Life

Snow Day

We got a really good snow this weekend, and we actually loved it this time! It’s been a super dry winter, which I haven’t complained about too much considering how bad last winter was… but by February my goodness it’s crazy how dry it’s been around here! For some perspective, this was last week:

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And here is what we woke up to this morning!

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It was much-needed. And Andrew was off since it’s Presidents’ Day, so we took full advantage of all that fresh powder!

Don’t be fooled by this face, Adelina loved it — until she was frozen and wet and ready to get back inside, ha!

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Andrew built a little luge run, and a fort for Adelina, and they had a blast.

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Adelina couldn’t get very far on the slide, but Jonas… he was in an awesome puffy snowsuit that was perfectly aerodynamic, and he loved it!

He can’t really walk or do much of anything in this suit anyway, so this was probably quite thrilling! (And I kind of want a snowsuit of my own, it sure is toasty and snow proof!)

Oh and we spent plenty of time indoors relaxing too — reading a good book on a snow day is the best!

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So glad to have a good, fun family snow day out of this season ❤

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Cherish 365 · photography

Peekaboo with Jonas

Our Jonas has loved peekaboo for a good while — at first he would use a pair of pants (usually while I was changing him) and cover his face and remove it and it was the cutest thing ever. Now, he’s getting so good at using his hands, and it’s so sweet how he giggles with delight and anticipation when get a peek between those photos… he’s just the most delightful little boy ❤

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And that toothy grin… it just melts me!

Kids · photography

Photos about Love in February

I joined a photography forum this year and I’ve been doing a weekly photo challenge — this week’s theme was, Valentine’s Day obliged, “Love.” So here were a few shots I took along that theme.

Adelina loves… her babies

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Doing makeup with her mama… “I’m beautiful, like you!” (I took this as we were preparing for her end-of-year dance recital. She was just glowing with pride ❤ )

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And of course, baby Jojo. And he loves her…

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But doesn’t always exactly want her affection, ha!

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Life

January 2018: Little Pieces of Life

It’s already mid-February, if you can believe that. So here’s what happened around here in January!

I tried out a fun self-portrait:

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(I’ve been doing a self-portrait on my birthday the last few years but this last year I totally dropped the ball… only 3+ months late, no big deal! Ha.)

Our kitchen counter tops + backsplash were installed and we finally painted the kitchen/dining area! We are LOVING our new kitchen — especially that sink/faucet combo!

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Then I embarked (a little late) on Clean Mama’s January reset Clutter Challenge, and it was awesome. Until I got sick the last week of January. But I got a really great head-start on the year!

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Lazy Susans for spices are a game-changer! Here are the ones I got, and it was so nice to go through all our cabinets and make things work better. I also got some of these bins to organize groups of pantry items — like all the baking powder, vanilla extract, cooking salt, etc. They’re a little pricey, but I think I might just order one at a time every so often from now on, because they are awesome and really help consolidate things!

That was a beast of a task though. (Plenty more on Instagram about that whole endeavor. I never did finish the last week though — clothes/bedroom closets — but at this point it’s going to have to wait for spring cleaning. Nothing wrong with giving up when the time isn’t right.) In other home improvement news, Andrew and I put together this cool little coat rack and finally got it up on the wall.

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We have a teeny split-level entryway, so every inch of storage space gained is huge.

The kids also “helped” me hack an IKEA shelf for the end of the kitchen peninsula and it’s a perfect little spot for cookbooks, some kids’ books, and other kitchen items — we put bins of bottles/sippy cups.

It was slightly too tall so I had to cut it down a bit, then I had to re-drill holes and bigger holes for those round pieces that you turn to grip screws (if you’re an IKEA regular hopefully you know what I mean, ha!). I’m actually pretty proud that I managed to track down a new drill bit and make it work, because that turned out to be more complicated than I had bargained…

(They made some of their own additions, as you can see.)

