Sous Chef

Recently Wes has been really interested in meal preparation. Our old house had such a small kitchen that cooking side-by-side was next to impossible. Steven fixes more than his fair share of dinner options for the family, and though Wes would try to sneak a peek at what he was doing, that kitchen didn’t allow for him to get up close and “help” make dinner.

Now that we have a much larger kitchen by comparison, there’s really no excuse to redirect Wes’ attention. It doesn’t bother me that he wants to check on food in the oven or watch us brown ground beef on the stovetop. And just this past week, Wes has become more vocal about his interests.

“Can I help you, Mama?”

How can you turn that down? I quickly came up with a few side options that he could help me prepare. Our first attempt to fix something from start to finish together (I mean, occasionally he’s helped me dump in flour or other recipe ingredients, but usually holds short-lived interest) was mac n’ cheese from a box.

Waiting for the water to boil was the hardest part. He grabbed a chair to stand next to me and threw in the butter, milk and faux, powdered cheese. As he stirred the pot, squeals of joy and grunts of satisfaction came out of his mouth.

“I’m gonna eat all my mac n’ cheese gone! Daddy! Come quick! Look at what me and Mama made!”

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So proud. And did you catch those amazing aprons?! The matching adult apron says “Head Chef.” They were a Father’s Day present for Steven this year, who truly is Head Chef in the kitchen. He nearly orders me to sit when he prepares a meal.

This past weekend was a flurry of birthday parties, cake and sugar rushes. We had to cut out early from yesterday afternoon’s party, and Wes had a meltdown in the car because he didn’t get a piece of Levon’s birthday cake. I felt awful because I mistakenly didn’t give him a 2-minute heads up before we left, which better helps him navigate the leaving-whatever-I’m-currently-doing process. In other words, it prevents a meltdown.

I made a deal in the car: if he actually slept during rest time (which is a whole ‘nuther subject – this outgrowing of naps before he’s ready to outgrow them), I’d make a cake to eat after dinner. He held up his end of the bargain and took a solid gold nap.

PROOF:
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After some serious snuggling, Wes declared that he’d like to help me make the cake. He pulled up a chair next to the counter, clamored up close to me and did a very decent job of dumping ingredients, stirring and holding the hand mixer. We even made homemade frosting, which was a messy, yummy task! I think I was redeemed from my earlier mistake.

Because of the last few successes, I decided to pull out a Mommy & Me cookbook given to me as a hand-me-down from a friend. While on the drive home from school, I asked Wes if he’d like to help me make dinner tonight, and his excitement was adorable.

The recipes in this book are totally unhealthy and full of canned and preserved ingredients, but it sure was fun to spend 20 minutes prepping food with Wesley this evening. And cheesy tater tots never taste bad.

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Posted: August 31st, 2015
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(500) Seconds* of Summer

*8.3333 minutes

I’d love to say that we spent a fantastic summer visiting the beach or picking up new hobbies. But truthfully, it’s been a hot mess. That’s not to say we haven’t enjoyed family time, birthdays, anniversaries or our home adjustment. I just feel like I blinked (or sweat) it all away.

Here’s the last 6 weeks in a nutshell.

Wesley’s birthday:
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T-Ball practices:
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Yardwork:
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Painting the Dining Room, Entry and Stairwell:
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See those frames in the dining room? To remember our first home, I pressed and framed a few clippings from our former garden.

Multiple trips to home improvement stores:

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Indiana State Fair:
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Visiting family:
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Lots of grandparents and cousins and Grandma’s new condo pool.

8th Wedding Anniversary (on the same day we sold/closed on the old house):
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Fondue takes forever to eat, especially after a long and draining day of house closing.

Family time:
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Wes made mac n’ cheese! He learned chess! (Look at that crazy wall in the background before it was painted!) Jake loves sitting at the dinner table, and that might be my favorite photo of the summer! Ice cream for ages!

