Halloween 2013

11.17.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I realize that Santa arrived at the mall two weeks ago and at least half of you have already set your Pandora station to holiday tunes, but I must recap our Halloween for posterity sake. So here we go.

We chose a simple costume for Sam this year — one that required no additional purchases except for a new white shirt, which he needed anyway. The pants came from last year’s local consignment sale; we got the hat when we met Thomas; and I found the red handkerchief at the bottom of a dresser drawer. Easy-peasy!

Allow me to introduce our mini train conductor.

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Sam learned to ask for “treats, pease” followed by “dank doo” just in time for Halloween. We enjoyed several festive playdates, and we spent a Friday evening at the mall with at least 1,500 other kiddos where Sam ate no less than five lollipops. The weather on October 31st was cold and rainy, but we managed to make it around the cul de sac and fill his felt pumpkin bag with lots of goodies.

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Holidays are so much more fun with kids!

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Bumpdate: Weeks 27-30

11.05.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

Another month closer to meeting our baby girl! People often ask at this stage: How do you feel? And I almost always reply: Pregnant. That is not a bad thing. It’s an amazing thing. But it means that, these days, I feel pregnant in every bone in my body. When I lift Sam out of his car seat, when I bend over to I fill Lucy’s food bowl, when I spend 20 minutes on the floor constructing a Lego tower, when I collapse into bed at the end of every day.

I need to constantly remind myself to slow down. There is no need to wash and fold four loads of laundry, vacuum the house, and chop six different vegetables for a pot of soup before Nick gets home from work. I just can’t do it all — plus keep up with Sam and Lucy. And that’s okay. Because I’m growing a baby, and that’s my priority.

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Afternoon naps have returned, and I am embracing them. The leftover Halloween candy stood no chance with this preggo in the house. I’ve also been craving Pepperidge Farm cinnamon toast and big, juicy cheeseburgers. Surprisingly, I’m holding steady at just over a 20-pound weight gain. I bought a new pair of flats and a new roomier winter jacket. And I finally purchased fabric for baby girl’s nursery. These are just a few highlights as we ease into November.

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In addition to slowing down my every day, I’m committing to a quiet holiday season. We do have travel plans for Thanksgiving (and it will be an emotional one to celebrate since it will be the first without our dear cousin, Lauren), but after that we’re going to bunker down here at home. There will be a tree and cookies and lots of toddler crafts to complete, but there won’t be the over zealous fanfare that typically accompanies Christmas. And that’s fine. Because our most important Christmas present is due to arrive just two weeks later.

Letter to Samuel: 25 Months

11.04.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I wasn’t planning to write monthly updates after Sam’s second birthday, but there are just so many moments that I want to remember. And so here we go. Sam’s 25th month.

Likes: Music. You love to sing and dance and march through the house with a drum strapped around your neck. | Water. We started swim class this month. And you love it! You are the only kid in the class who will jump into the water without holding Mommy’s hands. | Art. Coloring, painting, holiday craft projects. You are currently into it all. | Stickers. You have become very, very good at your sticker books. We love to sit on the couch and match the stickers to the correct pages. | Work. You still love to help with projects around the house. This month, you helped to paint your baby sister’s room (the color “purkle”) and hang crown molding in your room. | Frisbee. It’s actually Lucy’s frisbee, but you are surprisingly good at throwing it!

Dislikes: Baths. You now prefer “showers.” Which is fine with your pregnant momma because it means I don’t have to bend over the tub to wash your hair and your toes. | Walking. You would much rather run everywhere. And it’s often difficult to get you to hold my hand while crossing the street. You think it’s much more fun (and funny) to clasp your own hands together. | Leaving the house through the garage door. You now request to go out the “back” and “meet Mama” at the car. | And, as always, you strongly dislike when I tell you it’s time to come inside. You say “no, play outside, please” no matter if you’re covered in mud with a runny nose and cold, rosy cheeks.

