First Day of Preschool

11.21.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

With a late September birthday, it was difficult to find a school that would take Sam this year. But I really wanted to get him into some sort of organized program. He has never spent time away from me, and I felt it would be beneficial to his social development. And, admittedly, I was looking forward to devoting a few hours each week to Nora.

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We toured the Taylor Street School over the summer, and we were pleased with the structure, the flexibility, and the philosophy. They offer rolling enrollment, which means Sam could start as soon as he turned three. Classes are small and mixed ages, and because they are also a daycare facility, kids don’t have to be potty-trained before starting. Plus, plus, plus, and plus.

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The night before his first day, we talked about the new friends he would make and the fun he would have. But my heart almost broke when he asked, with a quivering voice, “But where are you going to go?” and “Who will stay with me?”

Despite the hesitation that night, Sam woke up excited and ready to go! He wore his new shoes and his robot backpack while eating breakfast from the “you are special” plate, and he looked so proud as he posed for pictures on the front porch.

Nick and I were really pumping him up, too, although he kept telling us to “calm down” and “settle down.”

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We arrived at school, and he walked in like it was no big deal — a little bittersweet for this momma!

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There were no tears as he hugged us goodbye. And he walked with such confidence right over to the play kitchen that he had been talking about since we visited the school a few months prior.

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I am just so darn proud of this kid. Almost two months later, his teachers say he is making friends and following directions, and he looks forward to going every day. I’ve noticed changes at home, too. He will actually sit and focus on learning activities and puzzles and board games.

I know not every parent sends their child to preschool at age 3, but it was definitely the right decision for us.

Letter to Nora: Ten Months

11.06.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Little Miss Nora,

We are fast approaching your first birthday. And I’m not really sure how to feel about that. Every day you seem less like my baby girl and more like this curious, comical, confident little person. When I peek into the living room and see you sitting on your knees beside Sam, having a pretend tea party, I swear you look almost as big as he does.

I am simultaneously sad to see babyhood coming to an end and anxious to watch you become a toddler.

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New tricks include clapping and waving. You love to hide your toys inside boxes and under plastic cups. You intentionally push your animals down the zoo slide and try to put the wooden rings onto your stacking toy and push the colorful beads around the wire maze. Oh, and Sam recently taught you how to pull toilet paper off the roll. You are constantly trying to play with his superhero figurines and Legos. Sometimes he lets you, and sometimes he doesn’t. You try to climb into the Little Tikes car and onto the musical turtle. Basically, you are so much fun!

You are crawling everywhere — in fact, you have tiny bruises on your knees from crawling all over the hardwood floors — and you are pulling up onto everything. I find you standing at the back door and at the washing machine and at our bedroom windows. Sometimes you let go for a few seconds, then slowly sit back down. No signs yet of walking, though you are easily cruising across furniture.

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Your current favorite word is “uh-oh,” and you still say “da-da” way more than “ma-ma.” You may not be talking, but you sure know how to tell us what you want — like more food, your cup of water, or to please get Sam out of your face.

I have seen sure signs of sibling rivalry this month. If Sam takes something from your hands, you scream and try to take it back. The two of you often fight for my attention — and my lap. If we’re all sitting on the floor and playing, and you suspect he’s coming for me, you quickly dive headfirst into my lap, then crawl up to my shoulders and wrap your arms around my neck. It’s pretty darn cute.

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Speaking of demanding my attention, it’s become nearly impossible to dry my hair in the morning, or unload the dishwasher at night, without you hanging on my leg. You bounce and beg for me to pick you up. Sometimes I can distract you for a few minutes with some cloth headbands or a bin of plastic cups, but you always end up in my arms.

You still love to ride in the backpack with Daddy and in the laundry basket with Sammy. I tried to get you in the bounce house during a particularly warm October day, but you were a bit scared. Probably because Sam was bouncing around you like a little wild thing.

We took a trip to New York City earlier this month to visit Uncle Andrew and Emma and their new puppy, Breck. Not surprisingly, you were intrigued by the hustle and bustle of the big city. But your favorite activity was the Hippopotamus Playground at Riverside Park. It was the perfect place for you to explore.

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You are still obsessed with Lucy’s water bowl, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught you splashing your hands in it. I’ve also caught you licking the front door and biting the bookcase shelves and sucking on the knobs of the entertainment center. Yuck!

