Monday, July 14, 2014

"Momma! There's Lightning In The Kitchen!"

My oldest, Luke, ran into the nursery with that announcement around 5:00 last Tuesday evening. He wasn't lying. That sentence began, what would turn out to be, the longest feeling 3 minute panic attack of my life. 


It all started with a preplanned play date, a few good intentions, a house filled with my rowdy hooligans, a lot of butter and some sugar. It all ended with a malfunctioned fire extinguisher, a few melted kitchen appliances, a house filled with firemen, a lot of soot and some tears. 

We had plans to play Wednesday morning at my dear friend Amy's house. She's got two kiddos that my three hooligans love and adore, a Keurig that just won't quit and a toy selection that is to die for. In short, it's basically heaven for all parties involved. My best friend Sara had made and recommended some homemade caramel corn recently so I thought it might be the perfect snack to bring and take along. "Make it!" she said. "It is SO EASY!" So, I happily stalked her Pinterest page, found the aforementioned recipe, and set to work. 

I opened the recipe, pre-read the instructions, and started cooking. Sara wasn't lying. The recipe did seem delicious. And, in her defense, it seemed pretty straight forward: Pop your popcorn, make your caramel, coat everything together, bake, cool and eat by the fist full. The big kids were in and out of the kitchen while I was cooking, (which was totally fine and completely normal) and Nathan was happily chew/teething on some rubber toys in his Pack n' Play in the living room. We had an episode of Curious George to keep us company, our supper was in the oven, (My cousin-in-love Mary's Chicken Enchiladas. YUMMM. It still pains me that my entire 9x13 pan of cheesy deliciousness was sacrificed in the fire. Bummer.) and Matt was battling the Pensacola Beach traffic as he was heading home from work. It was a fairly normal, but somewhat rowdy kinda evening.

 I got the popcorn made, and worked on getting my caramel started. I plopped my stick of butter down intp my biggest gumbo pot, added in my brown sugar and just as it was getting melted and yummy looking, Nathan started wailing. He's cutting teeth and fighting some MAJOR congestion, so I figured the best bet would be to put the caramel corn on pause, freshen his diaper and see if that might help improve his sour disposition. I switched the stove off and went to tend to my fussy fella. 

And it all went downhill from there. 

Not three minutes after I left the kitchen, Luke came streaking back into the nursery proclaiming that there was "lightning in the kitchen"! I peered down the hall, but didn't notice much, so I finished fastening Nathan's fresh diaper and set out to investigate. I rounded the hallway corner into our living room and noticed the smoke. The billowing, black, you've-just-scorched-some-butter-and-sugar-and-that-is-gonna-be-a-nightmare-to-clean-outta-your-pot, kinda smoke. I quickly deposited Nathan back into his Pack n' Play and dashed into the doorway of the kitchen where I discovered that there were camp fire sized flames coming from my gumbo pot. About that time is when time slowed down to a crawl. 

It felt like I stood there for hours, just staring. I had this unreal and bizarre scene coming from my stovetop. It felt surreal, standing there, seeing those bright, orange flames in my kitchen. I'd seen fire, sure. And I'd seen my kitchen, of course. But seeing both of those scenes meshed together made me feel like I was in the Twilight Zone or something. 

I shooed the kids into the living room, far away from the kitchen stove and grabbed my fire extinguisher off of the top of my ice box. "Man, this extinguisher is gonna make an even bigger MESS.", I thought to myself as I pulled the pin out of the handle and got ready to squeeze the lever. I found the tab on the top of the extinguisher, pushed down... AND NOTHING HAPPENED. I quickly looked at the canister, feeling like I'd somehow suddenly become deaf, blind and mute. I really thought I knew how to operate a fire extinguisher, but I couldn't get this one to work. So I shook and squeezed and after two or three more tries, I realized it wasn't going happen. 

