Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Habits

Yesterday I blogged about the Charlotte Mason method of education. Her overall goal was to educate the whole child, not just the brain. As you know, there are so many mundane parts of the day and it is our job to help teach our children the day-in and day-out habits they need for life. 

This website provides several categories for habits. Disclaimer 1: I personally find some of these to be a little intense. As I said yesterday, we follow these things very loosely, but I think the overall principle is important. Disclaimer 2: Several Charlotte Mason informational websites and blogs refer to habit training. (Almost) nothing irritates me more than using the word "train" when referencing children. Dogs are trained, children are taught. The formation of a person at any stage of life cannot be reduced to training. Training is mindless, and we don't want that for my children. We want our children to learn why we do things. We want them to learn to process and discern things in life, and if we teach them at a young age to "just do as you're told" with a trainers mentality, they will be trained by their peers inappropriately later in life. We want to raise responsible, thoughtful leaders, not mindless followers. (End rant.) Disclaimer 3: I don't love the term "habits" but I'm using it when referencing the Charlotte Mason model since that's the term she uses. I think the term sounds a little too rigid, but...oh well. 

Here are some of the habits on which we've chosen to focus at this stage and the ways we implement, teach and demonstrate them. 

Attention:

Children need to learn to pay attention, but within proper expectations. A three year old can't focus on something for an indefinite amount of time, 

so we take it in bite sized pieces. For example, we've chosen to worship in the pew as a family. Our church celebrates this and doesn't offer child care during the service because we believe children need to be exposed to the service as active members. 

When Jet gets a little rowdy in church, we might need to leave for a few minutes to stretch our legs or get a drink of water of go potty for the fifteenth time since we arrived. When those moments of distraction come (which is often), instead of telling Jet to pay attention we try explaining what is happening in the service. For example, during the Eucharist liturgy, I might say, "Now we're going to hear the story about the Last Supper. Do you want to hear the story?" Instantly he begins to pay attention (most of the time.) 

One of the biggest ways we teach attention is through practicing it with him. When he is telling us a story, we want to pay attention - phones, computers, distractions away. We focus on him. If he begins a story while we're changing a diaper we might say "oh I can't wait to hear your story, but I don't want to miss any of it, so why don't you meet me in the den and I'll come listen as soon as I finish with this diaper!" It thrills him to know that we want to hear what's on his mind. 

Cleanliness/Order:

A common phrase you'll hear in our house is everyone has a job. We've made cleaning up toys an active (and fun) part of Jet's days since he could comprehend the task (probably around 14 months). As he got older, he helped me throw clothes into the washing machine, add detergent and push the button on. We have a laundry shoot in the upstairs hallway that drops to the laundry room (affectionately known as the dungeon) in the unfinished section of our basement. We all gather our dirty clothes and put them in a pile in front of the closet. Jet has been dropping clothes down the laundry shoot for us since he was about 18 months old. When he was old enough, we'd go downstairs and then sort it together. We'd give him a small task like sorting the laundry by type or color.  Jet, I'll get all the dark clothes and you can put all of the towels in a pile here. Did he require help? Of course! But each time he required less help, and at three and a half, he's a laundry sorting pro. 

He also helps us separate clean clothes into piles. When clothes come out of the dryer, he loves to sort them into piles for each person while one of us folds. He's also old enough now to fold washcloths or cloth napkins by himself. 

Jet also loves helping us dry dishes. We pull the step stool next to the sink and one of us will wash, Jet dries and the other parent puts away. Everyone has a job. 

Jet also helps set the table. He loves getting the placemats (and putting them away after a meal) and getting out the silverware and napkins. 

Now, before you think I'm a taskmaster, I want it stated for the record that Jet loves these tasks. At the age anything that seems like a grown up task is fun. It's a win-win. The one thing we ask him to do which he hates is bringing his plate from the dining room to the kitchen. No idea why this is an issue for him, but he does it after (mostly minimal) whining. 

