Merry Christmas, y'all!

>> Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our family Christmas card

Setting out cookies for Santa and carrots for the reindeer

Silly Lucas

Santa baby

Merry Christmas, y'all!
Many blessings to you and your family this season and in the year to come.
Much Love,
Farrah




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Posts Worth Sharing

>> Monday, December 22, 2008

I got back late last night from L.A. and am trying to catch up with life and Advent and getting ready for Christmas. So until I have more time to sit and share my own thoughts, enjoy some well-spoken thoughts of others that I think are worth your time.

Making Babywearing Work for You- an honest, balanced assessment
Saving Holiday Memories- a really cool idea that I think I may try to start this year
This Father is Not a Mother- a dad's take on attachment parenting
I know there are more...but my baby is starting to cry and is in need of the boob....

P.S.~I am reading a book that has the potential to really impact how I live my life and the decisions I make about a while lot of things..... have I peaked your interest? More to come soon. I have to read more first...

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A Strange Lonliness

>> Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I grew up a little today... quite unexpectedly. My grandmother, my dad's mother and my last living grandparent, died last night.

Both my grandfathers died before I was born. My dad's mom did remarry and I knew and loved him as my Grandpa my whole life until he died when I was in college. My mom's mom also died when I was in college. Growing up a military kid, we lived all over so I saw my grandparents once or maybe twice a year, if that. So I would not say that I have ever been super close to my grandma ("Grams"). But we occasonally talked on the phone and traveled to California to visit. I tried to be faithful to send pics of the boys. And I loved her.
And now that she has gone to heaven to be with Jesus, I feel strange. Yes, sad but also grateful because she had Alzheimer's and is now herself again. Also admittedly a little jealous because she is now in the presence of Jesus and probably holding my little Micah's hand. I do hope they found each other. No matter what your theology of heaven tells you, I know that my grandma and my first born are worshiping Jesus together tonight.
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My Grams with Lucas in June '06

But this strangeness I feel surprises me a bit, catches me a little off guard. As I process this news and sort through the emotions of it, I feel inexplicably lonely and isolated. As I said, I didn't see her that often. But now I have no living grandparents and that feels strange. I am no longer anyone's granddaughter. I am daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, mother, niece, cousin.... but not granddaughter. I just grew up a bit.

My parents both told me that everyone would understand if I didn't make it to California for the funeral. It is a week until Christmas and I have a 4month old. But I feel the need to go. Not really to see my family, though that will be nice. Not to make an appearance. I am going to validate a relationship that is significant to me, to my boys. I am going as my way of saying that I loved her deeply and treasured her role, even if somewhat limited, in my life. I am going because she was my grandmother, a woman who I am forever connected to and thus my boys are too.
She was a strong woman who survived two husbands, a son, a grandson, a great grandson, and her beloved dog. She loved to play video poker and slots in Vegas and smoked like a fiend. But she was tender and genuine and very much a part of me. She loved the color purple, ice cream, and anything with dogs. It has only been in the last few years that she stopped sending me sweatshirts with puppies on them for birthdays and Christmas. She always sent cards for mine and hubby's and Lucas' birthdays even in the throws of Alzheimer's. It was like the last piece of her that always remained in the now. I made her a quilt a few years ago with squares for each person in our family and she displayed it proudly on her wall. Right next to the picture I cross-stitched for my grandpa when I was barely 9 or 10 and all the family pictures she had collected over the years. I always found it funny to see pictures of Lucas displayed right next to a picture of me from 2nd grade.
I moved up on the generation ladder today. There is only one above me now. And that feels strangely lonely. I wonder how my dad feels, being at the top of that generation ladder now...

I grew up a bit today. She is my history, a piece of my heritage. And I will miss her. I already do.

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Merry Christmas to Me!!

Even though Advent/Christmas is my favorite time of year and I am a HUGE gift-giver (as in I really like to, not I give ginormous gifts), I commited a Christmas-gift cardinal sin this week. I blame my mom, really, and I don't even think she'll argue with me. I bought my own Christmas gift from my parents... and then started to use it. **gasp** Now that I think about it, Hubby did the same thing a couple weeks ago with his iPhone so maybe it isn't so much of a Christmas no-no as I thought. My family does this sort of thing all the time. I know what I want better than anyone so why not let me buy my own gift? Well, it takes some of the spirit/fun out of it, which is a bummer. But I had been lusting after this particular gift for awhile and I couldn't wait any longer.


