Happy Thanksgiving!

Swasko Family, Thanksgiving Dinner

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Let the feasting begin!

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This is a Christmas dress my mom made me when I was just about Clara's age…and now she is wearing it!

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Clara's first Thanksgiving dinner…she had it all – tofu patties, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, corn casserole, cranberry sauce, stuffing…and she ate ALL of it!

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Out on a walk with Papi…

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Reading with Aunt Krissy…

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Playing…

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Football is a Thanksgiving must…

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wheelbarrow ride!

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Guess what all of these grown ups are doing?

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Watching Clara swing!

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This is the answer!  in case you read my november post…THIS is why Clara always makes the "I don't know! where? or who?" gesture…Mimi always makes it with her! 

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Rhea Family, Thanksgiving Lunch 

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Mamaw and Papaw and their grandkids

Rhea's-Grandkids 

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Piggy face!

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the most adorable nephew ever…

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two generations of great Rhea men…

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we won't discuss this one.

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Playing with Ace at the Daniel Gallery…

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Date night with the siblings…

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Thank you Lord, for so many sweet blessings!

Clara Turns 1!

My first birthday party was so much fun!  All of my friends were there, and so was all my family!  I can't believe I'm 1…it was a great year!

We had my party in Zone, Jr. at the church.  Mom said this room would be perfect because there is a giant squishy mat over the whole floor…I guess she thought we might be falling a lot!  Here are some pictures…

Uncle Eric, Papi, and Gene set up the ball pool…

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Here I am in the ball pool with Dylan – that thing was COOL!

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Whoa!  The bounce house was really funny…it felt weird and made me giggle!

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I had lots of help feeding me my lunch…

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After playing for awhile, it was time for the CAKE!  I had never had anything like that and it was YUM-MY!  Everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to me.  I didn't quite know what to think of it but everyone clapped at the end and I knew what to do then!  So I started clapping, too! 

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Boy, that cake was GOOD and MESSY!

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Here I am doing one of my favorite things – playing with Mimi!

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It sure wears you out to be the birthday girl!

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Next, we opened up presents.  Everyone was so sweet and gave me way too much! 

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Thanks everyone for your sweet words and gifts and most of all, your love and care!

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Pink!  I love Pink!

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My first purse – YES!!

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I also got my first doll – can you tell I am excited? 

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Unwrapping is the best part!

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Now…back to playing!!  WOOHOOO!

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Sophie and I thought it was funny to play in the puppet house…

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Me and Devon

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Drew!

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Helen Kate…

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My two grandpas…they're the BEST!!! 

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Makenna!
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all the Dads hanging out…

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Here mom is with Kristi…I head mom say about a million times this past year, "I don't know what I would do without Kristi!"  I guess Kristi is really good at being a mom…all I know is I like playing with Audrey and Paige!  Whatever advice Kristi gives must be good because I've had a great first year!

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Me and Aunt Krissy – and one of Papi's awesome decorations!

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My Rhea family!  Mamaw and Papaw, Great-Grandma, and cousins Aidan and Sophie…

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and of course, Uncle Larr and Aunt Chris!

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November

wow…november was so long ago!  but I am DETERMINED to get caught up!

These pictures are entitled: Blueberries: One Thing I will Never feed Clara Again While Outside of a Bathtub.

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She was, quite literally, dyed blue for the next few days.  Her cheeks looked like they had bruises on them and I was so scared someone was going to report me to CPS!

Here Clara is at her 1 year check-up with her doctor, Stephanie Rutherford.  Her check up went great!  She was 23 lbs., 9 oz. (on October 28th) and 30 inches long.  We LOVE Dr. Rutherford and her nurse Casey! They are so incredibly sweet and have taken such good care of Clara this year!

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Mimi came and played with Clara at the church for a few hours before she had to go home…

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The weekend of Halloween we went to the lake house.  We originally had planned on going camping because the weather was so gorgeous, but totally chickened out.  We decided with a one year-old, that might not be the best plan.  I am SO glad we decided that!  We still got to enjoy being outside, though, by taking a day trip to Daingerfield State Park, about 30 minutes from the lakehouse. 

