To Samuel: Year 1

I have already written 3 letters to Luke, now I can't believe I'm writing my first one to Sam! How he got so big, so fast is a mystery to me.

My sweet baby Samuel,
I have never known a baby that is as loving and stubborn at the same time as you are. You already know exactly what you want, you want it right now (you got that from your mama!), and if you don't get your way, everyone knows about it! But you have the biggest smiles for your favorite people: mommy, daddy, Luke, and your grandparents. You are a complete mama's boy, and I totally love that! You hate to be put down. You always want me to carry you around, which gets kind of tiring, but the fact that you love me so much makes me enjoy you clinging to my legs.

Some of your favorite things right now are your blankie and pacifiers. Giving up pacifiers is not going to be easy, I have a feeling. You also love climbing up and down everything. You love cars and you can already make car noises while you're driving them around. You like to "race" Luke around, you pushing your walker and Luke pulling his suitcase. Or basically doing everything Luke does. I'm pretty sure you like to get into trouble. You know what you're not supposed to do and continue to do it, even after being told no. You loooove being in the bathroom, mostly because you're not supposed to be in there. You love food, but mostly starchy foods (like bread, pancakes and macaroni) and fruit. It's become a challenge to get you to eat meat or veggies. You eat a banana every morning and I think that would be classified as your favorite food! You LOVE to be outside. Anytime you can, you race for a door that's opened.

I hate that you've already had to have surgery. Your tear ducts were blocked, and the in-office procedure didn't work, so you had to go under general anesthesia and get tubes put in. It made me very sad to know that you had to do this, but you were a trooper and did perfectly fine!

You can already say several words. Your favorite phrase is "uh oh" as you purposely drop things on the ground. You can also say "mama," "dada," "nana," (banana), "bye bye."

I am so in love with you, your big blue eyes, the way you love me and snuggle me, and even your stubbornness. I love that you have such a big personality at such a young age. And I pray that God will use you in mighty ways. That you will be a man of God, following his path for you.

Love you,

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To Luke: Year 3

I've gotten into the habit of writing Luke a letter every year for his birthday. (Read year 1 here, and year 2 here) and wanted to keep the tradition going, so maybe someday, he can read all about his life through his mommy's eyes.

To Luke on your third birthday,
Three? I cannot believe you're three years old. How did this happen? You're (obviously) the only three year old I've been around in large quantities of time, but you seem more brilliant to me than any other three year old. Your daddy and I are constantly amazed at the words and phrases that come out of your mouth. You have an amazing way of figuring things out. One day you asked me to go on a bike ride. I told you we couldn't because Sam had to take a nap. You told me, in a very serious way, to go put Sam in bed, then we could go for a ride while he slept. You're so logical, as logical as a three year old can be.

This year has been a crazy year of change for you. You made the move from a crib to a big boy bed. You have done really, really well with that transition. We had a few difficult days where you wouldn't stay in bed, but we told you if you stayed in bed all night you could have chocolate milk in the morning. And you did! You know your letters (and can spell your name) and numbers, now, so we can tell you to stay in bed until your clock says 7. Most of the time you do really well with that, too. You're learning so much and retaining more than I realize.

We brought home your brother, Sam, who you pretty much ignored for the first few months of his life. Then he started smiling and laughing at you, and you thought that was great. After he started being able to crawl and play with your toys, you didn't seem to like him very much. We're still working on you purposely antagonizing him and not wanting to share. You can make Sam laugh easily by singing silly songs to him (which you're just starting to make up on your own), or you can make him cry easily by bulldozing into him and knocking him over (which seems to be one of your favorite things to do). You also have screaming matches to see who is louder. You were potty trained this year. Mommy was so close to giving up on the first day because you were so young and scared to go. But we made it through and you very rarely have accidents anymore. Great job, buddy! I'm so proud of you. You learned to drive with Daddy. No, not a car, but your four-wheeler. And you are excellent at it. You hardly ever crash into things unless you mean to, you love when Daddy pushes you to the side and you can drift (which we did not teach you how to do, you just figured out on your own), and you always want to "make a lap."

Some of your favorite things right now are playing with monster trucks, cars, and tractors. You are starting to use your imagination in playing by yourself. You drive your cars around the dining room table in races, use your helicopter to rescue them from crashes, and crush them with your monster trucks. Your "best friends" are Boo (your monkey) and Blankie (your fuzzy blue blanket) and you like to take them everywhere. You love your four-wheeler. You love anything to do with racing. You love to win. And are a horrible loser. We're working on that. You still watch Daddy at the window every morning, where you give high fives, knucks, elbows, hugs, and blow kisses. And now Sam stands next to you to watch him, too. You're big enough now that you run out to Daddy's car when he gets home so you can ride with him into the garage, literally dropping everything as soon as you hear his car.