Without further ado... my very excellent Christmas present.. a Beco Butterfly! Hooray!! So far, it is fabulous. Although I have other carriers that I can use for back carries (ring sling, mei tai, wrap, ergo), I wanted this particular carrier due some features that make it unique and really great for back carries with smaller babies. It has an infant insert that clips around baby to make the leg opening smaller and keep their little bodies from shifting in the big carrier. Also, it has an awesome feature (shown at right) that allows you to secure baby in the carrier before you put the carrier on. In this picture, Caden is already clipped in and all I had to do was pick up my Beco by the shoulder straps, put it on like a backpack then buckle the waist belt and adjust everything so it felt comfortable. Voila! Little baby securely in a soft structured carrier with NO help! Hooray!
Caden seems to really like it. As you can see, he looks pretty comfortable. :) He slept on my back like that for over 2hours the other day! No exaggeration! And my back was fine- no soreness or pain at all. I could feel it the first time I put it on. My back muscles were a bit sore but I think it is because I mostly use my ring sling and the Beco uses different muscles that weren't accustumed to the weight. Also, in this picture, he looks a little low. I had him up a little higher today and that seemed to help. It is good to rotate which muscles get the babywearing work-out anyway. :)
I love having Caden on my back. It is so freeing!! I can pick up Lucas (who has been sick and in need of mommy-comfort), I can wash dishes, cook, whatever.... And although you can use the ring sling for back carries and I plan to, I haven't done it yet with Caden because I am nervous to scoot him around my hip to my back at this age. When he gets a little older I will be more comfortable doing that. But that is why I LOVE the Beco... I can strap him in and then put him on my back so I know he is secure.

A couple more pictures because it is my pretty, new toy and Caden is just so darn cute!!!



I purchased my Beco from this great website Tender Cargo (
www.tendercargo.com). They have a great selection of carriers and other cool baby things. You should check them out. Their stuff is great and the service was great too.

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4 months

>> Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lucas (above) and Caden (below), both at 4months old... Do they look alike to you? I see these pictures and see such different little guys but yet they look more alike than I realized. What do you think? I'd love to know!



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He Came to Complete my Brokenness

>> Thursday, December 11, 2008

I have always been one easily moved by moments/songs/memories where I can sense something bigger than what is on the surface. I am a deeply emotional person, as are most women I guess. I cry during the National Anthem because of all it represents to me, all the people I know as a military kid who have sacrificed so much. I seem to cry a lot during worship when the reality of the words on my lips overpowers my soul. I tear up a lot this time of year because the beauty of the season (the lights, the carols, the traditions, ...) really touches me. I think about Mary and her journey to motherhood. I think about the deep, deep significance of Christ humbly coming to earth as a baby to save all people. But mostly, I get very emotional when I find myself in the midst of a moment with my loved ones, my boys... a moment where time seems to stand still and I am struck with the "big-ness" of life.

I had one such moment tonight... watching Polar Express of all things. I watched as my awe-struck, train-lovin' little boy sat and watched this movie with his eyes as wide as saucers. Every few minutes, he would turn to me and announce with exuberance the amazing thing he had just seen. "That boy is walking on top on the train, mommy!!" I smiled in response as my littlest boy sat cooing in my lap. Lucas eventually made his way down to the floor where I was sitting with Caden and climbed into my lap. I had both my boys, contentedly sitting with their mama, all snuggled up against my chest. The beauty of that moment was not lost on me. And quite predictably, I started to cry. I held them close and tried to drink it all in. My boys, two of them anyway. Lucas was once this small and how fast the time will go with Caden too. The days are not too far off when they won't want to sit with mama anymore. But my tears were not for how quickly my boys are growing up. The emotion of the moment was simply having them at all. Having lost my first, having moments to hold and kiss these two will NEVER be lost on me.