We've also taught Jet that everything has a home. He loves to put things back where they belong. Each night after supper and before bath, we do a quick run-through of the house. All cups and snack bowls are brought to the kitchen from various rooms, toys are put away and shoes returned to the bedrooms. Again, this is something he enjoys 

Obedience:

Sometimes I have to tell myself the mantra he's only three, he's only three when I begin feeling frustrated about obedience. This is an interesting stage for obedience because in many ways, we've gotten what we asked for. As I said earlier, we wanted Jet to learn to think for himself and process things with logic and empathy. Well, when a child learns to do that, it makes obedience somewhat difficult. We have a no jumping on the bed policy. (We're such kill-joys.) Here's a frequent scenario in our home: Jet jumps on the bed. Case laughs hysterically. We remind Jet that we will not let him jump on the bed because it's dangerous. Then it begins. "Momma, I know the rule is no jumping on the bed, but I'm only doing it to make my brother laugh and I'll be careful, I promise." (Crickets.) So, we go through the rule again and tell him he needs to find another way to make his brother laugh. (Although some days I just hiss something grumpy about getting off the bed right this second or else.) I never claimed personal maturity. Jet had learned that there are very natural consequences to disobedience. (Running through the house often ends in someone getting hurt, for example.) Sometimes we have to take a toy away since he won't stop throwing it, but other times the natural consequences teach more than we could.

Patience:

This is a hard, but important lesson for toddlers and young children. One of the best ways we've been able to teach patience is by giving Jet a sibling. He's learned that his needs are very important, but that everyone else in the family has needs too. Learning to be patient while I change his brother's diaper or nursed him in those early days when the nursing sessions go on and on and on has given Jet a huge gift: he's learned empathy and respect for others.

Other Habits:

These are some other habits we're working on with Jet that don't require much explanation: generosity, respect for other people, gentleness, reflection, and each of the "religious habits" listed on the website above.

How do you implement these "habits" at home with your children? Anything we're missing?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting Our Feet Wet - The Beginning of Our Homeschooling Journey

It's amazing how quickly after having a baby people start asking your plans to educate them. After Jet was born, I wanted to look at them and yell I'm trying to figure out if my baby will ever sleep through the night, but I refrained. If only I'd known that it would take almost as long for him to sleep through the night as it would for us to get to the preschool stage. (I'm only slightly kidding. We breed children who don't value sleep.)

The older Jet got, the more questions we received, so we started doing our research. We're firm believers that until kindergarten, children don't need traditional forms of learning. We're not interested in putting our kids on the Harvard fast-track (mostly because that means one day and we'd have to pay for Harvard), so instead we chose to focus on learning through play. Reading quotes like these convinced us we were on the right track:
“Play is the work of the child.” – Maria Montessori 
“Play is the highest form of research.” – Albert Einstein
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” –  Fred Rogers
So, we were set: no school until age 5(ish).

But then, Jet got older and we realized he was probably smarter than the two of us combined. As most children do, he started asking questions about how things work, what words mean, and the beloved why, why, why question we hear no less than 261 times a day. We incorporated aspects of Montessori and Waldorf education in our home life regularly, mostly through play time and real-life home tasks, such as washing and drying dishes or sorting laundry.

Around that time, I read a few books and was introduced to the Charlotte Mason method of education. Something clicked.

Charlotte Mason believed that children were whole people and as such, their whole beings should be taught, not just the mind. The Simply Charlotte Mason website gives a good overview of her main principles:
By “Atmosphere,” Charlotte meant the surroundings in which the child grows up. A child absorbs a lot from his home environment. Charlotte believed that the ideas that rule your life as the parent make up one-third of your child’s education. 
By “Discipline,” Charlotte meant the discipline of good habits—and specifically habits of character. Cultivating good habits in your child’s life make up another third of his education.
The other third of education, “Life,” applies to academics. Charlotte believed that we should give children living thoughts and ideas, not just dry facts. So all of her methods for teaching the various school subjects are built around that concept.
One reason the Charlotte Mason method clicked with us at this stage is because it's what we're already doing. We read countless books a day, and Jet has been enjoying chapter books for about 6 months. Winnie the Pooh is one of his favorites.

We also use narration - Jet will often tell and re-tell us the stories we've told him or something that happened in his day. When he gets hurt or mad, he'll often draw a picture of it to tell us what happened.

Habits were a natural part of our family life too. We've told Jet since he was old enough to understand everyone has a job in this family. Jet is an active member of this family and has been expected to do age appropriate tasks for a long time. (More on this tomorrow.)

We are outside every day with the exception of extreme heat or extreme cold. Family walks exploring nature is routine. (One addition since reading about Charlotte Mason is that we now take a nature journal with us on our walks and Jet stops when he seems something that interests him and he draws a picture. It might be knots on a tree that look like eyes, a bunny eating grass, or bugs on the sidewalk.)

