Why I will miss elementary school lunches. Truly.

Today was my last lunch date at our kids’ elementary school. Ever.

After 10 years, you’d think I walked out of school relieved. I didn’t.

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It all started when our oldest, Julia, was in first grade. She wanted me to come to lunch every day. I am a self-confessed helicopter parent and surely would have. Instead, we compromised: She picked a certain menu item, and every time that was served, I would come to lunch with her at school! Julia selected Build Your Own Hamburger day. So I went every one of those days.

Our middle kiddo, Matt, selected Chicken Patty on a Bun. And our youngest, Caroline, opted for Lakeville Nachos.

For one year, all three kids were in the same school. I had a lot of school lunches that year. More than that, I learned a lot from my 20 minutes in the lunchroom. I learned about their classmates (yeah, some of them ARE weird). I learned lunch ladies are polite and kind and encouraging. I learned our kids were so proud to buy my lunch, because I could never remember their lunch codes! I learned the latest gossip at the lunch table. I learned the kids’ dreams and goals–and fears. I learned who always brings home lunch. The last few years, our girls have brought their own home lunches, but I still joined them on “our” days.

lunch with c 2

So after lunch, while Cara skipped out to recess with her friends, I walked through the parking lot crying at this end of an era: but mostly happy tears, remembering all our kids’ had let me experience.

I’m not much on giving advice, but I will venture this: if you have a kid in elementary school, join him or her for lunch. Just once a school year if you can. Flex your work schedule, change your workout class, forget the laundry. It’s 20 minutes. But it’s a rare peek into your kid’s world. And I, for one, thoughts the Nachos were pretty tasty.

 

 

Happy Halloween! Our 10th Annual Bash

Our Dad/Grandpa, a retired longtime teacher, loves to party. Each year, we get together at his home to celebrate Halloween! This year was especially awesome, with some clever costumes, creative pumpkin carvings, beautiful day … and a full theatre presentation of “The Greedy Goblin” by the grandkids! Some highlights…

The teenagers.
The teenagers.

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A little football.
The bone hunting game is always a hit!
The bone hunting game is always a hit!

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Standing Ovation for our theatre stars!

Happy Halloween, all. Make it safe, sweet and full of laughs.

Lean in, young lady: Take our daughter to work day

Since my main office is a home office, I feel like our kids are with me at work every day. Especially in the summer.

But today was a rare chance to take our youngest to one of my company’s offices, and I hope she learned a few things. Look out, world, this generation of women will change us all…for the better.

1. Go ahead, be assertive

So what if some call it bossy? She picked our breakfast and lunch locations. A lovely walk to Dakota Harvest Bakery for cinnamon rolls. Then Rhombus Guys’ rooftop, on a gorgeous summer day!

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rhombus-guys

2. Take credit for your accomplishments

Cara mastered the label machine, re-organized the office supply room, created “Best mom in the world” awards and a sweet packet of notes and pictures for her Gram, Gramps, their dog and cat. She proudly distributed them in person.

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3. Be bold

Apparently my powerpoint presentation was “boring,” since she turned to her iPad instead. But she did comment that she liked the colors I chose.

 4. Own your space

Take a seat at the table–or the pilot seat of a rocket ship. Listen, tune in, then contribute. And make others feel part of the action. Way to go, Cara! You’ll be a great colleague someday. Today, you already were. Rock on and lean in.

diet coke break

My bucket overfloweth: MLB All Star Week

One of the events of MLB All Star Week has been on my bucket list: See the Home Run Derby live. But after this week, my bucket list is overflowing with other amazing adventures. What a great show, Minnesota. So proud of you!

Midwesterners are paranoid about two things: Our losing sports teams. And our weather. It rained Monday, delaying the Home Run Derby by 1 hour. But then this gorgeous rainbow appeared and all was right with the world!
Midwesterners are paranoid about two things: Our losing sports teams. And our weather. It rained Monday, delaying the Home Run Derby by 1 hour. But then this gorgeous rainbow appeared and all was right with the world!