Lounging, in between everything else:
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Summer Projects:
List old house on the market
Stage old house for showings

Old house upkeep and maintenance
Repair rear fence (TABLED: Maybe it’s a spring project…)
Remove wallpaper: Entry/Stairwell

Remove wallpaper: Family Room
Remove wallpaper: Dining Room – in progress
Remove wallpaper: 1/2 Bath (TABLED: Steven has hinted enough that he actually likes the wallpaper!)
Remove wallpaper: 3rd Bedroom – in progress
Weeding & landscaping – in progress
Paint grout in entry
Paint: Master + Bath, Entry/Stairwell, Dining Room, Family Room
Buy dehumidifier for basement
Additional runner for upstairs hallway
Sofa slipcover in Living Room (TABLED: I’ve had enough people tell me it’s endearing to see Grandma’s old sleeper sofa in all its 1995 patterned glory. It will stay for now.)
Replace entry light fixture
Replace toilet seat in Master Bath
Remove bee nests on front porch
Poison ivy removal
Recover kitchen banquettes

Here’s what I’ve learned this summer:
1) I wore my hair in a ponytail every day.
2) I am spoiled to think that a vacation=summer. Look what fun we did have!
3) I miss painting canvases. A few times I was able to tear myself away from “being productive” and have started a different sort of anniversary collage painting.
4) I underestimated our ability to pack up and move on so smoothly. No, not that it wasn’t hard to physically move and get settled, but we haven’t been sappy or remorseful over our decisions.

And now, look at this giant boy who started PreK-4! Trudging onward.
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Posted: August 28th, 2015
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Week Two

IMG_1240Last Monday, we put our house on the market. Our realtors are a husband-wife team my parents’ age, and they sold our neighbor’s house 3 years ago within 2 weeks. They are no-nonsense, and we like that. They told us what to expect and what not to expect, gave a few pointers on what we should do rather quickly to the old house, took some photos and listed it that same day.

While we were taking family photos outside by the for sale sign, several neighbors and passersby asked questions about the house, complimented our front garden bed and wished us well. I’m hoping that’s a good sign that we will have several inquiries and showings! I did hear today that we indeed had a showing on Wednesday, and while their only complaint was the small dining room, it was enough for them to keep looking at other properties. Can’t really do anything to change that; we “survived” 8 years with it!

The week itself was fairly uneventful because it rained ALL THE TIME. Wes has been super antsy and cabin feverish from the weather, making up new words to songs, “Rain, rain, go away. Don’t ever come back!”

If you ask Wes about the new house, his response is nearly always about the garage doors. He is fascinated with them. The conservation goes something like this: “We have a loud and a quiet garage door at the new house. The garage doors are blue. The quiet one isn’t as fast as the loud one. And the loud one is really, really loud!” Uh huh.

Outside of getting connected with internet again (it was dreadfully painful without it!), we unpacked boxes, tried pieces of furniture in different rooms, and I researched kitchen breakfast nooks. Note: Amish-made breakfast nooks are the best quality, but they’re pricey. You can find cheap particle board sets within $300-500 online, but luckily I scored a used (and weathered) L-shaped bench/banquette on Craigslist. The seats desperately need to be recovered, as if I don’t have enough projects!

Ballard Designs Coventry Corner Bench: We actually placed it into the opposite corner after trying it out for a day

Ballard Designs Coventry Corner Bench: We moved it into the opposite corner after this photo was taken, and it looks much better. Maybe I won’t be lazy and will post the updated look later.

We spent much of the weekend attempting yardwork once it finally ceased to rain. All this precipitation has made the weed population go crazy over here. I spent four hours weeding out the front beds of approximately 30 square feet and nearly another hour clearing out random weeds, trees and other plants that have popped out of the lovely English Ivy in the side yard.

Steven has cut the lawn twice now, which is nearly triple the size of our past yard. Wes was so excited to cut grass with Daddy at the new house, but he didn’t quite keep up – he came in drenching in sweat, hair matted to his head, and out of breath – “I think I’m done.”

