Author Archives: Donloyn LeDuff Gadson

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"Hey Sis! What'chu doin' on Saturday..like 'butt-crack' early?"

This is what my girl, Kat, said when she called me that Thursday afternoon.

I answered. "Uh, nothing, why? What's up?"

Excitedly, she squealed, "I was just blessed with two bibs for the Cooper River Bridge Run! You wanna go?!"

Never mind the fact that I had just hours earlier asked her about going to Bokwa class with me on the same Saturday at 9 am, to which she replied, "No, it's the only time to 'sleep in,' or at least try!" Apparently, butt-crack early is an acceptable time on a Saturday morning for a wife and mom of two...but anyway.

Conveniently forgetting that she had just turned me down for Bokwa, I yelled, "Yes!"

Obviously, butt-crack early is also acceptable for me...a wife and mom of 8! Who knew?!

So I made sure my kids would be covered and excitedly prepared for a 6 mile long walk WITHOUT children in tow! YES! A dream come true! Which, now that I think about it, is probably why butt-crack early didn't seem so offensive. It was a chance to have some time to myself and with a great girlfriend.

That Saturday came, and we did it...we both participated in our very first 10K Bridge Run!

It was wonderful.

Power-walking on a beautiful day while having great conversation with a special friend...it was all I needed on an early Saturday morning.

And yet, I received so much more.

Inspiration surrounded me.

The fresh, spring air; the crisp, blue skies; the fluffy, white clouds; the gentle, cooling breeze; the feeling of being grounded, connected.

All of this surrounded me.

And as I neared the top of the bridge, this is what lay before me.

The Stairway to Heaven
The Stairway to Heaven

And then there were the messages...

Hebrews 12:1-2      All Things You Can      2 Timothy 4:7

Our conversation was great, but at some point it turned from more laughable, lighthearted topics to those a bit more serious and closer to home. We talked about family...its challenges...the obligations of supporting a loved one as they transition from one stage of life to the next.

I brought up my daughter and how she is currently transitioning from being a little girl to a young lady. This stage comes with emotions I've never felt before. I find myself feeling angry with her...angry with her for allowing the little girl I once knew fade away.

Silly. I know.

And she needs me right now. She needs me to persevere, to be strong, to do all I can, to fight the good fight, to have faith and to help her finish strong. She needs me to be her stairway...not to heaven...but definitely to the highest heights. She needs to be able to trust me to recognize her promise, lift her towards the sky and deliver her unto her greatness.

And then I saw this...

The journey is long...I'll walk you through it.

And then she did this...

When life gets tough and tires you out...I'll carry you.
And when you get tired, I'll carry you.

My heart rejoiced and broke all at the same time. All the signs were there that day...and they all pointed to my daughter.

My daughter is at that age. She's trapped in this state of in-between...no longer a baby, not yet a lady. One moment, she's that sweet little girl...the next, a moody stranger with a rebellious attitude.

It's hard to deal with. So much fussing, behavior correcting and reprimanding goes on. And it makes me question if I'm doing the supportive part of my job. Am I there for her at the time when she needs me most? Am I holding her hand enough? Carrying her through?

You see, I know I am like the mother above--strong yet tender, guiding yet allowing. What I don't know is if I have been those things enough with her recently.

A large part of me just cant bear to let go of the little girl she once was. But I know the journey is inevitable. And I can either choose to join her or let her go it alone.

In my mind, her going it alone is far worse.

Sometimes our journey is not really about us.

Inspiration and thoughts of my daughter on the bridge run...

I miss this little piggy...
I miss this little piggy...

 

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With life in a big family, it seems we're always balancing the budget, comparatively shopping, weighing the costs.

How much is that gallon of orange juice? How much was that? We can get it cheaper at Walmart. If you buy a dozen, it's less than if you buy two of the 6-packs. How much gas did you put in your tank? How much time does it take? How much longer will you be? How much money is left in the account?

We're constantly trying to get more for less...always trying to squeeze in extra...always on this never-ending quest to save time and money. Heck, even I cashed in on the "BOGO" special with two of my pregnancies. Twins...twice! Talk about a time saver!

But are we really weighing ALL of the costs? Is life really cheaper when we squeeze all we can out of it without putting anything extra into it? Does life really come in bulk?