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There is a hike around the lake that we attempted.  Clara's idea of a "hike" is not so much moving forward towards a destination, but thoroughly exploring every little rock, twig, leaf and piece of dirt within a ten foot radius of wherever she is on the trail.  Needless to say, we didn't make it very far, but it was so much more fun watching her explore and get so excited about everything she was discovering…at least, it was once we gave up all hope of actually getting anywhere ;)!

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After awhile, she decided we were having way much more fun walking than she was riding in the carrier and was DONE with that. 

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Nothing like hangin' out with Dadley…

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Here she goes exploring…

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Time for a picnic!

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And now…more exploring and playing!

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Lil' treehugger :)

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I can't even begin to describe how much this girl loves being outside!

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It was a wonderful day outside immersed in beauty, but we were happy to get back to the lakehouse…where Clara found something super fun to play with: a shoebox!

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It's juuuuuust the right size!

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This was her favorite face in November.  It cracked us up everytime! (especially with the accompanying "Ahhhhhhhhh" sound). 

Don't believe me?  Check it out!

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ok…back to the post…. :)

mmmmmmmm….smores!  this was the night that Tech beat t.u.  I've never felt so conflicted on who I wanted to lose more. 

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And then…the day we had been waiting for and excited about and anxious about for the past 4 years…November 4th, election day.  I woke up with Hope and looked forward to what the day – and the next four years – would hold.  I will let Brian blog about that day in a separate post.

I'll just include a few pictures of our party.  We put up our flags and streamers and had themed food: purple punch (for unity!), George Washington apples, Samuel Adams beer, Barack-amole (guacamole), Yes-We-Queso, and black bean tamales (I'll let you figure that one out).  Kristi and Eric came over (pretty much our only Democrat friends that live around here) to celebrate with us and watch the returns come in.  Brian and I laughed that it was one of the very first elections that our guy actually won (we live in the 2nd most Republican-populated county IN THE NATION).  It was so exciting!  And especially exciting to think of what is to come!  

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We went to a marriage conference that weekend that was really cool – gave us lots of good discussion!  The following weekend I went to the Right Now and FUSION Lead Now Conferences that were held at IBC.  Even though I was sick (bad cold), I still went to about half the sessions because I just couldn't stand to not hear Erwin McManus, Margaret Feinberg, and Francis Chan speak…it was so cool to see in real life these people whose writings and ideas had so inspired me.  I am still so sad that I missed Don Miller and wish I had just taken some more Dayquil and gone for it!  I am still mulling over some of the things that McManus said. 

In between, Clara got her first busted lip!  We were over at our friends the Weaver's house, and Clara fell on a step and hit her lip.  I felt so bad for her!  It swelled up pretty good.  She also fell in their driveway and skinned her hand and finger for the first time.  I think we decided they should come over to our house next time, instead ;)  Their kids are just a little older than Clara and they are SO SWEET to her!  It is precious to see them playing with her and trying to help her.   

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And then she got a nice scab for a couple of weeks…

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Clara got her very first fork and spoon.  She loves to use them as musical instruments and she loves to hold them in one hand while shoving food into her mouth with the other hand, but hasn't quite got the hang of actually using them as a fork and spoon yet.  But she'll get there! 

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These are my favorite times…

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Just a week after the election, we had another great reason to pull out the blue star ribbon and flags…our good friends and my boss the Lindsay's became U.S. citizens!  They are originally from South Africa, and have been living in the U.S. for over 10 years.  It was awe-inspiring to hear them describe the swearing-in ceremony, where people from dozens of nations were represented.  What an incredible country we live in!  And it was thrilling to get to spend such a special night with them.  We met them and another couple to celebrate at Red Hot and Blue – appropriately American BBQ! 

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Clara loooooves playing with Rebekah!