Probably the most worrisome project is problematic poison ivy and night shade. The night shade is actually pretty easy to pull, but it’s creeping up everywhere, and it makes me nervous that the dogs and Wes are so close to it. Yesterday evening, I attempted to pull as much poison ivy out of our back side garden. There are three more bad areas in the yard that I am well aware of, and I’m afraid I’m likely to miss a bunch.

IMG_1251Rachel came over on Saturday, and she helped ease some of my anxiety about paint swatches, project priorities and time frames. She suggested we place all the unhung decor and unpacked boxes in the unused guest room so that I can’t see “unfinished projects.” Decor is the LAST thing to accomplish, and it’s been stressing me out that we don’t have things on the walls. Rachel also helped take down window treatments to allow more light into the house, and we even attempted the dining room wallpaper! I also have to give a shout out to her husband Nate for hauling the kitchen nook across town for me. :)

My plan was to use my PTO day today to finish removing the dining room wallpaper and clear out more poison ivy. I was able to spray weed killer and get halfway through the dining room before a massive storm hit and wiped out our power for 4 hours. Wes decided to stay home with me today, so we hunkered down in the basement with candles and tried to fight our boredom until the sun came out and the lights came on. Way harder than it sounds!

Summer Projects:
List old house on the market
Stage old house for showings – in progress
Old house upkeep and maintenance – ongoing
Repair rear fence
Remove wallpaper: Entry/Stairwell

Remove wallpaper: Family Room
Remove wallpaper: Dining Room – in progress
Remove wallpaper: 1/2 Bath
Remove wallpaper: 3rd Bedroom
Weeding & landscaping – in progress
Paint grout in entry
Paint: Master + Bath, Entry/Stairwell, Dining Room, Family Room (retouch & trim)
Buy dehumidifier for basement
Additional runner for upstairs hallway
Sofa slipcover in Living Room (original purchase looked terrible this week)
Replace entry light fixture
Replace toilet seat in Master Bath
Remove bee nests on front porch
Poison ivy removal – in progress
Recover kitchen banquettes

In other news, WES TURNS FOUR THIS WEEK. In fact, today is my original due date. We’re having our first company over on Saturday to celebrate. We’ll see how I do!

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Posted: July 13th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Moving Update: Week One

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Moving break: Celebrating the Fourth in Troy, Ohio

We made it. Both families are now moved in: Mom & Dad at their new condo, and our little family in their former house. I’ve had several people ask how it feels to “come back home.” It’s strange, not gonna lie. But wouldn’t it be strange to live in ANY new house? I sometimes find myself unconsciously heading toward my old bedroom (which, ironically, Wes chose for himself) once I’m at the top of the stairs. I keep opening the pantry to throw things in the trash, only to remember that I have put the trashcan next to the cabinet – not where Mom used to keep it.

It still sorta feels like my parents’ house, but our stuff is everywhere – though, much of it still in boxes. It’s slowly becoming ours, and the dogs are getting accustomed to the new smells, the familiar ones and the big backyard. Mom and Dad are getting used to their new digs as well, and they think it’s fun to see what we’re doing to give the house a Shattuck-over.

Because they have spent the last 8 years living and upgrading their lake house, this house has several home improvement needs that we’re tackling slowly. I know there’s not much urgency to complete everything this summer, but we have two back-to-back weekend parties at our house, starting THIS FRIDAY (aack! I planned it before we knew we were moving!), and the freak-out hostess in me thinks more needs to be done by then.