Recently, our world has turned into a real-life depiction of Cheaper By The DozenYou remember that movie. You know, the 2003 remake starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling?

A little eye candy for the mamas! All right, that's enough!
A little eye candy for the mamas! All right, that's enough!

Ahem! Hello? Um...Hellooo??? I lost you at Tom Welling, didn't I? Dang, girl! FOCUS!

Anyway, in that movie, husband and wife duo, Tom Baker (Martin) and Kate Baker (Hunt), parents of 12 children, are both offered wonderful opportunities that could potentially take their careers to all-time highs. After a move to the big city, Kate and Tom forge full-steam ahead with their career goals only to discover they are on two separate paths. Drastic changes and a bulk-sized order of life prove to be too much for the family. Tom and Kate's inability to accurately weigh the costs shows what happens when we try to buy more out of life than we can afford.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how life in my crazy household resembles that of The Baker's. Let me break it down for you:

  • We don't have 12 kids, but 8 is damn sure close enough...believe that!
  • Aastan is not a big time college football coach, but he is the Systems Architect for his company's IT team, which essentially means he plays a large role in "designing the plays" that will be carried out by his teammates.
  • I, like Kate, am a writer and the manager of this family's chaos.
  • Like The Bakers, we JUST moved.
  • Much like Tom and Kate, Aastan and I, both, have been making positive strides career-wise that unfortunately require extra time, effort and commitment on our parts.
  • Oh yeah, and our frog escaped, too! I'll tell you all about that in a minute!

With new and exciting things happening on the job front, Aastan has been away a lot. This has been challenging on the entire family. He's tired...the kids don't see him as much...I don't see or talk to him as much...we're a little grumpy...a little stressed...the whole nine!

But let's keep it real, for a moment. It's challenging on everyone, but it really presents me (the wife, the mom, the ringmaster of this circus) with a heavier load. And this heavier load comes at a time when several awesome career opportunities have presented themselves for me, as well.

I'm on the cast of Listen To Your Mother: Charleston; I'm about to submit my children's book manuscript to an agent; I just signed a contract to be a contributing writer on a major women's website; I've been asked to be a speaker at two events coming up in the fall; and I'm hammering out a few ideas designed specifically with women and young girls in mind!

But...timing is everything.

All of these wonderful things are happening for my husband and me...I am happy for him and proud of his achievements, AND I'm happy for and proud of myself, too. But of course, we have to think of our kids...they need us...BOTH of us!

I don't know that we've truly weighed the costs. Our family has been set on fast-forward recently, and it's become a wild ride. Awesome things are happening, but at what price? Our family's happiness, our family's laughter, our family's love?

Life in a family of ten is hard enough. Add in everyone's stuff and there are days when it's beyond difficult.

All of this has me wondering...Is life really cheaper by the dozen? Does a big box of happy and fulfilled life even come in bulk-sizing? And if it does, can we even afford it right now?

How do you deal with this type of balance? How do you weigh the costs of all of life's options? Please share in the comments below! These are discussions that all families--large and SMALL--can benefit from having.

Oh yeah! I almost forgot! The Great Frog Escape! Our albino African-clawed frog got out of his tank...TWICE! We had to hunt him down! His name has been legally changed to Froggie Went A Courtin'. The scene looked something like the following...pretty much!

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It's no secret. I haven't exactly been thrilled about our recent move. It's taken me a minute to adjust.

And it's hard to really give yourself time to settle into your new surroundings when there's so much work that needs to be done. A lot has been tackled, but the list of To Do's ain't quite done.

In a perfect world, Grace Farrell, per Oliver Warbucks instructions, would have come to collect me from my former home and taken me to my new one where a complete staff of singing and dancing maids, butlers, chefs and groundskeepers would have been at my beck and call. I wouldn't have had to lift a finger! It would have looked something like this:

~

But in reality, there are still boxes in corners.

Boxes in corners

Artwork is propped up against walls.

Propped artwork

Piles of books and randomness sit, patiently waiting to be put in their proper places.

Books and Randomness

And with a little love and care, this chaos will eventually become my office.

Chaos to Office

There are endless loads of laundry. Dishes to wash. Meals to prepare. Groceries to buy. Bills to pay. Homework to do. The same busyness and craziness of Life that has always existed for us is still right here. Perhaps packaged a little differently, but still, exactly the same.

