February 2014

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February was the first month since we’ve lived in PA that we’ve had snow on the ground every day from the beginning of the month to the end. We had a blast sledding with neighbors, walking on the frozen lake at our favorite state park and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling…

IMG_1941 IMG_2034 IMG_2147 IMG_2168Needless to say, we also needed some ways to stay busy indoors too. Every once and a while, I torture Caleb by making him do arts and crafts. He loves it for the first 5 minutes so we worked on some handmade Valentines, 5 minutes at a time, for about two weeks. At the end, I had him write the first letter of his name on each card. On card #7, he looked at me and said, “Why do all these people have names that start with C?” After I stopped laughing, I explained to him that he was signing his name :)

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Another thing I noticed while we were crafting, Caleb surprised me by randomly switching to writing with his right hand after months of practicing left. He seems to do both equally well so I did some reading up on hand dominance. Apparently, while many children show a clear preference by ages 2-3, some kids keep you guessing until Kindergarten or even 1st grade! Who knew? The advice from the occupational therapy world seems to be, let them switch back and forth as long as needed, don’t choose for them, help them get a correct pencil grip on both sides and it will eventually become evident. So that’s what we’re doing.

IMG_1864One day, I was telling David my disappointment that there was some play dough ground into the rug. He reminded me that we’ll already need to replace the carpet before we move (someday, a long time from now ;) so not to worry too much about it. I realized there are a number of perks to having older things when you have small children. Like when a broom stick handle “sword” scratches our leather couch (which we got 2nd hand, pre-cat-scratched) I can shrug it off in a way I couldn’t if we had lovely new ones. Obviously, I still try to teach him the importance of caring for our things, but having a rough and tumble boy, I know wear and tear is unavoidable and I’m glad I can enjoy the ride rather than worry about the carpet :)

One of my highlights from this month was a humorous conversation I had with Caleb after coming home from a playdate with one of his buddies where we met his little brother, Jaxom, for the first time:

Me: Do you think you might want a baby brother or sister someday?

C: No, I hate brothers and sisters. (Eeek! Where did the H word come from???)

Me: Aww, that’s sad. Mommy doesn’t have one in her tummy right now, but maybe someday I will.

C: If you grow one in your tummy, I want it to stay there!

*Pause*

C: Can you grow a baby in your belly?

Me: Maybe. It’s up to God. He’s the one who puts babies in bellies.

End of conversation. Apparently Caleb is not pining for a sibling. LOL.

About a week after that conversation though, Caleb told me, right after little Caleb went home, that he would like a little brother or sister who sleeps at his house. They definitely have sibling love going on :)

IMG_1650Caleb has pretty much given up napping these days. He still takes a quiet time in his room each day, but rarely goes to sleep. However, on those days when we have somewhere to go in the evening, I tell him, “Caleb, we are going to go someplace fun tonight and you are going to get to stay up late and play with friends, so you need to go to sleep this afternoon.” And he will! Every time! He puts himself right to sleep. I am so thankful he is willing to do this!

IMG_2111Most of David and I’s news this month centers around health and wellness. I started physical therapy again for some pain I’ve been having. 4 weeks later, I’m having less pain, but tons more soreness as I try and get these weak muscles of mine to cooperate. I just keep repeating to myself, “Strength is built over time.” Or at least that’s what they tell me as I sweat to lift my leg 2 inches off the table.

We also invested in a treadmill this month. David found during a work trip last year that he really enjoyed using one so we’re replacing our stationary bike that currently only David uses (because I find readjusting it for my height to be a pain) to a treadmill we can both use. I’m excited!

Comparison, Guilt and the Grocery Budget

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As anyone who knows me or has read the blog for a while knows, I love making goals for the new year. I usually keep up with about half of them and I’m totally fine with that. To me, goals are how our family tweaks the new year to make it run more smoothly than the year before, not the be-all-end-all. They’re meant to work for us, not crush us under their weight.

One goal however, that resurrects in some form each year, stubbornly refuses to conform to this philosophy and leaves me gasping under it’s pressure by April.

Lowering the grocery budget.

This simple, inane goal has become one of the few areas I struggle with wanting to compare myself to everyone else in. I want so much to wisely steward our finances and am always astounded by how capable other women seem to be of feeding their family on a smaller budget than ours. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw this post on Money Saving Mom: Can a family of 3 Survive on a $400/month Grocery Budget?

Finally! It was so encouraging for me to see that Crystal (the Money Saving Mom herself) and other women further along the frugality food chain than me think that sticking to that number would be challenging, but do-able. My feelings exactly!

