Holidays · Home Decor

Deck the Halls! Christmas 2017 Home Tour

This town home of ours is quickly becoming a little paradise. I’m so grateful for a place to call our own that suits our needs and that we are slowly sprucing up. I feel like it’s a little diamond in the rough that just needed a little extra loving!

I realize few people dislike Christmas so saying “I love Christmas” isn’t much of a statement at all, but gosh dang it I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I love the lights and the glow and the cheer and the air thick with feeling, and the people trying to be just a little bit better to each other.

And I love that we get a whole month dedicated to trying to draw nearer to our Savior, one that’s especially heavy-laden with warmth and feeling. All the decorations aren’t just pretty things: they originally had specific meanings. Evergreens — everlasting hope and life. Red, the first Christmas colour. A friend shared this the other day: “It was used first by men of faith to remember the blood shed by the Saviour for the world. Christ has given his life and has shed his blood so that every man can have access to the gift of God, eternal life. Red is deep, vivid, bright, it’s the greatest colour of all, it’s the symbol of God’s gift to men.” The bells, ringing with joy at the good news, the lights, pointing to the Light of the World. (For more on how we’re working to teach all of this to our kids, check out this post for some ideas!)

With all that said, the decorating and the little traditions and the Christmas music sure are just plain fun, too! So off we go!

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I’m still working on finishing our stockings, but I love our little matryoshkas on the Christmas mantel. (And yay, we have a mantel!!)

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That painting up there is called Little Lamb by Jennedy Paige, and there is a beautiful description and story that goes along with it, you can read it here. It’s also special to me because our Jonas looked so much like this baby as a newborn ❤

There’s a funny story about this noël sign below: I got it from a local craft fair last year, but the artist hadn’t added the trema on the e so I just added it with chalk! Ha. I realize in the US most people just spell it “noel,” but I had to get it just right in our french-american household!

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Our tree is nothing fancy, but I still love it (and it nearly gave up on us this year after a heating-vent-melting-the-feet incident… but my husband saved the day with a hairdryer, ha!) We got it for our first Christmas with real jobs, after college 🙂

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I made the tree skirt a few years ago, we have several Christmas things I made with this cute collection of fabrics! The ornaments are a collection of memories like I’m sure most of you all have. The cowbell is from Andrew’s mission to Switzerland (which we went back to visit this summer, and now I’m in love…), the footprint ornaments are each of our kids (red for Jonas, purple is Adelina — we made hers at a DIY-pottery painting shop, but the second time around we were nowhere near any of that so I just ordered a package of paintable ornaments from Amazon and did it at home the day before we went to get his first casts! I’d like to get it glazed sometime so it’ll be a little better preserved.)

Adelina made the little jingle bell ornament at our library’s story time last year, back when she pronounced it “beaglebells!” ❤ And that western star up there is a nod to the Cowboy State we’ve been living in the last five years now. It’s also unbelievably heavy and needs a lot of help to prop up and stand up there ha!

Then we have a cozy corner or two and a basket full of Christmas books. I’m still working on building our collection, and the library is helpful too — we always find some fun books there! (I’ve written about this tradition and some resources back here)

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(Do you like miss relaxation’s cameo above? Ha! I made the red print pillow covers, and the text ones are Jane.com finds — I love the reindeer one especially!) Then there’s our advent calendar and the piano area with some Christmas music we’re practicing 🙂

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And this year I may have gone a little overboard and… decorated our kitchen for Christmas! But come on, who doesn’t need little mini-wreaths for their kitchen cabinets?! I love this version over here, and this was my original inspiration.

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Yes, one of our kids chewed off the corner on our Christmas card… ha. I’m honestly not sure which one did it either! I’m also super excited to get those counter tops and back-splash (re)done — it’s happening very soon and then we can finally finish painting the kitchen! And let’s not forget the countdown chain to Omi & Opi’s house 🙂 I plan to tape Christmas cards we receive to this pantry cabinet — I LOVE getting Christmas cards! And sending them, of course!

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And we had to throw in a little festivity upstairs too… Yes, Adelina has a homemade “Christmas tree” in her room!

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Ha! And there’s my friendly little pillow in the guest/Jonas’ room. My MIL is an awesome enabler of my sewing passion, she found this cute pattern! (more here)

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Well there you have it, thanks for stopping by!

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Holidays · Motherhood · Traditions

First Day of Advent: the Christmas Season is Here! + a DIY Acts of Kindness Manger for Kids

December is upon us! I wanted to share something I did with our three-year-old today to help us have a more Christ-centered Christmas and build a new family tradition. Scroll down for details!