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We had a fun date night that Brian planned…a "Progressive Dinner" on Main Street in Grapevine.  We started with drinks at a wine bar, then moved on to dinner at a really cool bar called Willhoite's, and then were supposed to have dessert at a bakery, but we were loving Willhoite's so much we just stayed…so I can't say that we really "progressed" that far!  Afterwards, we went to the viewing area at the airport and laid on a blanket watching planes go over above us. I'm pretty sure the other couples there were in high school…not really sure what that says.  It was very cool!

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The rest of the Swasko's had taken care of Clara while we were out, so when we got back, we took family pictures for her 1 year birthday-since she would be turning 1 the next day!

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oh poor girl, she has no idea what kind of family she was born into!

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And then that miraculous, wonderful day was there…Clara was ONE YEAR OLD!!

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I took her to the church for her class, and came into their room at 9:45.  We (her teachers and I…the kids were definitely clueless) sang "Happy Birthday" and I hugged her tight..and cried, tears of happiness and gratitude.  What a precious, perfect gift God had given us. 

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Forward facing car seat now!

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I'm going to do her birthday party in a separate post. :)

So…I never imagined that the first time i would ever go toilet-papering in my life would be as a 29 year old grown woman…at my boss's house…with church staff.  Heck yeah we did.

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Clara, on the other hand, got a much earlier start than me. Please don't report me to CPS.

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Our Children's Staff had a surprise party for Gary and Heidi to celebrate their new American citizenship.  It was way fun, complete with hot dogs, poppers and heartfelt, loud (and some might even argue bad) renditions of "God Bless America" – like the 4th of July in November!

Clara's great-Uncle Wesley (Brian's uncle) made her a rocking duck, and she loves it!

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November was a really neat month in ministry.  Things slow down a little having gotten through the craziness of promotion and the start of the new year, and we're able to tackle some of those big projects we've been wanting to get to.  One of those was starting curriculum in our nursery ministry area (birth – 2 year olds).  This was something I'd been wanting to do for awhile, and it was so incredible to get to be a part of making that happen.  We planned lessons, prepared rooms and activities, and trained teachers, and it was so exciting to see them and parents getting excited about it, too.  So now, from the very youngest age, kids at Irving Bible Church will be learning that God made them, loves them and wants to be their friend forever.  It drives me nuts how many people (even churches!) dismiss preschoolers because they don't think they can "get" it yet… the only reason they're not learning is because someone isn't willing to share it with them.  These kids are so capable, and it is powerful to see even 1 and 2 year olds loving God and loving worshiping Him, and beginning to believe, forming that foundation for faith.  My prayer for all of them is that their testimony one day will be, "I don't remember a time I didn't love Jesus…"

And as much as I was loving work, it was time to take a week of vacation, and had the MOST PRODUCTIVE WEEK EVER!  It was such a GREAT feeling!  Brian and I do good on a weekly basis just to keep up with the basics – laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning – which doesn't leave a lot of room for those big projects that just seem to pile up.  So that week I was able to clean out/organize the garage, my closet, Clara's room (putting away all of her "baby" items…sniffle sniffle), a couple of kitchen drawers and cabinets, my car go clothes and shoe shopping, get ready for CJ's party, paint the guest bathroom, organize our pictures, do Christmas shopping, put together her baby book and a few other things (I had a 4 page To Do list).  My mom kept Clara one day while I hit 17 stores for various errands!  I was also able to take Clara to the park and play with her all I wanted, which were the best parts!  I never thought I could enjoy a vacation like that, but it was very oddly satisfying to cross things off of my list and to get to bless Brian…does this make my metamorphasis into an old fogey complete?! 

Here we are playing peek-a-boo…

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As you probably remember from the buckethead video, Clara loves wearing the bucket on her head…and baskets…and pretty much anything that isn't a hat or bow.  We'll just be sitting in the living room, and in she walks…bucket on head.

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I love this profile pic of Clara (even though she will probably hate me for it one day) but I just love how she sticks out her little belly.  It literally leads her around – she walks with it stuck out in front like she is being pulled by some invisible string out of her belly button.

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Clara wanted a snack, so she found one.

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Note: full bag of cheerioes making a sea around her

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We decorated the church for Christmas!

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I heard that high-waisted pants are coming back in style.  Clara did, too.

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She loves playing the piano her great-grandma Rhea gave her!

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She likes to turn the music on and then dance to it…she has a new dance where she kinda half-sways, half-twitches in each direction – soooooo cute.

She loves playing with her Dad!  She laughs and laughs when he flips her upside down…

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Thanksgiving was the next week and I'll just make a separate post of that :)

Perhaps the greatest new development this month, and possibly so far yet, was that she started giving kisses.  Nothing can make my heart soar like getting a kiss from Clara!  The first time she did it was the night of her birthday party.  She got her first baby doll from cousins Aidan and Sophie, and when she was playing with it that night she leaned over and gave her a kiss…we were stunned!  It was so sweet!  It was like she knew that is what you do with babies – give them big ol' kisses!  So of course we started asking for kisses then.  She is a lot more stingy with us than plastic dolls, pictures in books and stuffed animals, but still…we'll take whatever we can get.  She also LOVES giving kisses to other babies.  Even before she would really give us kisses, she would go after her friends Helen Kate, Nathan and Drew.  Talk about making our hearts melt!

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She lurched out of my arms to try to give Drew a hug…

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November rounded out with the start of Advent.  We had an event at the church to kick off the season of preparing for the coming of the Chirst.  It is an experiential, family-oriented event, and it was super neat.  It was the first time Clara was in church with us, and it felt so right and so whole.  I loved it.  After the short service, everyone was dismissed to the Town Square (common area) where lots of different interactive stations were set up.  I was in charge of the Live Nativity one, which turned out to be pretty cool, even with the alpaca-dressed-like-a-camel ;) 

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Clara liked the live nativity, too…

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Winding evergreen branches through a wreath, to symbolize everlasting life and the green symbolizing hope and new life…

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November was a big month for the birthday girl.  She started pointing and gesturing for things very well.  She wanted to read books more often, which really excites us, though still no more than a few pages at a time.  But she will come over with a book and hand it off, then turn around and scoot backwards until she plops down in your lap.  Here is Aunt Krissy reading to her:
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I can't believe I haven't written about this yet:  she said her first word!!  On Saturday, November 1st, several times very deliberately and very clearly said, "NO".  I couldn't believe THAT was her first word!!  What in the world?!!  I have said "I Love You" about a bajillion times more than i have said, "No," yet there it was…her very first word.  I don't think that bodes well for our future!  At first I wouldn't believe it, but she said it while shaking her head and even doing the hand crossing gesture of "no," and it was in response to not doing or wanting something…she KNEW what she was saying. *sigh*

She has been saying "mommy" and "mama" and "daddy" for awhile, but she doesn't associate those with only us.  In fact, I think she thinks "mama" means "person" or "me" because everyone she points to she says "mama" and LOVES to point to herself and say "mama" (imitating me, of course). 

By the end of November she was also saying "Hi," which she normally drags out for two syllables. 

Another gesture she picked up was in response to any question like, "Where is your cup?" or "what happened to your toast?," she raises both hands up like, "I don't know! who knows?" it is so stinkin' cute and I have no idea where she got it from, because we didn't do it very often (not like we have done the signs for "please," "thank you" and "more" a jillion times that she has NEVER repeated).  

That was our month! 

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Come See My Park!

This is the park near my house.  I love to play in it!  Do you want to visit?

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First we have to go swing!  I reach my arms up and whine…

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Push me higher, it makes me laugh!

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Now it's time to climb!  That is my favorite part.  I could climb all day!

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Watch me go across the bridge.  Aren't I a big girl?  Why does mom stand so close to the edge?

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Time to go down the slide.  Whoa!  It goes fast!

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Mom laughs a lot when I go under the slide.  I don't get it…something about lots of static electricity…

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Whew!!  I'm tired now!  Sometimes its nice to just take a break on the side…

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Thanks for coming to visit my park today!

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