You went to the dentist for the first time and got to wear a football helmet. And you got your first big boy hair cut, which makes you look so much older!  We went on vacation and you got to go down your first water slide, both with Papa and with Daddy. You loved it! We've been to the Children's Museum a lot this year, too. You can climb in the Playscape all the way to the top of the boats. You are so inquisitive and your favorite question is "why?" When you smile really big your one eye squints closed and you look like a pirate. You had your first nightmare about there being fire in your bed. It terrified you and broke Mommy and Daddy's hearts to see you so scared. You went to the urgent care a couple days before Sam was born because you were having trouble breathing and had to have a nebulizer treatment.

You have so many bumps and bruises from your boyish shenanigans that it doesn't phase you, or mommy, anymore. Except when I heard you screaming and rushed into the living room to find your head bleeding. That scared me, even though I put on a brave face for you. You had fallen off the couch and crashed your head into the coffee table. Mommy bandaged you up, but we still had to go to the doctor to get your gash glued together. They did a decent job, but it re-opened a couple hours later and we had to go back. Papa went with us, and we had 5 people holding you down while they glued you back together. It hurt my heart to see you so upset. You kept saying you just wanted Mommy. And I was right there hugging you and holding you. You will definitely have a scar from that wound. And probably more scars, but hopefully none that bad.

I'm very impressed with you, little man.  And I love you, from your inquisitive nature, to your stubbornness, to your love of sweets, with my whole heart, forever.
Love you,

P.s. Daddy wants you to know he's proud of you for knowing the difference between a Mustang and a Corvette.

Pictures from 2-3 years (not in any particular order)

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Cleaning Schedule

I don't know about you all, but my life keeps getting more and more hectic. And with the chaos that comes with running a house, keeping a toddler entertained and fed, and a very mobile 7 month old out of mischief, I find my household chores getting pushed to the back burner and just plain forgotten about. Which is ironic because I hate, hate, hate living in a dirty house! So I came up with a plan.

I've seen lots of cleaning schedules on Pinterest, but none of the ones I looked at worked for me and what I wanted my week to look like. So I made my own and wanted to share it with you.

I even made it look pretty so I can print it and put it on my fridge.  Click here for a printable version of the cleaning schedule. 

Here's the breakdown: 
The things I do every day include making the beds, loading the dishwasher and running it so the dishes are clean for the next day, putting dishes away in the morning, and a general picking up (which for me is mostly toys, papers, and random clothes that get left out)

On Mondays, I pay bills and do the budget so I am up to date for the week, menu plan (once a month, see post here!), and grocery shop if I need to.

Tuesdays are devoted to the kitchen. Clean the counters, the microwave (if needed), the stove top, empty out old food in refrigerator and clean it, and bleach the sink.

Wednesdays are bathroom days. Clean the toilet (inside and out!), sink, shower, bathtub, and mirror.

I like to do all my laundry at once. I know that a lot of people like doing a load every day, but I get so frustrated if it seems like I'm not making progress on the mountain of it. So, Thursdays are laundry day. Wash, dry, fold, and put away. This is also my day to change the sheets on the bed so they can be washed.

Fridays are general cleaning. Vacuum the bedrooms and the rug in the living room, sweep and mop the wood and tile floors, and dust the living room, dining room and bedrooms.

Saturdays and Sundays are reserved for special projects around the house that my husband and I can do together, like building a mudroom bench (in progress!), cleaning windows, washing the couch covers, mowing and weeding, etc.

Do you have a cleaning schedule you stick to? Did I forget anything?
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Under the Bed Play Table

Our latest project was an under the bed play table. I've seen this one floating around Pinterest and loved the idea! A play table, toy storage, and it doesn't take up any floor space. What's not to love, right? So I showed my husband the idea last night and he said, why don't we just take the train table we have and convert it? (He's a genius, I tell you.) Plus, we had taken the train table down a few months ago to have more floor space in Luke's room and it was just sitting in our storage closet. So, double bonus! New table for Luke and more storage space for me.

This is the only before picture I could find.

The only money we spent was to buy some castor wheels (and a couple of screws to put the handles on the drawers).

We simply cut the legs off, so the table was flat.

Then screwed some wood inside and attached the castor wheels. Voila! Now it rolls right out from under the bed when we want to play with it, and right back under the bed when we're done.

My genius husband had another idea to paint the back side of the table top in chalkboard paint (on another night). Then we can draw our own roads and houses!

What do you think?
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My Potty Training Experience

Note: I started writing this my first day of potty training, over a month ago.

For all of you moms (and dads) out there who have already potty trained your kids, I applaud you. I am in the process of it and it is hard. No, seriously. It's nap time on the first day of potty training and I am sitting here typing this while I eat chocolate and drink a coke. I haven't even had lunch yet. So, bravo to you!

