Zucchini and Sausage

This is the time of year when people with zucchini in their gardens start getting overrun and need new ideas on how to tastefully use them up.  Well.. unless you planted yours in a spot that was entirely too shady (we really had no choice with our little town yard) and it pretty much just turned yellow and died.  Regardless…. zucchini are really cheap at Alidis right now and they are delicious and healthy and this is a great way to eat them!  I edited this from Taste of Home.

Zucchini and SausageZucchini and Sausage

  • 1 1/4 cups dry brown rice
  • 2 teaspoons chicken granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 zucchini thickly sliced and quartered
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 teaspoon mustard
  • shredded cheddar cheese

Start cooking your rice according to directions.  Stir in the chicken granules and garlic powder.

In a large skillet, brown your sausage.  When it’s fully cooked, remove to a separate bowl.  Add oil, zucchini, and onion to skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper.  Cook and stir 5-7 minutes or until tender.  Mix in the cooked rice, sausage, diced tomatoes, mustard, and about 1/2 – 3/4 cup water (I like to swish the water around in the empty tomato can to collect the last, stubborn bits).  Bring the small amount of liquid to a boil, turn down the heat, cover with a lid, and simmer just a few minutes to help the flavors blend.

Remove from the heat, scoop into serving bowls, and top with a little shredded cheddar cheese.  You won’t be disappointed with this meal!  It was really good.  I might use even more rice and zucchini next time to make it last longer!  Cheesy Zucchini and Sausage

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Fair Time!

Growing up on a farm and being part of a local 4-H group, the county fair was a major highlight of my childhood.  I loved getting my goats ready for show!  My sister and I would work and play (mostly play) with them all year, training them to lead and stand.  We loved helping out with the 4-H food stand (those milk shakes were just the best!!) and participating in all the fair activities.  It was always a good time.

Caleb and I had never taken our girls to a fair, but since we are currently living near where one is located, we decided to make it happen this year!  With our girls being on the young side, we figured it would be best to go early and make a long morning of it, heading home for a late nap time.  Plus, neither of us are huge fans of country music – isn’t the rule of thumb you either love it or hate it? – and around here that’s about what the night time entertainment consists of.

I’ve bottle fed a lot of different animals in my life, but this was a first for me!  Yes, I am totally feeding a 3 month old baby camel!  What?!?!  Having fed a lot of baby Holstein calves over the years, I expected this guy to really wham the bottle around – I mean, look at the size of that thing!!  I had my stance down and was all ready, but to my surprise this little one was incredibly gentle.  He never even bumped the bottle – just gently pulled off every now and then.  P.S. I FED A BABY CAMEL!  AHH!!!  So cool. 🙂

Bottle Feeding a 3 Month old Camel

Abby loved all of the animals!  Here she was petting some kind of small cow creature.  They told us what it was, but I was apparently not listening very well.

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Can we just take a minute to appreciate what an incredibly happy corn this is right here?  I mean, that smile reaches from “ear” to “ear” if you’ll pardon the pun.  Aw, shucks, she’s still adorable! 😉

Corn Head

Getting the milking done.  The little boy next to her wanted to figure out what exactly was really going on down there.

Milking the Cow

Just your typical fair….. way too many face in hole objects and yet you still are tempted to peek through each one.Pig and Cow

There were a couple of large barns full of the awesome Belgian horses, and of course I made the family walk through and gawk at them.  They are so awesome and huge and beautiful!  Also, we are definitely never going to buy and upkeep one of those giants, so we have to enjoy their presence elsewhere.  There were a couple sweet little babies too!

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The saddest part of our day was the train ride.  We were excited to let Abby pick one ride and she instantly chose, “The train!!”  We made her walk around and look at a few other options first, but she had her mind made up that the train would be the best thing to ever happen to her.  She has been obsessed with Thomas the Train lately (if anyone has a kid that outgrew Thomas toys, feel free to let us know because they are pricey new! haha) and was so excited about it.  We loaded her up and I explained to her that we would be waving at her and watching.  She seemed ready to go, and was waving and smiling (kind of nervously) as she started off.  We couldn’t see her expression for a minute as she rounded the bend and then as she came into view we see her face streaming with tears.  She spotted me and instantly held her arms out crying for me.  She was the only one on the train, so the operator happily stopped it after one lap around and her “fun” ride was over shortly after it began. haha  Unfortunately, we weren’t offered a refund for the 9/10 of expensive fair ride our daughter didn’t experience.  Boo.

