Tweens are no bottle of wine!

We are approaching an ambiguous period of childhood where innocence is fleeting and attitude is sprouting right up. Many times when I blog, I reflect on the abundance of blessings my sweet, little children bring me. The good times do always outweigh the bad. But, as of July, I’m beginning to wonder if the body odor is also bringing more than just deodorant! Unlike wine, these tweens aren’t getting better with age!

Lately, we have been experiencing some tween-behaviors.

  • moodiness

  • whining, complaining, and overall discontentment

  • talking back

  • getting irritated by normal, daily expectations, from showering to do a grand total of 2 chores

  • some huffing and puffing

  • refusal to take a picture smiling, or even be in a photo

  • activities and outings they used to enjoy aren’t fun anymore if they aren’t with friends

  • and even, “I have my first pimple”!

Is anyone else dealing with this? Life may have not been easier but it sure was simpler when I sent them to the bottom of the stairs for time-out and they hated being without us.

We are getting to a point that if friends aren’t in the picture, be it here at our house or even what I would deem a fun outing, they just aren’t going to have fun. Not yet, I’m thinking. I’m not ready for this….We are still fun and cool. Why can’t you be more appreciative? The influence of their peers on their moods is just annoying…. yet, I can recall doing the same thing. Just because it’s developmentally appropriate doesn’t make it easy.

*(Notice Brody’s face below: not happy and never wanted to do this in the first place! And, in the second photo, they are both walking back to the trail to go because “it’s too hot” and they won’t pose with the beautiful 17 acres of sunflowers! Urgh!)

It seems like we are just on the cusp of change. Middle school is right around the corner. And while I do want them to be independent, it would be nice if there was just more time. I knew I wanted to freeze them a couple years ago. I was aware that periods of ease and happiness couldn’t last. Yet, recently, I find myself readjusting as they also shift into an older type of kid, and I’m having growing pains too.

What are we to do? Well, we can commiserate. That seems to make our kids seem less annoying to know that there are others out there doing the same things! Then, we review family expectations. I recently reminded my lovely angels that following first request isn’t a wish; it’s an expectation. Sadly, we often move on to consequences (which means more chores, and/or loss of electronics in our house).

We also have to speak to our kids when they are happy and calm, asking them what’s going on and what we should do differently. Just yesterday morning, Brody left for soccer in a foul mood only to arrive back home 2 hours later in a great mood. I asked him what changed within the past 2 hours and he said he guessed he just needed time to wake up. (We will wake up earlier next time then!) Speaking of, we really have to make sure they are getting enough rest. Proper sleep and downtime makes a huge difference to Brody, especially. An oddly enough, I still have to make sure to feed my children regularly with decent foods or they crash. They are yet to regulate this on their own.

Lastly, and most importantly, I remind myself that we are constantly changing. They are growing and that means I too am changing as a parent. Just like when they were babies, we have good days and bad days. We have outstanding moments and times we’d just like to fast forward. But, for now, I’ll just pour a glass of wine and accept that these moods and friends aren’t going away anytime soon!

“Parentingisnotfortheweak!

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Simple

First, listen to ‘Simple’ by our local Emily Ann Roberts!

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Awaking again at my leisure, not too early and not too late, I get to sip at my fresh cup of French Roast and browse the internet. Again, we have no plans for the day. We’re in no rush to get out of our pj’s or even eat breakfast. And, the biggest decision will be what to eat for dinner.

Summer is wonderful….simple. It’s exciting, and slow. It’s hot, humid air and cool, fresh water. It’s friends, and silence. It’s fresh veggies, and treats. It’s books, and Netflix. Yes, and we love it all!

In less than a week, Brody has another MRI. This one will around 8 months instead of the scheduled 6 months. When we called to make the appointment months ago, she was that booked up. And when the receptionist put me on hold to ask Dr. Savage if it was ok to wait this long, she came back on the line to ask if he’s having any symptoms. No (knock on wood), I replied, so we are some of the lucky ones who can wait. Of course we want her dedicating her time to those who cannot wait; Brody was that emergency patient once.

It’s nerve-wracking every time, indeed. It seems like an eternity and only yesterday we were in that waiting room at Children’s. So, there is anxiety again. This has been the longest break so we are out of practice. It’s sneaking up, but Brody doesn’t even realize it. He’s living his simple day-to-day life….blessings.