I was asked by a friend today if having Caden now makes my family feel complete. I answered with an emphatic yes, because he really does in so many ways. But not completely complete. Holding my two boys tonight and watching the wonder on Lucas' face, I felt warm and full. Yet empty. I squeezed them both to savor the moment, these seconds where I feel so grateful for being their mother. I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this calling at times, but can't imagine anything I would rather be called to. But it is also in these moments of maternal clarity that I feel the deepest joy and grief all at once.
This same friend blogged today about missing her baby she hasn't met yet. It is about such a deep longing, a physical need to be connected to that baby and touch him and see his face. I know that pain. I am feeling it right now. I can hold and touch and kiss two of my babes but the one I cannot will always leave a big hole. Even as I sit here and type and weep, I try to remember what is was like to hold him and touch him and kiss his soft skin. And it is hard to remember. So I lean down and kiss Caden instead because it helps soothe my maternal aching. My longing does not lessen my love or appreciation for the special moments with Lucas and Caden. If anything, it deepens it. I want ALL my boys. I long for it. Longing doesn't even scratch the surface. And I know it will never be so here on earth and that is why I will never be completely complete.

In this season where we celebrate God sending His Son to earth, I am moved by so many things. Precious moments with my boys, the simple beauty of a brightly lit tree glimmering through the snow, the words and peaceful music of the carols, ... But mostly, I get emotional when I am reminded of the truth that Christ came to earth not just to save me, but to make me whole. To heal the places where I am wounded and raw and longing. To complete my brokenness. And when I look at my boys and hold them close, I know the He came to heal their brokenness too. My little Micah is is heaven, also now whole. And although I long for the day when I can hold him and kiss him and tell him how very much his mommy has missed him, I am oh-so grateful for moments like tonight when God reaches down and opens my eyes to the amazing gifts I have right here in my lap. I am the mother of three boys, and I can kiss two of them. So I will. Every chance I get.


P.S.~I just read this over before clicking "publish" and it seems a bit jumpy. I don't know what to do about that so I apologize to those who actually read this far down. It is the result of trying to transform my raw emotion into cohesive thoughts and it is harder than it seems. But it is helpful for me to have an outlet for this raw emotion and to process it all. So thanks for bearing with me, if you were able to follow me. Consider it ramblings from a grateful yet grieving mama who is caught up in a moment of deep love and longing for all three of my sons. Longing for complete completeness that only God can bring. May God grant you, and me, His perfect peace.

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My toddler's Nativity

>> Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Luke 2:10 "But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.' "
This is Lucas' interpretation of the Nativity, complete with Thomas the Tank Engine, Sir Topham Hat, the Little People, a random robot, and the characters from Madagascar 2. He created this scene yesterday on his train table and then proudly announced that "everyone should come see baby Jesus. He is such a good baby!" When I asked him what he meant that baby Jesus is a good baby, he replied "he smiles a lot and doesn't spit up and obeys his mommy Mary." Sounds reasonable to me. Trying to use this as a starting block for teachable conversation, I asked Lucas who he thought Jesus came to earth to save. "He came to see everyone. Jesus is friends with Thomas and Alex the Lion and ...." "Did Jesus come to save you and me?" I asked. "Oh, yes, Mommy. Jesus came to save everyone." And that is such good news.

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Advent for Little Ones

>> Monday, December 8, 2008

Since I want to share this Advent season with y'all but am trying to be a bit more present with my family (instead of in 50-million different places), I am taking the easy route and letting someone else talk about Advent for me. This is a post written last year by one of my dearest friends where she shares some really awesome ideas for how to make Advent meaningful for your whole family, including the little ones. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did. (Additional thoughts from me in italics.)



My friends Rachel and Farrah have both asked for ideas about doing Advent with little ones. We are just figuring this out for ourselves, so I am not sure how much help I will be. I definitely recommend searching the blogosphere and internet for Catholic and Anglican family ideas. But here is what did last year and what we hope to do this year. Don't get overwhelmed. We aren't doing all of this. It's best to start small and focus on a couple of things.