Anyways, while I was thinking about when to potty train, how to do it, what I should and shouldn't do,  etc., I spent a lot of time scouring the web to see how others were successful. So, I thought I would share our experience in hopes that it will give some of you some ideas (and hope)!

We've been talking to Luke for months and months about how big boys use the potty and someday he gets to be big enough to go on it. He will be 2 1/2 in a month. I honestly wasn't going to start now, but he tells me pretty much every time after he poops and pees, so I decided to give it a whirl. We went to the store and he picked out big boy underwear (Cars, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc.) and a special candy that he got to have if he went on the potty. We sat down and made a potty chart that he got to put stickers on. We bought Cheerios for him to "aim" at. We were completely ready!

Day 1:
Luke was completely freaked out by the toilet. It's not like he had never seen us use it before or had ever been scared of it, but when we made him stand in front of it this morning to "practice" peeing, he had a total meltdown. Screaming, crying, the whole nine yards. And every time I made him try for the next 2 hours it was the same. I almost gave up. I was this close. I even texted my mom and husband to tell them I was done. But then my mom said to either keep with it, or be done for a few weeks. Don't expect to be done today and then try again tomorrow because he will figure out that if he throws a fit every time we make him try to pee, we will give up. Yep, never would have thought of that.

So I kept trying. I would make him stand at the toilet to pee (he stands on a step stool), then 10 seconds after we were done, he would pee on the floor. Sometimes he would stop and tell me, but couldn't hold it in. Standing at the toilet made him cry, peeing on the floor made him cry, peeing in big boy underwear made him cry. It about broke my heart to see him so upset! So I just told him one time that we were going to try and he could hold my hand. That was the first time he didn't cry while he was standing there! He didn't actually go that time, but it was progress! I think doing it alone scared him.

I think we had about 10-12 accidents this morning. I keep telling him accidents happen and we will learn together how to get this right. Then, one time when I told him we were going to try again, he did it! He peed right in the toilet and we both jumped around and danced afterwards. He got the biggest smile on his face and was so excited. He got to have 2 gummy worms (his special candy) and put a sticker in the "pee" section of his chart.

Then we called Daddy and a whole bunch of other people to tell them. He was ecstatic! We all made a big deal about it and he kept wanting to go. He now tells me when he has to go and asks me to go to the bathroom with him to hold his hand. It's awesome (even though it seems like it is every 5 seconds because I pumped so many liquids into him!). We have had a couple of accidents since he started going on the potty, though. One was completely my fault because he told me he had to go and was standing there waiting for me to help him lean over the toilet while I put the baby down and I didn't get there fast enough. The other was when he was wearing underwear. He seems to realize when he has to go if he's completely naked better than if he's wearing underwear.

And now it's nap time. And I'm completely exhausted. But happy, too.

(A short while later...)
Post-nap he did really well! I think we only had 1 accident. We decided to do Pull-ups at night and at nap time since this is so new. We'll tackle the concept of holding it while you sleep later. I'm hoping tomorrow goes well.

Day 2:
We only had 2 accidents today! In the morning I asked him about every 15-20 minutes if he had to pee and he would almost always say yes. I mainly think he just wanted a gummy worm, but whatever works! (Side note: the first day he got 2 gummy worms every time he went, the second day 1 gummy worm, the third day 1/2 gummy worm.) In the afternoon, I wanted to see if he could tell me before he went pee and didn't ask him. He had an accident, but stopped mid-pee and told me he had to go. This happened twice, then he started telling me before he had to go.

He really needed to poop today and kept trying to go hide himself so he could go, but I wouldn't let him and made him sit on the toilet every time. He threw lots of fits and didn't end up going poop at all. He will sit on the toilet without throwing a fit if it's just to sit there, but screams and cries if I tell him he needs to try to poop, so I don't think he's scared of the toilet. I'm not sure what to do about that.

Day 3:
I really thought we had the peeing down, but we had 2 accidents before 10am. Then again, he had 2 full cups of liquid by then, too. He tried several times to squat and poop in his underwear, but I stopped him and made him go to the toilet. Screaming and crying happened every time. Like full-out tantrum throwing (which is totally not like him). I really started getting frustrated by this! It wasn't because he was scared to sit on the toilet, he just didn't want to poop. I started sitting him on the toilet after he went pee every time and we would count to 10 together (a good way to learn to count!) and he actually wanted to do that, but if I would tell him to try and push, he completely flipped out.

He spends Wednesday evenings at my parents' house so my husband and I can go to Bible study and this evening was no different. He went there, had a little accident, but not too bad, and then went poop on the potty. Not sure why he was okay going at Grammy's house, but I'll take it! Maybe a change of authority figure or a non-stressed out adult helped. He was so excited he wanted to call us, even though we would see him in 15 minutes. While we were on the phone, he had to go again, and did! HURRAY! I'm hoping this transfers to tomorrow and he will be able to go here.

