Grateful in November

I am nearly caught up on the blog, but I wanted to take a quick time out to take advantage of the season we are currently celebrating. November is when as Americans we stop to reflect on things we are thankful for. I love this holiday…especially since we all have SO much we should be thankful for, but sometimes we get too busy to stop and reflect on what those things are. So…I wanted to post something I’m thankful for for each day of November. Here are my first 15 things…some big, some small…but I am still thankful for them all. In no particular order:

1. My kiddos in their new, matching sweat pants. Portuguese winters are BRUTAL and I tend to get seasonally depressed, so I have to take pleasure in little things to give me joy. I am thankful that we can purchase warm clothes for our kids and I am thankful that they look so cute when they wear cozy clothes.

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2. This little guys new haircut. He wanted to look like some of his favorite futebol stars (he has a few man crushes) and I love seeing peoples’ reaction to his new do. They love it. They all have to touch it (which makes him a little touchy…he really doesn’t want anyone to mess it up…man, he is just like a Portuguese futebol player :) )

IMG_42143. That I live here. I still can’t get over God’s goodness sometimes. Sure, there are days it’s still hard living here, but most days I am just grateful for this precious little city.

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4. Watching Henry play basketball. He has gotten really good and it is just fun to see him and his team grow…they are pre-teens now, not little boys, and I think that makes them all the more entertaining to watch.

IMG_41585. That our kids are not only troopers but they even get excited about doing 5-K’s together as a family. Plus…I just like this picture, it makes me happy. And…we got a funny t-shirt out of the deal. I appreciate that it has a student running in their cape. (the run was back at the end of September, when it was warmer, thus the shorts).

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6. That thanks to pinterest, I can find a recipe for almost anything. Here is the day I made a carrot cake from scratch. It was delicious. Also…I have a cute monkey peeler and the great state of Texas cutting board. It’s truly the little things that delight me.

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7. That we can afford to splurge on something fun every once in a while. Two of Lily’s best friends had birthdays recently and I wanted to give them something “different”. So…we bought them tickets to see the Nutcracker in December. I can’t wait for my date with three precious little girls. (Also…I’m excited because somehow, I have never seen the nutcracker and have always wanted to!)

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8. I love when our grocery store surprises me and has adorable things that look as if they could’ve come from Target. I love these new blankets and know they will get good use this winter as we snuggle up on the couch to watch t.v. or read books together.

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9. I love finding random things on my phone that prove my kids have been using it. I found out Lily made the collage below with the help of her brother (for spelling). It cracked me up. The picture on the top left is from my friend Ana’s concert. It is a group of 7 women that sing traditional Portuguese music, but apparently Lily thinks we went to watch some karate :)

IMG_056710. This is my new sweater. I am smitten by it. It’s comfy and warm and I feel reasonably fashionable in it. Probably my new staple piece for this winter.

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11. I actually love the fact that our last name starts with the letter G. I like all the little g’s around my house…it’s a fun letter.

IMG_427712. I love that this is my second language. I still have so far to go to get to the level I want in the language, but have also come so far. The fact that I am comfortable in this language, that it makes sense to me now, just makes me glad.

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13. My new sauce/dip of choice…homemade guacamole! I’ve spent too many years of my life having missed out on the goodness of guac (hard to believe growing up in Texas), but I’ve done my kids a favor and introduced them to it much sooner and they are all fans!

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14. I love this little section of our kitchen counter. These are three things that wouldn’t be here if it was just me, but they are reminders of the wonderful person I share my life and home with. My husband loves his espresso and tea and….eggs :) (Disclaimer…obviously I would keep eggs in the home for baking, but not readily available on the counter for regular use.)

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15. This picture was taken a year ago. This was one of the first times we had our neighbor Mariazinha in our home and over the past year, we’ve had a blast getting to know this feisty 84 year old better and are thankful that she is in our home regularly now for Bible study.

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What I’ve been reading…

I recently realized that I haven’t done a “book post” in a year. I can’t even remember all the books I’ve read over the course of a year, but I wanted to at least try to catch you up on a few that I’ve recently read and enjoyed.IMG_4241

This book was recommended by a trusted source so I splurged on it and once again, my source did not disappoint. What a wonderful book about a brave, loving, smart, daring girl stuck in the middle of Afghanistan during a time when terror reigned. Great read.