Yesterday, we did a quick day-trip to Frozen Head, sticking to my plan of a good ole’ Tennessee summer, a simple summer. Brody’s best friends are 13, almost 14, and 11. They spent the afternoon wading through the shallow creek, flipping rocks and searching for crawdads. The sound of the creek and woods was all you could hear; no one was there. It was quiet, slow, and most definitely simple. What’s great is that they are that easily entertained. Kids are quite simple too, even 13 year olds!

It takes less junk (entertainment systems, devices, toys, gadgets, bells and whistles) than parents realize to keep our kids happy. They ended the day by all chasing and catching fireflies and jumping on the trampoline in the dark.

Brody’s diagnosis 2 years ago changed me in many, many ways. One of those is that I realize we don’t have to stay busy-busy to not be bored. So, our summers will be different than most. No camps. No schedule. We won’t have an outing every day. We will do whatever we feel like that day. We’ll be spontaneous, a little bored, lazy, and just see what happens. Because so far, it’s working out for us.

Just like I believe this Monday will work out for us too. Simple.

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#LIVINGFORTODAY

#FRIENDSFAMILYLIFE

Is 2nd grade the new 4th for girls?

drama.jpg

You people working in schools know what I’m talking about. Recess drama and female friendships that flip-flop daily or by the hour! Girls who are drama queens and TELL their friends who they can and cannot play with. And, then there’s the girl who is always the victim; someone is ALWAYS being mean to her. Or, she NEVER gets to play! (poor me…) Girl drama is tough!

Is 2nd grade the new 4th grade?

It’s interesting that women night say 50 is the new 40. Time is moving backwards. But, in adulthood, it’s a positive idea embodying self-righteousness and true self-awareness. And with all the age-defying tricks, you can even make your self look younger while also feeling wiser!

For young girls, many are trying to grow up too fast. They want to be pre-teens when they are really still kids. We are seeing drama queens at a younger and younger age. It’s like it’s contagious. There’s always been the pecking order but now instead of 4th or 5th grade, it’s 2nd grade.

As a counselor, my “guidance” box is littered with notes about friendship problems each week. And, yes, all grades experience friendship issues at some point but the majority of friendship problems are 2nd grade girls. What some parents may label “bullying” is really more like power struggles, where both parties are at play. There are many power-hungry girls who want to be the boss yet lack the empathy and leadership skills is takes to navigate through making decisions. Are they all like this?

We want our girls to be confident decision-makers. But, most 2nd grade girls haven’t figured out how to act self-assured and assertive while also being kind, fair, and humble. We want our girls to play fair, take turns, share friends, make new friendships, and be happy…. yet so many are not at such a young age.

This is the part that I know I’m about to curse myself so I’m knocking on wood. Our time will come I’m sure…. In fact, we are almost guaranteed a nightmarish teenagehood because our 8-year-old is just so responsible, kind, and also confident now!  I work with countless girls her age, I know I do not have a drama queen. I know her friends find her nice. And I know this because I am fortunate enough to be right there hearing it and seeing for myself. Thank goodness she’s not one of the ‘ALWAYS’, poor-me, ‘I’m not your friend anymore’ girls!

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And, thank goodness she also has a couple of friends, not a ton, who are the same way. They still have a simple innocence, soft delivery, yet old-soul approach towards friendship. In fact, I noticed recently that her absolute best friend in the whole world wasn’t playing with her a recess. For almost 3 years now, they have played with each other (kid-you-not) every single day of recess. They were only in the same class together one of these 3 years but they always reunited on the playground.

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You could usually find Anna and Kate hand in hand on the playground. They greeted each other running with arms stretched out like in a movie. They hugged and played every single day until a couple of weeks ago. The streak has ended. Anna said nothing about it but I noticed, being that I walk past the playground upon entering and leaving my room at our school. When I noticed that they were playing in different areas and with different girls, I was very surprised. I worried there must be trouble in paradise. But, these are 2 girls that have never had a fight. In fact, I have never heard them even bicker or have a disagreement.