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The halls are decked (I’ll share a mini Christmas home tour soon!) and the advent calendar is stuffed with a scripture study schedule and little chocolates (had to sweeten the deal for Adelina this year!).

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It’s kind of struggling to handle the chocolates, ha! Those are some teeny pockets!

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Gifts are finished or in process — I’m making my daughter a baby doll diaper bag and it is coming along sooo cute, I can’t wait to see her face when she opens it up and unpacks all the fun little items! (changing pad, fabric diapers, little minky “wipes,” baby bottles and baby food…) We got a fun surprise of having to buy a new washer and dryer last night so… Merry Christmas to the grown-ups! Ha. But still, I’m really looking forward to enjoying this season.

Speaking of which: it’s time to Light The World with acts of kindness!

For day one, we made a giving manger out of popsicle sticks and a baby Jesus out of modeling clay. Adelina’s was way cuter than mine and she actually came up with a much better concept to get the manger to stick — she’s amazing!

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You’ve probably seen this concept around: children get to put a piece of straw in the manger every time they do an act of kindness or service. On Christmas Day, they can place the baby Jesus in a manger filled with love ♥️

I first encountered this back when this company launched their gorgeous book and manger set. But back then my daughter was like two months old so it was a bit hasty ha, and then this year when I was finally close to building up the gumption to purchase it, they had sold out! So I decided to DIY it, and honestly I love how it turned out, especially because my daughter had a blast making it with me! She saw me working on something and pulled over a chair, and ended up doing much better than what I had planned. So yay for creating memories together 😉

The way to make it is pretty self-explanatory from the picture: we cut several in half to form the base, then went outwards hot-gluing the craft sticks on alternating layers (had to keep cutting the end ones a bit longer each time). The last few layers we stopped going outward.

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The little box you see to the left was my first attempt at a manger, but Adelina had a much better idea when she started layering them on top of each other — way sturdier ha! The straw is just raffia from a craft store that I cut up into decent-sized pieces, and we made the Baby Jesus out of modeling clay, it’ll dry out as we leave it out over the next few days. I’m seriously impressed at how well she made it — I threw mine out after seeing hers!

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And there you have it. I love the homemade feel, and I love that we made it together and that she made the Baby Jesus all on her own — it’s that much more special ❤

Today’s prompt is, “Freely ye have received, freely give,” so my goal for the day was to give more freely of my time and attention to these sweet children of mine. And I’m so glad for this beautiful Christmas season!

Here are some more resources:

The Giving Manger — my original inspiration
The Last Straw — children’s book
#LightTheWorld campaign and ideas
A Year of FHE made an awesome kid-specific version of the LightTheWorld calendar
The Last Straw online story to print out and read
Straw for the Manger children’s story
And here are some more ideas I’ve written about for an intentional Christmas!

Uncategorized

#GivingTuesday Suggestions!

Hey friends, it’s Giving Tuesday! I wanted to pop in real quick and share several charities and causes that are near and dear to my heart. I know we all have to pick and choose where we spend our precious, finite resources — we can’t all do everything — but I humbly present here a few great ideas to choose from 

— The ongoing refugee crisis is overwhelming: people torn away from their homes and displaced, brutalized, buffeted about and living in limbo for years now, families separated, people drowning… but you CAN do two things right now:

– Immediate need: many refugees are literally living on the streets of Paris (the French government essentially has no strategy for them, in fact police routinely brutalize them). You can donate much-needed items as the nights get colder to Compassion Without Borders, an organization our TSOS team can personally vouch for.
AMAZON WISHLIST HERE: https://www.amazon.fr/…/…/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_ws_2Yz.zb68EAXH5
(Excellente idée particulièrement pour mes amis français ou francophiles!)

– Ongoing need: change the dialogue. Their Story is Our Story – Giving Voice to Refugees aims to help people –and decision-makers — see the individual realities of refugees. Looking into a person’s eyes (digitally) and hearing their story from their mouth makes the global crisis real and personal. Please, help us tell their stories and Turn Up the Volume on those stories instead of the propaganda you hear from pundits & politicians all the time.
DONATE HERE: https://tsosrefugees.org/get-in…/turn-up-the-volume-campaign

— Shriners Hospitals for Children. We directly benefit from a Shriners program at the SLC hospital which pays for Jonas’ braces. Those things are NOT cheap and he needs to change them out every time he grows a shoe size. Not to mention the excellent medical care we got there to treat his feet and correct them over this past year, which could easily have been MUCH more expensive. You can watch the video below to see how we’ve personally benefited from their work 