And so, in the unfamiliar, I have found the familiar. In the uncertainty, I have found the certain.

And in the "I'm not sure if I like it," I have found the LOVE.

Glitter Love

And after a few tears and several moments of weirdness, I can finally say...

I Guess I'm gonna like here!

How long does it take you and your family to adjust to a new rhythm? I'd love to hear from you. Please share in the comments below.

The six boxes of books that I initially packed quickly multiplied. And after several trips with my van, my husband's car, my man-child's truck, my father's truck and a giant U-Haul, we've finally completed the move.

This was when it got real.
This was when it got real.

We even closed on the house. With a few scrawls of a black pen at a rounded table filled with strangers I've never met, the home, that for 12 years had become a major part of us, was no longer ours. We are now officially renters, living in a state of "in-between" until we decide what's next.

Saying goodbye wasn't easy. It still isn't.

On my final walk-through, seeing our home completely vacant was strange. It was void. Only empty spaces remained. Blank rooms were waiting to be refurnished and refilled. Walls were waiting to be repainted. Like the wall in the kitchen with the pencil etchings that marked the growth of my boys. Or the walls with the holes in the sheet rock from the kids endlessly picking at them to pass the time while in Time-Out (Have I ever mentioned that Time-Out does NOT work? But the Get-Along Shirt does!).

Empty spaces need to be filled.

The boys' room, empty and clean
The boys' room, empty and clean
The family room, minus the family
The family room, minus the family
The girls' room--No baby dolls here.
The girls' room--No baby dolls here.

On Mother's Day 2012, Aastan and the kids bought me a Magnolia tree. And exactly one week later, Aastan and I planted that tree along with my Parrain's ashes (Parrain is french for godfather. He was also my uncle.) That tree carries such meaning for me.

We dug it up, placed it in a large patio pot and took it with us...it in its temporary home and us in ours.

Aastan digging up my "Pa Tree."
Aastan digging up my "Pa Tree."
My "Pa Tree" uprooted
My "Pa Tree" uprooted

And we left behind an empty space.

Empty spaces must be filled
The space that once held a very special tree.

But empty spaces need to be filled...

So we planted a new baby Magnolia for the new homeowners to enjoy.

Aastan filling the empty space with a baby Magnolia.
Aastan filling the empty space with a baby Magnolia.

On the way to my van, I noticed another tree...Aastan's gorgeous tree we planted when we moved in all those years ago. It's full grown. We can't take it with us.

But we did enjoy a peek at it's first signs of life.

Buds for the future...a promise that Beautiful things are on the way.
Buds for the future...a promise for Beautiful things to come.

Springtime and New Beginnings are on the way!

What uncertain life changes have you gone through? How did you adjust to your new beginnings? How did you refill your empty spaces? I'd love to hear your story! Please share in the comments below.

And if you love all the crazy here on this blog, please Grab a Crayon & Sign Up!

 

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Books. Six boxes of books. Those were the first things I packed. And as I placed each handful into the empty cardboard containers that would become the temporary residence for our entire lives, I thought, "How blessed my children, my husband and I are to have so many books."

Freedom through books!
Freedom through books!
Books are such a beautiful privilege.
Books are such a beautiful privilege.

This whole selling, house-hunting and moving process has been a challenge. There were moments when we had no clue where we would go or where we would end up. There were odd questions and comments from the kids like, "If we can't find a house we're gonna have to live in a bush." To which another child responded, "And we'll need a peeing bush, too." Poor Chloe even broke down in tears one evening when we came home from Walmart WITHOUT having purchased a house, because apparently Walmart sells homes these days and I just didn't get the memo.

But then, we found a place. A big place. More bedrooms. More bathrooms. A spacious kitchen. A place with lots of storage, which in a child's mind means the ultimate locale for a great game of Hide-N-Seek.

I've had little excited people, eagerly packing their things and finding their place in this whole transition process.

Kourtney packs her things.
Kourtney packs her things.

We've slowly, but surely, begun to unpack things, awkwardly fumbling around unfamiliar surroundings deciding how to best utilize this blank slate.

I've started setting many things in place in the new kitchen and foyer.

Kitchen

 

Foyer

The refrigerator is even beginning to take shape.

