Category Archives: Holidays

The Joy of the Season

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            Tis the season to be jolly. That is after hand-to-hand combat at Black Friday sales, cooking, cleaning, decorating, dealing with kids hopped up on sugar, stopping the political debates, and escorting drunk uncle George outside. OK, maybe there is some additional stress in the season. But there is stress in everyday life as well.

            There are jobs, and in-laws, and the expectations of others. Parenthood is stress. There is never enough time or money. It can cause friction with your spouse. No matter what you do, you will always be wrong according to someone. And everyone has an opinion. All you can reasonably do is your best; and keep your kids alive until they turn eighteen. Even after that, you can’t help but worry for them.       

            Then, don’t be surprised if your grown-up kids blame you for how tough life is. I used to do the same thing. Over time, however, I realized that my parents struggled as well. They did the best they could and always loved me. Besides, part of being an adult is realizing that, what happens in life each day is totally up to you. Time spent blaming others is wasted time. As Anne of Green Gables was fond of saying, “Every day is new with no mistakes in it yet.”

            One of my daughters recently sent me a rather “New Age” book on how to live and take care of yourself. “The Four Agreements” offers a wonderful perspective on how to address life’s challenges. The agreements are: “Be impeccable with your word, Don’t take anything personally, Don’t make assumptions, and Always do your best.”

            I have been working on applying these to my own life. I think I’m getting better at it. However, there have been occasions, even with my own Mary Poppins family (practically perfect in every way), which made me question the theory. Let’s just say that, some things were taken personally, assumptions made, and no one was doing their best. Occasionally, an impeccable four-letter word may have been uttered.

            I believe the basis of that particular disagreement is that, we are all in different places in our lives, and can no longer relate to each other’s circumstances. Unless you have a common frame of reference (walking a mile in someone’s shoes), you have trouble not taking things personally, or making assumptions, or being impeccable of word.

Self-improvement is always a good goal. However, looking inward for answers is difficult and often painful. We may have to admit that we are imperfect. But we all are. Admitting that will help make us more tolerant of others. That includes those we love, and who love us.

            One final point of the book was, none of us are guaranteed one more day of life. Therefore, it is best to live each day as if it is our last. As I will soon begin my seventh decade on earth, I am increasingly aware of my mortality. I do want to enjoy as much of my remaining time as possible. I plan to stop wasting time on petty people and arguments. I want to contribute only positive energy into the world, and leave no loose ends. That includes helping those who must continue their earthly struggles. That is especially true for those I helped bring into the world.

            Another book, the Bible, has helped me through numerous tough times. Jesus, and this is where the Christmas message starts, had some answers as well. His ministry was all about giving grace, patience, kindness, and forgiveness, doing onto others, etc. He went on further to promise that, in this life there will be tribulation. AMEN! But He has overcome the world. And, as we are called, we should attempt to do the same. Maybe it won’t stop the fighting but, it can possibly speed up the healing. I believe that love is the ultimate answer, no matter the struggle. Love has the power to end bickering, bring people together, and heal any riff. You may still have to deal with Uncle George.

Have a Very Merry Christmas and/or Holiday Season

Our Thanksgiving get together. It’s getting bigger all the time.

Mama Claus

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Tis again the season for Joy, Peace, and egg nogg that will knock your socks off. At least that’s how my mom made it. And why not. Mimi did, with few exceptions, everything else for Christmas.

My early memories of my favorite time of the year include, thumbing through the three-inch-thick Sears Catalog, and circling the hundred or so toys and sporting supplies I would need to survive the next year. Then there were the trips to the mall with mom. Once we finished the supply and uninteresting present acquisitions, it was time for Santa’s lap and the toy section. I do remember times when she would mysteriously disappear for short periods of time, and return with additional packages. Of course, I had no idea what she was doing, since I knew that Santa would do all of the heavy lifting. 

Then there would be the decorations. There would be days of new displays throughout the house. Of course, dad and I did the hard part. Every year we went out and picked out the tree, strapped it to the roof of the car, brought it home, and attached it to the stand. Somehow dad always wound up having to trim the tree to make it fit the room or the stand.