Summer Projects:
List old house on the market
Repair rear fence
Remove wallpaper: Entry/Stairwell

Remove wallpaper: Family Room
Remove wallpaper: Dining Room
Remove wallpaper: 1/2 Bath
Remove wallpaper: 3rd Bedroom
Weeding & landscaping
Paint grout in entry
Paint: Master + Bath, Entry/Stairwell, Dining Room, Family Room (retouch & trim)
Buy dehumidifier for basement
Additional runner for upstairs hallway
Sofa slipcover in Living Room
Replace entry light fixture
Replace toilet seat in Master Bath

We’re meeting with our realtors this evening to talk about needs before listing our old house. While there, I’m planning to snag a few of our plants grown sentimental to us and introduce them to our new home. We’ll also need to leave our mark in the basement like the owners before us: the two previous families hung a wooden name plaque including their live-in years. I think that’s when the last week’s worth of bottled-up emotions will spill out in a soppy mess.

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Posted: July 6th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Moving on Up

It wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly. I had given myself until next spring to get accustomed to the idea of leaving this little house that we’ve called home for 8 years. This little house that, when we moved in, I never fully embraced and thought of a temporary location, truly began to feel like “home” over the last few years. I started to see the mark we’ve left in the creaky floors, itty bitty kitchen and hallway of multiple doors.

What was supposed to happen in a year has been crunched into a handful of short weeks, and I’ve had my moods shift from sadness and loss to frustration to a more consistent, “let’s do this.”

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Since 2012 or around, Steven and I had thrown around the idea of buying my parents’ house on the northeast side of Indy once they had downsized into a condo. There was never any urgency given that Wesley likely won’t start Kindergarten until fall 2016 (or maybe even 2017), when we would hope to be settled into another township for school purposes. And in a house with more than one bathroom.

This past winter, we and my parents decided to plan for spring 2016 as our moving time period. The weather got warmer, and for fun, my parents started looking at available condos in communities in which they had interest. A few came and went quickly, so they knew that the areas they were looking at were desirable.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, a condo went up for sale that was in the neighborhood they liked best, and after a walk through, they knew it wouldn’t last on the market long. They acted quickly and put in an offer. Within a handful of days, their offer was accepted, and a couple weeks later, they claimed the keys.

The last 6 weeks have been crazy – my and Steven’s birthdays, Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, Vacation Bible School, losing a coworker and hiring & training a replacement. Meanwhile, Steven spoke at four different conferences at various places in the country. (He’s really very good. Need a speaker for your next event?)

We really haven’t begun to pack until now. Some boxes are easier to pack than others. I’ve only shed a few tears, and the momentum is moving forward – we’re ready to move now. The plan is to help Mom and Dad move big stuff out this week, and we will move our big stuff in next week. From there, we will likely list our house to sell.

I had Wesley help me create a video tour so that we can always remember our little house – especially him, as he’s likely to forget the place he spent the first few years of life.

Pros – big yard, lots of house space, established & safe neighborhood, quick commute to jobs and church

Fears/Cons – having more rooms to clean and the fear of accumulating more stuff, missing our eastside friends and neighbors and businesses, making my childhood home into OUR home

I’m sure this won’t be my last post about making our way into a new home. Stay tuned, friends. I’m also sure I will be needing help choosing paint swatches and decor and everything else!

Posted: June 21st, 2015
Categories: Leah
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First Head Injury

IMG_0878aWhile I was organizing and setting up my webinar for 5 p.m. today, I noticed my phone ringing from Wes’ preschool. You know you better answer the phone when school calls. People started arriving into the digital waiting room, but I answered the call anyway.

“Hi, Leah. Wesley had a big fall today.”

Uh oh. “What happened? Is he alright?”

“Well, we stopped the bleeding from his head, and he’s been a good trooper.”

I’m not sure I heard most of what she said next because I was immediately thinking concussion. And then my mind raced to stupid scenarios which likely were too creative to be true. All I gathered was that there was a basketball hoop, some major dunking and mulch. Something at some point hit Wes in the back of the head and left a small puncture wound.

I talked to him over the phone and told him he would be alright. Daddy would pick him up soon.

whimpering “Okay, Mama.”

I hung up the phone and tried to plow through leading a webinar. Afterwards it took me nearly an hour to get home, but I did, eventually, and he was happily sitting on the couch.