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I bought this book while waiting to board a flight from Prague back to Lisbon. I appreciated that they were selling some books in English and I always appreciate this author so I bought it for in flight reading. Just like all of his other books, there are so many heavy moments in this book. It’s quite honestly heartbreaking, but I’m so thankful that the author is always willing to take you there anyway.

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This book was on clearance while we were in Texas. Timothy Keller is definitely one of my favorites. I have so much respect for him and the way he teaches both believers and non alike. This book provided some great insights into the gospel of Mark and I learned plenty of new things.

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This is the book I most recently finished reading because Mg has heard/read so much about it and the movie…we were intrigued. I don’t want to say much about it because I don’t want to give it away, but I can say this I think: it definitely sucks you in and keeps you guessing till the end, it’s messed up and was hard to swallow for this lover of justice.

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We picked this one up while we were back in Texas because we’d heard so many good things about it. We came back and read this book aloud as a family over the course of a week or two. We were all hooked and everyday wanted to know what would happen to Ivan or Stella, etc. There were times I had to hand it off to Mg because I was crying and vice versa. This is SUCH a sweet story and I would recommend it to everyone with kids the age of mine! Perhaps one of my favorite children’s books!

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Another one we picked up in Texas. I just read it by myself though. I wanted to check it out before handing it off to Henry. I might wait another year or two for him to read it (mainly since he has so many other things on his list) but it was a very good story. A great introduction for kids to start to love policial type books in the future.

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This was another book I picked up while we were in Texas. We were visiting this charming little old mom and pop book store and I felt bad walking out empty handed, so I purchased this classic that I have never read. I wasn’t sure how much I would enjoy it, but I LOVED it. Precious Anne actually had some wonderful spiritual insights into the world. I found myself underlining some of the things she said (not a thing I typically do while simply reading a story). I thought about writing a whole post on the curious insights of Anne, but I’ll spare you. If you haven’t read this classic though, you should :)IMG_4249

 

This was suggested reading for a conference we went to. Let me tell you, once again, how much I respect Timothy Keller. This book is huge…I read it over the course of months and had to highlight and take notes. It’s basically a text book, but SERIOUSLY worth the investment for anyone who has ever thought of church planting.  The insights Mg and I both gleaned from Keller’s thorough research are many.

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The book thief. I basically went through and tried reading a bunch of books that I knew were going to become movies. My rule is to always read before I saw the film and this was one of those books that proved why. I thought the book was incredible. It took me a little while to get into and to figure out who the narrator was, but I just loved the characters and cried right along with their hurts. The movie was merely decent…leaving out a lot of the detail that made you love the characters so much.

IMG_4250Matt Chandler is always, whether speaking or writing, a person who is entertaining, relatable and convicting to the core all at the same time. A great book and how much the gospel message really does matter…to everything.

IMG_4251Agatha Christie is an old faithful for me. Every once in a while I just need to read one of her books for light reading (thank goodness she wrote so many!). I don’t even know where I found this beat up old copy, but none the less…it was an entertaining read. I always love seeing how the crime gets solved…it’s very clever.

IMG_4244My incredibly thoughtful friend Tracy sent me a care package last year which included several Bible studies. I finally got around to doing the study on Ruth. I had never done a study by Kelly Minter but I highly enjoyed it. It was a good mixture of girly enough but also digging deep enough into scripture to actually keep me engaged on a daily basis.

IMG_4258Another book I read because a movie is being made. I won’t lie…it was just okay to me. I will still probably see the movie because I’m curious to see how they portray the ending.

IMG_4259Yet another book turned film, teeny bopper trilogy that I shamelessly got lost in. This book had lots of twists along with plenty of likable characters to root for in their journey to find answers about the life they’ve been given. If you’re looking to be transported to another place for a few days and forget about your own cares for a while, this book should do the trick.

Summertime

What else did we do with our summer you ask. Well…let me show you some snippets.

We tried to go to the beach as much as the weather would allow us. (It was a strangely cool summer…making for some incredibly cranky people who weren’t getting their beach fixes in). We only went two or three times, but enjoyed the times we got.

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We had a “stay-cation” but our friends, the Bustrums, came to stay with us. Some days the weather was bad so we went crazy sock shopping and then bowling. Another day we took advantage of some free museums and later left the kids home and actually went on a double date (can’t remember the last time that happened). But as soon as the sun started shining, we headed out to some tiny, traditional villages where the houses are made of slate and another day we went to the water park where the kids spent nearly the whole day going down the same slide :)

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We were invited by our dear friends Ana and Luc to spend a few days with them in the Algarve. I unfortunately didn’t get many good pictures because their littlest was confined to the hotel with the chicken pox. We did take advantage of our proximity to Spain though and drove over to visit with our friend Christy in Sevilla and to check out their new Costco! It was incredible how much it felt like stepping back into America. The kids and I took advantage of feeding the birds again too. My husband thinks we’re gross…but I think it’s hilarious.