Once the hard part was done, mom would get to work with tinsel, lights, and ornaments. Then the baking would begin. Mom worked for days on baking the most delectable cookies, pastries, and cakes.

At some point mom locked herself in the dinning room to wrap presents. She told me that Santa just needed a little help. I was certain he would be there to arrange them under the tree. After all mom had set everything up for him. What else did he have to do?

Of course, then there was the food. Mom was an excellent cook, spending hours in the kitchen each Christmas day. We never went hungry. The gifts so carefully wrapped and arranged under the tree took only minutes to unwrap.

Then there was one final tradition. I believe it was 2009 when my mom and I took our last Christmas eve walk the half mile or so, to St Linus Catholic Church for services. It was always cold and snowy. We would walk briskly but, slow to enjoy some of the decorated homes along the way. Somehow the real reason for the season (Jesus’s birth) seemed buried in other more commercial trappings.

But was it really? After years of playing a meager role in assisting my own Mama Claus (Crystal), I can finally see the truth. As Christians, we are to be Jesus’s representatives to a fallen world. We are to serve our fellow man, and give our strength, our time, and our lives in that service. Often, and I’m only going to speak of myself, we fail miserably. But, at Christmas, who better exemplifies that effort than our own Mama Clauses.

So, in summary, while I wish you all a Very Merry Christmas, and Joyful Holiday season, I have two additional wishes. First, don’t forget the reason for the season. Second, give a little extra appreciation to the real hero of the season, Mama Claus. 

Go Mama Claus!
Category: Holidays

Kids vs. Grandkids also Happy Mother’s Day

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            Crystal and I have been truly blessed in our lives. We had the privilege of raising three beautiful, strong, independent daughters. From that wealth hath sprung forth 7 and 1/2 (one due in fall) grandchildren.

            I recently had the privilege of visiting one of my daughters, Michelle, husband Alex and two granddaughters Ayla (5) and Ripley (2) – (3 on Monday). I marveled at the constant coordinated effort required to avoid total chaos and anarchy.

            Initially everyone was thrilled to see me. To the parents I represented needed reinforcements. To the kids I was a new and exciting distraction and playmate. However, as the reality of my presences slowly faded in the background, I started to gain some perspective on how Crystal and my roles have changed throughout the years.

            As a retired grandparent I usually meander out of bed between 9 and 10 AM and stay up past midnight working on my computer or watching TV. At Michelle’s I slept in the basement apartment, and awoke between six and seven in the blessed AM, with the noise of what sounded like an army on maneuvers above my head.

            As I slowly, sleepily emerge from my sarcophagus, I was greeted my wide-awake daughter, doing dishes and asking how I slept. In the battlefield of a living room, my granddaughters, surrounded by a room full of toys and potential activities, fighting over the same, obviously most important one. Dad enters and immediately assigns an order of play, redirecting one to another activity, with the promise of a later turn.

            Throughout the day I am amazed at the family dynamics. At various times the kids play nicely, argue, are separated, occasionally disciplined, and get one-on one time with each parent. In the afternoon I got to go with Michelle to watch Ayla play soccer. Later I gave mom and dad a break watching the kids. When I eventually left, I got a hug from Ripley and a cold shoulder from Ayla. I’m pretty sure she just wanted me to stay longer. Michelle and Alex, both told me, longingly, to visit anytime.

            When I got home after my two-day adventure, I went straight to bed. I’m pretty sure I slept well past 10 AM the next morning. There may even have been an afternoon nap involved. I realized that, the great thing about being a grandparent is, while you love visiting, is you get to go home. There is no escape for the parents.

            The experience made think, and remember a time long ago, when it was Crystal and me in the meat grinder. I had a lot more energy in those days. I would come home from work and immediately be redirected to take the kids, or on occasion (by the kids), get my frazzled wife out of the house.

            Don’t get me wrong, those were good times, maybe some of the best times. I’ll never forget some of our adventures: teaching the girls sports, helping with homework, teaching them how to shop, cook, etc. We went fishing, canoeing, camping, swimming, and jogging.

            But they were tough times as well: kids getting sick or upset, fighting with the schools, family and personal stress, and often just a universal need for extra love and reassurance.