When I asked Anna about it, she just said plainly that she was playing with 3 other girls from her class. There was no reason. And when I asked Kate about it out of curiosity a week later when she was playing at our house, she also said plainly that they are playing with other people, and “that’s fine”. This is NOT the way things normally work. No jealousy? No hurt feelings? No tears, no blame, no ‘always’/ ‘never’ threats!? This is not how 2nd grade girls operate!

So, for now I consider myself very lucky. Their 4th grade year may be the one, the one I used to dread! But for now, I will take this mature, sweet, and simple approach towards friendship and life. I appreciate so much these kind girls who don’t want to stir the pot or cause trouble. I love girls who aren’t fueled by drama and they know they are enough; they aren’t always needing to be the center of attention. They don’t need to get caught up on every minor issue that life throws out or a mean girl chooses to test them with. Thank goodness for girls like Kate and Anna. They aren’t all drama queens.

XOXO

Reunion

I had the nicest surprise reunion at the post office this morning. Upon entering the door, I was greeted by a dear former student. This charasmatic boy moved to America in 3rd grade. He instantly made friends with his winning smile, positive attitude, and excitment for learning.

He was the only Hispanic child in a new-student, ESL friendship group  (but I think I’m the only one who noticed this)! The other kids, refugees, were all from the Middle East. But, the language and the cultural barriers didn’t stop this amazing group from quickly bonding. I was fortunate to be able to spend time with this funny crew for 30 minutes once a week. What wonderful memories I have from our time together, despite the mediating I sometimes had to do. But, this short, bright-eyed boy, A., got along with everyone!

And based on the greeting I got today from this middle school boy, I’d say he must have good memories too. This cute boy ran up as soon as our eyes met and he gave me a BIG hug. He immediately asked me how Pond Gap, his Alma matter was. He was surprised when I told him I wasn’t there anymore but he continued to chat about being “excited about Tcaps coming up”. (Who is this kid?! A hug from the middle school boy and he’s excited about school?!) He’s playing soccer and loves school. What a great kid, destined to do great things.

When he was at Pond Gap, this same group did the talent show when they sang THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOU BEAUTIFUL! A.was the lead singer that stole eveyone’s hearts with his winning dance moves! They are beauty to me.

The appreciation and excitement this kid has for living is contagious. One would never know he moved from Columbia just a couple years back as he quickly tested out of ESL class. He is outstanding, and it made my day to see he’s still got his glow. I think he kind of shared it with me today.

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”- BUDDHA

This quote sits by my bedside. It was the card from the first bouquet of flowers that Bo ever sent me. And, it’s so true. Happy to have crossed paths with A. today. He came to give me one more hig before I left; he made my day just a little brighter!

#thisismyAmerica

#immigrantsandrefugeeswelcomehere

#awesomekids

Each kindness CONT.

Nothing too complicated. Just good souls doing good things.

To give an update on simple acts of kindness, yesterday Anna felt sick. She just had a stomach ache and didn’t eat much at lunch.  She even went to the office to call home. And while she waited in her class, not feeling well,  E. (the new girl who speaks little English but can now ask, “what your name?” and “I like I-pad”) did the kindest thing. She leaned over to Anna, took the sticker she’d earned from Mrs. McElroy, and stuck it on Anna.

Of course, she didn’t say anything. Just one simple gesture to let Anna know she was thinking of her at a time when Anna felt sad. And, it meant a lot to Anna as she was the one to tell us about this after she was picked up. Anna smiled while talking about it.

As adults, we rely on words a lot. We use words to hurt, to try to help, to be nosy, to share, and sometimes to complicate our lives. But, I am thinking today that sometimes the kindest acts are really the most simple. No words are required. Whether it be passing a sticker to a friend, holding hands, a pat on the back, or just a smile, it can show so much kindness and compassion.

Today, let us all remember that we can show so much love through simple acts of kindness. straw sticker

#actionsspeaklouderthanwords

#goodbegetsgood

#karma

 

 

Each kindness

Each Kindness  is a sad and meaningful children’s book written by Jacqueline Woodson. With some magnificent illustrations by E.B. Lewis, this simple story really gives children a visual understanding of how acts, small and large, make a big difference. In this story, a poor girl moves to a new school. The kids snicker and tease her about her used clothes and looks. No one wants to sit by her. A group of girls exclude her at recess, and she’s left to play alone. As the narrator tells the story, it seems as if she wants to reach out to this lonely soul but never takes the opportunity and then, one day, Maya is gone. She never shows back up to school and the narrator is left to live with guilt, knowing she should have and wishing she would  have been kind to her. The teacher does a little demonstration with the class in which they each have a small stone to toss into the water.

“Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple.”

The narrator can’t think of a single kind deed to share, while other classmates give little examples. The story ends with an illustration of regretful girl sitting on a pond’s edge. As she throws a rock, she watches the water ripple in and out like each chance she had, come and gone.

This school year, my sweet Anna has already started a gentle ripple. So, I got an email at the end of summer from a Bridge worker about a new refugee family we’d be getting. There are 3  new girls from Iraq. I was excited to see even more diversity at our school and happy for this family to be joining us. But, I was even more excited when we discovered one of the girls is in Anna’s class. I talked to Anna a little about this new girl before school started, explaining refugee camps again and how she probably doesn’t speak any English. I reminded her to reach out to new kids in her class. And, she talked about E. after the first half-day of school.

On day two, her sweet teacher assigned Anna to teach her about some labeled objects in the classroom. Anna was excited to tell us about it at dinner out , leading her around the classroom to point to chair, tables, carpet, and door. Then, yesterday, when Bo took Anna to school, he said that E. was coming in at the same time. She got a huge grin on her face and started waving at Anna!

Last night, Anna told us she asked her to play with her and her best friend on the playground yesterday. Anna explained that she doesn’t haven’t anyone to play with and was just wandering around. So, Anna said she went to get another Iraqi boy who was in her class last year to translate, “Do you want to play with us”. She did.

Are there any words? No. She doesn’t speak English. But, Anna proudly says she learned to say ‘chair’ this week and is following instructions quite well. She also repeated ‘Anna’ and another girl’s name after they had her repeat it over and over. Anna imitates how she teaches her, and how E. softly speaks.

*Melt my heart.*

Friendship isn’t just words, or who’s your “BFF”. Kindness is little tiny actions, spoken and unspoken. I don’t care if she scores 100 goals in soccer or gets straight A’s and E’s because this girl is already passing second grade in my books!

#eachkindness

#betherightkindofripple

#actionsspeaklouderthanwords

ocean drop

Jellyfish, Bota box, the Smoker (again!) , and finally and especially friends!

We are on a quick hiatus from vacation season, leaving again Monday for our road trip out West. More memories to be made, adventures to be had, and friends to see adding to our summer’s bucket list!

Our past 2 mini-trips weren’t planned but we have some really good friends who invited us to join their families this summer. How lucky we are that we have friends that welcome us into their homes asking nothing in return, only asking for our crazy family and paraphernalia to add to their chaos! No, what we have is true friendships that bleed over to every member of both families. My friend Greer and I have been friends since age 3, and Jennifer and I have known each of since middle school. We go way back! But, what’s so neat is the way these friendships have branched out to our husbands and kids too!

After spending a couple days in Atlanta at the Waddell’s pool, we came back home to repack before heading to Seagrove, FL for the first time with the Bakers. Even though we have our big, planned trip coming up, we couldn’t pass at the chance to share sunshine and laughs. These are true friends…..

Seagrove was way more beautiful that I could have imagined. Just down from Seaside on 30A, the powdery, soft white sands lead into the crystal clear, calm ocean waters. With no expectations, I was pleasantly surprised. Although the beaches were crammed packed and little spring break-ish, Bo found a place to throw in his fishing line a little ways out of the crowd. And, it was the first cast that he reeled in 2 baby sharks. That made Jennifer nervous but only added to Bo’s enthusiasm. (Every time he catches something, no matter what it is, he has the same goofy child-like grin on his face.) It was a little disturbing how easy it was to catch sharks from the shore the first day and a half before the green slime moved in.

It was even more exciting that Dan scheduled a fishing trip in the Bay on Monday morning. With the two eldest kids in tow, they headed out early for a half-day with the fishing guide. It wasn’t until mid-morning that I received a text with Brody proudly holding up his Sea Trout. The kids were the only ones to catch our dinner that Carl filleted and sent home for us to prepare.