And it was a good thing I got so much done early in the month because… then, I got called as Relief Society President in my ward (church congregation). Yup. Holy crap! (Actually, a slightly stronger word went through my mind when the Bishop dropped that bomb on me…) If you don’t know what that means, it’s essentially a volunteer ministry job, usually for 2-3 years, within our congregation. You’re in charge of running women’s meetings & activities, working closely with the Bishop for welfare efforts, etc. It involves a lot of visiting people, quite a few meetings and councils, and other organizational stuff. (The Relief Society motto is “Charity Never Faileth”) This is kind of cool, as I was reading through the description of exactly what was going to be required of me: in parts of the world where it’s needed, it is specifically the RS President’s responsibility to lead literacy efforts in her ward. I love that our church emphasizes lifelong learning and education ❤

And yes, it’s all pretty intimidating, and at times overwhelming. My greatest fear is that people will slip through the cracks and feel forgotten, ignored, or not needed. But I am grateful for the opportunity to do some good, and I feel like I’ve been prepared to take on the task in my last few months of gospel study — with a lot of divine help, which I know is something that is promised when we’re asked to do a lot. And I LOVE Relief Society and this work of ministering to the women of the Church, so here goes — soul, heart, and hand.

Meanwhile, Jonas continues to be his adorable self:

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We celebrated Epiphany with some fabulous galette (more on the holiday + a recipe here) and mysteriously, Adelina found the fève 😉

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Mmmmm… I might need some more…

Oh here’s a really BIG one: Adelina is officially potty-trained!

WOOHOO!!!

Remember how we started trying almost a year ago? And then gave up? It must have been time. Early in the month I decided to give it another go so we talked it up (and, well, this may be helpful to someone else so I’ll include it even though it might be a little TMI… but we gave her Miralax for a few months before that to make sure things were working VERY smoothly. Some mom friends of mine swear by it and I really think it’s what helped push us over the edge this time. That, and timing of course.) and prepared a sticker chart and promised a special gift if she could fill up the chart.

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And you guys, she filled up the chart in A DAY. I almost couldn’t believe it and was a little nervous to get her her prize so early, but she legitimately did it and I didn’t want to be making empty promises, so we celebrated the crap out of that achievement! (ha ha sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!)

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I love how when I said we’d go to the store to buy a special toy she knew exactly what she wanted — and we hadn’t been to this store in quite a while! But she kept talking about the baby with ice cream, so you better believe we went and found that baby with ice cream. She was so proud, we brought her sticker chart to show the lady at the checkout and she high-fived her and partied along with us, it was really sweet 🙂

Oh the things you do once you have kids… ha ha!

And I was worried that it was all happening too fast, but since then we’ve only had a handful of accidents and at this point I’m not constantly on edge anymore. I am SO PROUD of this queen of the porcelain throne!

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And I can’t believe she’s such a big girl… snif. She even refused to wear a pull-up at bedtime the other day! What?! I wasn’t anticipating that for a while!

One day I was holding Jonas (I think he was sick on this day and needed extra cuddles) and Adelina brought her baby over too 🙂

Speaking of growing up: Jonas took his first steps in January, and he hasn’t looked back since. Isn’t that adorable baby waddle the best thing ever?! The first week or so Adelina would yell “JoJo’s walking!!!” and point every time he took a few steps! I think she’s finally gotten over the novelty of it now, but it was sweet to see her cheer him on too.

He also loves to climb, and rough house, and “talk,” and eat. I just love this chubby little bundle of adorable. He gives the sweetest hugs.

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And he obviously loves bath time, although two kids in a tub definitely means twice the splashing… ha!

It’s actually been a really mild winter compared to last year — hardly any snow and what we do have is melting! But I’m still wimpy about the freezing wind, so we’ve mostly played indoors. The kids are starting to really play together (or at least around each other) and it’s so fun to peek in on them in Adelina’s room.

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(That shot above is from our new Wyze Cam and I HAVE to share because it’s a $20 home/baby cam! Yes, you read that right. TWENTY dollars. And the quality is just as good as a $70 one we used to have that a certain little girl destroyed… The only hitch is it’s stationary — you have to physically rotate it yourself, it hooks up to your phone and has two-way audio and all that but you can’t remotely make it turn, if that makes sense. But honestly it’s not a feature I really used anyway. Once it’s set, it’s set where you want it. And it just completely obliterates all those fancy $200+ babycams on the market because it’s so cheap!)

Jonas is really into books right now, he carries them around the house with him and it’s adorable. He also loves to lounge on beds — preferably his sister’s!

Adelina did some exploring on one warm(er) day, it was so fun to look out the window and follow her traces!