Meanwhile, the fire was getting bigger and the smoke was starting to get thick as I walked closer to the stove. That's when I saw what I had done: In my hurry to go get Nathan, I'd switched the knob on the stove past "OFF" and onto "HIGH". So I reached around the pot, turned the heat off and nothing happened. My stove is a flat top, so the eyes hold heat like crazy, even after they've been switched off. So I picked up a kitchen towel, grabbed the handle of the pot and jerked it to the other side of the stove where the eyes were off and cold. Still, though, nothing happened. Even on the cold side of the stove, the flames were just as high as before, reaching all the way past our microwave hood and starting to hit the upper cabinets. I briefly thought about trying to smother the flames with my kitchen towel, but thought better of it as the corner had already smoldered after using it to drag the pot off the heat. Carrying the flaming pot of caramel to the sink also briefly crossed my mind, but remembering a similar incident my Mom had in our kitchen growing up, I quickly ruled that out, too. She jerked a flaming pot off her stove and put it in her sink only to burn her arms, neck and face as well as her kitchen windowsill and sink. So I found the pot lid, quickly put it on the top of the pot and IT STILL DIDN'T PUT THE FIRE OUT. The flames kept leaping out from around the edge of the lid and that's when I knew there was no way I was going to be able to get this fire out by myself. 

I grabbed my cell phone and dialed 911. I gathered up my three precious priorities (and the dog, of course) and got us out of the house. I didn't know what my kitchen would look like by the time this was all said and done, but I knew that I wasn't going to stick around to find out. I kept myself together long enough to relay the situation to the emergency dispatcher, hung up with them and called my husband, Matt. I hung up with him just as the Sheriff's deputy arrived to see my front door standing open with thick, black smoke billowing out. The fire department showed up seconds later, and by the time they all made it inside, the fire had finally gone out. Midway Fire Department was amazing. They pulled some fans off of their truck to help suck the smoke out of my house, came over with some stickers for the kids and spent the next 45 minutes in my driveway while the house aired out. 

About 20 minutes after they arrived, Matt got home and we were able to go in and survey the damage. It was pretty awful to look at, but it was so, so, SO much better than it could have been. And I felt awful. After I gave my statement to the Battalion Chief for the fire report, I asked him if there was anything else I could have done or should have done to better react to the situation. And bless that man's heart, because he looked me straight in the eye and said "Ma'am, your response to this very real, very serious fire in your house was textbook perfect. It's fires like this that can burn houses to the ground. Homeowners panic, run without thinking, and that's what takes something from being just a burned out kitchen and turns it into a pile of rubble. You had an extinguisher, you had smoke detectors, you killed the heat source, you attempted to cut off the oxygen supply. There is literally NOTHING ELSE that you could have done to stop this fire." Well, as frazzled and embarassed and guilty and scared as I was feeling: That made me feel just the *tiniest* bit better. 

If you gain nothing else from this post, I want you to remember what I am about to tell you. Forget everything else, but please, please, PLEASE don't forget this. Tell your family, share it with your friends, holler it across the fence to your neighbor as she's watering her petunias: The reason my fire extinguisher didn't work was because the powdered fire dispersent (basically baking soda) had settled down to the bottom of my canister like a brick. Over time, gravity can cause the contents to settle into the bottom of the can, and if that happens, when you pull the pin and squeeze the trigger, NOTHING WILL COME OUT. To keep this from happening, twice a year when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors, you need to shake your fire extinguishers. If you shake yours and it feels like there's a brick is at the bottom- it's already settled and it isn't going to work. Go get a new one. Or twelve. If you turn yours upside down and it feels like there is sand falling, you are good to go. Keep it close and check it regularly. My can's gauge read 'FULL' and it was not expired, but even so, it still.didn' Before last Tuesday, I had never heard anyone, anywhere mention that you needed to shake your extinguishers. But from now on, I will. And I hope you will, too. 

We've got a lot of clean up and construction in our future. We will be due for a new microwave hood and possibly probably stove. There are some cabinets to be replaced and some doors to be refinished. Ceilings have been scraped and lights have been removed. For the next few weeks, my front door is going to be a revolving door of adjusters and contractors and inspectors. I am frazzled and fried and overwhelmed. I'm on a pre-kitchen-repair-Pinterest-inspiration overload. But more than anything else, I am grateful. I'm thankful. I am blessed. Because even though there were parts of my home that were ruined, nothing of any real value was harmed

God spared us that evening. His hand protected us and His peace gave me the clear head I needed in order to keep my family safe and out of harm's way. I managed to keep myself (mostly) together that day while the firemen were here. I didn't cry when Matt drove up and surveyed the damage with me. I was pretty calm while we got Chinese take out and went to my sister-in-love's to feed the kids and get them ready for bed. But later that night, when everything was quiet and everyone was sleeping, I cried. I sobbed. I ran every possible 'worst case scenario' through my mind as I fought sleep. I didn't sleep much that night. (Or for the next few, if I'm being honest.) I prayed and thanked God for keeping us safe. For safeguarding us. For keeping us under His sheltering wing. Because as long as we're there, the fires can rage. The walls can crumble and the roof can turn to ash. As long as we remain faithful, we will always be found safe. My material possessions may be ruined, but my true treasure will forever be safe as long as I store it with Him. 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Jesus, speaking to a crowd on a hillside near Capernamum, during the Sermon on the Mount. {Matthew 6: 19-21}