Refigerator

I've even had time for my first bathroom selfie and a great cup of coffee!

Selfie!
Selfie!
The elixir of life!
Coffee!

But no matter how many things I set in their assigned places; no matter how many cups of coffee I drink or selfies I take, the fact remains that we have to let go of what has always been ours and find home in a rental...a house that belongs to someone else. We have to let go of a place that holds such heartfelt treasures and find some semblance of home in the interim...a temporary home.

I know we'll be alright. I know there are beautiful experiences and adventures ahead. I know it's okay to let go.

But it's tough. And it hurts a little.

So here we are finding home in a place we don't belong, windows and rooms that we're passing through. This is just a stop on the way to where we're going. I'm not afraid because I know this is our temporary home.

 

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People are always asking me how I manage life as the mother of 8, saying they have a hard enough time juggling the day-to-day with just one or two. They ask for advice, and of course, I give it. Sometimes they just need a shoulder, a friend, someone to listen. Without hesitation, my ears are all theirs. After all, motherhood is hard work...no matter how many kids you have.

Recently, my crazy has hit an all-time high. And truth be told, I could use a shoulder, a friend, someone one to listen--a pair of ears to be all mine...just for a while.

In the midst of all the "normal" demands, pressures and obligations this family faces on a regular basis, we're moving. We, a family of 10 who has been deeply rooted in the same home for 12 years, are moving! I mean really moving.

It's overwhelming. The pressure has been mounting, and my head is about to pop! When I look around, I don't see my home anymore. I just see THINGS...things that need to be packed, things that need to be sorted through, things that need to be yard sold, things that need to be done...things that need to be MOVED.

A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend, Angie Mizzell, gifted me with an awesome desk plaque. It reads, "Gone Crazy...be back soon." I love it! The only problem is only 1/2 of it is true...I have "gone crazy," only I see NO possibility of returning any time soon.

The only way to Keep Up with Crazy is to Go Crazy yourself!
The only way to Keep Up with Crazy is to Go Crazy yourself!

Shortly after, Brandon, my "man-child," brought me a toy Despicable Me minion that he had gotten from a kids' meal and was keeping in his truck. He handed it to me and sweetly said, "Here you go, Mom. Take care of him for me. He doesn't say much, but he'll listen."

LISTEN! How did he know? Was there a blinking, neon "Listen to Me" sign above my head? Was I unknowingly rambling and murmuring about needing someone to listen? That was really significant for me! I don't know about you, but my kids never listen. They want to be heard...but they never listen. They say crazy things like, "Mama! She won't listen to me! He won't answer me," expecting me to force someone to hear their every word. But they know nothing about listening to me.

Not only have I Gone Crazy, but I am now talking to plastic toy minions!
Not only have I Gone Crazy, but I am now talking to plastic toy minions!

In the midst of all this house selling and moving business, I was invited to teach a writing workshop for teen girls as a part of the Burke High School Teen Empowerment Conference in Charleston, SC. My topic...Finding, Defining and Sharing Your Voice. These young ladies were yearning not only to share their voices, but also to have them be heard. They shared with me things you don't share with someone whom you've just met. That's how badly they needed someone to listen. I know how it feels to long for someone to listen, which is why Voice is so important to me. So quite naturally, my ears were all theirs.

Young ladies sharing their voices, being heard.
Young ladies sharing their voices, being heard.

On March 2nd, I'll audition for a stage production called "Listen to Your Mother." If selected for the show, I'll have the opportunity to share my thoughts on any aspect of motherhood, really speak my heart. After all the listening I've been doing, that will be a welcomed change. Angie, the same friend above who recognizes I'm crazy but loves me anyway, is the director and producer of the Charleston show. The idea is to give "personal stories about motherhood a voice, microphone and a stage."

Listen to Your Mother is a stage production put together in honor of Mother's Day.
Perhaps I should invest in a megaphone!

After all this wishing for someone to listen, my audition piece isn't even written. I have no idea what I'll write...no idea what I'll say. I don't even know when I'll squeeze in the time to write it with all the packing, unpacking and upheaval that will be going on. When will I even listen to myself so that I'll know what story to convey? I just don't know.

But there is one thing I do know. The subject of Voice, being heard and the treasure of having someone to listen permeates my life. It always has.

And truth be told, that's all any of us really want.