“Hi, Mama. My head got hurt today. I was playing basketball.” I saw the ridiculous amount of blood that had stained the back of his shirt. It took all my strength not to pick him up like a baby and rock him. (What is wrong with me? It’s just a small cut!)

We played outside for a little while, tried to clean up the wound with hydrogen peroxide and rinsed the blood out of his hair in the fun form of a bubble bath. He seemed to act fairly normal all evening; we read a couple books and said a prayer thanking God for keeping him safe.

“My teacher picked me up and I was crying a lot. She was nice to me. And Daddy was nice to me and picked me up from school, too.” Sometimes he talks causally to God about his day. I’m sure God thinks it’s as sweet as I do.

He quickly drifted off to sleep.

Sweet boy, keep that noggin of yours safe. And don’t ever need stitches, please. This mama can’t handle it.

Posted: June 3rd, 2015
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Aging Beauty

I am not old. I don’t even look my actual age. However, my body is starting to show its wear and tear, but you know what? I love the changes.Screenshot

As a child I looked forward to turning two different ages: 25 (because supposedly you have access to everything and all your life in front of you) and 32 (because that was the year I had thought I would get married and start a family). Twenty-five was a good year: I was in my first job and second year of marriage – even though my 15-year-old self would likely scoff at the idea of being married at that point (I was supposed to be CAREER-DRIVEN!). We had bought a house the year before and were making it our own. We met new friends and neighbors and hung out, and life was great.

And now I’ve reached my other proclaimed milestone year, but I already have a ring on my finger AND a child. (Scoff!) What has 32 brought me instead?

  • My first age spot! I have one on my right cheek bone, and I’m pretty proud of it.
  • Poor acne problems. Please tell me I don’t need to take Accutane again.
  • Two new face moles. In fact, one of them was formerly a zit. Did you know that could happen?
  • A reason to trim nose hairs.
  • Finicky eyes. No more extended contact lens wearing. And I have to change them every month or it feels something terrible.
  • Spider veins. Oh joy!
  • Permanent forehead creases from years of making silly faces and being surprised.

Even though the list isn’t glamorous, I feel great. I spent my birthday a few weeks ago feeling wonderful. I’m proud of where I’ve been to make it to present day, even on those particular days where I feel tempted to splurge on wrinkle cream or night cream or some other cream that doesn’t hold up to its promises. I like my buggy eyes and my thin upper lip and my big teeth and nostrils. And yes, I can even sorta like my pale skin.

I like my aging face because it’s the one that gets my husband’s attention and my son’s touches/smudges. I love the way they look at me; the way they tell me and show me I’m beautiful. It makes it easy to believe them.

Posted: May 27th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Regression and Progress

In the last 4 weeks, Wes has averaged one accident every day. He’s been potty trained for nearly a year, but with warmer weather, it’s hard to pull him away from activities before his bladder explodes. I’m tired of doing extra laundry and changing sheets, and I can hear my irritation creep into a reprimanding voice at Wes. I’m also tired of getting mad.

octonautsWes is a great self-rewarder. He loves this cute British show on Netflix, Octonauts (he’s already planned his July birthday party with an Octonauts theme), and he’s set his own reward system – allowing two 10-minute episodes to watch after school but only if he “stays on green” throughout the day. If his behavior and lack of following directions lands him on either yellow, or heaven forbid, red, he does not allow himself to watch for that day.

 

I’m fully in support of this system. I mean, 20 minutes of TV a day isn’t bad. And it’s such a pleasant show that I don’t mind watching with him or hearing it in the background as I’m making dinner. What’s best is that HE instilled his own system for rewarding positive behavior. I can’t argue with it.

Since we’ve regressed in bathroom practice, I’m grasping at straws to find an encouraging reward like his own creation. A potty sticker chart seems almost juvenile for him, but I think it’s necessary since this weather isn’t going to get bad any time soon. His teachers haven’t said anything about accidents during the day – either it isn’t happening until he’s at home or the accidents are so minor that it’s nearly unnoticeable. (But, man, he STINKS!)