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After the train excitement we went to find some grub to lift Abby’s spirits.  Call us pathetic, but we didn’t eat any traditional fair food.  We went with the Hy-vee food stand.  A pork sandwich, 2 brats, and one small bag of cheetos later, everyone was feeling better.  I’m not sure how Abby managed to get so cheesy with her small pile of cheetos, but… it happens!

Cheetos Make Life BetterCheeto Fingers

We enjoyed a few different animal and entertainment shows.  One of them was the lumber show, which was actually pretty great.  The humor was bad and yet cracking me up.  I realized why when Caleb leaned over and whispered, “Your dad would find this really funny, wouldn’t he?”  Haha… yup.  Two of the people running things had a log rolling contest, where they were each on one end of a log and then tried to make the other one fall off into the water first.  It looked like SO MUCH FUN!  I was wishing I could try it SO bad.  Then, they let a few kid volunteers try to stay on the log as long as possible and I wished I could have tried that too.  Maybe next year! 😉

Tiger ShowWe also watched the tiger show.  I don’t want to be rude, but it was pretty much the lamest show ever.  The entire show consisted of the trainer talking a lot, answering a bunch of questions, and having a younger tiger in training sit and fail at standing on her hind legs for treats.  Oh, and then he let 3 tigers just play in the ring for awhile with no instruction.  It was kind of pathetic to be quite honest.  But tigers are still some pretty cool cats and it was neat to see them up close.

The elephants came right up next to the fence, which was really fun.  We enjoyed seeing such big animals so close!

ElephantSo close!

In the petting zoo, I cheated as usual.  Instead of buying Abby an unreasonably small yet extremely expensive cup of animal food, I bent down outside a couple of the cages and picked up more than a few handfuls of pieces other children had dropped.  I mean, come on…. those little cups are simply not worth it and it would be wasteful to leave all that food scattered around, right?  Abby enjoyed feeding these gigantic goats (seriously!  They were the biggest goats I had ever seen, and I really want one!!) and a very sad looking llama creature.  He was shaven and looked pretty rough. haha

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As we were circling the fair, we kept running into the pony rides.  They always cost waaaay too much, but someone’s parents were still feeling pretty bad that their oldest daughter was terrified on her one ride.  Ya… we fell for her excitement about the “horses!!!” and ya… it was worth it.  She absolutely LOVED it and the fact that her Mama walked right next to her the entire time made it even better.  I was hanging on to her and after a few times around she even told me, “Mama, I want to do it by myself!”  This was probably the highlight of Abby’s day.

Pony RideRidingPonies!

Another favorite for Abs was getting to climb up into a real firetruck.  One of the firefighters even gave her her very own “badge” (sticker) to wear.  Firetruck!Firetrucks are cool!

Too bad we didn’t think to try and take a picture of the fam until the end of our adventure.  Can you tell that our daughters were overtired and completely done for the time being? ha  Good thing their parents were still full of good spirits.  All in all, it was a fun time and hopefully we can go again next year! 🙂  Fam Selfie

Happy Birthday Humor

The hubs turned 25 today!  There are so many reasons I love this great guy.  He’s the best and I know I don’t deserve him, which makes me doubly thankful I have him anyway!

I think one of my favorite things about Cabz is that it takes awhile for him to truly reveal his personality to someone.  People don’t know what they’re missing when they don’t actually get to know this guy.  Something he is often slow to put on the table is his humor.  Let me tell you, I love to laugh!  And I feel like his humor is so great partly because it’s funny and partly because it’s coming from him.  What I mean is, he can do something that I wouldn’t find funny if someone else did it, but because he does it, it’s absolutely hilarious!!  Okay, okay, you’re dying for an example, right?  Great, because I’m really excited to supply one!! (no, really… I’m cracking up as I try to write this….)

A few months ago we were playing ultimate frisbee and I took a few epic selfies with Evie since she was in this hilarious stage where her smile was literally opening her mouth as wide as possible.  Come on…. these are good stuff, right? haha  I wanted to take some goofy mouth wide open pictures to laugh at with Cabz later – which we did.

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The next time we went to play ultimate frisbee…. Cabz was holding Evie and the camera while I was up ahead on the course with Abby.  Later on, after we were home and the kiddies were in bed, I decided to put the pictures on my computer.  And up pops this gem….

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What makes this even better is that it was a one shot “win.”  It’s blurry, Evie looks like she’s on some really strong medication, and Cabz is tilting slightly back with the classic “older adult trying to take their first selfie” expression.  Maybe I am the only one here who is really appreciating what a hoot this is, but…. HAHAHA!!!  Oh man…  Let’s just say my husband knows exactly how to make me laugh the hardest!  I love that he took this picture just so I could laugh at it all night.  He even gave me permission to post it here. haha  Alright, I’m out.  Happy Birthday to my awesome man!! XOXOXO  Thanks for making me smile everyday! 🙂IMG_9677edit

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

My man can’t stand eating anything with sour cream in it.  Well, wait a minute….  let me rephrase that.  My man can’t stand knowing that something he is eating has sour cream in it.  A lot of creamy tasting restaurant dishes use either sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese for that perfect texture and delicious taste.  Caleb is fine with ordering any dish at a restaurant though because he doesn’t know for sure that those ingredients are included.  (Yes, I’ve tried just “slipping it in” without telling him, but he started always asking what was in everything I made, so I had to quit.haha)

Most of the time, finding recipes without those few items isn’t a big deal.  However, I have been seeing these mouth-watering cheesy chicken enchilada recipes ALL over my pinterest lately and I knew I had to have them.  I was starting to dream about them at night!  It was definitely getting out of hand….  After trying google and pinterest and finding nothing to help me out, I decided to wing it and try creating my own recipe.  This was one of those glorious times that it turned out amazing!  These were soooo good and crazy easy!  Please make these sometime this week!  And – bonus!! – they don’t use any fatty sour cream, mayo, or cream cheese, and they’re still delicious! 🙂Creamy Enchiladas

Cheesy Chicken EnchiladasCheesy Chicken Enchiladas

  • 5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • poultry seasoning
  • ground cumin
  • garlic powder
  • 1/2 pound frozen corn
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 (10 ounce) can green enchilada sauce
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 whole wheat tortilla shells

Place frozen chicken thighs in a crock-pot and sprinkle heavily with poultry seasoning.  Sprinkle cumin and garlic powder over chicken and cook on high for 4-5 hours or cooked through.  When the chicken is about half way through cooking, dump the corn and onion on top.  You could just dump everything in at the beginning, but this way the corn and onion didn’t get so mushy.

When chicken is done cooking, shred with a couple forks.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a large baking sheet and set aside. Set a tortilla shell on a plate and scoop a generous helping of chicken mixture down the middle.  Use a slotted spoon as there will be a lot of liquid in the crock-pot.  Spoon desired amount of enchilada sauce over the meat (I did a little less than a tablespoon per shell), dump a handful of cheddar on, and roll it up tightly.  Place on your baking sheet and repeat with remaining tortilla shells.  When the pan is full, spoon whatever remaining sauce you want over the top of each enchilada and sprinkle with cheddar.  Pop in the oven for 20 minutes or edges are just browning.  YUM!!Green Chili Enchiladas

Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

This is one of those awesome dishes I found on Pinterest that is ACTUALLY fast and delicious!  No kidding.  I’ve mentioned before how there are very few meal options I will consider repeating before 2 or 3 months pass by.  We were scarfing this up for supper and I actually found myself wondering if it would be too soon if I made it again later next week…..  I think that was partly because I probably should have doubled everything for a longer lasting meal! haha  Thanks, Chungah for the idea!Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