While we’re on the subject of germs, Sam has been exposed to a lot more of them since starting preschool. Which, of course, means that you typically catch whatever he has. Hopefully this is all strengthening that little immune system of yours!

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At your 9-month well visit, you weighed 17lbs 3oz (24th percentile) and measured 30in (95th percentile). You are wearing 12-month clothing and some 18-month shirts. And I finally ordered a box of size 3 diapers.

Your hair now lays over your ears, and you have random long pieces that nearly touch your eyes. I can’t wait until it’s long enough to pull back with cute barrettes.

You got three new teeth this month! Two on the top and one more on the bottom. Their debut was, of course, accompanied by several rough nights. But nothing that couldn’t be calmed by Mommy snuggles and a few extra nursing sessions.

Typically, I feed you three times per day, and you eat three solid meals, plus at least one snack. You still love graham crackers and applesauce, and you still dislike eggs and bananas. I now have to order a second Chick-fil-A kids meal just for you, and sometimes you eat more grilled chicken than Sam does. You also love fruit smoothies and milkshakes.

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You have recently started to lay your head in my lap or on my shoulder, or even on a random blanket or stuffed animal. It is so sweet. So are your grins and giggles.

Nora, my heart is so much bigger and so much happier because of you. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

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Fall Fun

10.31.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

It’s been a busy fall — just the way we like it. So just hours before we flip the calendars to November, let’s take a look back.

Oktoberfest at Idlewild

Pretzels and root beer. Sam’s first ride on the ferris wheel. A Bavarian band and a gigantic blow-up boy in lederhosen. It’s no Munich, but it was fun for the whole family.

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Local Apples and Pumpkin Spice Ale

Our dear friends visited during the first weekend in October, and we decided to take the boys to a local apple festival. We certainly weren’t prepared for the near freezing temperatures, but we still enjoyed kettle corn and hot apple cider with cinnamon sticks. Afterwards, the adults treated ourselves to local pumpkin spice ales while the boys had a dance-off in the middle of the restaurant.

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Pumpkin Patch at Schramm’s Farm

It was cold and overcast when we finally found time for an October trip to the farm. But the kiddos still had fun crawling/running around the patch and through the corn maze. And we left with one perfect little pumpkin for Sam. He was so proud to carry it to the scale and pay for it with his three dollar bills.

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Weekend in Dover and Apple Harvest Festival

We spent a weekend in Dover, complete with multiple backyard bonfires, a family wedding, and a trip to the National Apple Harvest Festival. We ate apple sausage sandwiches and apple fritters and drank sweet apple cider. Sam rode a pony named Tucker and carried around a bag of “apple babies.” He almost cried when I later chopped the fruit and turned it into applesauce.

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Hallowboo at Idlewild

Once again, Idlewild impressed us with their Halloween festivities — from trick-or-treating in Storybook Forest to the hundreds of pumpkins scattered across the park to the green water that filled the little ponds. Fireman Sam ate every lollipop and tootsie roll before we left the park, and our sweet Dalmation passed out as soon as we strapped her into the car seat.

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Carving Pumpkins

Sam carved his first pumpkin this year. Not surprisingly, his favorite part was pulling out the seeds. And Nora cheered him on from the sidelines.

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Pumpkin Hunt

We had perfect weather for the annual pumpkin hunt with our Moms@Play group. Although both kids were more interested in the crunchy leaves than the tiny pumpkins.

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Halloween

Our third consecutive cold and rainy Halloween in Greensburg. But this year we actually made it out of the cul de sac. Fireman Sam was excited to say “trick-or-treat!” to each neighbor that opened the door, and he couldn’t wait to get home and dump out his pumpkin full of treats. Even Baby Nora got a few cracker snacks that she refused to share.

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I have no doubt that the next two months will be just as busy — if not more busy than the previous two. Thanksgiving, our final wedding of the year, Christmas, and a certain little lady’s first birthday. Time, please slow down!

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Laura and Stephen Get Married

10.20.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

My little sister married the love of her life in July. Laura was an absolutely stunning bride. And Stephen’s love for her was obvious in every look and every kiss. They were wed at the quaint Lakeview Farms, located less than five miles from my parents’ house. Tilande Entertainment created an awesome video of their big day, and Erin Keough Photography took the lovely photos. Enjoy a few of my favorite moments and memories!