Since Charlotte Mason's method already fit in so nicely with our family life, and since Jet is beginning to show an interest in reading himself, we've decided to slowly implement a very slightly more formal ritual. Each morning, we eat breakfast together and do devotions (more on this soon.) Then we do our habits: we clear the dining room table, unload or load the dishwasher, make the beds, we get dressed, brush teeth and hair, etc. After that, we have our "school" time. This is a very loose term, as some days Jet isn't in the mood and we just play instead. Or sometimes I'm not in the mood and we play instead. But...if all goes according to plan, this is what we do each day.

Monday: Numbers/Baking - Any kind of cooking where we can look at numbers on a measuring cup and count together. It might be muffins or playdough or prepping dinner in the crock pot. We also have some Dr. Seuss flashcards (thank you Target dollar bin) that he loves to study and play with. 

Tuesday: Letters and Music - We sing songs while we do our morning tasks or we might turn on classical music. For letters, we might draw some letters together on paper or in rice or flour on a cookie sheet.

Wednesday: Field Trip or Activity- Farmer's market, museum, home improvement project, yard work, or sometimes just an errand.

Thursday: Popcorn and Poetry - Our midmorning snack on Thursdays is stovetop popcorn. We have a poetry book we read together, and then he likes to "draw the poem" back to us.

Friday: Errands - The never ending grocery store runs.

After our "school" time (a term we never use with him), we play in our playroom or outside until lunch time. After lunch we have a rest time (Case naps and Jet plays in bed or "reads" a stack of books and every once in a while he falls asleep too). After rest time, it's back to playing hard. Each day looks a little different, and as you can see, this is a very light approach.

We have no idea if we'll stick with Charlotte Mason for Kindergarten/Elementary School, or if we'll find something else that works for us. Right now, we're following his cues and interests and just having fun.

If you've homeschooled or plan to, give me your tips and tricks for these early years!

Friday, July 31, 2015

My Essential Kitchen Items

Since our wedding seven years ago, we've acquired a lot stuff, but on our journey to simplicity we've also gotten rid of a lot of that stuff. In our married life we've lived in four homes, and in each house the kitchen is the hub. The kitchen sets the tone for the rest of our house. I can almost guarantee that if you peered in our windows (please don't...it's creepy), if our kitchen is clean, the rest of the house will be too. If it's messy, the rest of the house follows suit.

There are a few tricks we have to keep the kitchen tidy, but the number one thing that helps keep our kitchen clean is that we stick to the basics. One of the main ways we're able to do that is by maintaining a real food kitchen. We eat real foods and make things from scratch as often as possible. If it comes in a box or a bag, we basically don't buy it. We have very little pantry space, but we also try to limit the amount of processed foods we consume.

Making things from scratch requires more time in the kitchen so to work effectively, we keep our stuff to a minimum. Here are the essentials in our kitchen we can't live without.

Slow Cooker

The Hamilton Beach Set 'n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker has quickly become my favorite kitchen appliance. We haven't had it long, but we use it almost daily. Between weekly bone broth and recipes like this, I'm not sure how I ever cooked without one.

Cast Iron Skillet 

When I'm not cooking in the crockpot, I'm probably using my cast iron skillet. They're a little finicky (that's a professional term), but once it's well seasoned, they're basically indestructible. Some research shows that some iron is absorbed into the food, making cast iron ideal for pregnant women and people struggling with anemia. You can find good cast iron skillets at garage sales, thrift stores, and good ole Amazon. (Or if you're lucky like I am, your grandmother gives you a bunch of very well seasoned pans she no longer uses.) Salt is very effective for removing rust from seemingly ruined cast iron. I recommend not using vegetable oil to season your skillets as the oils can't be extracted by pressing which means they are highly processed, altered and usually come from genetically modified plants (although you can find GMO-free vegetable oil). I use almond oil, but refined coconut oil and ghee apparently work well too, though I've never tried them personally to season a skillet.

Chopper

I could write a love sonnet to this chopper!
My brother and I were wasting time in Williams Sonoma one day and the sales person asked us if we were looking for anything in particular. Since we weren't, we just said, "Tell us your three favorite things you sell." The other two didn't impress me much, but this one had me at hello, and we both left the store with one. I use it for chopping onions, peppers, garlic, herbs, nuts, etc. It also makes delicious guacamole and salsa in seconds. Bonus: It's safe for kids, and Jet loves helping me use it.