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Favorite Foods: Cucumbers coated in Ranch dressing; naan bread with hummus; sausages and bratwursts; tacos; and all things pasta. Also, juice. You now often request “juice” instead of water or milk. I usually dilute it, and, fortunately, you don’t know the difference. You also often request “mac and cheese” for lunch. Not to mention “cookies” “candy” and “happy cake.” Oh, you’ve also figured out how to open the freezer and have been caught several times with a carton of ice cream and a spoon.

Favorite Books: Little Blue Truck; Muddy Paws; Goodnight Construction Site; Kisses for Daddy; Little Quack’s Bedtime; and Trucks (a lift-the-flap book). We read between 3 and 5 books together every night. And sometimes you continue reading to Ricky and Baby after we turn out the lights. You’ve also become much more interactive during story time. You pick out the “big duck” and the “widdle duck.” You tell me that “Pop” is driving the tractor and “Pete” is driving the mail truck. (Ironically, our mailman’s name really is Pete.) Oh, and that the dump truck is filled with “poop.” (We have Pop to thank for that reference.)

Favorite Toys: Your “doc” kit; the “pizza” set for your kitchen; Legos and wooden blocks; your train table; cars and trucks; and your Little Tikes car that you “pack” and take on trips around the house — you say “bye” and then announce “I’m back.”

Favorite TV Shows: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Jake the Pirate. We allow you to watch about three episodes per day, and one of these two is always your pick. In fact, you now know most Mickey episodes by name: “Minnie picnic” “Mortimer” “Donald airplane” and “Pluto moon” to name a few.

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Communication: Your vocabulary is expanding at an incredible rate! You say new words every day, and I can no longer keep track of how many words you know. It’s amazing to have real conversations with you and to have you respond to my questions and to hear you tell Daddy about our day when he gets home from work. You also now speak in short sentences. Like “dog collar off” (when you reminded me to remove Lucy’s collar before putting her in the car) and “throw money in water” (when you told Daddy that we threw pennies into the fountain). You almost always say “please” and “thank you” and “I welcome,” which makes me one proud momma. While riding in the car you say “I see bus … pumpkin … tree … bike.” You say “Momma, watch” when you want my attention and “Ricky, look” when you have something to share with your best stuffed buddy. And sometimes you respond with “yeah” in this deep man voice, and it’s hysterical.

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Sleep: No real complaints here. You are typically in bed by 9pm and awake around 7am. You nap between 2 and 3 hours every afternoon. And you rarely put up a fight. But we do have a challenge to tackle in the very near future — operation ditch the binky (which you currently only use for naps and bedtime). I am not looking forward to that one.

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Sam, you continue to impress us with your memory and entertain us with your imagination. I can’t wait to see what adventures await us!

White Chicken Chili

10.23.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

I love fall for so many reasons. Sweaters and boots; pumpkin pecan waffles and apple crisp with vanilla ice cream; crunchy, colorful leaves; college football; and soup. Yes, soup season is here, and I want to share with you one of our favorites.

In my opinion, a good soup is thick and hearty, a little bit spicy, and leaves you feeling warm and full. This White Chicken Chili is all of those things and more. I got the recipe from blog friend Sarah, and I have made it at least a dozen times since she shared it with me last year. (Side note: Sarah’s husband is assistant brewer at Gunpowder Falls Brewing in New Freedom, PA. And Nick has been thoroughly enjoying the case of Dunkel I bought for his birthday!)

Now back to the chili. The list of ingredients is simple: chicken, smoked sausage, two types of beans, onions and garlic, spices, and corn starch for thickening.

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You can cook the chicken in advance, and chop the sausage, onions, and garlic. Then store it all in a big Ziploc bag. I do this if we are expecting company, and I don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen after they arrive.

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Once everything is prepped, it takes less than 30 minutes to simmer and thicken. Topped with Monterrey Jack cheese and a big dollop of sour cream and served with a side of tortilla chips, it’s a perfectly comforting fall dinner.