First up: Futures game and Celebrity softball game

Sunday afternoon, good old Tom Kelly, Bert Blyleven and Tony O managed the “Futures” stars in a World vs. USA game. This was, surprisingly, one of my favorite things about the whole weekend. Amazing young talent!

Has Bert mentioned he's Dutch? This is what he wore to the pre-first-pitch meeting at home plate. Go Netherlands!
Has Bert mentioned he’s Dutch? This is what he wore to the pre-first-pitch meeting at home plate. Go Netherlands!
Loved seeing TK manage again.
Loved seeing Tony O manage the World Team.
Skipper Tom Kelly, back in action!
Skipper TK, back in action!
Lucky for baseball, that NBA gig didn't work out for a couple of the guys.
Lucky for baseball, that NBA gig didn’t work out for a couple of the guys.
The Clydesdales did a lap. The Dalmatian came to MN, too!
The Clydesdales did a lap. The Dalmatian came to MN, too!
The Twins' Kennys Vargas can play! I slept better that night, knowing we DO have a first baseman. Hopefully he is up here soon.
The Twins’ Kennys Vargas can play! I slept better that night, knowing we DO have a first baseman. Hopefully he is up here soon.

Softball is tougher than it looks: Celebrity softball

After an encouraging afternoon with Futures, it was time for Legends in the Celebrity softball game. We laughed nonstop at these antics. Our fave moments:

Larry Fitzgerald and AP. Wish they were BOTH Vikings!
Larry Fitzgerald and AP. Wish they were BOTH Vikings!

 

All the teams sent their mascots! Several danced in our section and on top of the 3rd base dugout, right in front of us. I was partial to Rose (Reds). Matt liked the Marlins fish. TC Bear was clearly a great host!
All the teams sent their mascots! Several danced in our section and on top of the 3rd base dugout, right in front of us. I was partial to Rose (Reds). Matt liked the Marlins fish. TC Bear was clearly a great host!

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Jack Morris vs John Smoltz. Again. With a little (!) less on the line than Game 7 in 1991. Gave me chills to see them both on the mound again.

John Smoltz actually took himself out of the game and tapped Jennie Finch to take the mound.
John Smoltz actually took himself out of the game and tapped Jennie Finch to take the mound.
Jennie is an Olympic Champion softball pitcher. AP is a MVP NFLer. He came up to bat and asked her to pitch as she really would. Those pitches SMOKED by him! Just as he smokes by linemen all NFL season...
Jennie is an Olympic Champion softball pitcher. AP is a MVP NFLer. He came up to bat and asked her to pitch as she really would. Those pitches SMOKED by him! Just as he smokes by linemen all NFL season…

Monday: Home Run Derby

This is one of my favorite TV shows each year. It’s an event, even more clear when you go to this show live. But so fun to watch this power, especially guys from the National League who we rarely see at Target Field. Brian Dozier and (former Twin) Justin Morneau were crowd favorites, but my pick was Cespedes. We still have no idea how to pronounce his name, but he won the slugging title this year — again (he won last year too).

Mike and Mike (from ESPN), emceeing the action as eventual winner Cespedes steps up.
Mike and Mike (from ESPN), emceeing the action as eventual winner Cespedes steps up.

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Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton had some record long balls in our Target Field. He's a slugger with an attitude!
Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton had some record long balls in our Target Field. He’s a slugger with an attitude!

 The ultimate party

Tuesday was Target Field’s night to shine. We saw All Stars past (Hank Aaron was there!) and present. And probably future. I must admit I didn’t take many pictures. I was soaking in every second of this magical night!

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The Clydesdales (and the Dalmatian!) came back for the Big Game.
The Clydesdales (and the Dalmatian!) came back for the Big Game.

An aerial shot from the NY Times that still makes my heart swell with pride. Way to go, Minnesota. You’re the true all star for hosting an amazing party. Happy I could be there. My bucket overfloweth.

Photo from NY Times.
Photo from NY Times.