Sometimes, we just need someone to listen.

 

 

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There are TEN people in this house! Two parents, one "man-child (Brandon is 20, now!)" and 7 kids under the age 13. We're on TOP of each other! So, yeah, there will be fights...I get that!

But, when the same two kids go at it all day, every day, several times a day...well, that's where I draw the line.

Kourtney, age 4, and Thomas, almost 7, are like oil and water, cats and dogs, ALUMINUM FOIL AND MICROWAVES! It just ain't happening!

When Thomas gets in from school, they go at it! All day Saturday, they go at it. All day Sunday, they're at it some more. I talk; I fuss; I lecture; I holler; I put them in time-out and I separate them. I even issue crazy, idle threats like, "Punch somebody one more time and I'm gonna punch you!"

NOTHING WORKS!

We're selling our home and need to pack up a house of 10 people in just a few short weeks. So things around here are WAY crazier than usual. Like a 9.0 on the Crazy Richter Scale! We are crawling from beneath the Crazy rubble daily! So, I don't have time for knock-down, drag-outs!

This past Saturday, after an insanely hectic week, I was praying for a "semi-calm" weekend. See, I don't ask for much. Low expectations!

But Kourtney and Thomas had something else in mind.

Cue endless fighting...

And I don't just mean arguing or bickering. I mean throwing blows, pushing, snatching, slamming doors on each other...the whole nine!

I'd had enough. But I had no idea what to do about it. Time-outs, separations and restrictions were pointless, and hollering does nothing but spoil my mood and give me frown lines on my forehead.

And then, I had a light bulb moment! I remembered all those pictures floating around Facebook of kids in their Get-Along shirts. I figured it was worth a shot.

So I did it! I marched those two into my room, grabbed a pair of scissors, snatched an old t-shirt from my drawer, cut the neck wider and put it on them!

Their reaction was shocking! Priceless and hysterical! I thought for sure they would snicker and laugh about it. Actually, it was me who was fighting back the laughter!

The Power of the Get-Along Shirt!
The Power of the Get-Along Shirt!

They begged and pleaded and promised to be nice. So after a few minutes of what they obviously viewed as sheer torture, I let them off the hook.

And get this! They spent the rest of the day playing TOGETHER and haven't had a fight since!

NO FIGHTING! YAY!

The Power of the Get-Along Shirt!

MOMS, get you one!

Check out the video below! If the viewer doesn't display, click here.

Today was the first day back in the saddle after the Christmas and New Year break.

Driving the kids into school this morning, I saw old faces in the neighborhood re-emerge. They were refreshed and recommitted. These faces were those of the walkers, runners and bike-riders I had seen on many occasions in the past, but over the course of the last few months, their presences slowly faded and, eventually, vanished. I assume they're back at it in order to honor their personal resolutions.

I don't make resolutions. In fact, I don't like them, at all. When this blog was a column in a local parenting magazine, I addressed my feelings on resolutions:

I am not a fan of resolutions. And, after becoming a mother to three daughters, I dislike them even more. In my opinion, resolutions are usually unreasonable, rigid declarations with no built-in wiggle room. They add unnecessary stress and cause women to experience feelings of self-doubt and defeat--not exactly the image you want to convey to young and impressionable daughters.

Gadson, Donloyn T. "Banish Resolutions: Share Traditions with Your Daughter." Lowcountry Parent Magazine. January 2013: 40. Print

Am I saying that personal development, change and commitment are a waste of time because you're just going to fail? Absolutely not!

I suggest that you set intentions instead. Intentions are just a list of non-threatening, purpose-driven goals that you'd like to accomplish in the year ahead. Then approach them with a light, positive attitude...in other words, lighten up! Stay focused and hold yourself accountable, but don't beat yourself up if you slip. Just pick yourself up and begin again.

For 2014, I had every intention of looking Time in the face and saying, "Hey! Can't we just get along?" I had every intention of throwing out my broken clock that was always stuck on "a half past late" and finally upgrading to one that says, "Go girl, wit cha bad self! You are SO on time!"

Notice I said, "Intention."

Yeah, you guessed it! In true crazy fashion, I hit ALL THREE of my alarms, and went back to sleep! THREE alarms, people! THREE!!! I have 2 alarms set on my phone and an alarm clock on my bedside table, and they all received a little smack from me this morning.