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White Chicken Chili

(Print the Recipe)

Serves 8.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb smoked sausage, diced
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 oz) great northern beans
  • 2 cans (19 oz) cannellini beans
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp pepper (preferably white, but black will work)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • Monterrey Jack cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips for garnish

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a heavy pot or dutch oven and cook the chicken over medium heat, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the pot and set aside.
  2. Add onions to the pot and cook until they start to get translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and diced smoked sausage; cook 3-5 minutes more.
  3. Add chicken back to the pot, along with the diced green chiles, cumin, white pepper, and cayenne pepper; stir and cook 1-2 minutes.
  4. Raise the heat to high and add chicken broth and beans. (Drain and rinse the beans before you add them.) Bring the pot to a boil.
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Add to the chili and simmer until it reaches desired thickness, about 20 minutes.
  6. Garnish with cheese and sour cream and serve with tortilla chips for dipping.

Transitioning our Toddler to a Big Boy Bed: Part 2

10.22.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We had been planning to transition Sam to a big boy bed before baby sister arrives in January, but our little acrobat had his own timeline in mind. So we made the big move about a month before Sam turned two. Now here we are two months later, and I can honestly say that I am very proud of how our toddler handled the transition. Yes, there were a few bedtime battles, and he fell asleep on the floor more than once, but we’re all sleeping better — and safer — now.

Before Sam was born, we decided to purchase a convertible crib with the full size bed conversion kit. So as soon as he learned to climb out of his crib, we started to shop for a mattress. Every sales associate from every store we entered directed us to the cheapest options with the lowest coil count. But I decided that if there was any chance I’d ever have to sleep beside our son — or quietly climb out of his bed and stumble back to my own room in the middle of the night — I wanted something that didn’t creak and wake our sleeping angel. We finally settled on a firm, mid-priced mattress. And we plan to keep him on it until he turns 18!

While we waited for the mattress to arrive, we installed a safety gate at Sam’s bedroom door and secured all of his furniture to the walls. I bought soft jersey-knit sheets and a polka dot comforter for his new bed. And one week later, Nick picked up the mattress from the warehouse, and we were set to begin the transition.

Sam dusted the pieces of his crib that would become the headboard and footboard of his new bed, and he helped to hammer the wooden slats into place, and he only protested slightly when we removed the bird mobile that had hung in his room since the day he was born.

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When the full size bed was assembled, and the box spring and mattress were in place, it looked gigantic. And very intimidating to our 27-pound kiddo.

I almost regretted our decision to skip the toddler bed until I learned that we could ditch the box spring, making its size much more manageable. (Check with your bed manufacturer and mattress dealer to find out if this is an option for you.) This, of course, created a subsequent problem.

Sam is a very active sleeper, and I worried that he might fall out of bed in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the bed rail I had purchased did not work without a box spring. So I did some more research and found a great foam bumper that easily slides under the fitted sheet. I also put a pool noodle between his bed and the wall for a little extra security — and, I admit it, to prevent his binkies from disappearing!

With every piece finally in place, we were ready for our first night in the big boy bed. We talked with Sam about his friends and cousins and uncles who sleep in big boy beds and asked if he wanted to be just like them. Of course he did. But that didn’t stop the tears from falling when I attempted to tuck him in and leave the room. Two hours later — after a bowl of yogurt and a cup of water, a stack of books and puzzles, several songs, and at least a dozen times in and out of bed — he was finally asleep.

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I felt like a new momma that night, waking up several times to check the video monitor. But he surprisingly stayed curled up in the corner with his stuffed frog until 7 a.m. the next day. Yes, he only slept for 8 hours when he typically sleeps for 10, but I deemed it a success.

The second night was a different story. He woke up crying at 2 a.m. and insisted I lay beside him. We talked and sang songs and read books. He tossed and turned. And before I knew it, it was 4:30 a.m. So I told him I had to go back to my big girl bed, and after about 15 minutes of crying, he fell asleep.

Nights 3 and 4 were challenging, too, and afternoon naps were all over the place. But by the fifth night, we had found our new routine. This new routine includes an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse after bath, followed by at least three books in bed, two songs, and about five minutes of talking about our day. He typically doesn’t fall asleep until about 9pm, which was a difficult adjustment for this momma, but there are no longer tears or ridiculous requests or pleads for me to stay.

Change is never easy. But it is necessary. And I’m so happy that Sam is fully settled in his new bed months before baby girl arrives. Next mission? Ditch the binkies. Advice welcome!!!