Spicy Parmesan Shrimp Penne

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled, deveined, & thawed
  • 1/3 cup onion diced
  • 13 ounces whole wheat penne
  • salt & pepper to taste

In a bowl, whisk together olive oil, parmesan, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce, & red pepper flakes.  Pour into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  Pour water into the bowl and swish it around to collect all the yummies that didn’t make it out.  Add water mixture to your ziploc bag.  Rinse off your shrimp and pull the hard tails off.  Add shrimp to the ziploc bag and turn it around to coat the shrimp.  Put in the fridge to marinate until needed. You can prepare the shrimp the night before if you’d like, earlier the day of, or if you didn’t plan enough in advance (like me), it really does work great to simply do this step prior to noodle preparation. 🙂

Cook noodles according to package directions.  When the noodles are a couple minutes away from being done, dump the onions and contents of your shrimp bag into a skillet, season with salt & pepper, and saute for a few minutes or until lightly pink.  I added just a tablespoon or so of water to the empty ziploc bag and swished it around before adding it to my skillet as well.  This way I got all the tasty goodness into my pan!  Drain penne and toss with shrimp concoction.  Serve warm with parmesan sprinkled on top!

Our New Adventure – 2

We finished our 5th meeting, which means we are officially half way through the classes portion of our foster care license!  I love using countdowns when I’m excited for the end result.  And I really love when the countdowns hit the downhill side. 🙂

We will be getting a dual license (foster care and adoption).  Although we are much more focused on the adoption portion of foster care, we think it’s wise to also get our foster care license at this time.  For one thing, it’s easy to get it done now and it would probably be much more complicated if we waited.  For another thing, we are mainly interested in babies/toddlers and most of the younger children cases that end in adoption start with foster care.  I have four siblings adopted through foster care and none of them were at the adoption stage when they entered our family.  A lot of times, your case worker will have a good idea of where the situation is headed.  Obviously the worker can never be 100% and there are a lot of tough stories where things were headed towards adoption and then abruptly changed.  You can never be sure.  We are anticipating a lot of prayer during our own family’s journey with this!

So far, there have been two times during classes that I’ve actually started crying.  One of those was while watching a video where children shared their foster care experiences, which I mentioned previously.  The other time was during a story one of our instructors read.  She had us close our eyes and imagine the story was about us.  I have always had an incredibly strong imagination.  I can easily imagine something to be true to the point that I become extremely emotional.  This story had our class mentally trying to picture what it can feel like for some children in foster care.  I was in my house with my husband and daughters.  Someone came to the door, handed me a garbage bag, and told me I had five minutes to gather whatever belongings I wanted/could fit in my bag.  Then, they took me away to a new family.  The new family was standing at their front door, smiling and so excited to meet me!  They had been wanting me for a long time and were so happy I was finally there.  I was with them for twelve months and had no contact with my real family.  I had no choice in the matter and when I returned after an entire year away, I had to think about what that would look like with my relationships.  It was horrible.  Evie didn’t even know who I was.  Abby was nervous around me and acted very stressed.  My girls were incredibly different from when I last saw them.  They had changed and aged and I had missed it all.  I hated thinking about it.  I was bawling and SO angry!  It was definitely something I didn’t want to picture happening, but it was a powerful activity designed to create more empathy and understanding towards the children who literally have to go through this.  What a scary and horrible experience to live through.

I’m grateful that I grew up in a family with parents who loved me and took care of me – parents who prioritized their children’s needs.  I’m grateful I have a wonderful husband who loves me and his daughters more than himself – a husband who works hard and provides for his family.  Neglecting to truly appreciate the good things we have is so easy…..

Ten Months Old!!!!!!!!!!

Evelyn is almost always such a happy little baby.  As her aunt Trisha said the other day, “She is just so excited about whatever she’s doing!”  Evie genuinely loves life.  🙂

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Our cheerful, little sweetie went through a bit of a rough patch recently.  We had about 3 weeks where she just wouldn’t sleep well at all!  It was frustrating because there didn’t seem to be a great reason for it and prior she had been going to sleep and staying asleep really well!  We tried a lot of different things and nothing seemed to help.  It only escalated as time went on.  I was hoping it was a teething thing, but that wasn’t it because she still only has two teeth!  She was nursing a LOT during the nights.  I’m talking a berserk amount of feedings.  Sometimes I fed her so often I lost track.  She was awake and crying so frequently that she was extra hungry.  One day she was especially fussy and felt warm.  Sure enough she had a pretty decent fever.  She lasted okay through the day but didn’t nap well.  Overnight was so bad we gave her Tylenol which took the fever down, but did nothing to help with the sleeping thing.  The fever continued 2 more days, peaking the second day and slowly left on the third day.  As the fever left, she developed a rash.  It was on her head and bottom that evening and the fourth day her little body was coated.  We were getting a little worried by this point.  I called my ever knowledgeable mother and she said it sounded like Roseola which is something the baby just has to work through.  I decided to set up a doctor appointment just to be sure.  It turns out, Mom was right.  He didn’t give us any medication and just said it could last 2-3 weeks and would look worse than it was.  Unfortunately, the rash seemed to really itch and Evie was angry and awake almost the entire next two nights.  It was a bit rough.  THANKfully, those were the worst nights before we turned a very welcome corner!  Her rash disappeared and it felt like she was making up for her lack of sleep over the past month.  There were two days where I actually laid her down for three naps (she hasn’t taken 3 naps for a reaaaaaally long time now!) and she still absolutely crashed at bed time.  We are now back to just one nightly feeding and although that might seem ridiculous for a ten month old, everyone in our household is beyond happy about it!

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Bed and nap times have been going so much better this past week!  I lay Evie down and she just goes right to sleep (with no crying) on her own and it is awesome.  She sleeps really well at night, waking up for the one feeding around 2 a.m.  Afterwards she will either go back to her crib or let me know she wants in our bed. haha  Either way, she returns to sleep quickly and all is well.  Abby and Evie have been waking up with Daddy’s alarm at 6:30 a.m. the past few days, but I’m hopeful that will change soon.  I liked the 7:00 wake up time so much better.  And yes… his alarm wakes up both girls because they both currently sleep in our room.  Abby loved her own little room for a long time until she started having nightmares.  They scared her really bad and I think they were similar to what I’ve experienced throughout my life.  I wasn’t going to make her stay alone in her room, scared out of her mind, so we set up a little fold out cushion “bed” on our floor and she just uses that.  She doesn’t get scared that way and I figure eventually we can have the girls in a room together and maybe that will help.

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Evie still loves be-bopping to music and will start head bobbing whenever I sing or play music for her.  My favorite is when Abby randomly bursts into song and Evie dances along. 🙂

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This (sadly) isn’t happening nearly as often anymore, but there was a pretty lengthy period of time where this face was Evelyn’s go-to expression.  It was dubbed her “old man face” because, let’s be honest… it looks like someone who forgot their dentures!  In her defense… she is pretty gummy in there. ha!  Thanks Aunt Yvonne for the picture!

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While actual crawling on all fours hasn’t happened yet, Evs does an excellent job getting around.  To my dismay, she completely gave up on the back scooting (sniff) and decided to go with the army crawl approach.  She can really work it though and will not stand to be left behind.  If I run to another room to grab something quick (and Abby inevitably follows), Evie is not far behind!

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Evelyn has been working on her selfie lately.  She gave me permission to post this even though she said her angle was a little off….

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Although she hasn’t quite figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position, she loves when I set her up against things like the toy kitchen or our couch.  She recently figured out how to stumblingly walk along while hanging on.  Learning how to walk is going to happen way too soon!

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Bath time towel snuggles are just so much fun!  I can hardly stand all her cuteness! *SQUEEZE!*

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Speaking of bath time, Evie now loves taking baths with Abby and has so much fun splashing around!IMG_9203IMG_9218

Books are quickly becoming more interesting (especially because Big Sis loves to read).  Evie much prefers to look through books on her own, but will listen to me reading for short periods here and there.  I love when these two get buried in a heap of books together.