Free summer fun things for kids in Lakeville (1 – 10)

“A little, done often, is much.”

Got that in a fortune cookie. It guides me through guilt-laden parenting of not spending enough time with our kids. Especially in summer, when they have more free time (and I have less).

This summer, I set out to spend at least one completely uninterrupted hour each weekday with our youngest, Caroline. Here’s what we’ve done so far, most of it over my lunch hour from my home office. After 13 days, it’s already adding up to great fun!

We went to Dairy Delite, a little treasure downtown--and even got the gazebo for our cool yummies!
We went to Dairy Delite, a little treasure downtown–and even got the gazebo for our cool yummies!

1. Cleary Lake

We walked the 3.2 miles around this gorgeous lake, enjoying her very first day of Summer Vacation. We also scouted out other things to do there, and found many, so we’ll be back!

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2.  Antler’s Park

We took a dip in the lake, which was very cold after thunderstorms churned it up the day before. She enlightened me about how the weather can change lake water temps. We also built a sand castle around a dead fish. She named that part of the castle grounds “Dead Fish Monument.”

3. Pool time

Our awesome neighbors invited us for a visit to their neighborhood pool. She ran into school buddies.

3A. More pool time

We hung out at the Lifetime Fitness pool, where she ran into more buddies and we cooled off with a quick dip.

4. To market, to market

We visited the Farmer’s Market (Wednesdays, noon – 5 p.m. downtown by Ace Hardware). It’s early in the produce season, but we found sweet lettuces, herbs, honey and of course lots of samples!

5. Theatre

We went to watch a community ed theatre class perform the montage of songs and dance they’d learned over a few days of theatre camp. Big sis Julia and her friend were helpers for the week.

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6. Bonus: We signed up for Cara to do theatre class this week!

7. Library

Instead of rushing through like we tend to do during the school year, we dawdled a bit, checking out lots of great summer books, movies and cd’s.

8. Culinary arts

Cara planned a special treat (jell-o parfaits and fruit pizza), we bought the supplies and she created them for the family.

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9. Playground

We biked to a playground, I didn’t bring my iPhone, and we swang our cares away!

10. Matinee movie

We saw Million Dollar Arm, on a day before a softball game. It got us both in the mood for her pitching that night! Of course, we sneaked in waters, candy and splurged on popcorn.

Okay, not free, but there are free movies at 10 a.m. on these days at these nearby spots:

Burnsville, Tuesday

Lakeville, Wednesday

Apple Valley, Thursday

Already, I feel less guilty, less stressed and more summer-y. That’s all good!

“A few” is not 100? My sweetie’s surprise birthday party.

“So how many people will be here?” my husband asked, mid-stride. He thought we were meeting two other couples for dinner, but he was leery. “A few,” I lied. 100+ family members and friends isn’t a few?

But we sure had fun! And I so loved watching him smile and laugh. Happy Birthday, darlin’. Happy Birthday.

Birthday Boy Greg in the center, with his bro Curt on the left and cousin Dale on the right. Both came from Fargo.
Birthday Boy Greg in the center, with his bro Curt on the left and cousin Dale on the right. Both came from Fargo.

It started with one

“Everyone ought to throw their husband a surprise party,” said the lady next to me in bike class. That was 3 years ago. She was a new member, we started chatting, and I learned she had just buried her husband. At age 48. She was at the health club to ‘get healthy,’ and she told me her biggest regret was never throwing her husband a surprise party.

That sparked an idea. So I started saving $ and planning.

By early this year, I had The Chart House booked. Classic, beautiful venue right here in Lakeville. It overlooks one of the lakes with a great restaurant and private event area, including an outdoor patio and gazebo area. I selected the menu. Picked the beer. Let them pick the wines.

Takes two to decorate

I enlisted my friend Penny to help with decorations. They were gorgeous, just like her!

Multiplying rapidly

Then I did the evite invitation. I contemplated limiting the guest list, but just couldn’t. Greg has so many great family members and colleagues, neighbors and friends. I added on with glee! I think the final guest list was 186.

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Spill

I did have to spill the news to our kiddos a bit before the big day. They were fun allies in our secret!

Matt: “Dad’s gonna be mad. He said he didn’t want anything.”

Cara: “oooooh, I can’t WAIT!”

Julia (when I had to give up my Sequoia to the shop for a few ill-timed days): “How you gonna move 98 balloons in the little car, mom?” #wickedsmile

Our kids were great hostesses and host!
Our kids were great hostesses and host!

The most important guest almost didn’t go

Weeks before, Greg was balking at meeting our friends for dinner. Days before, he was leery. Hours before, he was really suspicious! Apparently his parents are lousy liars.

But he did. And so did so many wonderful people. Thanks, all.

Our girls delivered his cake.
Our girls delivered his cake.

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Lemon-filled, red velvet, vanilla bean and milk chocolate cupcakes! (his faves)
Lemon-filled, red velvet, vanilla bean and milk chocolate cupcakes! (his faves)

See? I told you Penny’s decor was beautiful:

Hockey pucks, of course.
Hockey pucks, of course.

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Wonderfalls centerpieces. Each was a candy-filled favor.
Wonderfalls centerpieces. Each was a candy-filled favor.

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me and g

I ran into the health club lady a few months ago and told her how her comment had impacted me. She hugged me and said, “Honey, it’s a lot more fun to plan a surprise party than a funeral. I hope hundreds of people come!”

They did, I can now tell her. They did. And my favorite one of all had fun. #Love

 

When TJ Oshie lived at our house

Time for a little love to this neglected blog. (I ‘write’ posts for here often. In my head. They just don’t get from there to the keyboard.) I could explain it’s because I blog for others (clients). But I do love blogging. It’s sad this space has been neglected. So here’s a quick post:

TJ Oshie is now The Star of the Sochi Olympics, getting the call to shoot 6 times in an epic shootout in the USA vs. Russian Olympic Hockey Game. He made 4, including the game-winner. We’ve followed Mr Oshie since his days as a Warroad high school hockey player — and especially as a UND Fighting Sioux Player. His years there were our first years living in our new home in Minnesota.

Sad face since this was the last Sioux game at REA we'd be attending that season. Matt, 2006.
Sad face since this was the last Sioux game at REA we’d be attending that season. Matt, 2006.

Matt adored TJ Oshie! We didn’t know how much until this incident.

It was February, and Matt’s First Grade Teacher phoned me after school. “Elizabeth, I don’t want to worry you, but I’m thinking you can explain this. Matt has been doing all his worksheets in green marker. In fact, he needs new green markers, they are all used up. And in the line at the top of the page for his name, he’s been writing ‘TJ Oshie.'”

I laughed, and explained green was the color of his beloved UND hockey team, of which a TJ Oshie was a star. How was she to know?! We agreed it wouldn’t require a psychologist.

One of Matt's doodle sheets from First Grade. No wonder he used up every green hue in his marker box.
One of Matt’s doodle sheets from First Grade. No wonder he used up every green hue in his marker box.

So I told Matt that story today and we all laughed.

It seems like it was just yesterday. But yet it seems so long ago.

Probably how TJ Oshie feels. Thanks for representing Minnesota, UND and our country so proudly, TJ. And thanks for giving our little guy a true hero to follow.

My Dad is 42. But we celebrated his 70th birthday anyway.

My bro, who makes me think like no one else ever can, asked, “So dad, what age do you FEEL?” My dad, with his sparkly green eyes and quick smile masking quicker yet pinpoint accurate thoughts said, “Mid-40s.”

We did manage to surprise him with a cake amidst the Ham Dinner Feast he'd prepared for us.
We did manage to surprise him with a cake amidst the Ham Dinner Feast he’d prepared for us.

This was during a birthday/Christmas celebration for his upcoming 70th birthday. He’ll be in Arizona for his actual birthday, just another sign that really, he is young.