Some more pretty snow and jack frost the other day on our kitchen window:

Of course, I can appreciate the snow and ice much better from inside the comfort of our home rather than on the road trying to get to medical appointments two hours away… ugh. So glad last year is done and we’re not dealing with casts anymore.

Here’s one thing we’ve been doing for lunch lately: I’ll make a sandwich or noodles (Adelina could eat (and frequently requests) noodles for breakfast if I let her…) but I’ll throw together crudités on a plate first so she snacks on this while waiting for the carbs — and I do too! I actually feel really full when we do this for lunch, and often all I even want is half a sandwich to go with it. Radishes have made a big comeback at our house and she made a face the first time or so but I kept offering and now she likes them!

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We had a pizza night too, and that’s always fun for this girl 🙂 Plus, they just taste awesome. This is the pizza dough recipe I use — it’s an Italian thin crust and the flavor is perfect.

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We went to “enrichment day” at the nursing home — it’s organized by the woman who does story time at the library to get kids and elderly folks spending time together, and it was a blast. January’s theme was mad science, as you can see 🙂

Jonas’ current favorite spot… ha!

What he’s holding is a nebulizer the doctor gave us after he got a nasty cold and cough that lasted forever… again… and my MIL hinted it might be asthma. My husband and his siblings all had it as kids, so we gave it a try and it definitely helped. Jonas took to it pretty well, luckily we only need to use it when he’s sick. It helps a ton to play videos of himself while we do it! (Like this one) So anyway, he doesn’t have an official diagnosis or anything but we’ll see as he grows up. Nothing scary like seizures or asthma attacks, just some rough nights where he’s up all night coughing and hacking because the poor kid is drowning in mucus!

Never affected his appetite though!

This boy is such a ray of sunshine in our home. I mean, those are some seriously kissable cheeks!

Then I got sick near the end of January and all my big re-organization projects came to a screeching halt. But you know what? It was kind of nice to just rest at home with my favorite little people and stay in PJs all day morning for a change. It was a good reminder to slow down sometimes and just take it easy. Adelina asked me to read her plenty of books and Jonas took awesome naps and I was happy to just soak them up. It was a nice moment of calm.

Some pretty light reflecting off Adelina’s mermaid pillow, which her cousin now has her calling a “Larry” — long story…

Jonas had some early mornings, I think the nap schedule is starting to shift and I’m just not ready to be up and at ’em at six am…

And I put a few finishing touches on the guest bedroom — which is also Jonas’ room. I love this beautiful baby quilt we were given for his birth, and I’d love to build off of it for the decor in here but I’m just stuck on neutrals! I guess it’ll be the lone color pop 😉 I should put some covers on those throw pillow inserts though, ha.

Andrew and I opened our first date night box — that was one of my gifts to him for Christmas. We’re trying out Unbox Love for now and just got our February box, so I’m excited to have our Valentine’s night! What I really like about this box so far (there are a lot of different subscription date night services out there) is that it has a game and other items you can actually reuse — January’s had a cool wooden massage roller, for example. So far, so good!

Oh, and we saw The Greatest Showman! It absolutely lived up to the hype, and we loved it. It’s so fun to go to a movie that just transports you to another, magical, song- and dance-filled world. And it was awesome to come home to ice cream and sleeping children. (Hey, we’re starting the year off strong — two date nights in a month?! Go us!)

Speaking of Christmas gifts, my other gift to Andrew was a ukulele. He mentioned once in passing that it would be fun but I completely surprised him with this one! He’s been learning a bunch of songs. It’s so fun to have some sweet music and the kids love to sing along too, I love what it does for the mood in our home — and it’s a nice way for him to relax from what can be a stressful job at times.

And since that book is peeking out from the coffee table, that reminds me that I read 1776 (by David McCullough) and finished Getting Things Done (by David Allen) last month. 1776 was not quite what I expected (I thought it would be an overview of the revolutionary war, but it’s a point-in-time snapshot of only the year 1776) but really interesting, and certainly gave me a better appreciation of the overwhelming odds against the patriots. Frankly, it’s miraculous that we ever won our independence. Some truly extraordinary people and extraordinary events — and extraordinary circumstances. And I’ve talked about GTD before but I reiterate: it is amazing. If you feel like you’re constantly running after your to-do lists and letting things slip, this is life-changing.

Which makes it funny that one book I want to read in February is Hands-Free Mama and has “burning the to-do list” in the subtitle… ha.