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It’s great when Evie finds a Duplo truck or car lately.  She will drive it around and make a “brrrrrm!” noise.

Meal times are the high points for Evelyn each day.  She nurses 5 times a day and once over night.  In addition, she enjoys eating every bit of food I give her.  Some of her favorites are natural applesauce, yogurt, cheese, corn, and potatoes, but she really isn’t too picky.  For the most part I still just break up whatever I’m eating and share it with her.  She won’t complain about me spoon feeding her, but really loves when I give her a plate of small pieces she can eat on her own.  She’ll sit there until the last piece is gone.

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Evie will occasionally yell, “Ma, Ma, Ma!” (usually when I’m in another room and she really wants my attention), but that’s about it.  She understands quite a few signs and will sign a few herself.  Some of her favorites are “food” and “more.”  Go figure….  The other day we thought it was funny when Caleb asked Evie if she wanted yogurt.  She didn’t really respond.  Then I signed, “Yogurt?” and she got all excited with her anticipation grunt.

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Both of my girls still love nothing more than being outside.  We love it too and try to take them out for walks and playing as often as possible!  Caleb’s aunt, Yvonne, took the cute picture on the left! 🙂

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Animals are a continued favorite with both my girlies.  Especially the sweet little kittens my parents currently have on the farm!

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Yelling has continued to grow in popularity around here.  Evelyn can really belt it out.  She yells to express enjoyment, she yells at Abby when she’s mad at her or wants her toy, and she yells when she’s upset.  Yelling is apparently a great way to share your emotions with the world.  Evs is also getting pretty good at shoving Abby when she gets in Evie’s face.

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There are a few things around the house that Evie isn’t supposed to touch or play with and she knows exactly what they are.  Most of the time she is a pretty good tot and leaves them alone, but every now and then she tries to get them.  She will always look at me when she’s about to do something naughty to kind of scout of how I’m going to respond.  If I’m busy, she will sometimes even call me over first.  When I say, “Oh, Evie!  We don’t play with that!” she will put her head down on the floor dejectedly.  Sometimes she’ll then glance up, and we’ll repeat the scenario.  At this point she tends to get sad and cry a little bit.  It’s kind of adorable. haha  Normally she will move on after this, but if she doesn’t I’ll usually just pick her up, set her somewhere else and redirect her attention.

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Evie would probably say that her best achievement lately is this popping/smacking noise she figured out how to do when her lips are curved in around her teeth/gums.  Seriously, she is so proud of this and thinks it is the coolest thing ever.

Little one weighs 15 pounds 9 1/2 ounces.  We are continually getting the “She’s so tiny!” comments by everyone we run into.  At least I can appreciate how much less work it is to cart her around, compared to other babies.  She’s definitely our little peanut.

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It’s amazing how observant little ones can be.  Evelyn will often watch one of us complete a task and then crawl over to attempt it herself.  She is always very proud of herself when she does something right.

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Evie can also be quite inventive.  One thing she discovered was that any type of lid/cup/bowl out of Abby’s toy food bin produces an amazing scraping, squeaky noise when slid back and forth across the linoleum flooring.  I would say on average, she does this about 5 times a day.  Certain toys can be REALLY loud and annoying.  In the past, when our heads couldn’t take it, we would just scoop up the toy and whip it onto the carpeted portion of the living room.  However, yesterday Daddy realized that our trick wasn’t going to work anymore.  Evie watched him fling in, promptly crawled over, grabbed it, crawled back to the linoleum and went back to her “music-making.”  Boy, was she ever smug about that.  haha

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We’ve already had moments where we look at our Evie Grace and think, “Ahh!  She’s not such a little baby anymore!  What is happening?!”  However, I’ve also had moments where I think…. “hmm, is this baby ever going to be able to quit nursing?”  I mean, the one year mark is coming and I’m not dying to drag this out too much longer than a year. ha!  Nursing for an entire year is enough of an accomplishment for me.

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Thankful for every day we get to spend with this sweet little bundle of smiles.  She’s always going to be one of our babies. 🙂