August 16th, 2014

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It is not a secret that I love Dr. Seuss!  So when we found out we were having a boy, I knew immediately what the theme of the first birthday would be…Dr. Seuss.  I loved planning this party, one of my favorites actually, even if I had to make everything from scratch because apparently Africa doesn’t really know who Dr. Seuss is.  Shame!  Here is a quick recap of the party in pictures and captions.

The Cute Birthday Boy

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The Decorations

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Sign reads:  Take a prop and flash a smile, then a photo that will last awhile.

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Birthday Memory book – each party guest was asked to write a special note to Max somewhere in the book.  Here is what the sign says:  Wait!  Stop here you see, and write a very special message to me! A birthday wish or just say hi, to your favorite ONE year old guy. On the front, the back or any page, It is something I will treasure all my days!  Love, Maxwell Simo (who is turning 1!)

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The Food and Favors

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The cake looks pink, but I promise it was red!

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Seussian style cookies as the party favors.  Mikayla loved helping to make these!

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Party Favor Tag Reads: Thanks for coming to the fun, at my party where I turned one!  Enjoy this cookie as a treat, as a thanks that you can eat!  Love, Max

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Horton’s Hot Dogs and Hamburgers with all the fixings!

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Truffula Fruit Salad, Poodle Eating Noodles Pasta Salad and Cat in the Hat Chips and Dip

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One Fish, Two Fish, Marshmallow Fish and Green Eggs and Ham

The Cake Smash

It took him awhile to figure out the whole cake thing.  He actually really only wanted to eat the red dots of icing.  You can see the full unedited version of his cake experience here (which will probably only interests family)!

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He was not a fan of the hat!

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The Guests and a Little Photobooth Fun

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You can see more of his birthday fun in my album on FB.

Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
August 16th, 2014

Max has grown up so much in the last couple of months.  I wish I had been more on top of the blog to give updates, so I would have them in the future, but life got busy and I just didn’t have the time.  So I am just going to combine two months into one and give a quick (or perhaps not so quick) update.

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First and foremost, Max is Mr. Independent!  Mikayla has always been independent, but Max is even more so.  Must be a second child thing.  He wants to do everything himself and prefers playing on his own.  When it comes to eating, he is always trying to do it himself.  He even started using a spoon on his own this week.  You can see the video here.  And because he is so independent he is into everything!  Always exploring and moving quickly from one object to the next.  One of his favorite things to do is to climb into the fruit and potato basket and start throwing them.  We have found oranges in some pretty interesting places!  He also really likes putting objects into containers and then dumping out to repeat. 

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He also really likes to climb.  We have had to move from keeping the chairs under the kitchen table to putting them in the middle of the house because he has become so good at climbing.  He will regularly climb onto the chair and then the table.  Check it out here.  He can even now move the chairs around and position them in such a way that he can climb on things.  He really is quite the trouble maker!

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He still loves being outside and would choose to be playing in the grass barefoot rather than in the house playing with toys.  He loves the wheelbarrow our maintenance staff uses and tries really hard to move it around (and can actually scoot it a little).  He will even "help" by picking up sticks and berries and putting them in the wheelbarrow.

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Overall, Max is a very happy boy.  He smile and laugh are very contagious and leave you eager for more.  One staff member told me last week that his joy lights up the whole room.  He has started a new thing where when he "talks" his voice is high pitched and almost squealing.  It is really precious.  He also does this thing that we refer to as "happy feet" when he really wants something.  He will bounce back and forth from foot to foot really quickly and get a big grin on his face.

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He has not picked up many signs, but every so often he will make a "sign" that is pretty close to the real thing.  We are getting there, slowly but surely.

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Max still loves food and when the pantry opens he comes running.  If he hears the crinkle of a bag he comes running.  If someone is eating something he comes running.  Can you see a pattern here?  This boy LOVES his food!  He is definitely a Swazi man in that aspect.

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Max is also very good at letting you know when he is unhappy about something.  If you try to give him the wrong thing he will grunt at you.  He is also really good at shaking his head no if he doesn’t want to do something.  And the kid can throw a tantrum!  I am thinking he learned that from his older sister. 