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Day I Proved Sure-Jell WRONG

A few weekends ago, my Mom and Dad came to see us for a few days. The kids, of course, loved seeing them- especially because they've become conditioned to expect MawMaw to arrive with cupcakes and for PawPaw to buy them donuts for breakfast in the mornings. How these traditions started, I'm not quite sure. But I get to reap the sugar coated benefits, so I'm not complaining. 

A while back I'd mentioned to Mom that I'd like to have her show me how to make homemade jelly. I'd seen my Grandmaw Elaine (her Mom) make homemade jelly a ton growing up. However, when you're seven years old, you pay more attention to licking the jelly froth off the spoon than you do to the actual jelly making part of the process.  

So, Mom arrived with some plum juice from plums she'd just picked that week. SCORE. She brought a 25 pound bag of sugar, boxes of Sure-Jell (yeah right), some new wax lids, rings and a crate of Mason jars. To the untrained eye, we had all the necessary equipment needed to make up half a dozen batches of some really good, really delicious, really authentic homemade jelly. "What could go wrong?", I thought. 
{Famous last words, y'all.}

We got the first batch cooked and finished under Mom's watchful tutelage and I was pleasantly surprised to see how smoothly it was going. The kids were begging her to sit down and watch a movie with them, so I felt confident in my ability to man the next batch solo. And that's where I made my first HUGE mistake. If you're a novice like me, don't try to make homemade jelly by yourself. It's not going to end well. I promise. If you get too big for your britches, you'll end up with a dozen jars of Plum Syrup like I did. (King Solomon knew what he was talking about when he wrote Proverbs 16:18... because I'm pretty sure he probably tried to make jelly once before, too.) 

So Mom sat down, happily watching Brave with the kids while I briskly stirred my soon-to-be-boiling plum juice, feeling quite industrious and rather proud of myself. As I stirred, I thought back to the times growing up when I saw my Grandmaw Elaine making jelly in her kitchen. I remembered this same exact "hot-steamy-boiling-fruit-juice" smell. Except now, instead of that scent coming from her kitchen, that smell was coming now from mine. My little sentimental heart was so full. 

I got a little misty eyed as I remembered her. I can still see her, standing at her stove with her apron on and a long handled spoon in her hand. She was stirring and talking and teaching me how to tell if the jelly was done by holding up the spoon horizontally and waiting to watch if the drops would hold to the back or not. So I took a brief, 7.5 minute walk down memory lane while I waited for my juice to boil. The big kids were settled in with Mom to watch Merida choose her own fate and Nathan was napping. "I really think I'm gonna do an alright job at this." I thought. If I only knew... When the juice came to a boil I added my sugar to the pot and stirred some more while I waited for it to come to another, rolling boil. 

After I got the sugar stirred into the boiling juice, I found my way back onto memory lane for a while. It felt good to me, as an adult, to be doing an activity in my kitchen that I'd seen done in my Grandmaw's kitchen so many years earlier as a little girl. I think that food, that cooking, really, can do that for us. I think that recipes, that those traditions can help bind us tightly together as a family. I thing that handed down pots and pans and spoons can help connect us to our past generations in ways that can only be found in front of a stove.

 When you're standing in front of a range, stirring a pot that used to sit on your Grandmaw's stove, with a spoon that your Mom used in your childhood kitchen, it's as if, that for just a moment, those objects can connect you all together. It doesn't matter where you are- if you're just separated geographically or even farther away than just a physical address: for that brief moment you feel like you are all together. I know that happened to me that day. Because, for a few minutes, my kitchen smelled just like my Grandmaw's did all those years ago.  

My kitchen looks vastly different than my Mom's and even more unlike the one my Grandmaw cooked in. Yet, despite these generational differences, despite the technological changes that have taken place in the last 30 years, given a few of the same tools, some fruit juice, a couple cups of sugar, a box of Mason jars and a pouch of pectin, and they are still the same. Cooking, unlike so many other things that change with time, is a constant. It is a method that can be handed down from generation to generation without fail. The scent of boiling jelly will always smell like my Grandmaw's kitchen to me. And, in 30 years, that same scent might remind Josie of what my kitchen smelled like when she was growing up.  