            I guess at this point, and to conclude, I have to agree with Solomon’s Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything. I am quite at peace with it. I love my kids and grandkids, but I (except in emergencies) have changed my last diaper. I will always be OK with play, but leave disputes and upset children to the parents. I will, however, try to always be available to help or advise when asked.

            Finally, since this is Mother’s Day, I just need to add that, I couldn’t be prouder of Crystal, Elizabeth and Michelle. If you want proof of God, you need look no further than your nearest mom. True love and sacrifice are part of the motherhood equation.

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

PS – Today May 8th 2022, our eldest grandson Keylan Meinstein, is graduating, Magna Cum Laud, from The Ohio State Universery. Hoorah!

Momentary peace during my recent visit.
This is from a few years back. The tired looking guy is me. Crystal is smiling. She must know something I don’t know. Elizabeth, Michelle, and I believe that is their cousin Matthew.

T’was The Week After Christmas

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T’was  the week after Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, almost comatose.

Months of buying and planning had come to an end, the party is over, and it’s now time to mend.

Piles of boxes and papers to recycling must go, a box from the second floor with shout, look out below.

The children stopped playing with new toys on day two, mom and dad still trapped with them and nothing to do.

The late cold and the snow shouldn’t happen this way, colored lights on the gutters might just stay up till May.

Empty stockings still hung by the chimney with care, lets take them down, no, maybe next year.

A sweater from aunt Martha and a vase from Uncle Nick, an exchange trip to Walmart should take care of things quick.

As mom sips her wine and dad drinks his beers, is it time to start planning the next party New Years?

As the normal finally returns after the Holiday respite, God can just wonder why we never get it right.

Easton Mall Columbus Ohio 2021
Category: Holidays

Thanksgiving vs. Being Thankful

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            I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one to celebrate the first Thanksgiving. You might remember, the Pilgrims invited the Native Americans, who had helped them survive, to a meal. That was before infecting them with syphilis, smallpox, measles, mumps, and bubonic plague. Not to mention, it was a few years before forcing them from their homes, and taking their land.

            No for me, and I am sure most 21st century Americans, it’s an excuse to eat too much, visit with family, and watch football, then pass out from eating too much (not necessarily in that order). My first Thanksgiving memories were of Mimi (mom), cooking for days, way too much food, for the three of us. If the Bears were playing, dad and I managed to squeeze all of our thankfulness and eating into about a fifteen-minute period. We watched, while mom grumbled her thanks, while doing dishes, and stuffing the refrigerator. God, we were soooo spoiled. To a great extent, we still are.

            Just a few things to think of/be grateful for, while we enjoy our birds: roughly 25,000 people die each day from lack of nutrition (9.1 mil. /yr.), 80% of humanity live on < $10/day, billions of people lack adequate clean water and basic sanitation. During the game you might want to think of the 1.6 billion living without any electricity. I’m not going to get into issues like healthcare, safety, security, and especially freedoms which we, for the most part, take for granted.

            Depressing, right. Well, that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to make certain that no one reading this blog, could get through another Thanksgiving, feeling they don’t have enough for which to be thankful.

            I pray that God continue to bless all of us, and help us to be a blessing to others. Have a great Thanksgiving.

Our family celebrated early this year at Schmitts Restaurant in German Village in Ohio.
Category: Holidays

Another Father’s Day

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            Father’s Day came and went again. That’s some 30 plus for me. I know the exact figure but; I have learned not to reveal women’s ages. I have learned a few more things about women and raising good ones over the years.

            My first lesson occurred while carrying my first, Elizabeth out of the hospital. I carried her proudly in one arm, like a football. I looked down, and she looked up. She seemed to convey a confidence that, I knew exactly what I was doing. I hadn’t a clue. Crystal had read the books, taken the classes, and baby sat. Besides that, it was a girl. I barely understood Crystal. This was a much smaller, and totally dependent version.

            I was, however, motivated to learn. I changed my share of diapers. Got up occasionally for night duties. Fortunately, Crystal knew all of the rules. Did you know you have to wipe in a certain direction; and you can’t give them even a little bite of your hamburger?