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Speaking of Mikayla, Max will follow her everywhere!  He really does love and adore his big sister.  Sometimes she just wants to play on her own in her room, and he gets so upset when she shuts the door and leaves him alone.  Pitiful really.

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One of my favorite things that Max does now is waving.  He will wave to anyone and everyone.  The grocery store is the best because the Swazi staff are so enthralled by his waving.  The cutest thing about it though is that most of the time it is backwards and he is waving to himself!  I wish we had a video of it.  Other things he does that are cute are pointing to things he wants and shaking his head no.

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Our toothless boy is now up to four teeth.  He actually cut three of them while Ben was in Australia for two weeks, that was fun! 

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At Christmas, my brother had made Max a Where the Wild Things Are blanket that he sleeps with every day.  We call it is lovie and he knows exactly what it means.  When you tell him it is time to go "Night Night" and to go get his lovie, he will run to the bedroom, grab the blanket and start to climb into the rocking chair to start his bedtime ritual (either reading a book or nursing depending on time of day).  When he gets really tired he will go get the lovie and let you know he is ready for sleep.  I hate that he is so attached to an object, but it works really well for him.  He is taking two naps a day, anywhere from 45 minutes to 1.5 hours.  He is also going to bed between 7 and 7:30, and sleeps until around 3 or 4.  At which point he wakes up, wants to nurse and then goes back to sleep until 6 or 6:30.  It isn’t sleeping through the night, but it is SO MUCH BETTER!

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And there you have it.  My independent, very active, loving, smiling, laughing 13 month old boy!

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You can see more of his one year shots on Ben’s FB page, here.

Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
July 9th, 2014

When I sat down to write Max’s one year update, I realized that I had failed to do an update on Mikayla’s 5th birthday party.  I had started writing it write after her birthday, and never finished.  So, here you go, a Doc McStuffins 5th birthday party recap!

Mikayla has always had a very vivid imagination and we very much love that about our child.  She loves all cartoons, but she especially loves those that the characters really use their imaginations.  Like Backyardigans, Doc McStuffins, Toy Story, etc.  When she suggested we have a Doc McStuffins party for her 5th birthday we decided that was a perfect idea!  It worked out perfectly too because she had been asking for a doctor’s kit for a long time and so we decided that would be a perfect gift for her.

Here is a quick rundown on the party.  First the decorations and food!

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The food spread.  Details below.

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An attempt at Doc’s doctor bag in the form of a cake.

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Party guests.

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Blowing out the candles.  She really struggled to get them blown out, almost had to climb on top of the table to do so!

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Pin the bandage (or rubber as they call it here) on Doc!

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Even Sr. Barbara got in on the fun!

And lastly a few of her gifts.

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The sisters got her silly string as part of her gift, she was not a fan!

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I think we nailed the gift!

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Getting right to work doctoring up her guests.

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We had one of our staff members make her a doctors coat as part of her birthday countdown.  She loved it!  And she even wanted to dress up as Doc for her party.

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Another party down!  Wonder what next year will bring…

June 17th, 2014

Seriously, 11 months already?  In less than a month we will be celebrating our spunky little monkey’s first birthday (in Dr. Seuss style!)!  CRAZY!!  This last year has been a roller coaster of sleepless nights, and most recently chasing after an almost running little boy. 

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When I say boy, I mean BOY!  He is every bit of 100% boy!  Into everything, loves dirt and bugs, climbing on things (and falling off of them too), wrestling with his daddy and big sister and eating everything in sight (and I mean EVERYTHING).

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Let me just break down that last paragraph a bit and give you a picture of what our almost one year old is into these days.  Max loves being outside.  As a matter of fact, he is much happier playing in the dirt and with sticks and bugs than he is playing with his toys.  If we aren’t careful he will sneak outside and down the sidewalk.  Just the other day he was in the house and I turned around to do something.  I looked up and he was all the way at the neighbors house.  Man can he fly!