So, I peeled myself out of bed, much later than I had intended. And I rushed! Like I have many times before.

But, when we left the house and started down the road, an unexpected feeling of peace came over me. Although we were leaving later than I had hoped, it felt good. The familiar feeling of being back in our routine was good. Lateness and all.

And suddenly, I was okay with having had a rocky start in my new relationship with Time.

And as I continued down the road, seeing all the neighbors committing to a new start, seeing all the remnants of Christmas decor still lingering from the year that has passed, I felt the in-between. In the midst of all my crazy, seeing things both old and new, I felt the beauty of the in-between

TheBeautyofTheInBetween

Life is really just a series of interrupted transitions...The In-Between. The place where old and new coexist.

I think that's the place where all the lessons reside. And when we take the time to notice, appreciate and really feel the presence of the in-between, it makes where we're headed (our intentions) so much clearer.

So, we were a little late today. Tomorrow, I'll do better. I'm sure of that. I know this because I've gained a new perspective.

A new perspective on Intentions, Transitions and The Beauty of The In Between.

How has 2014 reshaped your perspective? Tell me in the comments below.

I wanted to post this Wednesday, since it not only marked the first day of a new year, but also the first day of a new chapter for my family. But that would have been completely misleading, since I am on time to Nothing...Nowhere...Ever. Eight kids tend to do that to you. Plus, I'm all about keeping it real, or in this case...keeping it crazy!

I posted these two photos on Facebook as a little sampling of how we brought in the new year.

NewYear1

NewYear2

 

Me & my Glitter Girls! Decked out in our tutus, cuz that's how we do!

 

 

 

~

I received lots of positive feedback, but these two identical responses stood out most.

You are such a fun mom. Happy New Year! -TF

You're such a fun mom...love it! -VR

I can only hope my children feel this way.

With a family this large, a lot of yelling, fighting, fussing and hollering goes on. Even on a good day.

But I believe that in between the chaos...embedded in the mayhem...buried beneath the bedlam, there are also many moments of fun, silliness and laughter--The Good Crazy.

NewYears3

IMG_5192

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our night was full of Good Crazy. The television was tuned in to New Year's Rockin' Eve with Ryan Seacrest. We had homemade french bread pizza and wings. The kids were hanging around, playing games--the usual. My husband was on call (His first day back at work after emergency dental surgery that took place the day after Christmas, and he, of all days, was on call.) We sang along to the music and ate entirely too much. The girls excitedly ran back and forth to the sliding glass door each time they heard fireworks. I straightened up my mess in the kitchen, glanced at the clock and rushed to spruce up the girls' hairdos...because being crazy doesn't mean you have to look it! It was 11:40 and I needed Aastan to set up our glowing eye masks and glasses and pass out our squawkers and blowouts; after all, the new year must be brought in properly.

And then it happened! 11:42 pm, Aastan got a call from work. And the New Year crazy began! He took the call, handled the issue and darted into the den to get our party items set up. I rushed through the last ponytail as he was throwing masks and glasses at kids left and right. In the last 60 seconds before the new year, he switched to throwing blowouts and squawkers so we could at least, "Make some noise!" At the 45 second mark, he said, "We're not gonna make it!" To which Allen-Michael, one of our twin boys, responded, "Can't you just pause it?!" Wishing secretly that we could, since that would seriously be the solution to all my problems, I said, "No, child! You can't pause time!" There's a lesson in that, I'm sure.

At the stroke of midnight, the ball dropped in Times Square, and we wildly shouted, "Happy New Year!" Some of us with masks and glasses, and some without. And the family, who is always rushing, rushed right on into the new year!

IMG_5185

On this night, Lauryn was sick. We found out yesterday, she actually has strep throat. Maybe a Dose of Good Crazy was just what she needed to enjoy bringing in the new year. Or maybe she was having flashbacks of the many times I've shouted, "The next person who gets sick in this house is gonna be in for it!"

I know...it sounds insane. But in my defense, a house full of sick kids will cause you to lose it! I mean, r-e-a-l-l-y lose it!

But, as far I see, I'm ahead of the game. Because you have to be a little nutty in order to keep up with all of this crazy!

 

Have a Happy New Year filled with all kinds of Good Crazy!

IMG_5230