I took my title of Matron of Honor quite seriously. I designed their invitations and programs and the chalkboard signs that decorated nearly every corner of the venue; I  happily gave her my wedding earrings to wear; I intercepted questions and concerns on the big day; and I beamed with pride and tears and true joy as I stood beside her at the altar.

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Our little drummer boy had a minor meltdown when he realized all eyes were on him. But he quickly recovered with help from Daddy and lots of lollipops.

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Dad escorted Laura through a set of barn doors and down the grassy aisle lined with sunflower pomanders while the guitarist performed “A Thousand Years.” Stephen’s cousin officiated the ceremony, which included communion and footwashing. They exchanged vows and rings and sealed their promise with a kiss. It was beautiful and spiritual and perfectly represented their honest and radiant love.

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Following the ceremony, guests were ushered to the cocktail hour where they enjoyed delicious food prepared by a family friend.

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I followed Laura and Stephen around the farm while they posed for amazing photo after amazing photo — holding Laura’s train with one hand and a plate of food for the newlyweds with the other.

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Then it was time to head into the barn to celebrate! Every single detail was just as Laura and Stephen had envisioned — from the table runners made by my mom and the chevron napkins sewn by my aunt to the mason jars with hand lettering by Laura and the various wood projects completed by my dad to the menu cards designed by me and the sangria made by Stephen.

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Laura and Stephen danced their first dance as husband and wife, then she rocked out with Dad to “My Brown-Eyed Girl.”

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And I somehow managed to get through my Matron of Honor speech without getting all choked up.

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Laura and Stephen were excited to hire the DJ from our wedding (and Stephen’s brother’s wedding, too!), and he was just as wild and fun as ever. Wild Bill certainly has a knack for getting folks onto the dance floor!

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Stephen’s sister baked the cake, and the mini desserts were prepared by the same family friend who catered the cocktail hour.

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They had lots of fun with the garter and bouquet toss. And we were all pretty excited that my brother’s girlfriend caught the bouquet!

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The dance floor was crowded until the very end of the night when we all lined up to send off the newlyweds with sparklers (that we didn’t get to use at my wedding five years ago because of the torrential downpour).

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It was truly the perfect day to celebrate the love of two of my favorite people. Congratulations to Laura and Stephen!

Superhero Birthday Party

10.14.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam requested a “super party” months before his birthday.

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He asked for super capes for his friends, pizza, popcorn, and blue cupcakes. Easy enough!

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I spent every evening for about a month working on the capes. But they were well worth the time and effort! In fact, they are the coolest thing to come out of my new sewing machine thus far. (I will post a full tutorial soon.)

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And, of course, you can’t have a cape without a mask. These were easy to make from felt and elastic. (Painted letters from his nursery!)

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I pulled a few quotes from my interview with Sam and wrote them on a scrap piece of wood turned chalkboard. Simple decoration for the mantle.

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I designed a pennant banner and used leftover table runners from his first birthday party to spruce up the dining room.

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I baked (the best!) funfetti cupcakes — both big ones and mini ones because kids only eat the frosting anyway. And I bought festive baking cups and picks from Amazon.

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Since Sam requested popcorn — one of his favorite snack foods — I picked up some cute paper boxes to serve it. We also ordered pizzas and served veggies with dip and fruit salad.

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For the big surprise … a bounce house! We decided to buy one rather than rent one because I anticipate using it for many future parties. The birthday boy loved it!

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As always, the sand box was a big hit with the kids.

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And the dirt box. Give kids some shovels and a few dump trucks, and they can entertain themselves for an entire afternoon.

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I really wanted to get photos of the kids in their capes and masks, so I created a little “Gotham City photobooth” using blue fabric and cardboard boxes that I spray painted. And you can download the signs here.

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A few of the kids were a bit camera shy. But not my kid!

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I convinced the grown-ups to get in on the action, too.

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Don’t you love the super shirts that my mom made??

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It’s not a party without cupcakes. The more sprinkles, the better.

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Most of Sam’s gifts were superhero themed. And he couldn’t have been happier.

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Boys and their toys!

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Sam may have been the guest of honor, but I think Nora may have stolen the show with her cute super sister outfit. I found my Wonder Woman shirt and cape at our local Halloween store, and I picked up Nick’s Superman t-shirt at Old Navy.