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Speaking of "flying", he moves very quickly.  At 11 months, he is practically running.  He took his first steps at 9.5 months and never looked back.  It is amazing to me just how quickly he can get from Point A to Point B. He almost never crawls anymore.

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I mentioned he liked to climb on things.  He can easily climb into his special chair and MLK size chairs.  And he can climb off of almost anything with no problem.  He can also regularly be found climbing out of his high chair!  This is one of his favorite things to do at mealtime, even if he is buckled in.  Quite the Houdini this kid!

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When Ben and Mikayla wrestle with him he just laughs and laughs.  I can only imagine what things are going to be like a few years down the road :-/

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Max loves to eat, everything!  He doesn’t turn very many foods down.  He still loves fruits and any form of carbs.  He also goes crazy for puffs and Mum Mums (baby rice crackers).  If he sees you eating something or hears the crinkle of a bag (like chips or candies) he comes running and will cry and cry until you give him something to eat.  At times it is funny, but when you are trying to prepare a meal or sneak an unhealthy snack, it isn’t so funny.

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Max’s sleeping patterns are starting to get better.  This past month we really dove into the sleep training thing and weaning him from nursing at night.  After a few nights with lots of tears and screaming, I am proud to say he is sleeping much better and not nursing at night any longer!  He is not sleeping through the night yet, but when he wakes up he is back to sleep in less than five minutes!  And most nights he only wakes up once and will sleep until 6:30 or 7:00 (which is quite the change from up 3-4 times for long stretches and waking for the day at 5:30 or 6:00).  Change and progress!  Naps are still fairly short (at most an hour twice a day), but at least he is sleeping some.

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Max is "talking" more and more each day.  In the mornings he will say "dada" because Ben is usually the one who gets up with him.  He can also say "mama" and a few other words.  He will point directly at what he wants too.  We are working on baby sign language with him, but so far he hasn’t picked any of it up yet.

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Max still does not have any teeth!  Although, one is starting to work its way through on the top right (when facing him).  It sure is taking its sweet time though.  Maybe he will have a tooth by his first birthday.

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And that is my little monkey at 11 months!

Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
May 13th, 2014

10 months!  What in the world, how has our baby gotten so big.  In only two short months he will be a year old.  Yikes!  Guess I had better start planning his birthday party!

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I feel like a broken record, but Max is still not sleeping great.  I know when he is a teenager and we are trying to get him to wake up at noon I will look back at these days and laugh, but for now no one is laughing!  I wish I could say his sleeping habits have gotten better as he has gotten older, but that is just not the case.  He is still getting up multiple times at night and naps throughout the day are hit or miss.  We are lucky if he takes two, 1-hour naps! On a positive though he is starting to put himself to sleep better, at least during nap time.  So I guess we are getting there.  Slow and steady wins the race, right?!

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Last month I mentioned that Max was thinking about walking.  Well, at 9.5 months he took his first steps (over Easter weekend actually).  You can see the video here.  In the last week he has really improved with his walking and is starting to master it.  He will actually start crawling some place and then halfway there stop and start to walk.  It really is quite different from Mikayla.  She took her first steps at 10 months and then didn’t really try again until she turned a year old.  At which point she started walking no problem.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Max is running in the next month!  We joke that he looks like Frankenstein when he is walking, and call him Frankenbaby!  He is still a little unstable and holds his hands and arms out to balance himself, which makes him look just like a baby version of Frankenstein!

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Max has started to hold his own with Mikayla.  If she does something that he doesn’t approve of, he lets his voice be known and gives her a look that says don’t mess with me sister!  She is in trouble when he can really speak his mind!  But he still loves and adores her very much and will go out of his way to find her in the house and play with her.

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Speaking of playing, Max has taken a liking to one of the local dogs on the mission.  He is a little tiny dog, the perfect size for Max.  He will also go out of his way to follow after him and play with him. 

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He is 100% boy and loves being outside.  If the door is unlocked we have to really watch him because he is a quick one!  The other morning he was in his walker playing contently.  We stepped out of the room for just a second and when we came back he had climbed out of his walker and crawled out on the front porch!  This boy is going to be trouble!!  He loves playing in the dirt and eating rocks.  And he is perfectly content sitting on the front porch looking around at everything and everyone. 