No pressure on singing happy birthday to a guy with a master's degree and career of vocal music!  If we were pitchy, he didn't let us know we were.
No pressure on singing happy birthday to a guy with a master’s degree and career of vocal music! If we were pitchy, he didn’t let us know we were.

He volunteers countless hours at a hospital and on their Board of Directors. He still substitute teaches. Here–and in Arizona (even though his next-best-language is not Spanish but Latin, good Catholic boy that he is!). He helps with church music in both spots, too, playing piano and organ, singing in the choirs. He answered the call at the last minute this year in Minnesota when the music director at his long-time parish needed sudden hospitalization: a week before Christmas! He was right there for rehearsals and Midnight Mass to celebrate this magical night with beautiful music.

At every family gathering at his house, we sing. This evening, it  was Christmas Carols, lyrics rewritten by my dad {and he was accompanied by his youngest grandkid this year, too!}
At every family gathering at his house, we sing. This evening, it was Christmas Carols, lyrics rewritten by my dad {and he was accompanied by his youngest grandkid this year, too!}

He guides kids for ACT test prep. He cooks, bakes, maintains every inch of his home and lawn and driveway (you know, when it snows before he heads south). He admits he’s never operated a snowblower (no wonder I don’t like those either, it’s hereditary!). He’s a marvelous friend and confidant and advisor to many.

We all wore green, his favorite color, to the Christmas theatre he takes us to each year. The cast and audience sang Happy Birthday to him, too!
We all wore green, his favorite color, to the Christmas theatre he takes us to each year. The cast and audience sang Happy Birthday to him, too!

Best of all, he’s an incredible dad. And granddad. He never misses a music concert, he’ll meet me at a museum anytime–and he sends weekly notes to our eldest (now a teenager), just one of the ways he lets us all clearly know he is our biggest fan. He does so many more little things that just add up in gigantic ways. He’s one of those amazing people who always makes you feel like you’re the most special person on the planet.

Sounds like the energy of a 42-year-old to me!

Happy Birthday to my dad. Soak up the Arizona sun, we all love you very much.

I wonder if he saved any of the cake? Actually, I don't want to know. He's a bit of a sentimental store-er.
I wonder if he saved any of the cake? Actually, I don’t want to know. He’s a bit of a sentimental store-er.

My top Dome memories aren’t on the Top 10 Lists

Sunday, I’ll be at the last game ever at The Dome (I refuse to call it Mall of America Field). I’m happy to say goodbye, since it’s a dump.

But it’s OUR dump.

And as a lifelong sports fan, many of my best memories took place right there. Yeah, I was there waving my Homer Hankies for the World Series–both of ’em. I saw the Rolling Stones there. Cheered on Kirby. Saw a few of the NCAA men’s basketball final 4 games there. Kept our oldest kid out too late on a school night to watch Carlos Gomez win a game in the 10th inning to make the MLB playoffs. Pretty cool.

But here are a few Dome memories you won’t see on all the Best Dome Moments Lists. I think they’re better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you.

1. Starving to see Nolan Ryan

As a college kid, I knew the pitching rotation of every team. It became clear Nolan Ryan would probably be up while they were in Minnesota. I prayed, skipped lunch for days and used that money for bus fare and a $5 ticket to see Nolan Ryan pitch. Worth every cent. And hunger pang.

nolan ryan

2. Sid’s sage advice

Since I could read, Sid Hartman has been one of my heroes. I met him in The Dome concourse one Twins Sunday afternoon game when I was in college, studying communications and English and contemplating my career. I got up enough nerve to say Hi and he chatted for a bit. I’ll never forget his advice: “Never stop being curious. Newspapers are changing, go into something else. And never act your age.” I’ve always wanted him to know I follow that advice every single day.

Sid Hartman Bronze Statue Target Field Twins Game Pre-Game
I still try to stop by and say Hi to my hero Sid, who now stands sentinel at Target Field.

3. Air Jordan

I knew someone who got us court side seats for the MN Timberwolves first home game. Yes, they started at the Dome. They played the Chicago Bulls, including Michael Jordan in his prime. Seeing him fly, literally fly, from so close was amazing.