It was the most delicious fish. With Brody’s infamous buttermilk marinade and Dan’s zesty dredge, Dan fried up some truly tasty fresh fish for dinner. The fried fish was probably the healthiest things we consumed while we were there. With the unlimited Joe Joe’s and snacks (Ummm, turtle eggs: yum!), we also made nightly desserts and even afternoon milkshakes. We started two mornings at the Cowgirl Kitchen (love it!) with the kids. The freshly baked, oozing cinnamon roll can be added to our list of treats.And after sipping on the Bota  wine box (classy but really good!) and Island Girls, we were eating and drinking like it was vacation!

Now, don’t think we wouldn’t head out of town without Bo’s smoker. Since everything went so well at the kick-off to summer camp party, we also decided to take the smoker with us to the beach. It’s becoming Bo’s signature accessory. Don’t leave home without the smoker because you never know how many ribs you might have to smoke! This trip, the smoker made it out of the car promptly and was used a couple nights (because you can’t have too much smoked pork, right!?). Success.

The boys spent the days lounging in ring floats. While Austin preferred floating in his pizza slice, Brody liked the simple pink tube and Austin preferred the watermelon. (We also had the doughnut and Explorer 200 because just like wine, you can’t have too many floats!). Despite the little jellyfish and baby sharks, the water was quite pleasant and the company even more so…

Playing a family round of Disney Headbands (and sweet Preston starting each round with “Is it Dory?”), sharing Baby Alive dolls, or just sitting side by side with the DS and Ipad, everything is better with friends. Austin looked over at breakfast one morning and asked his mom and I, “Do you all ever run out of things to talk about?!”.

This is what summer’s all about: Friends. Whether it’s at the pool, at the beach, or just in your backyard, friends add love and fun to life. We are so grateful to you, friends. When school starts back and life speeds up, you can’t always choose who you spend most of your time with. So while we can, I choose to be with those I love, with those who are loyal, fun, kind, and real. Thank you, friends, for making memories!

 

These fries are ‘bangin’!

Sometimes my job is just too fun and easy. Yesterday as a little reward, two third grade boys joined me for lunch because they had a great week and have made huge improvements in the length of time that I’ve known them. One handsome boy that’s always had the coolest shoulder-length braids has been my buddy since kindergarten. We have done individual counseling, small group counseling, many, many goal-plans, and now just maintenance check-in’s. He really doesn’t need to meet with my anymore but we’ve built a relationship and I love rewarding good behavior and continued progress.

The other boy, his friend, was new to our school in second grade and had some difficulty adjusting, which is a nice way to put things. However, we met individually, I matched him up with a ‘big buddy’ for our ‘breakfast buddies’, and we continue to also check-in even though he’s made massive improvements.

Both of these boys are black and couldn’t come from a much different background and culture than me. What’s relevant and cool about our differences, however, is that it makes no difference in their eyes, or in mine. They asked me all week to meet just have a little special time.

A 38-year-old less-than-cool white woman, much older than their mothers, hangin’ with my boyz as they reenact their basketball games and tell me their fries are ‘bangin’ – now that’s a fun lunch. They crack me up!

After J. grins and finishes his ‘bangin’ fries (as he calls them), he gets up and starts doing the whip nae nae. (**Listen and watch above link for fun and entertainment!). He asks me if I know this song, which miraculously I do…. (Now, the other R&B/ hip hop song he sings, I do not know and he can’t believe I don’t). Throughout our scattered conversation with laughs and random thoughts, we share fellowship and friendship.

What’s so funny is that when telling Anna, my mini-me, about this lunch and playing the song for her, she told me this is the same song that the Bearden kids at her school got to dance to yesterday afternoon at their dance party for good behavior! Music transcends cultures and race bringing people together. Props to Mrs. Dunlap our principal who’s even whiter (and older) than me for being so hip! Now, when I tried doing the Whip in the kitchen this morning, Bo told me to just stop! (I’ll have to practice with a more forgiving audience next time!)

Friends can come in all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes. They may be very different than you or share all your same interests. What matters most is that you get something back from the relationships and feel happy when you’re around them. From white to black, young to old, I’ll take my bangin’ friends any day!