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I love that some of the kids dressed in their superhero best!

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We had such a wonderful afternoon celebrating our Super Sam with family and friends!

Sam’s First Birthday: Polka Dot Party
Sam’s Second Birthday: Construction Party

Letter to Nora: Nine Months

10.06.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Hey Little Lady,

Nine months, already? Not possible. You really need to stop growing up so fast.

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You are officially mobile, and I believe you have explored every inch of our house. You crawl under the kitchen table, into the corner between your crib and dollhouse, onto the bottom shelf of our toy shelf, and all over Lucy’s bed. You are already so fast! We have had to re-train ourselves to lock the gate at the top of the stairs and keep all of the cabinet doors closed.

You are also pulling up onto everything — the ottoman, the laundry basket, your dresser, Sam’s bat cave. And I can see you getting more comfortable each day with the thought of moving your legs and cruising from one thing to another.

Needless to say, it’s become impossible to contain you. You have outgrown the pack ‘n’ play, and you lose interest very quickly in the jumperoo. You just want to move!

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You are very curious just like your big brother. You try so hard to figure out how things work — the wheels on Sam’s cars, the swing on the zoo, the toy piggy bank full of coins, the bead maze, the stacking rings, the musical tea pot, the sticker on your shirt.

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Your favorite new trick is to sit at the railing above our entryway and throw things onto the first level floor. You are also constantly tossing things over my lap and then climbing over me to retrieve them.

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You love anything that makes noise, which means you are right at home in our new music class. I take you every Tuesday for 45 minutes while Sam is in school. You are the youngest in the class, but you are not at all shy. You bang the drum with the big kids and sway to the songs and didn’t mind at all when the teacher picked you up for some bouncing.

I love that I have this opportunity to spend time with you and focus only on you (as Sam tends to dominate most situations). You surprise me every day with what you are already capable of doing.

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You are such a happy baby girl. People often ask if you are ever not smiling. Well, yes, when Sam takes your toys or when Mommy tells you “no,” you immediately scrunch up your face and cry with real tears. But, otherwise, you have a permanent grin on your face. And I can’t get enough of it.

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You caught a nasty virus this month, which caused your temperature to rise to 103 degrees. It was awful. I spent the first night cradling you in my arms and willing your fever to break. You were hot and miserable, and neither of us slept more than a couple hours. Fortunately, you were back to your smiley, healthy self within a few days. But it took another week to get your sleep back on track. I’m happy to report, though, that you are now consistently sleeping through the night — from about 7:30pm until 7:30am. Hooray!

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You love pizza, pumpkin bread, straw cups, playing in Lucy’s water bowl, and riding in the backpack with Daddy. You dislike socks, diaper changes, and eggs.

I love how you don’t just reach for me, you lunge at me with all your weight. I love the way you hook your arm around mine and hang on while I hold you on my hip. I love your close-mouthed grin and how you crinkle your nose and your eyes. I love how you sit on your knees to play and appear under my feet while I’m washing the dishes. I love to hear your voice sing from your bedroom every morning, and I look forward to that final kiss on your forehead every night.

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Nora, you are my little sweetheart, and life is infinitely better with you in it.

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What Sam Says: Volume 2

10.05.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Sam is imaginative and inquisitive, and sometimes I can’t believe the things that come out of his mouth.

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I encourage him to ask new friends: “What is your name?” But he prefers: “What your name is?” He also says: “Where you are?” and “Where it is?”

I hear “why?” at least a dozen times every day. And he continues to ask until he’s satisfied with the answer. “Because I said so” is not acceptable.

He says: “Thank you so much” and “I welcome.”

For awhile he told everyone he was “half two.” But now it’s just “six.”

He is an awesome big helper. He’s always asking: “I help you, please?” And saying: “We need to work.”

One day I told him I need a vacation. And he replied: “Don’t leave, momma. I’ll miss you.” And I melt every time he calls me his best friend, which has been a lot lately.

During our first attempt at potty training, I told him we ran out of diapers and had no money to buy more. And he said: “But Daddy has a job. He has money.” And I said Daddy didn’t have enough money. Then he said: “You need to get a job, Mommy.”