Advent Wreath
I definitely recommend having one of these. You could get crafty and have your little ones help you make it, or you could buy one. I made one out of fake garland and red berries and nestled short candle holders in it. Put it in a central place in your home, either the dining room table or coffee table. (We have one felt one Lucas can play with and one with real candles that we keep up out of reach.) We tended to do our Advent devotions after dinner in the living room, so ours sat on the coffee table. We may have to change that this year, since Hobbes will not be likely to keep his hands off of it. Wherever you put it, light the candle(s) every night during devotions or dinner. Calvin was so excited to get to Christmas and be able to light the "Jesus candle" in the middle. It is a great, tangible way to anticipate Christmas.

Books and Toys
I have heard that the Jotham's Journey trilogy is great for Advent. Unfortunately, they are out of print and expensive to buy. If you find them cheap, get me a set too! We have really loved this book. It is great for devotional time or for breakfast reading. Each day has a door you can open with a bit of the Christmas story. The illustrations are beautiful.We also have a plastic nativity that we picked up at a garage sale. We leave that set up under out tree for the kids to play with. (Lucas loves to arrange all the characters of our nativity set. It is a good tool to ge them talking about the story of Christ's birth and make it interactive. We also have a Fischer-Price one that he loves so much that it never got put away after last Christmas.) There are lots of options out there. I think you can even get a stuffed Advent wreath. I am hoping to find some more good Christmas board books, one to introduce every few days of Advent.

Devotions
This depends on the age of your children. Last year, we used the Advent book for the boys and then did some readings our church had prepared for us. The boys are used to sitting through a decent amount of reading at night during devotions. We also used Advent hymns. If you really look, you can find quite a few. Focus on a couple that you can teach the kids. We did a different verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel each night. (There are about a gazillion.) This year, we are doing a Jesse Tree with scripture readings. I ordered these books, and I am planning to eventually make these ornaments. This year we may just do ornaments cut out of paper!


Waiting For Christmas
This is the most difficult part of Advent in our culture. Everything around us is telling us to get up the lights, decorate the tree, start singing carols. A radio station here is already playing Christmas Carols 24 hours a day! Like I said, we sing Advent hymns until Christmas Eve. We put up our tree and stockings before Christmas, but we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve or shortly before, depending on where we will be Christmas day. We put up the stable for our nativity and bring the figures out slowly. I think this year we will have Mary and Joseph travel through the house, set the shepherds up across the room, and let the wise men travel (hide them around the house) from Christmas to Epiphany. Baby Jesus never comes out until Christmas.

The Twelve Days of Christmas
This is probably my favorite part of Advent and Christmas. We don't give our children a big gift bash on Christmas. We try to reserve this day for family. This year we are really looking forward to doing Christmas morning at home with just our stocking gifts. Of course, we can't avoid the gift insanity that happens when visiting grandparents! We do give our children gifts. We do mostly small gifts over the 12 days of Christmas, one opened each morning. We will do a couple of bigger gifts in there, with the biggest on Epiphany. This give the kids time to enjoy each present and makes Christmas Day more about celebrating Jesus' birth and being with family.

Rest and Relax
This is a lot of information. I am overwhelmed just looking at it! Take a few things that will work for you and go with them. There is a lot of information out there that can help. I would love to hear your ideas about what you are doing. Things will change for us every year as we figure out what works for our family. Mostly I love how Advent allows me to prepare for Christmas in a less-frenzied way. I try to get most of my shopping done before Advent begins, and I also try to minimize my Christmas party activities.


P.S.~ Was that helpful? Let me know if you use any of her ideas or if you have questions. Here are some other links that I enjoy and use too:

Other great Advent-ish resources:
Ten O'Clock Scholar- Advent Traditions Carnival and lots of other great Advent posts too
Homemaking Through the Church Year- good ideas daily for Advent activities
Follow the Star.Org- daily Advent devotionals

Peace to you!

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A little less conversation...

>> Sunday, December 7, 2008

...a little more action.

This week I have been trying to heed Elvis' advice and apply it to Advent. Today is the second Sunday in Advent, my most favorite of all seasons. I know I haven't done much talking/blogging about how we are preparing our hearts and getting ready for Christmas. Advent is such a big deal to me that you'd think I would have said more. But in my attempts to maintain a sense of order to our family and be present with my boys, the tasks of doing Advent have precluded the talking about it. Here are some of the things we have been up to so far...