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Life Lately

10.16.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

October is moving right along, as expected. We’ve been enjoying fall festivals, leaf jumping, hayrides, early trick-or-treating, and all things pumpkin.

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Know what else is moving right along? This pregnancy. My belly is getting bigger by the day. And baby girl continues to thrive and make her presence known with strong kicks and some pretty sweet dance moves.

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Our two favorite football teams won last weekend! Sam was especially excited about Penn State’s thrilling quadruple overtime victory over Michigan.

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We’ve been hosting playdates and dinner parties.

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Here is Sam with his cute little blonde dinner date.

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We spent a Tuesday evening with our local firefighters at a community event. Sam was most impressed with the “biiiiig ladders.” He said “whoa” and “wow” at least 24 times.

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And, finally, we got very sad and unexpected news about the passing of my family’s nine-year-old Golden Retriever. Sadie was our stubborn one. Fiercely independent, adventurous, and a risk-taker. But she loved unconditionally. She was a compassionate companion and left our family far too soon. RIP Sadie Girl. You will be greatly missed. A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

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Bumpdate: Weeks 23-26

10.07.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

This bumpdate marks the end of the second trimester. Whew! What happened to the last 13 weeks? Seriously. And I believe that life is going to get even busier. Fall festivals, family visits, Thanksgiving, holiday parties, Christmas, New Years, and then … baby girl, you will be here!

You are growing bigger by the day. In fact, you now weigh about 2 pounds. And your movement has become much more significant and noticeable. I can feel kicks and punches and your head and your rump. Along with these new movements has also come aches and pains and cramps in my lower abdomen.  But I will take any amount of discomfort to know that you are thriving.

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I got a nasty cold this month that turned into a sinus infection. And so I must apologize for the constant coughing and sneezing. Every night I used the netty pot, at least 25 tissues, vapor rub, and aquafor on my sore nose and lips. Thank goodness that is behind us. Although, we did get to enjoy quite a few chocolate peanut butter milkshakes. Thank you, Daddy.

Speaking of my sweet tooth, I have my glucose test next week. Hopefully those milkshakes + Sam’s birthday cupcakes don’t skew the results. I will also start the see the doctor every two weeks after next week’s appointment. Hard to believe we’re here already!

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I know that you and my belly still have a lot of growing to do. But, wow, simple tasks are already becoming difficult. Like painting my toenails and tying my shoes. My back hurts if I sit on the floor for too long, and I’m constantly bumping my belly against the kitchen sink and Sam’s changing table. Of course, we have so much to look forward to! A nursery to paint and decorate. Pretty pink clothes to wash. Baby gear to pull out of storage. 26 weeks down, and only 13 more to go!

Transitioning our Toddler to a Big Boy Bed: Part 1

10.03.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

For the past year, life with our little guy been fairly predictable. Yes, we’ve had the occasional 2am wake-up call, the sidewalk face-plant that takes your breath away, the days he wants to consume nothing but cheese sticks and sweet tea, the temper tantrums in Target that cause you to abandon your cart in the pharmacy aisle. But we’ve had a routine, and we’ve mostly stuck to it.

Well, all of this changed just before his second birthday.

I put Sam down for his regular nap time of 1pm, which he rarely resists. Then I went to lay down because I had had a particularly rough night of sleep. Sam tossed and turned for about 15 minutes — typical. But then he proceeded to throw all six stuffed animals out of his crib — not typical. After he emptied his crib, he very, very easily pulled himself over the railing and gracefully slid down to the floor. I watched and recorded the whole event, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Once his feet hit the floor, he looked around in amazement as if to say, “Wow! I’ve never done that before. Now what?” He pulled out some books and toys and played for about 5 minutes before he realized he could also … open the door. So, of course, he did. Then I heard the pitter-patter of his little bare feet as he made his way over to my bedroom. I have never seen a more proud expression on my toddler’s face as he declared, “All done!”

I tried to contain my giggles as I explained to him that he was not “all done,” and that he had to go back to his room for a “rest.” I’m sure you can guess where this story is headed.