More on our clubfoot story
DONATE HERE: https://shrinerswyo.wildapricot.org/Donate

— MiracleFeet provides that same standard of care to children in the developing world: $250 is enough to treat one child for clubfoot start to finish — incredible, right?! Children who aren’t treated have difficulty and pain walking: they’re crippled for life. The deformity can also cause other serious problems, for example they can end up begging for food on the streets or be abused, their families even abandon them in extreme cases. It’s a small sum to change a life.
DONATE HERE:
https://secure3.convio.net/mfeet/site/Donation2;jsessionid=00000000.app360b?df_id=1503&mfc_pref=T&1503.donation=form1&NONCE_TOKEN=C5DB946ADD282E953EA89BE85F7F2E2D

— And last but not least, there’s The Mormon Women Project, for which I helped compile stories for several years. Most recently the editors published an excellent series on the End of the Childbearing Years — highly recommended reading! The project aims to tell the stories of Mormon Women in all their beautiful diversity:

“The Mormon Women Project intends to give voice to those thousands of women who have diverse cultural backgrounds, have overcome personal challenges, magnify their roles at home, or who represent us to the world in their jobs. To an audience inside the Church, these stories support the idea that we can make personal choices with God’s help that often stand apart from the pressures of Mormon culture. To an audience outside the Church, the stories show the immense strength and wisdom of our people.”
DONATE HERE: https://www.mormonwomen.com/

— ALSO: consider becoming a paid subscriber or donor to trustworthy journalistic organizations (NYT, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, NPR in your state, etc). There are also some excellent nonprofit journalistic organizations like ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity, or OpenSecrets.org. We need good journalism now more than ever! Maybe a good Christmas gift or New Year’s resolution? Food for thought!

 Have a beautiful day friends, and happy giving!

Home Decor · photography

Fall Mantel & Fall Fun

Before I go full bore into Christmas magic (because in full disclosure, our tree and Christmas decorations were up the day after Thanksgiving — the morning, even!) I wanted to share a little fall warmth too!

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There’s the change in the air outdoors, the slanted sun rays in the evening… and autumn is amazing for all that baking and those delicious, hearty soups… (some favorite recipes here) The kids agree!

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And of course, I love decorating for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Autumn in general. I’ve always been a Fall kind of girl — revealing summer clothes never really suited me, I much prefer some cute layers and boots and scarves, and all those fun accessories! Not to mention caramel is one of my favorite things in the world — it’s a family inheritance 😉

So now that we finally have a gorgeous mantel in our home, I can decorate it for the seasons!

Hold on, back up: I haven’t even blogged about this yet! My in-laws came in September while my husband was off at Coast Guard recruiter school for three weeks, and they helped me complete a ton of home projects, including that glorious cloffice. The other big one was my father-in-law helped me build a mantel for our fireplace!

It was all brick before, with an unfinished top — so bizarre! — and now it is gorgeous and I just love it. It completely changes the living room. That, and the new coat of wall paint my husband surprised me with while I was in France with the kids (amazing, right?!), and our home is coming along so beautifully ❤

Before, during, and after, all dressed up for Halloween! (And yes, those frames contain pages from a Martha Stewart magazine. Because, why not? And also I was waiting for some prints of our family photos this summer…)

Isn’t it amazing?! I’m so proud of this project — I designed it, then my father-in-law and I got to work and DID it, on our own! I just got tired of waiting on contractors — it’s a small town and hard to get things done around here, hence the frontierswoman spirit of “I’ll just hike up my skirts and do it myself!” Ha! I’m so grateful to my in-laws for their support in all the craziness. This blog tutorial was really helpful in coming up with the concept and details — although mine is slightly different since it had to fit over an existing top of mantel, so the box is snug around the top and sides of all that brick.

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The dream team!

Anyway, once Halloween was over I switched it up to more fall glory — and we finally got our photos up!

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I love that white pumpkin on the end. (Check out my thanskgiving tablescape over here for more fall decor!) And of course I got some good fall books from the library to read with my daughter and she LOVED the one about fall leaves — especially the raking and jumping in piles part 😉 — so we had to go execute on a gorgeous fall day!

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She especially loved that the neighbors had left out little kid-sized rakes, it was a blast for her to help out. I need to find some of our own for next fall!

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And this cute kiddo was happy to tag along, of course 🙂

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Was there ever a more cheerful baby?! I just love him!

Anyway, that’s a wrap on fall — I feel like we really got a chance to soak in the season.  (It helps we only had one major snowfall before Thanksgiving!) Now, on to Christmas cheer!