And that’s a picture-overloaded wrap — phew! I need 31 days in February!

Parenting

How We’ve Been Handling Media Time Lately + Printable

We really live in a difficult age: children and teens are more plugged in than ever and it seems to be showing in how they focus in school, in their emotional well-being, in their real-life connectedness and pretty much every other measure out there. It is scary. And also, sometimes, some of it might be sensationalistic psycho-babble. Some reports seem to show that it’s more nuanced than ALL MEDIA IS ROTTING YOUR CHILD’S BRAIN — but also that there’s a lot we still don’t know. So how do you begin to make decisions about media, when all the research is still so new? It’s scary to be experimenting on our kids like this.

Media/TV time is one of those things we don’t really talk about much because we’re all sort of ashamed of how bad we are at managing it. So in the interest of having those tough conversations, I wanted to share a little bit about how we’ve been navigating all this and what is currently working for us. I want to be clear that I don’t believe it’s THE solution, but it is what is working for us and helping us reach our objectives, right now.

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When we had our first child, we swore she’d never get screen time. As evidenced by the above photo though…. she got older, and she stopped napping early, and she really wanted to play with those fun devices mom and dad have, and mom needed a break every once in a while. For real. Around when she turned two, we started letting her use the iPad to watch shows — we were really excited to find so much French kids’ content on YouTube! — but it quickly veered into her scrolling around (even the YouTube Kids app is NOT safe) and watching garbage. (even if it’s not inappropriate, does she really need to watch people pouring slime over random toys for half an hour? No, she does not. Yuck.) We eventually ditched the iPad completely: the meltdowns when we had to take it back were scary, and those studies about kids’ brains on screens were scary too… we do keep it for traveling though, and then it’s only shows in iTunes and a few games we’ve pre-selected. It is hard to navigate, and we’ve been learning as we go. (No judgment here.) We definitely let that iPad phase go for longer than we should have — and frankly, it’s a little scary putting this out there for people to judge.

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(Oh how I miss that sweet little bob!)

Around the time that I was pregnant and sick with our second, I needed a break sometimes. I love our daughter but she is EXHAUSTING. She needs and wants constant interaction and for the first 2+ years of life she would NEVER play alone. I had to be in the room, participating, or she’d lose it. I tried everything to encourage independent play, and I think it helped some, but really it just came when she got older. (Our second kid is night and day different already and could play happily on his own since super early, which tells me it wasn’t just being a clueless first-time-mom who was hovering too much with my first. Kids come out crazy different! It would drive me nuts when people would try to give me suggestions for our daughter “oh have you tried this? my child plays happily and sleeps through the night since 12 weeks old!” YES I’VE TRIED IT, I’VE TRIED EVERYTHING SHORT OF SELLING MY SOUL TO THE DEVIL. HAVE YOU TRIED HAVING A CHILD LIKE MINE??? Anyway. Ha. Deep breaths.)

Enter the TV. We didn’t like how the iPad made her behave, but the TV started to become appealing because I had more control and supervision over what was happening. And I noticed that compared with mobile devices where she would keep her face glued to the screen, with TV she’d frequently unhook and wander off, play with toys and reenact the scenes, lie down, respond to me when I talked to her… it was the lesser of two evils. (We don’t have cable or an antenna, we just use DVDs and Netflix) It got us through the end of my pregnancy with Jonas and through the newborn phase (which, happily, was much easier this time around!) and I was really grateful for it. She loved Frozen and Moana and some cute shows on Netflix, and I was happy to have some time to rest here and there.

But, again, I found it difficult to turn off the TV without meltdowns. And then I would have her asking for TV all day long and it was hard to decide how and when to say yes or no. Eventually I stopped letting her have it first thing in the morning because it just really started the day off poorly. But we’d be on a good roll and then things would go downhill again… I’m sure many of us have similar stories.

One more very important note here: there are times and seasons in life, too. If you’re dealing with something crazy right now, you’re going through a move, or if you’re sick or pregnant and need to be able to take a nap, don’t feel horrible about it. Our daughter watched a LOT of TV when I was nauseous from my second pregnancy, and while I spent hours holding and nursing her little brother. I tried to create other activities, but sometimes even that was exhausting. It’s OK. You’re doing OK. Once things smooth out a little more you can get back to being more vigilant about media, and things will fall back into place. We’ve absolutely ebbed and flowed over time.