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(it’s challenging trying to take a “selfie” while having birds land on you :) )

We took a little day trip to the city of Tomar to finally explore one of the castles/monasteries that I’ve always wanted to see. It was truly impressive…and huge! Then we found a nice, grassy park and kicked our shoes off for a picnic. Lovely day.

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One of the last weekends before school started one of the families from Cal’s class organized a fun day trip to a river beach. We picnicked and played and just spent the whole day relaxing and soaking up sun with some of our favorite families.

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Summer is always a fun yet challenging time. You want to take advantage of relaxing, but you want to find enough to keep you busy and off of the iPad or tv. Fun things usually cost money though, which doesn’t grow on trees here in Portugal :) We tried to find a good balance of family time and hanging out with others. A balance of eating pb&j’s for a week straight or going out to try fun new restaurants. A balance of staying in and doing projects around the house or getting out and exploring something new. All in all…I think we were able to find that balance most weeks and it was a great summer.

H-town

Any time I hear the reference to my hometown as H-town, I think fondly of my dear mother. Not only because she lives there, but because my mom didn’t know what H-town referred to until I was in college. I feel I did her a disservice for letting her go so long without letting her in on this jargon :) Sorry mom. Anyway, here are some of the pictures from our time in Houston. I’m thankful my brother reserved some of his vacation to come and spend the week with us. As of now, our kids only have ONE cousin, so I’m glad they got some time with her. I’ll start with a picture from the night we showed up and Lily presented my dad with one of her original paintings. It was a sweet moment that brought him to tears :) I think most of the rest of the pictures will be self explanatory.

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One thing Houston has going for it (besides my family being there) is that I also still have a lot of friends there. So do the kids at this point, so it is always fun seeing them as well! So many highlights of the trip, from all of us going to a trampoline park for the first time, to attending our first Houston Dynamo’s game (since our boys are growing up in Europe…the land of soccer…we knew they’d love it…as we all did). We also loved digging out lots of old treasures at my mom’s house from 1970′s clothing to games and classy puzzles…it was fun. Probably the most special thing though was getting to see my dad be baptized. I’ve waited my whole life to see my dad’s life be transformed by God’s grace and am SO thankful that God was faithful to bring my dad to the point of salvation. My dad waited until we were home to be baptized so that we could all celebrate together. Thankful that my kids got to see their grandpa surrender his life to Jesus.

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San Antone’

This summer we were blessed to be able to go back to Texas for a three week visit with family. We spent the first half of our trip in San Antonio with Michael’s family.  His brother used some vacation time to come stay for a week and his sister’s soon to be husband came down from New York to meet us. We had a great time as time in San Antonio is always relaxing…from buying a bb gun to fire in the back yard, to Costco runs, to strolls through the park and long dinners over bbq…I love hanging out with our family there! I have SO many pictures…but here are some highlights….

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Oh my word. We had such a great time…these pictures don’t even show the half of it. From introducing the kids to lazer tag and blue bell bullets, a day at the zoo and visiting with old friends who have an awesome backyard, to shopping summer sales and enjoying amazing Texas food…to playing wrestling games on the xbox with uncles and getting hooked on American Ninja Warrior…to watching deer and hummingbirds from the comfort of the breakfast table, time in San Antonio is always a joy. I confess…though I am from Houston, central Texas is my absolute favorite and if God ever calls us back to Texas some day…I really hope that’s where we can land. I also confess that I’m thankful that our conviction to be in Portugal is strong because there is so much to love about our beautiful homeland, it can be tempting to want to return after a visit. I love the giant playgrounds available to kids, the friendly people and the new food-truck culture. Things like that make Texas that much more inviting. Anyway, it was a wonderful time and I’m thankful the family made so much time to be with us!

Lily bug turns 9

It’s true that our kids grow up in the blink of an eye. Day in and day out, we don’t notice it much, but pictures from their last  birthday make you realize just how much they’ve changed in a year. I can’t believe my Lily bug turned nine this year. We threw together a quick party for her since it was between school ending and us preparing to go to Texas for a visit…and Portugal’s first game in the World Cup (a big deal for all the guys). Here are just a few friends singing happy birthday to her around a Portuguese themed table :)

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For her birthday this year she got a facelift to her room. Colleagues of ours were returning to the states and selling off their less than a year old furniture. We bought Lily a day bed with lots of storage and the ability to expand to a king size bed. It’s awesome. And while in Texas we got new sheets…she’s got a new chandelier, etc. It’s officially a tween room.