Food · Holidays · Recipes

Thanksgiving 2017

I hope you all had a beautiful Thanksgiving! We hosted ourselves this year, with my sister and her husband coming up to join us! Naturally, I made WAY too much food… which we then ate for days and I haven’t cooked all weekend so that’s been kind of nice 😉 And man, it was good…

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I really had fun this year setting a beautiful table. It was basically all DIY and I think it really turned out lovely!

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Those are dollar store charger plates spray-painted an aged copper color, (as well as some rocks and little pumpkins) and those napkin rings are toilet paper rolls with twine glued on, topped with this cute little printable on brown paper! The table runner is a roll of wide burlap “ribbon” sewed together three across. Plastic silverware and napkins are good ol’ Walmart and the placemats are from IKEA. I really liked that blue and orange/copper combo! I will say the spray-painted chargers looked awesome, but even after several days of drying they still felt a little tacky and as soon as we lifted the plates off, paint peeled up with them. So… probably a one-time deal only, ha! But they looked awesome!

I spent half the day Wednesday prepping and making pies (cherry and apple… I LOVE a good tarte aux pommes! My sister brought the pumpkin pie, don’t worry, we didn’t skip the classics!) with Adelina and it was really fun to spend so much time with her. She made her own little mini apple tart, and loved playing with the dough and assisting in every way possible. Oh, and cranberry jello! It’s this delicious creamy, mousse-type concoction a friend’s mom makes and we’ve been hooked ever since! Adelina really liked the little rubber molds we used, and licking all the foam off the top, obviously…

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Jonas made himself useful by snacking while we worked, and Andrew had the day off so he ran interference and support!

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Unfortunately, once she got home from her dance class, Adelina was getting really grumpy, and that night she woke up a mere two hours after bedtime crying — and wouldn’t go back to sleep for two hours. We realized she had an ear infection, poor girl, and she was miserable. I’ve never dealt with this until this week and we were both desperately googling home remedies. We eventually got her back to sleep and in the morning she felt a lot better — although it was still rough: she spent half of Thanksgiving Day asking to go to bed, which if you know her, you know that’s definitely a shock.

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A dear friend saved the day by dropping off a little roller of essential oils that really seemed to give her some relief. Even if it was just a placebo, I think having something to give her and apply helped her feel like I was doing something about it, you know what I mean? Either way, by the next night she was good to go.

But all that meant we started Thanksgiving Day totally exhausted, and suddenly Jonas was really grumpy too… yes, he was sick too. No ear infection though, just a nasty cough. Thanksgiving happened anyway though, in between all of the craziness, and both kids were actually napping by the time we sat down for dinner so it was strangely calm. Honestly, I actually really missed them 😦 But this is real life, right?

Adelina cuddled with Papa and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning.

Then, Sylvia & Kyle arrived early in the afternoon and she was thrilled to see them, as were we! They came bearing gifts from the “big city,” A.K.A. things we can’t buy at our little local grocery store: sparkling apple cider from IKEA (have you tried it? It’s really good! Less sweet than Martinelli’s and seriously perfect) and brie and prosciutto raclette cheese! (yes, we’re nuts, the day after thanksgiving we had another feast: raclette. Mmmmm. The whole house smelled like stinky feet for about a day but it was so worth it, ha!)

We made two little appetizers while she helped me put finishing touches on all the food. These cranberry brie bites were divine. I don’t have a pretty picture but seriously, pin that recipe for later because it’s amazing. I did ours with puff pastry instead of crescent dough though, and we omitted the nuts because my brother-in-law is allergic. Even sans nuts though they’re so tasty! The other one was crackers with ricotta, a little apricot jam and prosciutto.

The Turkey came out perfect and right on time, so I threw literally everything else in next and we got ‘er done! Yup. A Thanksgiving feast cooked all in one oven. Admit it, you’re impressed. Ha!

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And then we sat down to eat after Andrew carved the turkey!

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We really need something better than a pyrex measuring cup for gravy… ha, someday! I made sweet potatoes this year — we usually feel pretty meh about them but Jonas loves sweet potatoes and I felt brave. I asked around and someone shared a divine concoction that did NOT disappoint. Jonas loved it, and my sister and I finished up the rest ha! No pretty pictures of that one though, sorry. Here’s the recipe though! I asked for help on Facebook and came up with this winner — thanks Andria!

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And how about this divine apple tart….