I have some friends who don’t even own a TV. Sometimes I’m a little bit jealous — I hate how easy it is to default to watching Netflix with my husband in the evening, for example. I grew up without TV — we had a VHS player and later a DVD player, and a lot of Disney movies, but it wasn’t nearly as readily available as media today with constant streaming options. But also, sometimes, I really just need to get things done, or rest, or have 30 consecutive minutes without being interrupted sixty million times. And on the other hand, ideally, I’d like to teach my kids to navigate an electronic world and budget their time wisely. That would be a really helpful life skill in this day and age.

All this to say: it’s tough to navigate, but I believe it’s worth taking the time to be intentional about media, if and when we decide to use it.

So. Here’s where we are right now, and what is working for us at this point in time.

Budgeting Media Time with Tokens

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A friend of mine told me about her son’s visual chart and I did some searching on Pinterest and came up with this puppy. And it has been working REALLY well! The concept is simple:

You establish a certain amount of TV time/shows you allow per day. One token represents a certain amount (approx. 20 minutes, or one TV show episode). She can ask when she wants to watch TV and she has to trade in tokens for shows — or she can use three for a movie (doesn’t exactly add up but it seems like a fair trade-off). In the morning I attach the number of clips she’s allowed to have for the day — we do three right now (amounts to about an hour. Maybe you’ll find it excessive, but honestly I find that it works. It gives me a good break too, to be honest, so I’m reluctant to reduce it… and if you look at a lot of the studies on TV/media time, one hour a day seems to be the cutoff point for where things change, so I feel pretty comfortable with it for now.)

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We’ve set up a few rules around it: she needs to ask, obviously, and she can’t use them until her baby brother’s afternoon nap. (When he eventually stops napping, we’ll reevaluate, but I still want to reserve TV for afternoons rather than mornings, that’s when everyone is in need of a break anyway. For now, Jonas doesn’t get much screen time since she watches while he naps, and I rather like it that way.)

Once the tokens are used up, that’s it. TV is over for the day, period.

I just made up this little cardboard disc out of a cereal box (could be glued to a paper plate too) and smaller circles for the tokens. Adelina helped me color them 😉

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and then I hot-glued clothespins to the backs.

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Voilà! I haven’t hung it up anywhere but you could do that too. Here’s where I found my inspiration for the media system, and she has some other great ideas on there too. For bilingual families, you could institute a cultural/linguistic quota 😉

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That one can only be used on shows in French! (I have a little YouTube playlist here if you want some ideas — both original French content and US/English content dubbed in French)

PRINTABLE: Here’s the simple design I created if you want to make your own! 

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What I like about this is for one, it cuts down significantly on the asking/whining, because the boundaries are clear and she knows what to expect. AND, it gives her the reigns (within reason). I’m not the one being the bad guy and turning off the TV: she chose to use up all her tokens, and that’s that. There are sometimes a few tears when the TV goes off, but it’s much easier now because she knows she’s used up her tokens, and many days it goes really smoothly. It removes the decision-making from me and forces her to budget her time.

And yes, she’s only three, but I can see the difference already. She asks for TV less. And when she wants it, she’s a lot more selective about what she wants to watch — today, she asked for an episode of Dora, then wanted to change to PJ Masks, and then thought about it and used her last token on a little monsters show (which is available in French on Netflix, yay!). She picks and chooses more carefully because she knows her time is limited. I LOVE that she is learning to manage her time and resources in a small and simple way, and it really takes the pressure off of me!

Quick Tip: one thing that makes this much easier is disabling auto-play on Netflix — in the past sometimes I couldn’t tell when a new episode started if I wasn’t paying close attention (there are usually two mini-episodes per episode) and she would certainly take advantage of that, ha! You need to go to your web browser to disable autoplay, but it’s doable and is a game-changer for enacting this system. Here’s how to do it.

Another realization I had recently about tech and kids is this: do you want to unhook your kid from electronics? Look in the mirror. If I am sitting and scrolling through my phone, my daughter suddenly wants to watch TV. If I am sitting in the exact spot reading a book or playing with her brother or doing any other non-tech activity, she’s perfectly happy to be otherwise engaged. They take their cues from us!