4. “I can die happy.”

August 25, 2009, the NFL player who I so loved watching joined OUR TEAM. #4, Brett Favre, had beat up our Vikes so many times but now, he was ours. I went to the game, thanks to great seats from my husband and his amazing connections. It was electric. We all stood for Brett’s first drive as OUR QB. Then, the older gentleman behind me eased into his seat and breathed happily, “I can die happy.” We’ve returned since, and I always look for that gentleman. Perhaps he is gone now. I’m glad he’s happy. (And after I got off suicide watch when Brett & co. got beat in the playoffs, I went back to the Dome to see #4 again. It wasn’t as memorable.)

5. Left field bliss

Again as a college kid, all I could usually afford were cheap seats. But left field, with a great view of Dan Gladden from, ahem, behind suited me just fine.

See? Nice scenery from this side, too.
See? Nice scenery from this side, too.

6. Introducing a new generation

In the chunk of time we lived in North Dakota, we always made time for a Twins game when we returned here for a visit. I proudly watched our kids get sucked out of the Dome, taught them to keep score, and cheered on the team. The Twins sucked their last __ years in the Dome. But we loved them. When we moved back to Minnesota, we spent more time there. One afternoon, we donned our Joe Mauer sideburns as part of that promo. Another Sunday, we intentionally skipped church to see Francisco Liriano pitch.

July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!
July 2003, with my dad, little Julia, Matty and Caroline, who arrived a few weeks later!

cara on field

matt and nick on field

Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matt got to see his then hero, Payton Manning, up close.
Matty as Joe.
Matty as Joe.

7. Sharing the joy

My mom, an equally rabid Twins fan, came to the very last Twins game at the Dome. Still makes me smile, her right behind home plate soaking it all in… And now we know the pure joy of Target Field and outdoor baseball together!

mom and i last game

8. Introducing my generation

Just a few weeks ago, my husband used those great connections again to, again, get on-field passes. My brother in law, at his first Vikes game, met Carl Eller on the field. Priceless. (And then new gun Cordarrelle Patterson ran back a kick for TD on the FIRST play of the game.)

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I think these memories are better because, well, they’re my memories. And I will treasure them forever. Goodbye, Dome. Thank you for giving me reasons to never, ever act my age.

We live with Mary, a Wise Man, Baby Jesus and an Angel

A look back in these last hours of sweet anticipation of church services of this blessed night. In Christmas pageants, our kids have been Mary, a Wise Man, an Angel and Baby Jesus, making this magical time of year come alive.

Neat how their roles have fit their maturing personalities. This year’s Christmas Card:

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And now, a peek back:

Little Caroline was baby Jesus at 4 months old. She got rather hot, but didn't cry.
Little Caroline was baby Jesus at 4 months old. She got rather hot, but didn’t cry. Fit her nicely, as the one who completed our family — Jesus completed the world.
Julia was Mary, complete with red glitter shoes (!). Hey, we told her this was a big deal and to dress nicely.
Julia was Mary, complete with red glitter shoes (!). Hey, we told her this was a big deal and to dress nicely. Fit her perfectly, a quiet leader with deep faith she doesn’t sound from the rooftops but lives serenely beautifully.

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The next year, Matt was one of the Wise Men, following a star and bringing gifts to someone they knew was very, very important.
The next year, Matt was one of the Wise Men, following a star and bringing gifts to someone they knew was very, very important. Again, fit him. Great costumes, part of a group, supporting role, opportunity to smile.
Caroline was an Angel, full of joy and tidings, singing and sharing the good news, which is pretty much her  role every day!
Caroline was an Angel, full of joy and tidings, singing and sharing the good news, which is pretty much her role every day!

angel caraSo we, luckily, get to live with quiet grace, leadership, joy, and proclaiming all good to the world.

And sometimes, they’re just happy little elves:

Christmas 2005
Christmas 2005

Merry Christmas!