Immersion Blender

I have an older version of this hand blender that we received as a wedding gift, and we've used it almost daily for seven years. Our family eats a lot of scrambled eggs, and this is perfect for mixing them quickly. (Sidenote: When baby #3 starts eating solids, we'll be scrambling TEN EGGS each time we make them. We need chickens.) I've also used it for homemade pesto, salad dressings, and most recently homemade paleo mayonnaise. I never used the whisk/chopper attachments so they've said goodbye to our home...

Blender

Another wedding gift we use almost every day is our blender. I haven't upgraded to a fancy Vitamix or Blendtec because the one I have works well and is FREE. I just haven't been able to see that the benefits are worth the price, but maybe I'm wrong. Either way, the blender we have works perfectly for the things we need: smoothies, homemade almond milk, homemade coconut milk, and even blender pancakes. Our model came with a food processor attachment which I haven't used much over the years. My mom recently upgraded her food processor which means I got her old one (score!), so I'll probably get rid of the attachment to save cabinet space.

Curious Chef Knives

Jet loves to help us in the kitchen, so we recently purchased these knives for him. The manufacturer recommends ages 5+, but Jet is 3 1/2 and uses them perfectly. I love that they're safe (no sharp edges), but that they also work. One of his favorite lunch foods is a "crunchy roll-up" aptly named because every bite makes a crunch. (I should market that. The Crunchy Roll Up: Every Bite Makes a Crunch. You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen.) Anyway, a crunchy roll up was my desperate attempt to turn nothing in the fridge syndrome into something delicious and fun - a tortilla with hummus or homemade mayo and a bunch of raw veggies: cucumbers, carrots, celery, spinach, bell peppers, etc. Basically, anything that crunches. Since purchasing these knives, I put all of the ingredients on the counter and let him chop his own veggies and assemble the crunchy roll up. He loves taking ownership over his lunch and honestly, it's a huge help to me! But mostly, it's just fun.


Bread Machine

I bought a bread machine off of Craigslist about 4 years ago and love it. The woman who sold it only used it once, so it even though it was old(ish), it was basically brand new. Sometimes I cook the bread in the machine, but sometimes I just use the dough setting and bake the bread in the oven. I'm experimenting this week with some new soaked bread recipes, so if I have success I'll post the recipe.

Bamboo Cutting Boards and Utensils

We upgraded to bamboo cutting boards and cooking utensils several years ago, and haven't looked back. The key is to keep them well oiled.

Glass Food Storage

We also store food exclusively in glass containers. We use a lot of mason jars in this house - from our homemade coconut milk and homemade mayo to leftover veggies, everything fits in a mason jar. We also have a large set of glass tupperware that we purchased from Costco about 4 years ago.

Electric Kettle

I start every day with a cup of warm lemon water, and drink tea throughout the day. (I'm trying to kick my coffee habit, but talk to me after this baby is born...) Jet requests hot tea several times a week, and Porter and I have a cup of tea several nights a week after the boys are in bed. We also use the kettle to warm water to make coconut milk and homemade play dough.

One Day...
In the future, I'd love to invest in a Le Creuset and purchase a tortilla press. If I had the counter space I'd love a stand mixer, but I'm also doing just fine without one!

What about you? Tell me your essentials. Anything I'm missing?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Slow Cooker Moussaka with Paleo Béchamel

Last night I made a dinner so delicious my toddler licked his plate. Porter probably would have too, but he knows an adult licking a plate lacks the same (disgusting) charm as a three year old, so he refrained.

Before the recipe, here's my sad-turned-victorious slow cooker story. Once upon a time when I was a young bride-to-be I wandered with the registering gun (actually, Porter was having too much fun with it to actually let me hold it) through Bed Bath & Beyond, and I scanned a random crock pot.

Fast forward a few months, and I made my first meal in it. It tasted...metallic. I thought it might have just been user error, so I tried it again several times, and everything I made tasted metallic. So, I broke up with the slow cooker and threw it away. If you were the kind giver of that wedding gift, please forgive me. It wasn't you, it was me.

So, I've been a little wary to purchase another crock pot. It took me seven years to get over my irrational fear and purchase a new one. (I never claimed I wasn't slightly crazy.)

After a lot of research, I decided to buy the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt Slow Cooker. Bonus that it's both lead and cadmium free.


I've fallen deeply in love, which leads me to the original point of this post: the recipe.