One evening, we went to the playground after dinner, and while Nick held Nora, I chased Sam around the playground. He said: “Mommy, you’re fast! Wait, I need to stop to get my breath.” And took a big, deep breath. Then started running again.

He is beginning to understand the concept of time and says while driving in the car: “It’s taking a long hour to get home.” He also often refers to “today” “tomorrow” and “next week.”

For weeks, he was obsessed with planning his super birthday party and wanted to talk about it every night before bed. And every day he insisted on looking inside the “super party box” that sat on the dining room table.

A few birthday gifts arrived in the mail, and I asked him not to open them. But he did and then reassured me: “Don’t worry. It’s just diapers and wipes.”

He can be very matter-of-fact (like his father!), and if we try to turn something into a game (like dressing him in the morning), he will say: “You don’t need to do that.”

We were so excited on the morning of his first day of preschool. We may have done a little happy dance. And he told us: “Settle down, guys.”

He is constantly tormenting Lucy, and so I told him one day that she was going to live with another boy. He asked: “What’s that boy’s name?” Then: “What’s his mommy’s name … his daddy’s name … his baby’s name?” And so I was forced to fabricate Joseph and his fake family. Now every time I scold him for teasing Lucy, he asks if she’s going to live with Joseph.

Favorite words: disgusting, delicious, mapkin, cimmanon, piderman, Poppy’s pasghetti, wiggle (little) tiny blanket, and wiggle (little) tiny blocks.

Letter to Samuel: Three Years

09.30.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Dear Super Sam,

You are our sweet, silly, spirited boy. You test our patience, endurance, and sanity on a regular basis. And you make us laugh every single day. You have an endless amount of energy and dirt permanently embedded under your nails. You are constantly running and jumping, racing cars around the house, and scaling the mulched hill in our backyard. You almost always have a hook or bungee cord or plastic fishing rod in your back pocket, and you are rarely not wearing safety glasses or swim goggles or a superhero mask. You have a wild imagination, ask about a million questions every day, and tell the most animated stories I’ve ever heard come from the mouth of a three-year-old.

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You love pancakes, pizza, mac and cheese, tacos, apples, bananas, and broccoli; Legos, tools, dinosaurs, and the bat cave; chasing Lucy, dancing, and working on projects. You love to play “good guys” vs. “bad guys” and call anything that resembles a weapon a “chick-a-chow.” (We obviously discourage this, but you are a boy, and this is what boys do.)

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You often introduce yourself as “Super Sammy” and insist quite passionately that you are “six.” You torment Lucy and steal Nora’s toys, but they both love you unconditionally. You help Daddy to mow the grass and pull weeds, and you help Mommy to clean the windows and bake cookies. You like play-doh and painting and cutting paper with scissors, and you recently drew your first recognizable object: Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc.

You have mostly phased out your afternoon nap — which sometimes leads to major meltdowns around dinnertime — but you are exhausted by 8pm and fall asleep easily. Current favorite bedtime books are If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Super Friends X-Ray Vision, and The Diggingest Dog — and you have most of each one memorized. Favorite bedtime song is “Super Sammy,” which Mommy and Daddy sing differently, but you love equally. Favorite TV shows are Octonauts and Paw Patrol and anything about dinosaurs.

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Every morning (sometimes as early as 6:15), you come into our room carrying the clothes you want to wear that day, and you demand that we change you before we go downstairs. You even have a favorite pair of socks — your “super” socks, of course. You are quite opinionated. And articulate. And persistent.

You are a typical stubborn three-year-old, and you challenge us daily. But you are also kind and considerate and affectionate. Sam, we are so proud of the kid you have become. Every day with you is an adventure. We love you. All the way to the moon and back.

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Homemade Almond Joy Larabars

09.19.2014 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

It’s tough to give up sugar when you love cookies as much as we do. But these homemade Larabars are serious competitors in the cookie arena. And they are incredibly easy to make! Just throw everything into the food processor and mix until the ingredients get all sticky and yummy. Then roll them into balls and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (Or eat them with a spoon right out of the food processor, which is Sam’s preferred method of consumption.)

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Homemade Almond Joy Larabars

(Print this Recipe)

Ingredients

  • 15 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup mini dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Combine everything in a food processor and mix until it sticks together and is no longer crumbly.
  2. Roll into balls, or press into an 8×8 pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before devouring.