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We are still working on waving and clapping with Max.  Shaking hands is something that one of the staff members has really been encouraging with Max and he almost has it!  When she sticks out her hand he will grab it to shake about 50% of the time.

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Max has become quite the jabbering boy and you can often find him playing in a corner talking to himself. 

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I am starting to think that teeth will never arrive for our blue eyed, smiling boy!  It doesn’t seem to bother him though because he is still eating great and even tackling things he shouldn’t be able to master without teeth.

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Max is still a momma’s boy, especially when he is tired or when I am trying to cook dinner!  Between him crying throughout dinner and dinner prep and trying to coax Mikayla into eating her dinner, I must say that dinner is not a pleasant place in our house right now!  If we can manage to eat early, say by 5:30, it isn’t nearly as stressful.  However, if we have a week like we did last week and aren’t eating dinner until 6:30 or so it is insane in our house!

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Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
May 4th, 2014

Here is a look back at all the fun and growth that took place in Mikayla’s life over her fifth year.  Enjoy!

April 2013

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May 2013

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June 2013


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August 2013

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September 2013

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October 2013

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November 2013

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December 2013

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January 2014

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February 2014







March 2014



April 2014

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She is still just as goofy as she was a year ago!  Love her!

April 28th, 2014

How is it even possible that my baby is five years old?!  The last five years have flown by by!  My baby girl is not a baby anymore, although she still lets us call her that!  Here is sneak at what the last five years have looked like for Mikayla.


One week old


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2 years old

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4 years old

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5 years old

She sure has grown and changed a lot in the last five years!  She has an amazing personality, is super creative, loves to tell jokes, knows what she wants and is very persistent to get it, loves everyone around her (everyone is her friend), is a wonderful big sister, has the biggest imagination, and loves to cook/bake.  I could go on and on with all the wonderful things about my daughter! 

Happiest of 5th birthdays to my sweet Mikayla Lillian (MLK), my favorite doctor out there!

Tags: , , | Posted in Parenting |
April 9th, 2014

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It is hard to believe that nine months have passed since Max’s birth.  He is becoming such a big boy with a big personality!  Here are a few nine month stats for him.

Weight – 18.739 pounds (8.5kgs)

Height – 68 cm

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Max is a busy, busy boy!  Always on the go and moving, even when he should be sleeping.  That is right folks, he is still a terrible sleeper!!  He taking roughly two naps a day, a short one in the morning (30-45 minutes) and a long one in the afternoon (1.5-2 hours).  But even that is hit or miss.  He is regularly waking up between 5:45 and 6:30 in the morning and we try to get him in bed between 7 and 8 at night.  Although, some nights he wants to play until midnight!  Once he is asleep he will sleep until around 9:30 or 10.  Most of the time I can get him back to sleep right away, but occasionally he will be wide awake for a couple of hours.  He is up and down all night long, with his longest stretch of sleep being 3 hours.  One day maybe he will sleep more.  At nap time he is starting to "put himself to sleep", meaning I rock him for a few minutes and then lay him in the crib.  At which point he will cry until he is asleep.  We can sometimes do this at night, although often we will have to rock or nurse him to sleep.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 279

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Max is crawling all over the place and pulling up on everything.  He is regularly cruising along furniture while holding on.  And a new trick he learned this week was how to stand on his own without pulling up on anything.  He will start by sitting on the floor and then move into the downward dog position.  From there he will stand straight up.  He is so proud of himself when he does it too.  The kids at the hostel think this is so great and will clap and cheer for him each time.  Sometimes when we are clapping for him he will bounce up and down, almost like he is trying to dance.  He can hold this position for quite some time, but hasn’t figured out how to move his legs to walk without holding one to something or somebody.

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I have mentioned it before, but he is absolutely in love with his big sister.  Mikayla can get him to laugh and smile in a way that nobody else can.  He loves being in her presence.  And she loves being with him, most of the time!

