple days earlier and hang out there with the girls. We love big cities, wasting the day walking around, and just going with the flow. We did do a bus tour that took us over the famous bridge and we were FREEZING cold. But it was still a cool experience! I also took them to a Chinese restaurant that they were all so upset to be at. But after getting the food and figuring out it was delicious, they were fine.

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Thanksgiving Day I did nothing. It made me uneasy, I don’t like the feeling of not doing anything. But we did eat a delicious feast. And our favorite part, we got to see Grandma and Grandpa Middleton. That makes the whole trip worth it :)

CA Thanksgiving 2016 phone clips from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Halloween Fun 2016

February 20th, 2017 in About Me

We did a few other things for Halloween this year. Going to the Leonardo for their “Spooky Science” exhibit is always a must. When I was editing this photo below, I told Abby, “I am editing a photo of you in the Ghostbuster outfit touching a real human brain. And that is about the weirdest sentence I have ever said.” But here in fact is a picture of Abby in a Ghostbuster outfit touching a real human brain.

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Chocolate Chip and Tyler had a few other Halloween costumes to wear around town.

 

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The girls had a neighbor lady bring them some yummy Halloween treats.

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We went to the pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins for the girls to decorate.

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We had an impromptu photo shoot with Chocolate Chip who was very interested in the Halloween fun outside.

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The girls ate an extreme amount of candy Halloween night.

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This amazing family in our neighborhood turns their home in either a Nightmare Before Christmas or Harry Potter land. This year was Harry Potter and I swear a lot of it was even better than Universal Studios.

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We did a little more decorating inside and outside of the house. Outside we always put up “Ty the Dog Guy with his dogs” and then we do a little decorating inside.

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All of the girls have a book club and each group had a Halloween party. Since we homeschool I host these groups so my girls don’t miss out on fun parties like this.

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Lastly we tried a new thing and did “Witches Tea” at the Grand America. I don’t think we will do it again BUT it was fun to try one time. We got pedicures, played in our new pjs, and dined on a Halloween themed tea.

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Ghostbuster Halloween 2016

February 20th, 2017 in About Me

Remember how much we loved the Ghostbuster movie? The girls agreed to do a Ghostbuster theme for Halloween. And BOY DID WE DO A GHOSTBUSTER THEME FOR HALLOWEEN!

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I searched for pilot uniforms that were tan that I could add some reflective tape to but never could find any. So I found hunting coveralls that were in the right color and added patches & reflective ribbon to those. All the girls wanted to be the “goggle girl” so I found goggles in their favorite colors. The suits at first were way too big but I just sewed them up so they would work.
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Don’t they look so fabulous? 

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We went all out for the house too! I got some ghosts that go on both sides of the windows so it looks like they are popping through. My friend made those awesome green Ghostbuster signs for us. At night I bought some lights so the house would flash up. My friend in the neighborhood painted the pumpkins for me. I dressed up as Slimer and handed out slime instead of candy. And Tyler was a good sport and dressed up as Marshmallow man. For the ward party we even turned out van into the Ghostbuster hearse.

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I don’t think we will do something like this again. I mean **I** have this pretty awesome idea to have the older girls dress up as mad scientists and the younger girls as their monster creations. Then I would turn the inside/outside of the house in a mad lab. BUT I am already outvoted and the girls want to do their own thing next year.

Things I Loved This Fall

February 18th, 2017 in About Me

It has been not my favorite home school year because of the schedules we have. The times that Reagan is supposed to be at school and dance. Then the times that Shae should be at her kindergarten extra circular activities. Then Cameron and Abby’s schedules. Nobodys schedules mesh. I set up this school year to make sure every girl could do their thing. But I didn’t think about having a schedule that would be nice for ALL OF US. So it hasn’t been my favorite home school year but I know how to fix it for next school year. It is fun to see the girls do things they love. Like Abby helping in preschool dance classes as an assistant teacher. Reagan trying to new things and making best friends. Abby being on a dance team with girls she loves. Watching Cameron be so close with Abby through the home school they do together. They are special girls.

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Usually we have free Fridays and we go out in nature for the whole day. But this year we haven’t got to do that as much, which I don’t like. We did get out a few times though in nature during the fall. Which is something I like more than swimming in the summer OR playing in the snow OR having spring come. Fall walks and hikes are my favorite time of the year.

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This was a funny hike because sweet Shae saved me from DEATH. I was walking and about to put my foot down and Shae screamed STOP. Below my foot was honest to goodness the hugest HUGEST spider I have ever seen. So then the hike was over and we ran screaming all the way back down.

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Days at the parks in the leaves is always such fun in the fall. My younger two love parks so much more than my older two did. It is a lot of fun to watch them have fun together.

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During Fall we went to our favorite places. To Cornbellys…

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To the Red Barn to play & buy an extreme amount of apples & cider.

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Then with the apples we have “apple day” where we eat only apples dishes all day long. The girls each make one and my kitchen is a disaster.

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In the girls dance classes they all do Halloween demonstrations. All of those are loaded on y VIMEO account here.

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We headed on over to Peterson Farms by us to play and say hi to our favorite farm animals. We are pretty lucky to have a local farm so close to us that is such a perfect family spot.

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Some friends and I went to a cooking class. I think I like that stuff a lot more than every one else. So it was nice of them to appease me and go.

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We had some lazy days in bed, Thursdays it is a rule that we start things later and sleep in. Thursdays are my favorite.

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We found a little hope around town during the Fall. I hope you all found little glimmers of hope too, it has been an awful few months for our country.


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Beautiful Shae starting growing up and losing teeth!

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We attended new exhibits at museums in the area and the girls really enjoyed the Poison one at Natural History Museum.

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Honey is still plugging along at age 14 and now can stand Chocolate Chip. Not friendly, but can stand.

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Reagan and I get some alone time together for a little bit longer. She isn’t quite old enough to go into all the different things the older girls do. Next year she will be able to do some and the year after she will be all caught up with them. Her birthdate is a tricky one, just 9 days after most cut off days. More time with me I guess!

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We celebrated first snowfalls of the season…in the Fall…come on Utah, knock it off.

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These girls got to have some really cool experiences this Fall with STEM projects, such smarties they will be.

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My sister invited my mom, cousin, and I out to do silly things. We went to a place where you just play games with nerf guns. I am AWFUL but had so much fun.

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The girls and I went to some plays. We saw Anne of Green Gables, Wizard of Oz, and Elephant & Piggie. Elephant and Piggie was adorable and they got all dressed up for it.

 

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The girls and I went to Logan to attend the Pumpkin Walk. The girls all brought a friend and we played in the leaves at the end. Logan is such a beautiful city. This year the theme of the Pumpkin Walk was American Icons. The girls took pictures with their favorite scenes:

 

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2016 Logan Pumpkin Walk — American Icons from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

I took my brother out one fall afternoon and explained to him how Fall was the most important season of all. We drove around sipping on pumpkin drinks, wearing Uggs, and driving with the window down. Then we went to Trader Joes to buy all pumpkin items to try and sway him.

JB from Vanessa Brown on Vimeo.

Those were a few moments from our Fall! My favorite season of the year that this year was a bit glum, but hopefully next year I feel better. I am sure all the different things going on in our country made for a lot of us to have a glum Fall & Winter this year.