Last year, I could occasional stay under my $425 budget, but often went over, especially when we needed to restock on tissues, diapers or other “once and a while” purchases. I felt like such a failure each time. Surely $425 is a generous budget for a family of 3?!? But apparently, it’s considered challenging…by some.

Because then I read the comments.

And there they were. These amazing super-women who are somehow able to care for the food/hygiene needs of a families of 9-11 people on the exact same budget I have. And my bubble burst.

They are doing the exact same things I am- shopping at ALDI, gardening, couponing/shopping sales, and yet somehow we are ending up with two very different outcomes.

As the frustration and guilt welled up inside of me over this topic for one too many times, I decided to do some heart searching and here is what I found:

1. In all honesty, there are things I could be doing better if what I want most is to lower the grocery budget. However, I like keeping a few frozen pizzas in the freezer for convenience, keeping a small stash of individually packed snacks/granola bars in the pantry for last minute dashes out the door, buying organic meat and farm fresh eggs, and organic produce when the cost difference is less than $1/lb. It’s not a mystery what could be cut. I just don’t want to.

2. What is my motivation for wanting to save more? In my mind, I say it’s because I want to “Live simply so others can simply live” but I have a sneaking suspicion that in my heart it has a lot more to do with wanting to be able to feel a sense of pride (not in a good way) of how frugally I feed my family compared to other people. Sickening, I know. I feel like I need to defend myself and say all the things I DONT feel that way about, but I’m going to be confident that all of us have *something* we struggle with feeling insecure/prideful about and keep moving.

3. What do I hope to gain from reading about saving on groceries? I’ve been reading articles about it for the last 5 years. I’m pretty sure I’ve already picked out the methods that work for me, and have plenty of other ideas I haven’t implemented floating around in my mind should I want to try something new. There is nothing to be gained from continuing to read them other than to compare myself to others. Time to stop clicking.

So what’s my grocery goal for 2014? Stop comparing our budget to someone elses.

January 2014

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We spent the first two weeks of the month soaking in time and warmth with family in Florida. It was a wonderful visit as always. Caleb especially loved every minute with his Grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousin. I could put a million pictures in here, but I’ll save it for a facebook album ;)

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And then we came back to this:

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Beautiful, but oh so cold after having just been in Florida. Fortunately Caleb loves the outdoors, no matter what the temperature. He was however, quite offended by the frigid water coming out of the faucet. “That is too cold, Mommy.”

We’ve started working on a few new independence skills this year. Socks were one of our last hurdles to Caleb getting dressed in the morning on his own. Until suddenly, with no prompting, he picked up a pair last week and said, “I can do my socks all by myself!” And he did. So now, Caleb can dress himself completely except for his shirt. So proud! It definitely makes getting ready for preschool in the morning less hectic for both of us.

Speaking of preschool, Caleb’s class started making “journals”. His teacher gives them each a prompt, writes down their answer and then has them draw a picture to illustrate. This month’s was, “When it’s snowing, I like to _____.” Caleb said, “Go sledding”. When he drew his picture, he drew a circle with 2 blobs on it and informed me it is “Caleb and Daddy on the sled.” This was especially precious to me because I missed getting pictures of the real event due to being stuck inside recovering from a vicious cold. I managed to catch this “after” shot through the window though :)

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This month at preschool they have really started working on letter recognition. So far they’re up to the letter G, so I decided to put our last name on the wall, under Caleb’s first name (which is what they were working on most of the fall). To my surprise, he was able to tell me all the letters in his last name right away. I’m amazed at how much he’s picked up just from talking and reading together. He then told us he want to “know all the letters” and has been having a great time playing games like this one:

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“Find the letter “X”, Caleb.”

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“WHAP!”

It’s fun to put some of my tricks from teaching to use!

I love the imagination and creativity of this age. Caleb is constantly cracking me up with unexpected solutions to my daily dilemmas. Recently, he overheard me saying I’d lost something and reassured me saying, “I can find that for you mommy! I’m a paleontologist!” That’s about what it would take to find some of the things buried around here :)

One of my goals for this year is getting back to doing our monthly family update, since I do love to read back over them and remember what Caleb was doing at different ages. We’ll see how dedicated I really am when the weather warms up and we’re free to spend the day outside again. I hope everyone’s 2014 is off to a wonderful start!

 

2013 Christmas Card

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2013 Christmas Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Our Family’s Top 10 Highlights for 2013

1. Our year began with some big transitions for Caleb. Just when we thought time couldn’t move any faster, he moved to his big boy room and began potty training. He handled the changes well. Mommy may have shed a few tears over how fast her little boy is growing up.