            Then, just as you think you are getting the hang of it, they change. You are ecstatic as they start to crawl, and they walk. That is, until they start to move closer to an electric cord, or the stove, etc. Then come the gates, locks and outlet protectors.

            They start to talk. Again, you are so proud; until they start to say NO! repeatedly, or become overly demanding or defiant. But then at the same time, they can be so sweet, scream Daddy, Daddy, when you magically appear after a hard day. You just can’t help but love them.

            Just when you think you might have a handle on things, along comes another one. Another girl! What was Crystal thinking???? OK…. I may have had some input. But for a while, that was a lot of diapers.

            To my surprise, it wasn’t long before Elizabeth actually began to help with Michelle. She took her big sister role very seriously. Before she was four, she knew how to feed her and even change her. When the three of us (me and the two girls) went to the store, Liz would help me push the cart.

            Crystal and I were blessed by two wonderful girls. Five years later, just when the routine is being established, along comes girl number three. This time I blame God. He has a sense of humor you know. Growing up, I remember complaining to Him that, I just didn’t understand girls. Now, they outnumbered us.

            A lot happened over the next few years. Crystal insists she will write a book someday. I can just tell you that, living with that many females I learned a lot. First of all, even the quiet times, weren’t very quiet. Girls have a lot of words to use each day. But, on the plus side, you never have to wonder what they are thinking. Second, sometimes they just need you to listen. It takes patience. At times, I know I wasn’t. Occasionally, you need to wade through a lot of emotions to really understand what they are “really” saying. Finally, they are capable of great passion. That can go one of two ways. Enough said.

            So, in the long run, Crystal and I have no regrets. Our girls turned into loving, responsible, dependable women. All have lived on their own. Two have wonderful families. And they all get along and support each other. Who could ask for more?

            What is even better, is now, more than ever, they understand us, and a lot of things they might not have fully gotten when they were young. They frequently thank me (and Crystal) for all they learned. Elizabeth’s card this year mentioned, cooking, driving, sports, math, running errands, shopping, volunteering at church, appreciation of nature, and how to talk to anyone.

            I look at parenting as a long-term experiment. In some ways you are learning along with your children. You can do all of the research you want, but in many instances, it comes down to trial and error. Being there for your kids is most important. Teach, discipline, and guide in love. As an adult, you realize one truth that you can’t teach them. The lessons they don’t learn in the safety of your home, and your protection, life will teach them. Our girls definitely get that now, and are grateful. We are too.

Here I am wearing my Father’s Day gift….My daughters know.

Easter, and More

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            Of course, for us Christians, we celebrate new life and Jesus. So naturally, we paint and hide eggs. Fortunately, Crystal and I no longer have young kids in the house. I was a great hider. On March 25th I turned 67. We would probably rediscover eggs in July, based on smell.

            So, a week after us spring chicks (my birthday, along with a few grandkids) are hatched, comes Crystal and my anniversary. Yes, as you might know by now, we were a couple of April fools. This year makes 43 years. What you may not know is that, when we lived in Greensburg, Indiana, some 20 + years ago, we lived next to a very nice family, with another couple of April fools: Crystal and John. That’s right, Crystal and John lived next to Crystal and Ron. They just celebrated their 42nd anniversary.

            It seems that all of us April fools have girls. They had two, Bridget and Lacy. Growing up, they were good friends with our girls. Along with another couple of girls who lived down the street, our house was always a little on the noisy side. I’m not saying that girls talk a lot…..But they do! To this day, I still don’t get how they can talk at the same time, and still understand each other? But it was a lot of fun.

            So that’s it. This time of year, we have spring birthdays (mine in particular), April Fools couples’ day, and Easter. That is hard to beat. We are all looking forward to our families Easter tradition. We get together at a Greek restaurant, “The Mad Greek”, in Columbus for a great, although non-traditional meal.

This was our recent Family celebration of us March Birthday kids

Wishing you all a wonderful Easter.

Category: Holidays

Thankful, for What?

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            Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. What’s not to love? There’s bountiful food, family, and football. My wife would add… and there’s a parade. This year, all I can say is…. Bah, Humbug! I made the reservations for Michelle, Alex, and my two wonderful granddaughters, Ayla and Ripley. Liz, Brad and their four progeny, Keylan, Jazmyn, Bradyn, and Elijah were coming. It would be another of our world-famous German Thanksgivings.

            Now it’s on to plan B, or should I say plan C for Corona. Oh, I will still make my sauerbraten, dumplings, red cabbage, etc. But today I cancelled the reservations and Liz’s family will drop by for brief food exchange. But at least we will see them. Our youngest daughter Lisa moved back home last week-end and is now living with us. We do like having her home.

            Maybe there are a few things for which to be thankful. OK, cue Tiny Tim. God bless us every one! I was worried that the change in plans would not be well received. While disappointment could not be hidden, we have a close  and fairly intelligent family,. There is still football, a bounty of food, and we are all healthy. I’ve also heard, there might still be some form of parade. We will undoubtable skype with Michelle and family. We will be warm and cozy in our nice 120-year-old home. And most of all, we all accept that mere time and distance will never diminish our love.        

            If nothing else, this holiday always makes me reflect on the ghost of Thanksgiving past. Growing up, this was a mom day. I remember Mimi waking up at the crack of dawn to begin the cooking ritual. Everything was made that day and from scratch. There were no canned cranberries from mom. She was always an exceptional cook, but this was her gold medal event. Except, possibly for the one time she put oysters in the stuffing, I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t perfect. She made enough food for the army; and there were just three of us. There was generally a short prayer before the gorging began. It was all wonderful. Sadly, as I reflect, dad and I generally spent too little time in appreciation before rushing back to the football game (especially if the Bears were playing).

            Mom seldom complained. She just washed dishes and bagged leftovers. I almost think I enjoyed those more than the first meal. And they lasted for days. I think mom was most thankful for her nice soft bed when it was over.

            I guess that is one more thing I can be thankful for. I had really good parents, and a very comfortable childhood. Today, after preparing a number of holiday meals for my family, I have a little more appreciation for what my parents gave me for all of those years. I was really lucky.

            I guess I still am. I am healthy, have a great family, am generally happy, have many freedoms (not present in other countries), and have more than most people in this world.

            I know this year is a little different, but all of that is temporary. Maybe this is a great time to be thankful, and to be thanking God, that we still have so much. Maybe this is His way of reminding us that we are not really in control, but depend on Him.

            Well, do your best to enjoy not only Thanksgiving, but every day with which you are blessed.

German Thanksgiving the way it used to be. Picture form 2017.
Category: Holidays

Happy Weird Easter

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            So, Easter was a little different this year…Right? But kind of like the first Easter, when they put Jesus in the tomb and rolled a rock in front. That was the ultimate social distancing. Hopefully, none of us have gone to those extremes. But like Jesus, our solitude will also be temporary. This too shall pass.

            Did you know that Corona means crown in Latin? You would if you read our last blog. Somehow that seems appropriate for this season.

            This morning I got up early, as usual. Crystal and Lisa slept late, as usual. Lisa is visiting, by the way, for the duration. One of the many blessings of this time, if you choose to see it, is families coming closer together. I put a new battery in the smoke alarm, which was chirping all night. I did the dishes and made crescent rolls for breakfast, fed and petted the cat (she requires a lot of petting).

            Once joined by the girls, we watched a church service at Lisa’s church, and took communion (supplied by our church). Later, we will partake in a traditional ham dinner, with all the fixings, followed by a nice cherry crumb pie and vanilla ice cream.

            Yesterday one of our very nice neighbors gave us some very delicious sweets (pictured below). Unfortunately, they didn’t make it to Easter. All in all, we are doing very well. I hope all of you can say the same.

            One thing which might help, is something when under stress, I do frequently. Remember the other times you were under stress, and how, with God’s help, you got through.

            For me, and Crystal reminded me the other day, I had a horrible job. You know, one of those with a lot of responsibilities, and no appreciation. I was in charge of a waste water treatment plant for an OEM automotive equipment manufacturer. It was Easter Sunday, and we were visiting Crystal’s parents in Cincinnati. Since my boss had been reassigned, I was running the facility by myself. There was no one else who understood the complicated system of piping, valves, or chemical processes involved.

            So, even though I had a rare day off; we were working 10 hr. days six to seven days a week, I had to go to the plant. So, I got up early that Easter morning, drove the ninety miles back to Greenburg, Indiana, and switched the collecting tanks.

            Fortunately, that job didn’t last forever, but it made an excellent story for my interview at my next job, supervising an industrial plant. My new boss was very impressed.

            I’m not bragging. The point is that a lot of the things we go through, both negative and positive can work for the good. So while you meet today’s challenges, do you best to hold you head high, seek the good, and try to be a blessing. Remember, there is always someone who could use some help, a smile, or even some Good News.

Happy Easter 

Brownies with rose frosting from a loving neighbor

An Easter Message noticed during a walk at Lake Park in Coshocton, Ohio

Category: Holidays

Taking Down Christmas: by Crystal

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I don’t know about you, but taking down the Christmas decorations is not a happy task.  Putting up the decorations can be stressful, especially because before Christmas we have so much to do.  I tried this year to enjoy all of my Christmas activities, like writing our names in the cards, and making the newsletter, fluffing the tree up (Ron assembles and I’m the designated fluffer) and my quilted wall hangings, etc.  My daughter, Lisa, and I made candy and cookies together.  We only burned one tray, which happens pretty much every year.

I tend to put it off taking down the decorations in January (I usually don’t do it on New Year’s Day like a lot of people I know.) as much as possible.  I have several decorations, mostly from Hallmark, that are snowmen that sing and move.  I love those decorations. I am sure Ron is tired of hearing the music from them.  This year I got a Snoopy that dances, and a Gnome that sings “There’s no place like Gnome for the holidays”.  It dances in a circle and is so funny.  I will have real trouble stuffing that in a box to put in our garage.  Sometimes I wonder if the ornaments that are stuffed animals, or dolls, or the snowmen that sing, or teddy bears actually communicate with each other in the garage during the long time between January and December.  What would they say?

Our snowman with snow boy sings a song about the cutting down the Christmas tree. He might say:  “Gee are we back in the garage again?  It was such fun being out on the coffee table for a month.  We could see the beautiful tree with all the lights and toys on it.”

Snowman playing the piano:  “I know.  But didn’t that cat knock you off and pull on you onto the floor a few times?”

First Snowman:  “Yes; that happened, but the lady rescued me and had me sing again.  By the way why didn’t the cat knock you off?”

Piano Snowman:  “She tried and she has mitten paws and teeth, you know, but the lady stopped her in time; and I think she just gave up and pulled a little red stocking off the tree and ran off with it.”

A Teddy bear comments:  “Are you two complaining again?  I just take a long nap in between Christmases.  It works for me.”

Of course this probably isn’t really happening in the garage, but I can imagine that it could.  Well, I am going to stop writing now and make Snoopy and the Gnome dance and sing.  I hope you are having a good day and are enjoying January.  I do leave a few winter decorations up like my quilted wall hanging with the deer, and my snowman wall hanging in the bathroom.   I made both of those; and I like to see them on the cold winter days.  Our cat Ella, denies everything. She doesn’t know anything about those snowmen toys, or the missing red stocking.  She is telling me this while she runs off with one of my white socks in her mouth.


While I love my wife’s imagination, I really doubt the decorations are sentient. However, they did cause a disagreement. The Snowman and snow boy could only get through about a quarter of their song. Then they stopped. Crystal continued to try over and over again. It drove me nuts. I suggested we get rid of it. Crystal would have none of that. She hates to throw anything out. It’s still a wonderful decoration, she said. I thought, ‘it could decorate the garbage can.’ Eventually, I gave up. OK…the mechanism was completely inaccessible. I used all of my mechanical knowhow. I purposely and forcefully dropped it on the floor. Crystal was amazed when she came down the next morning and the device worked like new. She asked what I did. I told her, just a little engineering trick…….Please don’t tell her.

Ella attacking one of her favorite ornaments while the snowman and snowboy watch.
Category: Holidays