Another area of constant thought in my worry-brain is Kindergarten. As a child who spent first grade recess finishing seatwork while the rest of my classmates romped outside – which then led to a mid-year transition back into Kindergarten – I worry about Wesley’s readiness next fall. He’s a July baby, so he would be one of the youngest kids in his class. However, he is extremely social, confident and independent, and he absorbs everything I put in front of him.

My 3.5-year-old is READING. Holy moly. One free day last week, we picked up the first set of Bob Books, a great set for very early readers. A gradual introduction to sounding out words, Wes quickly understood enough to read the first book aloud after 5 minutes of prep. That excitement?! Contagious.

We have another full year to monitor readiness. Then the next decision is WHERE to send him to Kindergarten… In the meantime, I have to get a sticker chart hung up in the bathroom.

Posted: May 20th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Special Mother’s Day gifts to fund Alzheimer’s care

Dear friends and family,
As many of you know, my career path also holds a large part of my heart – I value and desire to serve caregivers and individuals living with dementia.

Me with Grandma Fernsler

Me with Grandma Fernsler

My grandma Fernsler developed dementia while I was in middle school. I know that I am blessed to say that I only have fond memories of her and how our family loved her — even during those last few years — because I have seen and heard many sad experiences completely opposite of my own. I know that I am even more blessed to say that my grandma Ashbaugh, who met Jesus in January, was spared from this terrible disease entirely, which is nearly uncommon these days (1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia).

Because of my experiences, I’ve become very passionate about doing what I can to assist those living with Alzheimer’s. I’m not the best at asking for donations, and I’m very spotty at fundraising, but I do realize the great need to help families touched by this awful disease. During the next few weeks, I’m hosting a couple online fundraisers in memory of my grandma, Jennie Fernsler, and my grandma, Maxine Ashbaugh, leading up to Mother’s Day.

If you have a special mother, daughter or aunt in your life, please consider a gift through one of my online “party” sales to help raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association care and support programs.

I have set a personal goal of raising $1,500 for the fight against Alzheimer’s in 2015. If you are interested in supporting me with a tax-deductible donation, you can give online at my personal Walk to End Alzheimer’s page: http://act.alz.org/goto/leahshattuck.

Thank you for your consideration and support!

Warmly,
Leah Shattuck

Grandma Ashbaugh with Wesley

Grandma Ashbaugh with Wesley

Posted: April 14th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Conversations with Wes: Careers

This morning, we somehow got around to talking about the careers of our relatives. Wes was fascinated to know what his aunts and uncles did “at work.”

Me: Did you know that Aunt Hannah, Uncle Jason and Aunt Kelly are all teachers?
Wes: You mean like my teacher at school?
Me: Yep, just like that.
Wes: I have a teacher. Her name is Miss ____.
Me: And when Grandma went to work, she helped sick people.
Wes: Yeah! Because she’s my grandma.
Me: Aunt Katie and Uncle Lee also help sick people get better.
Wes: What does Grandpa do?
Me: He’s called an engineer – he fixes things and uses wires and gadgets. (I really didn’t know how to best explain.)
Wes: And Pa and Nana, too.
Me: Sorta. They both work at an office like Grandpa does. And so do I and Daddy.
Wes: Why do you work with markers?
Me: Oh, you mean “marketing.” Yep! That’s what Daddy and I went to school to learn to do. And now we do it at work.
Me: Annnnnnd! Did you know that Uncle Chris works on houses? And he builds them too?
Wes: (hitting a sweet spot) HE WORKS ON HOUSES?! Like the song… (launching right into it)

Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock
Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock
Uncle Chris built his house upon the rock and the rain came tumblin down
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
The rains came down and the floods came up
And the house on the rock stood FIRRRRRRMMMM

And then later,
Wes: When Uncle Chris is sick, that means Aunt Katie makes him feel better. And then he builds houses.

Posted: March 7th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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