I do admire people who have chosen to live screen-free. Maybe someday I’ll find a way to make the switch. But if we’re only imposing this on our children and stay glued to our own iPhones, we’re not exactly practicing what we preach, and they will take note. I’m working hard to control my own media habits, and I desperately want to help my children learn mindfulness about media.

It’s a hard battle to fight, but it’s so worth it. This is working for us now, but we may still adjust in the future. When our kids get older, we’ll have to adapt then, too. And tech is changing: who knows what we’ll be dealing with by then! (Here are some excellent thoughts on technology contracts and media in general from a favorite blogger of mine — I’ll definitely be referring back to this when the time comes!)

In the meantime, this method is really working and has given us back a lot of the control over this whole situation… and it allows for more sweet moments like these once that TV is turned off ❤

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Parenting

Kid-Proofing FaceTime

You guys. This is huge. My family lives an ocean away, and my husband’s family is also spread out over two countries. FaceTime is how they stay in our lives. My kids recognize all their grandparents and can keep up a relationship with them, and that’s worth it to me.

When my daughter was born, I was adamant we wouldn’t allow any screen time. That all went out the window as she got older and I had another child… although we did eventually pretty much ban devices — I control the TV, we’ve disabled auto-play on Netflix, etc. — so I feel more comfortable about that than devices where she ends up GLUED and had serious meltdowns when I have to take it away. (We do keep it for road trips/plane rides, although if I hold off on it it’s amazing how long she can keep herself entertained in the back seat!) Anyway. I have a lot to say about media coming up soon, (no judgment here, by the way… we’ve been all over the spectrum ourselves) but in the meantime I wanted to share a quick tip that’s super helpful for that grabby phase our baby Jonas is entering into! (by the way, I originally wrote this post when Adelina was one, so this was such a trip down memory lane… )

FaceTime is the one big exception to allowing our kids to use our phones/iPad, and I’m just not going to guilt-trip myself about it because this is our reality in a digital age with a family stretched out across the globe. In this case, we’re just going with the lesser of two evils.

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That being said, there’s a reality to all of this: kids love to touch stuff (<– understatement of the century). Especially shiny red buttons that pop up before you even touch the iPad screen. It was the bane of my existence when our daughter got more mobile and grabby — impossible to FaceTime because she WANTS TO HOLD THE PHONE NOW and cries if I hold it tantalizingly in front of her face (can you blame the child?) or inevitably hangs up on our family if I do. I just figured I should give Apple some feedback about the app and hope for a future update, but my mother-in-law suggested I google it.

THANK YOU GOOGLE.

Turns out it is incredibly simple to lock the touch screen while in an app. Problem solved! Here’s how:

Go to Settings > General >  Accessibility > Guided Access (under Learning)

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Activate Guided Access and make sure to also activate Accessibility Shortcut and set a Passcode. Once this is done, you’ll be able to triple-click the home button after starting a call and lock the touch screen (either the entire screen or just a portion of the screen). Then when you’re ready to unlock it, triple-click the home button again and enter your passcode. Done!

On the iPad you can lock the entire screen, on iPhones though you only have the option to circle a section of the screen you want to lock, which is weird. I just make the biggest circle I can and it usually works. Now, Jonas can “talk” to our family members without hanging up on them!

And can we talk about how ADORABLE Baby Adelina was?!?! I’m dying at these photos!!! ❤

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One quick but important note: make sure you have the latest iOS version, at one point Apple had gotten rid of this function (I think it was iOS 7) and I happened to have that version when I tried this on my iPad. It was extremely frustrating until I did some searching and found out people were so upset, Apple eventually brought it back! As of January 2018, this still works!

Of course this doesn’t take care of the drooling/grimy fingers issue… but that’s an other issue entirely, ha! This post gives some extra tips for older kids, it’s pretty nifty. Isn’t this world amazing?

 

Clubfoot · Kids

Our Son’s First Steps

Jonas took his first real steps this week! He is 14 months old and ready to move!

I worried so much his legs and ankles were too weak still — his turnout is pretty crazy. Adelina was walking by her first birthday, and as much as you know to be patient and that every child is different, and the doctor told us clubfoot treatment doesn’t delay development, you can’t help but wonder if the casting and bracing have made things a little tougher on him. Guess I was wrong, because he’s got this — clubfoot or not ❤

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And we’re in trouble now, because he’s definitely a climber too!