One of the things I am most concerned with this Advent season, in addition to teaching Lucas about the true spirit of Advent and Christmas, is to begin to establish family traditions that my boys will cherish and look forward to in the years to come. That motivation is behind almost all the decisions Hubby and I have made regarding activities and plans for this season. It is why we decided not to travel anywhere this year (that and the massive airport crowds this time of year). It is behind the books we are reading and the activities we have done so far to begin to teach Lucas what it means to prepare for Christ's birth and celebrate the waiting.

Every night, we accompany Benjamin Bear as he follows the star and journeys to see baby Jesus. Lucas is really into chapter books lately (the young reader books where there are less pictures and way more words) so this has been a special treat for him. This book is set up so each night's story is a new adventure for Benjamin until he finally reaches baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. There is also a little mini lesson (ie: faith can move mountains, God answers us when we call to Him, God forgives us when we are sorry, ...) at the end of each story. But the best part... every night he asks to keep reading. "Let's read one more!" And here is where we get to teach about the waiting, the anticipation. These are usually not a toddler's strong points, so I do let him look through the pages to see what stories are coming. I think that is part of building the anticipation. But he is learning, one story each night, and he gets excited when it is time to find out who Benjamin Bear meets next on his journey.

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I have tried thus far to include Lucas in decorating our house and our tree. I am usually pretty particular about things like how the tree is decorated but I am trying to let that go and give Lucas the opportunity to get right in there and really help. I actually put the lights on the tree but I did let him try it and help with the ornaments. Hubby and I also told him that he got to put the star on the top because he is the "big brother" and he thought that was super-cool!

We joined some friends for a fun morning of gingerbread houses and a visit from Santa. Lucas surprised me and sat on Santa's lap. He asked Santa for "Thomas the Tank Engine" at my prodding (so cute that he said the whole name) and has since been asking me regularly what Santa is bringing him for Christmas. Hubby and I agree that there must be a balance when bringing Santa into the Christmas picture. It is hard to avoid since the images and songs and books, etc... are all around. And we don't really want to avoid it either since that is a fun part of childhood Christmas. Lucas loves to read about Santa and talk about him and he seemed to enjoy meeting him. But when asked what we celebrate at Christmas, he can say without hesitation that it is Jesus' birthday. He is learning about Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the whole story. And we are trying to teach him that although there are lots of other fun things about this time of year, the real significance comes in the real story. And he gets it, or at least is starting to.

As far as other festive activities, we are trying out some of the crafts in this book. We made the candy cane reindeer and plan to try a few more. This book is cool because along with each activity it has a story for you to read to help explain the significance and tie it back to Jesus. I made a nativity scene out of felt and he is having fun rearranging all the characters. We have an advent wreath on our table in addition to the one he helps light at church. We are drawing and painting and coloring Christmas pictures while listening to carols to get us in the holiday spirit. He calls "Away in the Manger" the "Stable song" and wants to listen to it several times a day, especially the Johnny Cash version thanks to his daddy. We talk about the story, we sing about the story, we color pictures of the story... he is such a sponge and I want him to know, really know, the real story of Christmas.

My favorite moment so far this Advent season came quite unexpectedly. I took the boys (by myself) to a college bookstore one evening to get a CD I wanted desperately. To say it was a disaster doesn't quite capture the moment. Lucas rearranging bookshelf's, a toddler's blood-curdling scream, a un-child friendly employee... getting the picture? But when we got back in the car, I put the CD in and Lucas and I drove around and looked at Christmas lights in the neighborhoods around our house for close to an hour. "Mommy, they have an Advent wreath on their door!" he said. So cute! We talked about how beautiful the lights were, especially in the snow, and how fun it is to see how other people decorate for Christmas too. We found one house with a huge decorated tree in front of their house (pictured at the very top of this post) and we drove past it many times. "That tree is so beautiful, mommy." And it was. But more beautiful was the smile on my little screamer's face and the moment we were sharing as we drank in the joy of a budding tradition.