2. In May, we celebrated our 4th anniversary with an overnight campout and local winery tour. Neither of us had ever done a wine tasting before and we enjoyed it immensely! It was a great time of reconnecting and reflecting on how our friendship has grown over the years.

3. In June, we went on our first overnight camp out as a family with several other families from our church. With 9 adults and 15 kids, it was a fun and exhausting weekend. We swam in the lake, rode bikes, made smores and ate watermelon cooled in a stream. No wonder Caleb came away from the weekend loving everything about camping! With his birthday in just a couple weeks, we knew he’d love a “camping party” so we set up our tent in the backyard, put some magnetic fish in the kiddie pool and made a fake fire from sticks and tissue paper. It was simple and everyone had a great time, especially the birthday boy.

4. Caleb also fell in love with “swimming” this summer. Despite the fact that it was one of the coolest Augusts we’ve ever experienced, we made sure to make several trips to the community pool so he could splash around in his puddle jumper until his lips turned blue.

5. Later that same month, Sarah was blessed with the opportunity to celebrate her friend, Sarah Tew’s, 40th birthday at the beach. Three days of celebrating life, walking on the beach, staying up late talking and sleeping in each morning did wonders for refreshing her spirit.

6. In September, Caleb started preschool two mornings a week. He adores his teacher and all the fun things he gets to do at school. He loves memorizing anything- songs, verses, even entire stories from his Bible CD’s. Needless to say, we have to be really careful what we speak about in front of him. Just yesterday I heard him remark to one of his stuffed animals, “It’s been a long day for all of us…” Haha! He’s always listening…

7. In October, David received special recognition at work for his role as a minion. Literally. One of David’s coworkers had the idea to dress their entire team up as minions (and Gru) from Despicable Me for Halloween. They won the costume contest by a landslide.

8. David was able to complete several projects he’s been working on this year. His favorite is one he jokingly refers to as the “easy button” and another that he built to automate many of the repetitive tasks at work. I told him to be careful not to automate himself out of a job ;)

9. Sarah continued to be a caregiver 2 days/week to another little boy (also named Caleb) who is a year younger than our Caleb. It’s been a blessing watching the boys grow closer this year and teach each other new things.

10. The biggest highlight of our year was definitely the time we got to spend with our friends and family. We feel so blessed to be able to give and receive so many visits each year with those we love.

Growing Together

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15 minutes until we need to leave for preschool and we’re both still in our pajamas. Trying to get Caleb dressed, but he is fighting me every step of the way. Twisting away from my help, then barking orders at me when I try to give him independence. Frustration rises up inside of me. It doesn’t take long for hot, angry, loud words to come bubbling out of my mouth. His anger rises to match mine. More fighting from him, more yelling from me. Finally, his tears start flowing, even as he fights me harder.

Conviction. He is wrong to disobey, but I am wrong to pretend my yelling is being done in love. I’m angry and I want him to feel it.

I stop trying to wrestle clothes on him and say quietly, “Caleb, I need to tell you something.” He stops squirming, but sits still with body rigid and tense. I’m sure his mind is wondering if there will be more angry, condemning words.

“Caleb, I’m sorry for yelling at you. Mommy was wrong to yell angry words. Please forgive me.” He can tell I mean it from my heart. He leans his back into my chest.

“I forgive you Mommy.”

We sit together for a long pause.

“Mommy?”
“Yes, buddy?”
“I have somethin’ I need to tell you. I’m sorry for disobeyin’.”

“I forgive you buddy. Thank you for forgiving me too”

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“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”  -2 Corinthians 12:9

I am Caleb’s mother, and that gives me authority in his life, but we are both sinners who stand before the Cross, in need of forgiveness. In that way, we are complete equals. Although I’ve asked Caleb’s forgiveness for yelling many times over the past 2 years, this is the first time he’s seen his part in a conflict and asked for forgiveness too, without prompting from me. It’s like watching a sprout come up from the ground. Tender, new, still in need of much nurture, but encouraging and beautiful just the same.

Garden 2013: A Recipe and Reflections

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Although it still feels like summer outside (hello 85! Stay as long as you like!) the garden is aware it is fall none-the-less and is winding down for the year. As always, I’ve begun to think about what worked well this year and what I’ll change next year.

Last year, I planted mostly heirloom tomatoes and was plagued with fungus, budrot and overall low yield. This year, I planted only 1 heirloom of the 4 plants, aggressively trimmed back foliage and watered more diligently. We were reward by eating all the tomatoes we wanted without purchasing a single one from the store, even with all our company! It was fantastic.