I put him back in his crib, and he promptly climbed out about eight more times. Finally, I grabbed a safety gate from downstairs and put it at his door. He was surprisingly okay with the fact that he couldn’t leave his room and, instead, he pulled every single item out of his dresser. This occupied him for about 20 minutes.

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Of course, he did not nap that afternoon. Or the one after.

We had been planning to transition Sam to a big boy bed before baby sister arrives in January, but little mister had his own timeline in mind. Read more about the big move at WhatToExpect.com. And check back for details about what’s working for us a month later.

Weekend at Penn State

10.02.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

As a college student, I remember walking to Beaver Stadium after a morning of Miller Lites and hamburgers on the propane grill and smiling at the sight of little boys dressed in blue and white jerseys, throwing the football with their fathers. It’s a moment I’ve been anxious to share with my own family. And we finally made it happen!

We kicked off our weekend at Penn State with a visit to the iconic Lion Shrine. He’s looking better than ever these days, I must say.

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Penn State Class of 2032 right here!

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Friday’s weather was perfect, but Saturday’s was wet and dreary. We made the most of it, though. And Sam was such a trooper.

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He was SO excited about “football!” And his new jersey. And hanging out with the big kids.

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Sam had a few shots of Gatorade, and my brother brought him a bowl of Jell-O. And I made my son promise not to play frisbeer or drinko again until he’s 21.

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Surprisingly, the little kiddo climbed into his car seat for an afternoon nap before we headed into the game. Which gave me just enough time to catch up with my old college pals.

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Then we put on our rain gear and walked through the puddles to Beaver Stadium. Fortunately, our seats were under rooftop. Otherwise, I doubt we would have made it more than two minutes into the first quarter.

Sam was completely mesmerized by the pregame festivities. He kept clapping and shouting “go, football!” and “yay, football!” And then he spotted the Nittany Lion, and he didn’t take his eyes off of him for the remainder of the game. In fact, he cried if he lost sight of him.

We ate concession stand snacks and danced to the Blue Band and walked to the opposite side of the stadium to get closer to the Lion. We made it to halftime before heading back to our friends’ place for hot showers and sweatpants. It may not have been the sunny September game day I had hoped for, but it was still pretty perfect.

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The grand finale of our trip was meeting the Nittany Lion on Sunday morning. Sam roared and gave him a high five, and it was awesome.

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When I tucked him into his own bed later than night, Sam said, “Momma, thank you, football.” And then I cried. I love, love, love sharing these memories with our son!

Little Mr. Fix It Second Birthday Party

10.01.2013 · Posted by Emily (The Culinary Couple)

We celebrated our Little Mr. Fix It last Saturday with a very happy birthday party!

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I incorporated Sam’s favorite things into the party decor: tools, hard hats, balloons, and cupcakes. Or, as he calls them, “happy cakes.”

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Each little party guest received a tool belt filled with plastic tools and crayons, as well as a personalized hard hat. I had so much fun assembling these favors!

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I created a few banners and decorated with crepe paper streamers and construction cones.

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And I couldn’t resist displaying a few of our favorite photos from the past two years.

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I kept the snacks simple this year, too — fruits and veggies, chips and pretzels, and Goldfish. And a dessert table, of course.

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I baked yellow cupcakes with chocolate buttercream and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. So easy and so good!

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And a few of them were adorned with tiny tools to fit the theme.

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I also baked a batch of sugar cookies and decorated them to look like tools. I was quite nervous about how they would look and taste. But they were a hit!

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Fortunately, we had perfect weather that day and set up most of the activities outdoors: cardboard boxes to color and construct.

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And a sand table filled with trucks and shovels.

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We also set out a few of Sam’s bikes and balls, and the kids were perfectly entertained.

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Just look at this cute crew! I would have loved to get a group photo with the tool belts and hard hats, but I’ll consider this a great success.

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No surprise that our little ham posed for the camera and yelled “cheese!”

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We sang “happy birthday” and watched our excited Sammy blow out his candle. (And did the same thing three more times later that night.)

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We were also lucky to celebrate with Sam’s grandparents …

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… and aunties!

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Gosh, we love this kid so much.

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Happy party day, little buddy!

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Party Details: