Around Here Week 15: 04/11-17

Sunday, April 25, 2021

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment. 

photo cred: Tausha

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 50+ hours (of 1000)
On my day off, I took the three littlest kids to Greenhouse park to enjoy such a beautiful day and give them something a little special since it's usually the big kids that get to have all the fun. We played on the playground and hopped like billy goats all over the rocks near the creek. The beginning of the week was really beautiful but by Thursday afternoon we took a drastic turn into winter temps (I even wore a Christmas shirt to school because I was bitter about it -LOL) and we mostly stayed in all weekend getting chores done and playing silly games like sitting back to back and trying to toss/catch a ball with a partner. 

Reading The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult. It was a Valentines gift from my thoughtful baby sister, Uch. I am enjoying it (as I generally do with Picoult novels) and it is exactly the right thing to keep my mind off of last few weeks or pregnancy and my goat stampeded injury. 

Requesting a non-stress test on Sunday after two days of feeling completely overwhelmed and uncomfortable from pregnancy. The babe was still moving around and I was hoping (and received) the good news that all is in fact fine and you need to just slow the hell down and take it one day at a time, Tabitha!! Honestly, that is the hardest thing in the world for me - to come to terms that I cannot operate at my normal efficiency levels. I really wish I wasn't this way, but I expect A LOT from myself at every moment of every day - which I realize to some (most?) people seems like a super intense and exhausting way to live - but for me, that's motivational and inspiring for me. I don't know how to describe it, it's not overwhelming, it's like my normal. So when I can't do my normal I get really frustrated with myself. God Bless my midwife (and cousin!) Meg who takes all my crazy in stride and who texted me, "you can do this - in a couple weeks you'll be back to overachieving, I promise" hahahha, love you Meg. So, I'm clinging to the number of days left until my due date and trying to look forward to one thing each day that does not involve the thought, "maybe I'll go into labor today". HAH. 

Taking antibiotics for my goat hoof puncture on my foot. By day 3, it was clearly infected (swollen, red skin surrounding the wound, grayish green pus -ugh- really sore). So we got some antibiotics ordered and I even took Tuesday off of school to keep it elevated and rested because it's also feeling pretty obvious that maybe there is some broken bones in there too (Donut is 100+ lbs so, yeah, that makes sense). Oddly enough, the aching foot is distracting me from my late pregnancy blues, so it's a silver lining injury? LOL. For now, I am hobbling around by relying on my heel and inner foot on the left side which is exactly what my lower back and hips strained from this giant belly need. hahahaha - you gotta laugh or you'll cry, right? 

Letting Violet take a mental health day since she's had perfect attendance all year and has been doing so well in school both academically and behaviorally. She is such a little Brainiac and it regularly blows my mind to see how easily she picks up on concepts in both math and reading. Her reading decoding is awesome and it's a hear-it-once-she-understands kind of situation for most things academic for her. 

High fiving all the kids after we got their Q3 report cards and everyone is on the honor roll! Awesome for Grey and Violet - but so incredible for Gemmi. I literally started crying when I opened the email attachment of her report card and had to check multiple times. She works so hard and is constantly playing school and copying worksheets to "teach" her invisible students. Her school teachers are amazing, accommodating, and encouraging. Honestly - I'm still tearing up about it. We are proud of all the kids, but traditional style learning comes easily for Grey and Violet and it most definitely does not for Gem. She has so many beautiful qualities that many kids her age don't have (empathy, thoughtfulness, maturity, helpfulness, leadership) but all the academic stuff is a struggle. We always tell the kids to do their best, that's what matters. For Grey and Violet that should mean they are always on the honor roll because they basically need only to take a swing. For Gem, sometimes that means we are proud of C's and D's because it is not for lack of effort; as long as she's not giving up or being lazy - we are proud. But this was a big deal for all three of them and we had a happy dance and Silver Bell ice cream to celebrate! 

So happy for B that he got his annual Spruce Creek fishing trip in this year. (he missed it last year because on the day he was supposed to go, Red surprised us for his birthday!) He had such a great time fly fishing and catching monster trout with his bestie, Jon. He was there for two nights and three days and because we have incredible friends and family - I was able to keep it all together (even with this big belly!) We had the two little boys home from school (daycare closed due to covid), so we had Miss Hannah here during the day (thank you!), Pappy was here each morning to get the big kids on the bus (since I have to leave for work before the bus comes), Abba (my mum) grabbed the boys on Wednesday afternoon to make a stop at the Peds for Red's incessantly runny nose and then kept him and Rust for the rest of the evening, while Uch came to get the kids for early dismissal on Friday. 

Grateful for my personal fairy godmother and dear friend Heather who dropped off two nights worth of dinners and a load of groceries on Wednesday to help get us by while B was out of town. Honestly, you are the most thoughtful soul on Earth, none of us deserve you but I am so grateful to have you in my life! 

Surprised by my coworkers with a little luncheon on Friday with pizza and wings in honor of Studerbabe#6. There was a delicious lemon, blueberry cake and a sweet card - thank you all so much, most of all for all your patience and help as I waddle through these last few weeks! 

Signing off on the paperwork at the elementary school to opt out our kids from the state standardized testing again this year. I have a lot of strong feelings about the unnecessary damage that I believe standardized testing does to our kiddos' self esteem, imagination, creativity, and intrinsic pride in their own work. Not to mention how much it strips our teachers from being able to build curriculum and lessons that inspire and encourage our babies. Another topic that I could literally chat about for hours if you're ever interested. I've actually been in the process of writing a long letter to fellow educator and queen Dr. Jill Biden to just spill this all out there to someone who (hopefully) gets it and also has the power to do something about it. Aaaaaaanyway, paperwork signed and Grey and Gem will not be taking any state standardized tests in the next two weeks because as I told them, if anyone hassles them about it, they can just say, "Our momma doesn't believe in that shit." HAHAHAH, just kidding - no cursing. 

Nesting this weekend and knocking all kinds of to do list items off my list. I found the collection of baby girl clothes in the attic that I've been meaning to bring down (oh! the memories of our girls in these clothes!), got them all washed and put away. I pulled down all the leftover size newborn and size 1 diapers that we had leftover from Red (score!) and I packed (mostly) our hospital bag and even had enough energy to scrub all the kitchen window screens and wash the kitchen windows!

Sporting with just one home baseball game this week as the other was cancelled last minute due to a positive case on the other team. Soccer practices start next week, so the kids and I did an inventory check to see who needed what. Vi had cleats passed down from Gem, Gemma has a soccer bag, and all three had hand-me-down shin guards. We are short shoes for Gem and Rust, and soccer bags for Vi and Rust. (we have found that if you have a designated sports bag for each sport and kid - everything they need goes in the bag and then you aren't searching the house before every practice/game wondering where the heck things were left). 

Teaching Spanish 1 about conjugating regular verbs in the present tense. We reviewed AR verbs from last week and went over ER/IR verbs including the conjugation maze and dice game (always a big hit). Spanish 2 started El Ekeko and learned about Lustrabotas in La Paz , Bolivia and took  vocab quiz. Spanish 3 read chapters 1-3 of their novel Felipe Alou while Spanish 4 started their Piñata unit. Two of my favorite junior girls were participating in OYW (Outstanding Young Women pageant) this weekend and I was so proud of them and even got to take a pic with them as an OYW alumni myself (hahaha, all the way back in 2000!)

Making chicken and gravy in the slow cooker over mashed potatoes, bowties & red sauce, meat & cheese sandwiches, and leftover pick-you-own night. My purchase from my students' student council fundraiser arrived this week (Marianna's: 4 subs and 4 pizzas) were gobbled up during the weekend - literally, all gone.  We enjoyed Anthony's chicken tenders and mac&cheese on Wednesday night (delivered and gifted to us by Heather - thank you again!!) and Brandon and I had a few delicious Green Chefs this week: Green Pea Falafal and BBQ beans with corn bread muffins and collared greens with apples (so yum). 

Baby's first chore

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Let's just cut to the chase, we have a lot of people in this house and our approach to chores is one that everyone is expected to help because we all live here together sharing this space and making these messes. Our kids don't receive any allowance and there are no set daily/weekly chores. Our general stance is - you learn how to do chores as you grow up and can handle them appropriately and then you do them when asked or when you can see that they need done because you're part of this family. 

The kids also know that if they want to do something (watch tv) or we need to go somewhere - we all need to do some chores first. There is the general list of things that need done everyday that the kids are all aware that can be done. Things like emptying the dishwasher, switching wet clothes to the dryer, collecting the chicken eggs, vacuuming, and feeding the pets are all things that need done every single day. We do a lot of chatting about how when we work together, the chores get done faster- and how amazing it would be if they asked to do something and Mom/Dad said, 'well there are some chores that need done' and you kids just said, "we did them already!" hahhaha - that has actually happened and the pride on the kids' faces is brilliant. 

So, we start chores as soon as kids are mobile (crawling and walking). Children naturally want to be helpful, so building this teamwork attitude at a young age begins to foster the idea that we are a family and we all work together - even the smallest of us! Kids get pride out of being helpful and it gives them a sense of responsibility.  

Forewarning: most of the time letting kids be involved independently means bigger messes and much longer completion times - but it's about growing and learning, so put on your patience pants, mommas and daddas!

To teach/practice this chore - we use the phrase, "Can I have that, please?" and put our open hand out towards the baby. When the baby hands us the thing we asked for, we make a big smile and say "thank you!" 

We first introduce it as a game where we give it back and then ask for it again and then say thank you again and then around and around the game continues. This can be done with toys or books or just about anything. Once the baby can recognize the phrase, you can start practicing in non-game situations, like picking up toys and books or handing laundry from the hamper to a parent to be folded. 

The bigger siblings learn the phrase and hand motion too so the baby can watch and "help" as the kids do their bigger chores; like switching the laundry from the washer to dryer or emptying the dishwasher. 

Bonus: This is also a great tool to have when your child has something that s/he should not have. For example, none of our remotes have backs on them so the batteries are always popping out. When Red has a battery in his hand (which is inevitably moments away from going in his mouth), we can calmly use the phrase, 'Can I have that" and he will hand it over. I have found in my child raising experience, the more hysterical you react, or ripping something out of their hands, and the more your child realizes you don't want them to do the thing they are about to do - the more likely they are to do it or at the very least throw a fit about it. (hah!) But by remaining calm and just asking for the item, their attitude sort of becomes, 'eh, whatever.' 


Now I'm not going to pretend that our kids love chores. They do not, and it's a lot of reminders and requests to get them moving some days. Rusty (4yrs) has shouted at Brandon and I, "Why do the kids have to do all the work and you guys do NOTHING?!" (LOL, I will bring that back up again when he's a parent someday.) But it is important to us that the kids know how to help and know that they are expected (and capable) of helping as part of their raising up. 

Here's a general list of chores that are expected of our kids regularly. They don't do all of these every single day, it works out to about 3-5 chores a day for each kid, but that alleviates the workload for B and I in a way that we get more time to spend as a family together. Our house is not spotless and the laundry never ends and the to do list is infinite all the time - but with a helping hand from each person that lives here, we can make it work enough that we can take solace that the kids will know how to be a grown up someday and that in that far off 'someday' our house will be spotless and we will be caught up on laundry and our to do list will be manageable....and we'll probably be sad about it. 

Each kid can do all of their own list independently (or mostly independently) plus anything from any younger kids' list): 

Red (1yrs)
handing us things when we say "Can I have that?"
Getting his own shoes when we say "Get your shoes"

Rusty (4yrs)
Emptying the silverware from the dishwasher and putting it back in the drawer
clearing his plates/cups from the dinner table to the sink
Switching wet clothes to the dryer (and checking the lint collector) and starting the dryer
letting the chickens out of the coop & collecting eggs
making beds
putting away his clean clothes to the right drawers
organizing/fixing up the shoes
picking up his own toy/book mess
feeding the dogs
watering plants
dusting flat surfaces
carrying groceries from the car to the house

Violet (6yrs)
Emptying the dishwasher and putting things back where they go (or putting things organized on the counter for things she can't reach to put away)
cutting and preparing guinea pig food
feeding/water/cleaning up after guinea pigs
putting dirty clothes in the washer and starting the washer
filling the dogs water bowls
cleaning mirrors/windows (Norwex)
emptying her own backpack (folder/lunchbox/library book)
matching socks
changing the baby's clothes for appropriate weather or bedtime
setting the table for dinner (plates, silverware, empty cups)
restarting the internet
washing eggs
putting groceries away appropriately

Gemma (9yrs)
cleaning bathrooms
feeding chickens and goats
hanging clothes up in the closet
ironing (*still supervised, but mostly independent)
cleaning out the inside of a vehicle
sweeping with a broom (inside or out)
starting a fire in the fire pit
mowing the grass on the riding mower (flat yard only)
pushing a wheelbarrow by herself
starting water to boil for dinner 
getting dinner in/out of the oven
getting a bottle ready for the baby
changing a baby's diaper
changing bedsheets
mopping (Norwex)
sorting clean laundry by person who it belongs too
making read-able grocery lists while checking for needs/inventory

Greyson (11yrs)
making food using a recipe
cooking on the grill (*still supervised, but mostly independent)
mowing the grass on the riding mower (some very small slopes)
using the weedwhacker 
pumping gas
using tools for outside work appropriately (shovels, rakes, loppers, hammer/nails, electric drill)
carrying smaller siblings from the car to the house 
collecting all the garbage from various trash cans and transporting to the garage
packing his own bag independently for overnight/weekend stays
shoveling snow

Around Here Week 14: 04/04-10

Monday, April 19, 2021

 A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment. 

photo cred: Jenn V

Intentional Outdoor Hours: 45+ hours (of 1000)
It's bloom week! At the beginning of the week we could see buds on all the trees and by Thursday everything had burst into life. Our trees all have tiny leaves or little blossoms, our perennials have burst through the soil, and everything looks greener and fuller. Oh the happiness the blooming spring trees brings to me is obscene. I literally blow kissed out the car window on my way to work at all the blooming trees and the kids and I whisper "grow, grow" when we walk by flowers or bushes working on coming back to life. As much as I love the warm and slowness of summer -there is something downright magical about spring. I know it's because of the long winter we barely get through, but that only helps us see how beautiful the new life in spring is! 

Reading and finishing Barefoot and Balanced by Angela J Hanscom. Such an important read for parents and made me feel even more passionate about outdoor time and free active play. I could literally talk for hours and hours about it if you are ever interested (LOL). 

Enjoying Easter with our family. I tried so hard to make it to church with the crew, but as the morning progressed, Red's nose continued to run and make him fussy and my baby bump was making it hard to get through the morning - so we bailed (ugh) but made use of the time by going to Mimi's house and seeing her for the holiday. After visiting with Mimi and getting to see Gigi and Pappy too (!) we headed to my parents' house for lunch and egg hunting and general family happiness outside in the perfect Easter weather. Pap and Gigi then brought lunch to our house on Easter Monday when they also dropped off Grey's dirtbike birthday surprise. So all of our kids are not outfitted in dirtbikes!

Getting a glimpse at our sweet baby girl. I had an ultrasound on Tuesday to check on her little calcium deposit (all is well!) and Brandon got to come, which was his first ultrasound for baby#6. Aunt Kitty watched the two little boys (thank you!) and big ones were at school while our school had an extra day of break, so we were both able to go and see that pouty mouth little darling. She is already 5lb 4oz at 33 weeks (oh gosh), head down, and doing just fine. My doc appt was on Thursday with Meg and we are looking good and just coasting (or should I say waddling, insomnia'ing, and heartburning) through these last few weeks! Almost there baby girl! 

Singing happy birthday to our biggest kid, Grey, who turned 11 on Thursday. I literally have no idea how 11 years have passed. He's holding off on a birthday party until it warms up a little bit so he and his buddies can go to fishing camp, so for now - it was singing at home, snack at school, and baseball themed donuts for after his baseball game on Thursday night. 

Having some truck trouble. Thursday night, it just wouldn't start. So B threw Grey and Gem in Sheila and the meatballs, Red, and I stayed home from Grey's game since we were down to one vehicle (actually not a bad thing considering the weather temp had dropped way down, the wind picked up, and the game went to extra innings meaning they didn't get home until nearly 10:30p!) That also make Friday a little tricky, but our neighbor Roxanne let me carpool to work with her (thank you!) and by Saturday we had tried everything (new key fob battery, new battery for the engine) and were finally left to call  locksmith to just cut us a new key all together. and that's what worked

Sustaining a foot injury from a goat stampede on Saturday. Ugh, I know, it's ridiculous. I was feeling pretty pregnancy bad and took a walk down the driveway with Violet and the goats (who were free ranging) decided to follow us. So first, it was actually a goat parade! By the time we came back up the house, Bullet caught sight of us and made a herding attempt at the goats which sent them towards the pasture. Brandon called Bullet off of them and the goats started to walk back up towards Bullet (why?!) So Bullet took off again at them and they panicked and ran directly at Violet and I. I turned to protect her and the baby bump, but like a fool - I had flip flops on and Donut's hoof went right into my left foot under my toes. Puncture wound in the foot but at least I fell on my butt (belly is fine) and Violet didn't get hit by any goats. Brandon watched the whole thing in terror thinking I was being Mufasa'ed (!) B cleaned it out for me really well because of course my belly is too big and I can't even reach my own feet anymore (LOL) and we are watching it for infection closely because let's be real - what's more gross than a goat hoof covered in who knows what from the pasture.  

Getting  call on Saturday afternoon that the boys daycare/preschool is closed for two weeks due to  positive case. I literally laughed because honestly, after the truck And my got stampede injury And this huge uncomfortable pregnant belly And with Brandon's fishing trip coming up next week- you have got to be kidding.

Sporting with the first baseball games of the season! Grey had two baseball practices and two games this week. They are currently 1-1, but had a great game (went into 9 innings!) on his birthday. He is playing short and pitcher this year and so happy to get to be on a team with all his best buds. We also heard from the kids' soccer coaches and it looks like practices will start up the week of April 19th - so we are about to kick it into high gear over here for the spring sports season! 

Teaching only three days this week thanks to spring break. Spanish 1 got pasatiempo vocab words and tried their hand at conjugated regular AR verbs. Spanish 2 did some pre-reading learning for their next (and last!) novel El Ekeko. Spanish did the same with some pre-reading activities about the Dominican Republic to prepare for their next (and last!) novel Felipe Alou. Spanish 4 finished their novel, Bananas. The end of the year is so close - we are under 40 school days now and the kids are already showing signs of apathy (ugh oh), but we are pushing through! 

Making Burgers on the grill, hot dogs and buttered noodles (for the kids), and baked lunchmeat sandwiches (the kids' favorite!) Pap and Gigi brought lasagna for Easter Monday dinner and my Mom brought us pizza in the middle of the week (thank you!) Brandon and I had some great Green Chef meals this week including Truffle Risotto with rainbow carrots, Zucchini and Ricotta Flatbread with brussels sprout salad. Brussel sprout salad with walnuts, feta, and cranberries might just be my go-to summer meal, so so good and you all know how I have no chill when it comes to brussels sprout consumption.  We also had Sweet Potato Quinoa bowls which were filling and delightful! I did a lot of dessert making this week too. I was in charge of the cookie plate for Easter and I made carrot cake roll with cream cheese frosting, some cookies from our junior class fundraiser cookie tubs, carrot cake balls (leftover from the roll), and pretzel/rollo/egg bites). For Grey's birthday I made two pumpkin rolls (his bday request every year) and I added some baseball lines to 2 dozen white frosted donuts from Dunkins for the baseball team after their game on his birthday. 

Around Here Week 13: 03/28-04/03

Friday, April 16, 2021

 A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this moment. 

photo cred: Aunt Kitty

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  30+ hours (of 1000)
the week was a little chilly and rainy for the most part so I mostly stayed in after school to catch up on chores instead of making outdoor time a priority this week. Some weeks be like that.  

Reading and finishing We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Middle of the night insomnia had me finishing this one around 3am. It was a good read, but I was able to guess the twist ending about 200 pages before it was actually revealed. I'm also still plugging through and feeling deeply passionate about Balanced and Barefoot by Angela J Hanscom.  We watched the Netflix documentary Gamechangers about plant based diets and got pretty pumped about continuing to try more veggie meals which will help our bodies and the Earth! 

Hosting a double birthday party for our April Fool's birthday duo, Red and Mimi, at our house. It was sports themed birthday for our ball-loving one year old and the best grandma/great-grandma fan to all her grandchildren over the years. A mere 82 years apart difference, it blows my mind and makes me so endlessly grateful that we have both Red and Mimi here on this Earth and in this family. I was telling Grey, "Do you think 83 years ago, Mimi's mom (who we called Guggie) could have ever imagined that in 82 April Fool's days, her great great grandson would be born. Ancestors and family trees and history and all that beautiful passing it on up the lines of families makes me so emotional. How Guggie must have been in heaven singing Happy Birthday along with us to her daughter and great great grandson during the party. Honestly, brings tears to my eyes. 

Hitting the 32 week mark for our baby girl which in our family means the basketball-bump comparison photo! This is also the mark in my pregnancies were I generally start to get very antsy to be a single person again even though the due date is impossibly far away...but also pretty close. I am not great at these last few weeks of pregnancy (no one knows this better than B). hahaha, apologies to my family who have to put up with me here at the cranky end. 

Hysterically laughing when Rusty reported to Brandon and I, "Since this tick came outta my head - guess what? He's my pet now. What's this thing eat anyway?" I told him he eats blood (!) that's why he was in his head; he was sucking his blood. And Rusty followed up with, "So what? We buy blood at the store for him?" THIS KID. unbelievable. We kept the tick in a bag in case we needed to send it for testing because honestly, it could have been in his head for more than 12hrs - I only knew to check because Rust said he felt a little spot and it was hurting him - lo and behold, it is in fact tick season so ugh. He's decided to name him Ricky Ticky and he is under strict orders to NOT OPEN THE BAG for Ricky Ticky or he'll come out like a vampire and try to suck all our blood. 

Feeling very grateful that despite Gemma's foot looking so terrible with swelling and bruising, she does not appear to be broken! She has been a trooper and is gaining mobility and movement all week- she even ditched the crutches at school. We are still encouraging her to take it easy, giving her ice breaks, and keeping it elevated when she's rested. But fingers crossed by the end of Easter break - she will be all good to go again! 

Singing happy birthday to our bonafide one year old. Red officially turned one on April Fools day and we celebrated with some muffins in the morning and chocolate chip cookie cake for dessert that night. He was home from daycare all day too because it was the start of our Easter break! luckiest! 

Getting the house appraised as we try to merge our land and home mortgage loans in a refinance. Nothing reminds you how much you need to declutter like trying to tidy up and prepare for an appraisal. Good grief!

Kissing my fellas goodbye on Friday as they headed out to fishing camp to sleepover on the night before Fishmas. All three (B, Grey, and Rust) were too happy to pack up their bags knowing it would be a long Saturday on the creek with wetlines. 

Celebrating that Brandon and I are getting a nephew!! My babyiest sister, Uch and Kevin had a mini gender reveal on Saturday morning at our parents' house. Kevin tied the coolest fly fishing tie (with pink and blue) and then they had a huge balloon posted in the yard. It only took two casts for my dad to hook the balloon to reveal they are having a baby boy!! Omigosh, I cannot even stand how excited I am to love up on this baby! The kids are so excited to have a first cousin, especially Gemma who is already claiming herself as #1 babysitter! Violet and her special powers knew already of course. Uch asked her to guess the day before the reveal and Violet rolled her eyes and said nonchalantly, "it's a boy." HAH! 

Sporting with just two baseball practices this week for Grey. 

Teaching only 2 days this week since Spring Break began mid-week. Spanish 1 had a vocab test and created monsters to practice some descriptive writing using their body vocab and adjectives. Spanish 2 learned about piropos while Spanish 3 finished their novel Fiesta Fatal and played the Chambelán game. Spanish 4 read chapters 5 and 6 of Bananas and completed a character bubble about the main character Mario. On Wednesday for the early dismissal, we had a 'fun day' at school and my room was in charge of card games (spoons & uno) and then also kind of morphed into a Just Dance room because that's what usually happens, hah! 

Making sloppy joes , spaghetti, homemade pizza, and leftover hot dogs, pork roast, and sauerkraut in the slow cooker from fishing camp. B and I had three great Green Chef meals this week. Black Bean Falutas, Porcini Noodles, and Zucchini Fritters with Kale Salad. We are seriously loving all the flavors and that we are learning new ways to cook without being so meat focused. In case you still needed a code for $55 off your first box, the link and code are here (just click!)  I whipped up a batch of chocolate/pumpkin muffins for breakfast on Red's birthday and then a lazy chocolate cookie cake for dessert that night (haha, nothing like a birthday for an easy excuse to fill up on chocolate!)