In the past 3 weeks though, so many ripened at once, I knew I’d need to do something to preserve them because we couldn’t eat them fast enough. I decided to try my hand at making sauce and the results were so fabulous I had to share!

The recipe I followed can be found at Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/08/fresh-tomato-sauce/

If you’re interested in trying it out. Here’s a step by step of how it went for me:

Finely chopped onion and celary, shredded carrot, and minced garlic. All cooked 10 minutes in the olive oil.

Finely chopped onion and celery, shredded carrot, and minced garlic. All cooked 10 minutes in the olive oil.

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I did blanch/peel the tomatoes, but as most of mine were small and meaty, I just swiped any big clumps of seeds out with my fingers and ignored the rest.

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That seemed to get plenty of juice out with minimal effort from me.

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A view of the sauce when it started. Big chunks of tomato!

After 15 minutes of cooking I decided I might not have gotten enough of the juice out and looked around for some tomato paste to help it thicken

After 15 minutes of cooking I decided I might not have gotten enough of the juice out and looked around for some tomato paste to help it thicken

My mom had given me several jars of this deliciousness, so I threw in a table spoon and froze the rest.

My mom had given me several jars of this deliciousness, so I threw in a table spoon and froze the rest.

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After an hour of cooking, the final consistency was perfect. Just like sauce from the store!

And the taste was incredible. I could have kept eating it right off the spoon!

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The result of all that hard work- enough for 3 or 4 pizzas. Definitely need to plant more tomatoes next year!

You might be asking yourself, “Was it worth all that work?” My answer would be, “Yes and no.” If I was doing it simply to be frugal, I would consider that a poor return on my time investment when I can buy jarred sauce I like for $2/jar (or less, on sale). However, I really enjoyed the process of making it and the taste is truly “sauce nirvana”. I also would have cried if those tomatoes had gone to waste. David and I agreed that we need to plant even more bushes next year so I can make a much bigger batch of this sauce.

I once heard a gardener say that her garden is all about growing tomatoes and basil and I’d have to agree. We’ll probably devote one whole bed to it next year and use the other for a few eggpant/squash and some lettuces. I’m already missing the fresh veggies of summer, but I’m thankful that a good year in the garden means we have bursts of summer put up in the freezer to remind us winter won’t last forever.

September 2013

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I’ve officially given up on writing any summer posts. We were so busy having fun with friends and family, I didn’t even jot down my usual notes as the weeks went by. So if you want to know what we were up to during that time, you’ll have to check the facebook albums that I will post…eventually…

Moving right along, September was definitely an update-worthy month. So many big changes! It reminded me of this past March in a lot of ways. Suddenly, milestones we’d been working on for months materialized before our eyes. Potty training was complete, preschool had begun and we were left wondering when our toddler became a little boy.

Making his "Self Portrait"

Making his “Self Portrait”

Lest that sound too sentimental, let me add that 3 year olds, so far as my 2 months of experience raising one suggests, are 1 part awesome to 1 part stink. I love seeing Caleb’s personality, thoughts and opinions coming alive. I do not love the defiance this age is full of as he seeks to try on new roles and become more independent. I know it’s normal, but that does not make it fun. This is pretty much the response to any suggestion these days: http://crappypictures.com/time-to-go/

Equally awesome and stinky is his discovery of the word “Why?” This is awesome, because he is truly not using it in an attempt to stall or question my every parenting decision or anything like that. He just wants to know why every single atom in the universe is where it is and acts the way it does. And he truly expects me to know. If I don’t, he will save it up to ask Daddy later. So amazing to see his little sponge brain working. So exhausting to try and pour more and more into it.

Why are tomatoes red?

Why are tomatoes red?

Another piece of awesome from this month: He is rocking pretend play. Suddenly he can carry on a conversation for two people with one of his stuffed animals (or diggers, or lego men or trains…). This is especially amazing to me when I consider it was this month last year we had him tested for speech because he still hadn’t reached the “putting two words together” milestone.

Caleb and his buddy "Edwin" going for a bike ride.

Caleb and his buddy “Edwin” going for a bike ride.

He’s also become more conversational with us too. At dinner time, his favorite question to ask is, “What was your favorite part of the day?” I love this evening ritual. It has given me so much insight into what touches his heart. His most frequent response to being asked is, “Going outside!” so I know something was really special if it bumps going outside to the #2 slot!