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He is into everything.  We really have to watch him these days.  Some of his favorite things are tearing up paper (much to Mikayla’s dismay) and digging through the trash (kind of sounds like we are raising a puppy :-/ ). tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 330

Max loves to play Peek-a-boo.  He has even started moving the blanket up and down to play with us.tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 357

We are working on waving and clapping with him, but so far he just looks at us like we are a bunch of idiots (which might in fact be the case). 

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Max definitely knows his name and will turn towards the person saying it almost every time. 

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Max is making lots of noises too.  He can string together the sounds mama and dada well.  He has also perfected the blowing of raspberries sound.  He really likes to show off this skill when he has food in his mouth!

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Still no teeth for my boy, but he loves to eat regardless and is great at "gumming" almost any food we give him.  A couple of weeks ago he ate all the chicken off of a chicken leg plus veggies!  I am afraid once he gets bigger he will eat us out of house and home.  He loves to feed himself and will often turn down purees.  Some of his favorite foods are fruits of any kinds, especially bananas, avocados and butternut squash.  He also loves Puffs, although our stash is dwindling.  He tried couscous and quinoa this week and really seemed to enjoy both.  Smoothies are also one of his favorite foods.  He can suck well through a straw.  Other things he has eaten and enjoyed are meats (we joke that he is a Swazi man because they love their meats), orange veggies (carrots, butternut, sweet potatoes), green beans, broccoli, bread, and cheddar cheese.  He is not a fan of yogurt though, you should see his face when we offer it to him, pure disgust!  He tried some black beans and chickpeas the other day and enjoyed those, although we try to limit his intake of legumes because he is already a very gassy boy!  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 078

He is 100% a momma’s boy and wants to be around me all the time.  If I leave the room he will crawl after me or cry until I return.  Although if I can distract him long enough to escape he doesn’t seem to notice, only when he can see me go.  He will still easily go to others, especially the staff and kids at the hostel.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 097

At nine months Max has traveled to four different countries.  I was in college before I could say that!  He was even able to visit his home country, the United States, for the first time in January/February.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 363

Our little Max loves to give out kisses, open mouth kisses that is.  He will lunge at your face with his mouth wide open and "suck/kiss" your cheek or chin.  It is very cute if I do say so myself.  tutu daughter, joe leaving, max 9months 372

He has such a funny disposition too, he is either hot or cold.  Meaning one minute he is as happy as can be laughing and playing and then the next he is screaming his head off!  Crazy how quickly he can switch from one to the other!

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In less than three months we will be planning this big boys first birthday party!!

Tags: , , | Posted in Life, Parenting |
January 7th, 2014


I think this picture says it all.  Pops with a smile
on his face while hanging out with his family.

My pops, my dad’s dad was a great man!  He was always full of laughter and fun.  He was also quite the jokester.   The world lost a wonderful man when he passed away this morning.

A few years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a terrible disease, that took him away from us mentally before he was physically gone.  I have had time over the last few years to reflect on his life and what a wonderful man he truly was.

I wanted to share some of the great and funny things he would do with his grandkids to show them how much he cared.

When I was a kid my siblings and I would often head to his house for weeks at a time in the summer to hang out.  In the back of his house, both in North Carolina and Kentucky he had a small wooded section.  We would play back there and collect firewood for camp fires.  Many summer evenings were filled with sitting around the fire.  He also always had a garden.  I remember how he would go to the garden and pick green onions and munch on them while harvesting the rest of the veggies. 


I have been very fortunate to spend time with both sets of grandparents in my life as well as most of great grandparents.

When you would yawn and he was nearby, he would immediately stick his finger in your mouth!  A terrible trick, but so funny at the same time.

If he was sitting next to you during a meal he would ask if you had ever played motorboat.  Then he would proceed to stick his finger in your food, wiggle it around and say motorboat, motorboat, motorboat!

He would often grab your nose and ask, "Want that any longer?" If you answered yes, he would respond with, "how long?" and pull your nose.  If you answered no, he would respond with, "well then I will take it" and pull your nose.  It was a lose, lose situation for you and a win, win situation for him.