After spending an embarrassing amount of time researching nutritious slow cooker recipes, I found some for moussaka, one of my favorite dishes. I never really follow recipes so I looked at several recipes (and pictures, duh) and made up my own thing, which I'm sharing with you. 

Slow Cooker Moussaka with Paleo Béchamel Sauce


Ingredients:
2 lbs ground beef (Organic, grass-fed preferred)
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 (14 ounce) can organic diced tomatoes
1/2 large onion, diced
3 teaspoons dried oregano
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon (we love cinnamon in this house, so increase or decrease according to your preference)
1 6 ounce can organic tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste (although fresh garlic would be better)


Directions:
Brown beef and onion. When cooked, add all the other ingredients except eggplant. Peel and slice eggplant and place half of it in the bottom of the slow cooker. Season the eggplant with salt and pepper, then add half of the meat/tomato mixture on top. Repeat with the second half of the eggplant and remaining sauce. Cook on high for 2-3 hours.

Optional Paleo Béchamel Sauce

Ingredients:
2 tbsp grass fed butter 
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
1 1/2 - 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (homemade preferred)

Directions:
In saucepan on low heat, melt butter and whisk in the arrowroot powder. When combined and smooth, slowly pour in the almond milk. Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to your desired consistency. 

To serve, dish an enormous amount of moussaka onto your plate, because trust me, you'll want a lot. Top with the béchamel and prepare for your life to be forever changed. (No money back guarantee though.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Back to the Basics

The last six months have been some of the most complicated of our lives. From unemployment to an unexpected (but very welcomed) pregnancy, major issues with our home, including our entire plumbing system being replaced, surprise bills, the every day excitement of having two young boys...the list goes on. It's been a difficult season, but it's also been a beautiful season.

We've had more outside frustrations and disappointments in the last six months than we've had in our seven year marriage combined, but our love and partnership has grown in ways we couldn't have imagined. Porter is my rock, and I am honored and thankful to be married to him.

We've seen Bible passages about provision come to life for us. The Lord is faithful and good, even when he doesn't move on our time frame. That's not an easy lesson to learn.

We've been surrounded by our tribe of family, friends and our church. When you become disillusioned with people and relationships, the Lord sends others to not just fill the gap, but to help carry you through. Experiencing real community is an irreplaceable gift.

We've experienced the joys of being home together and our family of four (soon-to-be five) has experienced the richness of the gift of time.

We've come back to the basics. We're craving simplicity and pursuing the peace found in the ordinariness of life.

We've learned that circumstances don't have to be perfect in order for us to find true joy.

This is a place to share my everyday ordinary life - the parenting, the pregnancies, the homeschooling, the homemaking, the recipes, the pursuit of peace and the lessons learned along the way. If you want to join our family on our journey, or if you're on your own simple journey, subscribe to my posts on the right sidebar of this page.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

One to Two

William Case Taylor surprised us and joined our family two weeks early. He was born at home on August 23rd, weighing 6lbs 11oz and measuring 21" long. Full birth story coming soon - it's a good one!

We've had almost six weeks to adjust to being a family of four. Everyone keeps asking how our transition has been. Overall, it has been much easier than we anticipated! Case is an absolute joy.

People say second babies are easier. I'm not sure if that's true or if the parents are easier the second time around.

Ah, the great mysteries of life...

I prided myself on being a pretty chill mom the first time around.

I was an idiot.

OK, that's not entirely true. I wasn't stressed to the max and paranoid about everything, but my mom says if she had a penny for every time I said, It just never occurred to me during Jet's first year of life that she would be a very rich woman.

Case is still a little too young to know whether or not he's "easier" than Jet was. But so far...I am.

The proof is in the pudding parenting. Here are some of the ways I've noticed I'm different this time around.

When Jet was about 3 months old, he got a rash on his cheek after his bath. I was convinced it was something terrible like a flesh-eating bacteria because obviously that's where a rational, calm mind would go about a 1-inch rash on a baby's cheek. Obviously. 

Spoiler: It wasn't.

Two and a half years and another baby later, Case woke up at about 4 days old with a mystery rash all over his entire body. This was the conversation:

Me: Hunny, Case has a rash all over his body.
Porter: Yeah, I just noticed that.
Me: Eh, it's probably nothing, right?
Porter: Yeah, no biggie.
<End of conversation>

When Jet was a baby I rushed to his side every time he started crying. I dropped everything I was doing to pick him up. Crying wasn't allowed. Now...I still don't like hearing a baby cry. I think moms are wired to hate the sound of crying babies so their needs are met. However...sometimes a momma needs to potty...and crying for 1 minute while I go to the bathroom is not going to hurt him.