I truly love this season. I love the waiting, the history, the beauty and joy that is found in the little things and tender moments.... With a few weeks left until Christmas, a hope we continue to teach the significance of Advent and enjoy the season. But if you don't hear too much from me, it is because I am trying to live it and feel it and not just talk about it.

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Little Tebows

>> Saturday, December 6, 2008

We are moments away from a gut-wrenching exercise in mommy keeping her cool in front of my boys- AKA: the SEC Championship. I get nervous for my Gators, so nervous I want to throw up. You may think it is silly to get so emotional and passionate about a football game. But my blood runs orange and blue and I want my Gators to dominate!! So, here are my little Tebow's to wish the Gators good luck and say GO GATORS!!! BEAT BAMA!!!



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Cool Toy Giveaways

>> Wednesday, December 3, 2008

As we prepare for Christmas and gift giving, here are some great websites and giveaways for you to check out.

LOTS of great giveaways at
A Child Chosen!!


My favorites...
I just entered to win the Playskool Helmet Heros, although now I am not totally sure I want to win! Just one more reason for Lucas to run crazy around our house. He would love it though.




Also, Olive Kids has the cutest personalized gifts! Lucas hates to use a placemat for some reason. So I would love to get this personalized one in hopes that he wouldn't throw it on the ground. If I don't win, this is going on the Grandparents gift list!


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Yet another from A Child Chosen, these super cool sunglasses by My First Shades for kids. Lucas is constantly complaining about the sun in his eyes so this would be great for us.





ebeanstalk.com is an amazing site for quality wooden toys and other great gifts for kids. I would love to have these adorable cars that are puzzles for Lucas whose two favorite things are puzzles and cars. How perfect is that!!

Another site with some great toys is Hazelnut Kids. I love all their colorful blocks and amazing wooden toys. I love these Haba Cathedral blocks because they are so colorful and interactive. I think that Lucas would love them but I especially want them for Caden so he has really nice toys that are especially for him! :)

Marcie at A Child Chosen has really outdone herself... check out all these great giveaways ending December 7th.

OneBookTwoBook is giving away a great book to help you be creative with your family. I LOVE to do crafts with Lucas and find new ways to entertain him. I am putting this book on my list for sure!






There are also a ton of amazing giveaways at Kiddio.

I really love this mail set from Paper Daisy ( a super cool Etsy shop). What a great creative idea! If we don't win, I may try to make one. (I said try... maybe). Her giveaway ends Tuesday the 9th.
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I also really want to win this cute tea set. She is giving away a whole tea party gift package and Lucas would LOVE IT!! I know, a boy and tea parties... but he thinks it is super cool and so do I! This giveaway end 12/13.

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Mommy's Little Monkey

I couldn't decide which to use... they are just too cute!! So indulge a proud mama... He is truly the smiliest baby I have ever known, and I am not just saying that. And just look at those baby-thighs!! So here is Caden, mommy's little monkey.




And to see how cute my other boy is, check out yesterday's post.
And for more Wordful Wednesday, visit Angie at 7Clown Circus.

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Jingle Be....

>> Tuesday, December 2, 2008

As soon as the snow began to fall on Sunday afternoon, Lucas started begging to make a snowman. I promised him that during Caden's morning nap on Monday we would play out in the snow. So we did. It was so fun to be outside and not so cooped up. We made snow angels and attempted a snowman but Lucas kept knocking it down so we didn't get very far. As he sat in the snow, I asked him to sing a song about snow. He started singing "Jingle Bells" but got a little distracted about half way through. Maybe Hubby and I are the only ones who will find this video funny, but it is too cute not share (chubby cheeks in a winter hat... always good for a smile!). Watch his facial expression change 1/2 way through as he is trying to sing the song but also satisfy his curiosity. He is such an amazing, adorable yet sometimes exasperating child.

video

Did you see it? Did you laugh? :)

I know I am behind the curve on the whole Advent thing. But I do have some posts lined up for this week on how we are celebrating and some tips for you too. Right now I have to fold the multiple loads of laundry I did at 2am after Lucas threw up several times. Oh, motherhood. :)

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