IMG_4170She was also thoroughly celebrated and spoiled by grandparents the minute we got to Texas.

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A quick interview with our girl:

What is your favorite subject in school?

Science

What is your favorite color?

Blue/Turquoise

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A photographer or a cafe owner

IMG_3711(she LOVES cooking and serving people coffee!)

Which language do you like better…Portuguese or English?

Portuguese

Who is your best friend?

Tirza

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(Together we simply call them “Tilly” and they both respond)

What is your favorite t.v. show?

Phineus and Ferb

What is your favorite thing to eat?

Chicken and crackers (a casserole I make)

Where do you want to go on vacation next?

Paris, France (city of love)

Who is your favorite singer?

Mumford and Sons

What is your favorite book?

The one and only Ivan

And this is a picture my friend Kim took of Lily this past week that I just love…

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She is really developing into a lovely, full of energy, kind hearted yet spirited, artistic young woman. She still makes little things for us all the time and leaves us notes that are terribly misspelled in English, but sweet none the less :)  She still has a cackle kind of laugh that is unrivaled by anything else in the world. She has a little devotional book that she reads every night before going to bed and has childlike faith. She’s great in the kitchen and is happy to make lunch and coffee’s for everyone. Her personality is still a good mix of Mg’s sister Kathy and me. She’s still timid around strangers and her teacher always tells her to speak louder. She is compassionate to those who get picked on. She’s still the messiest person in our family but we deal with it because she’s just pretty great all around :)  Thank You Jesus for this girly-girl of ours!

Let’s catch up :)

Well…I WAS doing a good job getting the blog going again. I blame summer for getting me off schedule once again ;) I do want to go back and document a few things though. More just for my family than for any readers. I want my kids to have a place to go back and see their childhood unfold a little bit. Even I enjoy going back and reading things that I have long forgotten had happened. That along with the fact that I am just constantly reminded that we lead a pretty wonderful life. All credit goes to God for the adventures we’ve gotten to go on and the sweet friends we get to share life with. That said…let’s catch up starting from after the Easter party to mid June when we left for a trip to Texas.

Mg and I went to a meeting in Prague. We spent a whole week kid free thanks to the amazing generosity of our friends Ana and Luc who kept our kids. Yes, we had meetings everyday, but we still had some time each afternoon to get out and see the city a bit and had fun catching up with some old friends. Prague is a city that’s been on my “must see” list for a while now. So thankful that I got to finally go and experience it’s charm first hand!

IMG_2987IMG_2986IMG_2968My cute kids at our local fair. Don’t mind Cal…he was having a good time, he just doesn’t like to stop for pictures :)

DSC_1821Our friends Kim and Luis had their first baby. Sweet little thing!

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A free Academica game?! Yes please.

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A lazy dinner while watching three stooges in 3-D. So thankful that they are still stooge fans after all these years!

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Mg and I could finally get downtown more now that the rain had stopped. This is from a date we had one day…finally trying a cute restaurant that’s been on my radar! (Sometimes he likes taking pictures as much as Cal.)

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My boys spent the spring and majority of the summer collecting stickers for their World Cup book. This is the day they FINALLY got Cristiano Ronaldo’s sticker. So exciting!

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Dropping Henry off for a birthday party at the science museum. Sometimes I realize I have started taking my city and the beauty around me for granted, then other times I have to stop and remember how cool it is that I’m dropping my 10 year old off at a party in this historic old building. Things that wouldn’t be happening if we still lived in Texas.

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We spent a whole day amongst incredible company. Henry had his annual basketball tournament where there are normally lots of inflatables for the kids to play on. We invited two of our favorite families to join us. While normally I have tons of pictures of the kids, this year I don’t for some reason. Partly because they ran off all over the place. Also because it was so windy the inflatables weren’t up half the time. While my tendency is to get frustrated that things aren’t going like they should, our friends have such a great, go with the flow attitude and made the day fun even if we just sat in the grass most of the day. Below are two of my dearest friends, Ana and Sofia.

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Man. I must be used to living here. I’m noticing I am taking fewer and fewer pictures as the novelty of things has worn off :/ Here are the few pictures I captured from our kids’ end of year parties at school. I just love them and all their little friends SO much!