If Jet spit up on his outfit he was changed. What else was I going to do? Pictures were going to be taken, people. Baby needed a clean outfit. This time? A little spit up never hurt anyone. And the pictures? That's what Instagram filters are for: to hide spit up stains.

Oh wait, no they aren't. They are there to hide Momma's dark circles and puffy eyes. Obviously.

And speaking of Momma's looks, after Jet was born I always had my hair and make up done. I wanted to look cute in all the pictures, lest I ruin them with my dark circles and puffy eyes. And surely all that make up hid my postpartum pudge.


Riiiiight. 

Speaking of pudge...some women get their pre-baby bodies back immediately.

Spoiler: I hate you.

Not really. I'm happy for you and your skinny self and have minimal resentment toward you.

But back to the pudge. I have it. During both pregnancies I gained 42 pounds.

Yes, I gained a second grader. Twice.

The first week after each baby was born, I lost about half of it. The other half took a year after Jet. About six weeks after Jet was born I bought some new jeans about four sizes bigger than my pre-pregnancy jeans because I was just so tiiiiiired of my maternity pants.

The drama.

Case is six weeks old and I'm still proudly wearing my maternity pants. My body has grown, birthed and fed two babies and I have enough respect for it to not stuff myself like a sausage into pants that are uncomfortable when I can wear those comfy paneled jeans. Zippers are overrated. The inventor of maternity pants deserves extra jewels in her crown. I say her because I can only assume that an invention so genius could only be created by a woman.

So, overall the transition has gone a lot better than I thought it would, but mostly because I've just calmed down. I'm trying to soak up this time and these days and not worry about the baby weight, the 15,000 loads of laundry or the amount of time Case sleeps between feedings. The truth is, I fail a lot. Sometimes I forget how many hours it's been since Case had a diaper change. Sometimes Jet throws a tantrum and I look at him and think I wish I could writhe around on the floor screaming at the top of my lungs. Sometimes I forget whether or not I've put on deodorant and brushed my teeth. Sometimes Porter comes home and I tell him I'm going to book a trip to the Bahamas alone.

But before I know it, Case will no longer be a newborn. He'll be a baby, then a toddler, then a kid. This time around, I know just how fast it goes. These days are fleeting.

The truth is, I do think Case is an easy baby, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter. He's our baby. My days are filled with a lot of chaos, and a lot of love. We are four people, with four opinions, and four sets of needs. Some days we clash and the chaos takes over, and that's ok.

But then we have moments like this...


and this...


and this.


Those are my people.

I get to share the joys, the triumphs, the tears, the tickles, the (adult and toddler) tantrums, and spontaneous dance parties with them.

And my life is perfect, even when it's not. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer Fun

Well, my pregnancy updates fizzled out in the fun we've been having this summer. Sitting down at my computer to write a post just hasn't sounded like much fun when I've been enjoying time with my sweet family.

The last update I wrote, I looked like this:


Now I look something like this....


I'm speechless.

Not really...it takes more than a big belly to keep my mouth shut.

I'm 35 weeks (and two days, but who's counting?!) and feeling great overall. This baby has definitely kept me on my toes more than his older brother did. Jet was more of a roller - this baby uses my bladder as a trampoline and kicks my ribs like he think they're his exit point, but I'm loving it. I'm very blessed to have very easy pregnancies, but I'm definitely ready to meet this sweet baby.

Meanwhile, his older brother is growing like a weed and is the joy of our lives. This summer we've spent a lot of time outside doing some gardening...



making homemade ice cream...


Turning our basement from this: 


to this:



and this:


to this:


 We've also added two new family members (Tex and Nova)...


and had lots of slumber parties with Glam, Gramps and Unkie.


We've had a lot of fun adventures at the farm...



cooking...


exploring our city...


painting...


learning how to use the potty...


and visiting our local fire station. 


Mommy and Daddy have had a few date nights and even got to take a weekend getaway!



This summer will always hold a special place in my heart, not only because it's our last season with Jet as an only child, but also because of how much fun he is. I'm sure every mother thinks their children are fun, but seriously...I hit the jackpot. We are so thankful for him!