We’ve also seen his comprehension growing, especially as we read the Bible and seek to explain the Good News at a level Caleb can understand, it’s amazing to me to see the parts that resonate in his heart. This month, he has started asking me, “Mommy, Jesus going to come down and wipe away all our tears?” He asks often and smiles widely when I tell him “Yes, he sure is”.

I may be reading into how much he’s grasping. He’s probably just thinking how great it would be to be able to be rough and tumble without worrying about getting hurt, but when I think about all the horrors that have happened in the world since he’s been alive that I have shielded from his knowledge- The Boston marathon bombing, Sandy Hook, a bomb threat to his own preschool- and yet, when he hears about how Jesus was God and man, who came to earth and died for our sins, rose again and is coming back to wipe all the tears from our eyes- that last part is the promise he remembers.

And of course, I can’t forget to mention that September brought a very special birthday! I’m so thankful for another year with this wonderful man!

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May 2013

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Poor May. I didn’t jot a single note or funny story about Caleb down in the blog notes this month. We were just too busy…

Enjoying spring

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IMG_6397Conspiring with a group of friends

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Surprise! Happy Nerdy 30!

IMG_5630 IMG_5591 IMG_5654IMG_5649Reflecting on 4 beautiful years of marriage

IMG_5901 IMG_5958Spending time with my mom during her visit here

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And savoring the time while our boy is little, because it’s going fast…

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April 2013

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April was a fun and busy month. The weather finally warmed up so we  broke out the finger paint and sidewalk chalk, made smores and, less excitingly, started mowing the lawn again.

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Roasting his first marshmallow

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First smore!

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Homemade paints from a friend.

Homemade paints from a friend.

We were also blessed to both give and receive a visit this month. As I mentioned in a recent post we spent 3 full days in Michigan visiting my mom’s cousin Lana and her husband Ron and our dear friends, Drew and Melissa and their two boys came and stayed with us for the weekend. Caleb and their older son Braydon were BFF’s until they turned 2 and their family moved to another state so I was eager to see how they’d react to one another one year later. It was like no time had passed at all! Still best buds. It melted my heart!

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They are both 100% BOY. I wonder which one of them had this idea…

A few more highlights from the month

Caleb attempted to write his first letter! He called me over and said, “Caleb write his name?” I encouraged him to try and he said, “It start with letter ‘C’.” And this is what he wrote! Proud mommy moment!IMG_4900Caleb also attempted to climb his dresser this month. Not such a proud mommy moment. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt at all. Anchoring the dresser to the wall instantly moved to the top of the priority list.

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This is what happens when you send your son to put socks away in his drawer unsupervised…

We instituted a new lunch time ritual. After several days of power struggles to convince Caleb to sit still long enough to eat his food, I decided to try reading to him while he ate. It worked beautifully. So now, most days, I either re-tell or read a story to Caleb while he eats. So far, it’s been very effective in reducing the wiggles! We’ve retold several Bible stories, classic fairy tales and read most of the Beatrix Potter books I own just this month. What began as an extra “chore” for me has quickly turned into a delightful ritual. I love when that happens : )

Caleb has developed an adorable alter-ego called “Mr. Wheelbarrow”. We have no idea where his love of being a wheelbarrow came from or when during our day he’ll pop up, but he always makes us smile. Sometimes Caleb latches onto our legs and says, “Mr. Wheelbarrow got you!”. Other times, we may hear a little voice from the backseat that “Mr. Wheelbarrow’s got a raisin!” (his favorite snack to find in his snack cup!).

Mommy also developed a new alter-ego of her own this month called “Mr. Dentist”. Mr. Dentist wears big sunglasses on the end of his nose, talks with a funny accent, and causes Caleb to laugh so hard he can barely breathe. He was actually causing a little too much excitement right before bed so we retired him when we switched up Caleb’s bedtime routine to a new, shorter version.

Another milestone moment came when I heard the words, “I go peepee all myself! Caleb remembers what to do!” coming from the hallway. Of course, they were closely followed by the words, “Caleb needs to wash his hands. Him touched his butt.” But I’m still calling it a win.

Seriously though, potty training continues to go well. Every couple weeks seem to bring more independence and fewer accidents. This month, after a few pointers from his buddy Braydon, Caleb learned how to get himself on and off the toilet without a stool and ditched the small potty seat. No more remodeling the bathroom every time an adult needs to use it. Yay!

I’m amazed at how much change each month continues to bring. One of the most heartwarming changes this month has been seeing him become less competitive towards little Caleb (whom I watch 2 days/week, for those who haven’t “met” him via the blog yet) and more brotherly and loving. I think this photo pretty much sums it up…

IMG_4892I have the best job ever.

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