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We only made it to our local medieval festival for about an hour before the sky unleashed, but it was fun while it lasted!

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Well, that about sums up our spring. Next up, summer!

1,000 Gifts (numbers 600-650)

607. Calvin’s crazy dance moves

610. finding old notes/reminders tucked away in books

611. worship songs that move me to tears (currently “oceans” by Hillsong)

615. my family in hoodies…they’re so cute and cuddly

618. the West Point Cadets that come to Coimbra

621. Bright colored patio charis

627. encouraging Lily’s creative side (via art lessons) and the beautiful paintings she brings home

630. my daddy’s salvation…proof of God’s faithfulness to pursue us and answer prayers

631. my husband in the kitchen…watching Jim Gaffagan’s “hot pocket” video over and over again while he cooks

632. the beautiful sunsets against the thousands of spires in the Prague skyline

634. my boys’ collection of futebol scarves

646. the rumble of thunder and summer rain

647. little polka-dotted deer

648. the scratchy wet kisses of dogs

649. Texas fields with hay bales scattered about

Easter Parties

We had a wonderful weekend celebrating Easter (just a week early). We were blessed to have three of our friends from Texas come with lots of supplies in tow to help us host 5 different Easter parties. We did a small one for café inglês, a special dinner for our Bible study group, then we did two BIG family/kid parties on Saturday and helped the local church we attend host one in their neighborhood on Sunday. We had an absolute blast just getting to love on so many kids over the weekend. Below are a bunch of pictures so you can get an idea of the fun we had, from making bunny ears, decorating cookies, playing pin the tail on the bunny, a bunny sack race, doing crafts, listening to the Easter story and of course hunting for eggs. We just love all of our kids’ friends and feel blessed to be able to host things like this for them. Hope you enjoy the photos!DSC_0981

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10 year old Henry

Henry is at such a great age!   Just wanted to highlight some of the things Henry is into these days.DSC_0914

Above he is showing off his “big” birthday present…a kindle fire.  Mg and I are both happy that he has turned out to be a reader (a child after our own hearts) and thought this would be a great way to keep him stocked with books in English since they are harder to come by over here.

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He is going on his third year of basketball and it has been really fun to see how much he has developed in his b-ball skills!

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He is still an animal lover and when we told him we were going to skip throwing a big party this year but told him he could pick a fun activity to do, he chose the Lisbon zoo.  Here we are with the friends he decided to bring along.  It was such a fun day and I loved the random animal facts he was able to share throughout the day.  (He also still loves watching Nat Geo Wild…just yesterday I picked him up and he said, “I have to hurry and do my homework because “America the Wild” is coming on at six.”)DSC_1799

In case you were left wondering how far we’ve come from him living in the corner of a purple bedroom, just wanted you to see that he has come a long way.  He still has to share a bedroom, but it is an all boy bedroom and I just love it!  (you can even see the duct-taped basketball hoop hanging on their bed!)

A few other things you can see in this picture…we just recently got through to him how handsome he looks when he does his hair…he is a leftie (notice his watch)…his favorite color is currently orange…and he’s such a cute, “euro” boy…I just love his skinny jeans!

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 Just this past week he finally mastered the art of blowing a bubble and he is so excited!  I suppose that’s a type of right of passage for kids :)

He is also an avid lover of board games (we are excited he can play strategy games like Catan with us).  I can see bits of my grandfather and brother in him…he loves, and is so GOOD, with little kids.  I can see bits of Mg’s brother in him in his love of all things computer…even taking things apart and putting them back together.  I still LOVE when he gets to laughing about something till he cries.

One last pic…here he is making our friends little girl crack up.  I just love it.

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A quick interview with my 10 year old:

What is you favorite subject in school?

Math

What is your favorite thing to watch on t.v.?

Nat Geo Wild

What is your favorite board game?

Ticket to Ride

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Zookeeper

What is your favorite color?

orange

What is your favorite food?

spaghetti and meatballs

Who is your favorite futebol player?

Calvin :)

Portugal vs. USA…who do you root for?

Portugal

Where do you want to go to university?

A&M (we’re doing something right at least ;) )

What is you favorite drink?

root beer (poor guy…he can’t get that here)

What is your favorite animal?

otter

What is your favorite book?

Harry Potter

What is your favorite place to go on vacation?

Disney World (well…he’s got some Burkhalter in him ;) )