Up to this point, we still haven't gone anywhere public. I'm nervous about going to a public restroom with him!

Day 4: 
Not much change. He might have had 1 accident. We did go to church for an hour or so, and he was absolutely fine going pee there. I still asked him every 20 minutes or so if he needed to go and he would usually tell me if he did. They have child-sized toilets, so it's easy for him to go without me having to hold him.

Day 5: 
The only thing to report was more fit-throwing while trying to get him to poop. My husband came home and they were out "working" in the garage when Luke pooped his pants. So, we got him cleaned up and tried again to explain how we need to poop in the potty.

Day 6:
We had a "normal" day where we were out of the house quite a few times and we made sure he went pee before we left to go anywhere. He did great! My husband would take him to the bathroom if we were out and he stood on top of his feet so he could reach to pee.

Day 7: 
We had church today, no accidents, and he told his Sunday school teacher every time he needed to pee. WOO HOO!

Day 8:
We went to my mom's house for a couple of hours to have something different to do, and he went poop there again! Apparently he is completely okay with pooping on Grammy's toilet, but still threw a fit when he had to go at home. When we got home and he had to poop, I reminded him it's just like at Grammy's house and he finally did go! I made a huge deal about it and he is not afraid to do it anymore!

Update 1/28/14:
It's officially been over a week and we have not had ANY diapers on him. I'm so pleased with his progress and how amazing he is doing! He has only had 3-4 pee accidents in about 4 days, which I am completely okay with. I carry an extra set of pants and underwear in the baby diaper bag with me, just in case. And his only poop accident so far is the one he had on day 5. He pretty much tells me every time he needs to pee or poop.

The pooping still needs some work because he doesn't like to sit on the toilet and wait for it to come out. So he tells me he has to poop, pushes once and says he's done. Then 3 minutes later, he tells me he has to poop, sits on the toilet and says he's done, repeat. So it takes a lot of trips to the bathroom to actually get him to poop, but he has been pooping in the toilet!

We haven't actually gone anywhere that takes more than 10 minutes to drive to, so I'm not sure how that will go yet.

He is still in pull-ups for naps and bed time. We haven't wanted to try potty-training during sleep yet, partially due to laziness, but mostly because the baby is going through the "4 month wakeful" period, so we are pretty sleep-deprived.

Update 1/31/14:
We might be doing nap potty-training before we're ready! Yesterday, Luke woke up from his nap early yelling that he had to pee. That's all well and good, but I didn't want him awake from his nap yet! Our house only has 1 bathroom and it's on the main level. All the bedrooms are upstairs. So he would be completely awake if I got him up to pee then took him back to bed afterwards. I decided after 3 or 4 minutes of him yelling that he wasn't going to actually use his pull-up (ok, I guess that's a good thing) and decided to take a bucket and towel up to his room. I laid the towel on the floor, held the bucket over top of it, and let him pee. Worked like a charm!

Update 2/3/14 (2 weeks):
For the most part, we are accident free! Luke will occasionally pee a little bit in his underwear before he tells me he has to pee, then finishes on the toilet. Kind of annoying, but hey, he's 2 and he's still learning. I'm really proud of him! He still takes a few times to actually poop. Go to the bathroom, sit on the toilet, try to poop, nothing. Repeat 3 or more times until something happens. Usually he will start to poop in his pants, realize what's happening and waddle to the bathroom. Sometimes he gets there before it comes out, sometimes not and we have a mess to clean up.

Update 2/24/14 (1 month):
Luke hardly ever has an accident now, can go for an extended amount of time without having to go to the bathroom, and hasn't pooped in his pants for over 2 weeks.  I think it's safe to say he is potty trained!

Anyways, I hope seeing my tips, tricks, frustrations, and questions can help someone! Please let me know if there are any questions you have that I might be able to answer. (Also realize I am definitely not an expert, Luke still has some accidents occasionally!)

Helpful Hints:
  • Plan to stay home for 3ish days without going anywhere to really hit it hard.
  • Stay on solid floors (wood, tile, linoleum) if at all possible to make clean-up easier.
  • Keep Lysol wipes handy. 
  • Use baby wipes instead of toilet paper to wipe after they poop.
  • Find an incentive that works for your child. We let Luke pick out any candy he wanted from the candy aisle and he also go to put a sticker on his chart for trying, peeing, and pooping. 
  • Have someone you can vent your frustrations to. 
  • Be encouraging even when you want to scream or cry because your child will feed off your emotions.
  • Keep some chocolate handy for you ;)
  • It gets better, I promise! 
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