My BFF: Cultivating deep friendships for yourself and your children

friendship Happy New Year, friends! As I struggled to keep my eyes open until 12 p.m., I wearily rang in the New Year with a dear, dear friend whom I have known since preschool. She’s my B.F.F., and something pretty rare. We have been friends for 35+ years! We have traveled through sleep-overs, family vacations (both as youth and adults), talent shows, dance classes, middle school dances, first perms, proms, first boyfriends, wild spring breaks, many Dave Matthews concerts, track meets, football games, homecomings, college, more parties, weddings, and children. Wow! That’s a lot of life lessons so far and we’re still going. I consider it such a blessing, to have a friendship that can always pick back up where you left off.

Now, we haven’t always been BFF’s! Some years we were ‘besties’ and other years, we had other ‘besties’. But, we were always friends. When she joined the Dance Ensemble, she shared a passion for dance with others. When I was on the soccer team, I spent a lot of time with my teammates. When we went to college, she joined a sorority, I did not. After college, she moved away and I did not. But, despite all these changes and many new friends for both of us, we remained friends. Some years we were closer than others but we grew with the changes instead of growing apart. That’s a true friendship, when you allow the person room to grow and change but know they will always be your friend.

We have a lot in common, yet we are different too. We respect and value each other as individuals, and don’t mind sharing our awesomeness with others! We have fun just talking, walking, and sometimes running through life together. Living in different towns, we have different friends and different hobbies. We continue to lead similar yet different lives but I just love her because she’s such a real person. We often times have people think we are sisters so we have even grown to look alike! If you are lucky to have a Greer in your life, then don’t take it for granted.

I have told elementary school girls that I work with about Greer and our life-long friendship, that they may still be friends with friends they meet now when they grow up. But, how do you do that? I have so many girls come to me for counseling for friendship problems in elementary school. Good parents are surprised and stressed to discover that it is more common than not to encounter friendship problems at an early age, from minor bumps in the road to full-fledged bullying. It can be brutal on a young girl’s self esteem to feel unliked and lonely. And, I do emphasize girls and not boys.

Boys’ friendships and sense-of-belonging is just as important. I have worked with many boys who have asked to see me because the rules in the kickball game are unfair and they are pushed to the side. Boys “need to see me”, as they say because someone pushed them in P.E. or at their locker. But, that’s just it. It’s a one-time deal and then it’s over. It doesn’t typically linger and fester like girls’ issues can.  Generally, their friendships are simpler. They might be wrestling one moment, hurting each other the next, and then on to the next activity just like that.

Girls are more complicated. They are more territorial with their friends. They are more emotional and sometimes more sensitive leading to more complex friendship dynamics. And, it starts very young. Who are you sitting with at lunch, who are you playing with at recess, and even more important, who are you doing the talent show with!? For some children, sharing comes more naturally. The children who struggle with sharing, material objects and/or friends, will have a challenging time maintaining healthy and happy friendships. Insecure personalities or children with unstable and unpredictable parents at home may have more difficulty sharing their friends. They cling onto peers and have inappropriate boundaries, becoming jealous over other friendships or even their friend’s successes.

Now, are we talking about adults or children here? The above can apply to both. We have all met those caddy women who are competitive with their peers and instead of celebrating their friend’s successes , they direct the attention back on themselves. They love to always be the center of attention without recognizing their friend’s struggles or successes. They can leave you feeling drained instead of uplifted! They never learned to share and may have difficulty maintaining a rewarding lifelong friendship. I know both adults and children who do this.

So, if you want to have and maintain a BFF, then act like the kind of friend you’d want to be around! Show your children what friendship looks like:

  • Let your friends share their time and joy with others.
  • Give them space to be different than you; appreciate and value their differences. Learn from them.
  •  Don’t be afraid to be different from them!
  •  Expect that they may not always put you first.
  • Celebrate their joys and just be there when they need you. Don’t take it personally if they don’t need you.
  • Show your children that friendships are important. People with close friends live longer, and live more happily.
  • Teach them that it’s more important to have a couple true friends than to be popular. Having a handful of close, real friends as an adult is uncommon and a blessing.
  • And , if you’re lucky enough to have a B.F.F., know they could last a lifetime!

Cape San Blas 074

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