A classic riddle he would do was the two birds named Pete and Repeat.  It went like this:  There were two birds sitting on a fence, one named Pete and the other Repeat.  Pete flew away, so who was left.  We would immediately say repeat, at which point he would start from the beginning.  It was an endless cycle!

Pops was always finding money.  Everywhere we went he was looking on the ground and in machines (pay phones, quarter candy machines, vending machines, etc).  And it never failed, he always found something.

Pops taught me everything I know about people watching.  He could sit and watch folks for hours!

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Saying goodbye to Pops before our big move to Africa.

Playing school was another of his favorite games.  This is a hard one to describe in writing, but I will try.  He would have you fold your hands together and then complete various "school" tasks.  Such as, spelling, math and even music.  When it came time for music he would squeeze your hands hard and when you yelled he said it was singing!

My Pops always worked at the newspaper.  I remember many days making the trip to the office with him to see how things operated!

If you haven’t noticed I love to take tree pics with my kiddos, this is yet another thing I get from my Pops (in combination with my Grandma of course)! 

My pops was a wonderful man and these are just a few of the many things he did to make his children and grandchildren smile!

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Pops with his great granddaughter, Mikayla. 
He loved all his grandkids and great grandkids.

Tags: | Posted in Life |
January 6th, 2014

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Happy half birthday little boy!  It is hard to believe that six months ago Max joined our family.  He has added so much (and taken away a little sleep 😉 ) to our family.  Here is what he is up to these days.

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Max has become an independent sitter. He still occasionally topples over, but for the most part he is sitting up firmly on his own.  He loves to sit in the middle of his toys and play and throw them across the floor.

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Max adores his sister.  Seriously, he lights up whenever she is near.  She is also one of the few people that can get a belly laugh out of Max.  Mikayla can do this simplest thing, like blow raspberries at him and he is rolling!  It is so precious.  And everyone comments on how much he loves her.

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Max has started to show a little separation anxiety from me.  If he is handed off to someone other than Ben when I am in the room he looks around for me and will often cry and lunge his body towards me.  I guess this is what happens when you spend 24/7 with a baby!


Max is also still rolling all over the floor and can pretty much get wherever he wants to at a pretty quick speed by doing so.  He isn’t crawling yet, but he arms and legs are pretty strong so I would say it wouldn’t be long before this happens.

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Speaking of strong legs, Max has some serious strength.  He loves standing up when supported by your hands.  He has also started grabbing your hands and pushing up on his own.  I wouldn’t call it "pulling up yet", but that is mostly because he doesn’t have the control of his legs yet.  He definitely has the strength, but he can’t quite figure out how to maneuver his legs in the directions he wants them to go.

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We started Max on solid foods at the beginning of this month.  It was a little early (we didn’t start Mikayla until after six months), but he was nursing so frequently and so active we felt that he was hungry and ready for it.  We were right too.  He took to eating solids very quickly, like a matter of days.  And now whenever he sees a spoon he starts opening his mouth like he wants to eat.  It is so funny.  So far he has had avocado (big fan), banana and butternut squash.  We have also snuck him a few bites of potatoes, hummus, and mango.  Right now he is only getting one meal a day, but he seems to love it!

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Sleep still proves to be an issue with this boy.  He just doesn’t seem to like to sleep, no matter how tired he is!  He is still very much a cat napper and waking up frequently during the night.  He will typically take a nap in the morning and one in the afternoon and maybe a quick one around dinner time.  But none of the times are consistent and lengths vary!  I am not  a super schedule oriented person, but it would be nice to have a little more structure to his sleeping schedules so I can plan the day accordingly!


Max takes comfort in you standing and walking with him.  If you are sitting with him he cries, but as soon as you stand up he is A OK!  It is only a little annoying 😉 !

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Max is also still chatty.  He loves to make noises and of course laugh and coo.  He has also started to blow bubbles on a more frequent basis.  Daddy also gave him a small hair trim this month too.

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Max took his first trip out of Swaziland this month when we went to South Africa for a mini vacation before Christmas.  He also celebrated his first Christmas (he was not very impressed)! 

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