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It’s a rustic french recipe that I use, but I like to drizzle on some salted caramel sauce before putting it in the oven. It is soooo good! (And yes, I totally serve it with extra sauce after, too!) Here is the recipe for the salted caramel sauce although be careful when adding the cream after the sugar has caramelized: the recipe says to remove from heat and then add the caramel, but I find that tends to make the whole thing harden and clump. Instead, keep it on heat but just turn it down so that you can slowly incorporate the cream without hardening the caramel. Once the cream is mixed in, you can take it off and add the salt and vanilla.

We did have to take a break of a few hours before attacking the desserts, ha! And you can see in the corner there a little thankful tree I made, but with all the craziness we never ended up putting leaves with things we’re thankful for… such is life, I guess. We did talk about gratitude with Adelina throughout the week though, so that’s something.

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Anyway, there’s our Thanksgiving in a nutshell — a little crazy, but still delicious, and I’m grateful for all the family time we got over this long weekend! Now to recover from a three-day lack of sleep and the cold I now have… ha!

Holidays

Giving Thanks

I’ve been busy preparing for Thanksgiving, drawing up the menu, shopping for food, getting tableware and decorations ready (did you know you can just spray paint dollar-store charger plates and voilà?!) and throughout it all I’ve been struck by how wonderful it is to be able to do this all. And how grateful I am for these wonderful people in my life.

I’ve been feeling a little frustrated at what feels like a lack of direction in my life lately (who AM I?! Ha…) but then I thought yesterday, maybe what I need right now is to simply remember the good things in my life. Gratitude. That is a good exercise.

Food — enough money to not be hungry, living close to a store where I can just pick it up and put it in my cart. Home, material comfort — much more than we really need, I know.

Family — those beautiful people up there, and the ones who raised me and set me on good paths, the ones I shared homes and college apartments with. The ones who shaped the ones I love. Dear friends who brighten my life every day.

Faith — a knowledge of Heavenly Parents who love me, a Savior who made everything possible and a faith community where I can grow and learn. Truth, with a capital T, that makes things clearer when I doubt. The Spirit that teaches me, stubborn as I am.

We made this cute little gratitude rock with Adelina the other day, you pass it around the dinner table and say what you are grateful for.

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She loves it, and it’s been a simple way to start to teach gratitude. But it’s so much more than just saying nice things: gratitude is an attitude, a way of seeing life for the things we have rather than what we don’t. It’s knowing when to feel content and when to strive for more without forgetting the good we’ve already achieved. Growth without shame.

I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving holiday!

Kids · Motherhood · Traditions

Happy First Birthday, Jonas!

Well, it happened. This handsome baby boy of mine turned ONE this week!

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Honestly, it was a little bittersweet! With our first I was always looking forward to the next milestone — in part probably because her newborn phase was really, really hard. But with our sweet Jojo every moment (well, almost) has been so delightful and he’s been such an easy baby that I just don’t want to let go of these moments! We’ve started night-weaning (yeah… I’m a sucker on that and have a track record of letting these kiddos have their nursing as long as they want… how can I refuse them?! But I am so ready to get more sleep at night!) and surprisingly that hasn’t been too emotional, but him growing up and turning a whole year old on me? Not OK!

But we do love to look back on the beautiful times — and the challenges, too. I’m grateful our boy has such a sweet disposition because he’s been through a lot with clubfoot already. He needed to be a zen baby because he’s had other challenges in life. Bless him and the sweet spirit he brought into our home ❤

I know, I can be a little overly sentimental. I just can’t help it!

Anyway, his actual birthday went well: I knew this time around to have zero expectations ha ha! Plus we were snowed in (gotta love beautiful, wild Wyoming!) so we took it easy. Adelina helped me pick out a special snack to share with brother (goldfish, obviously — and he LOVED them) and cake “design” and a special candle. We had two balloons (because this whole someone-else-is-getting-attention thing was hard on our toddler…) ready in the morning and those provided plenty of fun, then during Jonas’ first nap Adelina helped me make his cake!

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When Andrew came home that evening we had a perfect wintry day dinner (soup + grilled cheese + salad) and poor Adelina was way too excited about opening the presents she had helped me wrap so we let her help. There were some tears about the presents being for someone else than herself… but we got through it, poor thing! That is definitely a challenge, I know she’s at a “selfish age” but teaching her unselfishness is a new challenge entirely, and it feels daunting!

Anyway. Cake time!

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Jonas eyed the candle with a great deal of curiosity… touched the cake — it was too hard for him to really grab at it so we decided to cut it up… and then… he dug right in!

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And this time around, our kid was definitely interested in his cake!

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Happy Birthday sweet Jonas!

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