So... back to reality. My jelly is now boiling. IN A BIG WAY. It's time for me to take the pot off the heat and skim off the foam before I need to ladle the now cooked jelly into jars. I'm not feeling quite as confident in my ability to fly solo for this part, so I call Mom in from the living room for a little moral support. 

She comes back into the kitchen to watch me try not to burn myself and to offer me necessary words of encouragement/advice/caution as she sees fit. As she walks up to the stove, she asks me an immediately terrifying question in response to her quick visual scan of the items on my countertop. "Did you add in the pectin, Katie?" I stood there, blankly, staring at her like she'd just spoken to me in Mandarin. "Umm... PECTIN???" 

::And that is when it all went South, y'all.:: 

Gone are the wistful memories of generations connected by cooking. Vanished are all the warm, fuzzy feelings I had about connecting three generations of women in my kitchen because, I realized with horror that I didn't add the pectin to my jelly. (If you've never made jelly before, pectin is what MAKES YOUR JELLY JELL. Without pectin, you're basically just boiling a big pot of fruit/sugar. You'll get fruit syrup. Which is delicious, don't get me wrong, but it ain't jelly.) 

I scrambled and searched and located the Sure-Jell insert and read hastily until I got to the section where there was a section titled "What To Do If Your Jelly Doesn't Set". BINGO. This is what I need. The insert said to add in extra sugar and return to a second boil, and to pray that your jelly will jell. (That last part wasn't on the insert. I just added that on my own accord. Because that's what I felt like I needed to do.) 

So, that's just exactly what I did. I added in the forgotten pectin, about 17.4 extra cups of sugar, and prayed. And stirred. And prayed. And stirred. And prayed some more. And stirred even more. I brought it up to a THIRD boil, and boiled it for what felt like 36 agonizing minutes, took it off the heat, skimmed off the foam, (Which is the BEST part of jelly making, if you ask me. Tasting that bowl full of lagniappe sugar/fruit foam is DELICIOUS.) ladled it into jars, wiped the tops and threads, covered it with the hot wax lid, screwed on the ring.... And waited. Anxiously. Like a woman who's a week past her due date in the middle of summer in Florida. (Because I've done that. Twice.) 

I washed the pots and bowls and spoons and got ready to cook the next batch while I waited to see if the jelly would jell. I finished up these little chores and I tilted a jar to the side- It was still runny. I wiped the stray drips off my stove top and checked it again- It was still runny. I gathered up the trash, straightened up the countertop and checked it again- IT WAS STILL RUNNY. At that point, I waved the white flag on that batch, transferred it to cool on my dining room table and got ready to start the next batch. Life went on, and so did the jelly making.

We made three other batches of jelly that day, and I'm proud to say that they all set up PERFECTLY. So, in my mind, to mess up one batch out of five on my first time ever making jelly as an adult- I can't be mad at that. Mom and I had a great day. We laughed and talked and tasted so much jelly that we were both sugar sick by the end of it all. And now I've got two boxes underneath my bed full of (mostly jelled) homemade jelly waiting to be eaten. And, considering that I make at minimum 20 PB&J's a week, I'd say that they will all be put to good use. {Thanks for sharing Grammy's tradition with me, Mom. I can't wait to cook our next batch!} 

Canning jelly isn't easy. Especially when you've got three small kids in the house. It's not something that I think I'll be able to do every month, but it is something that I'm glad I can do. And, as the kids get a little older, it's something that I know I'll be able to do more of. And it will help to connect me to the women in my family. I'll be able to cook a batch of jelly and remember my Mom. My Grandmaw Elaine. And so many other women in my family that have helped shape me into the woman I am today.

So, if you've got a handed-down recipe in your box that you've been anxious but maybe a little intimidated to try- let me give you some advice: TRY IT! Are you intimidated because of the number of steps it has or the amount of work it will require? Are you worried that you'll fail? Don't! You won't always cook every recipe perfectly the first time you try, but here's a secret: NEITHER DID YOUR GRANDMAW. AND NEITHER DID YOUR AUNT. AND NEITHER DID YOUR MOM. They practiced and cooked and tasted and tried their recipes loads of times before they got it right. So you can, too! 

I've got several heirloom recipes that I want to fix, namely a recipe for Cream Pie that my Nanny gave to me back at Christmas time last year. Her's were always the best, and I'm confident mine won't come out just exactly like her's, but I hope I can get pretty close with a couple practice trials. And, once I master her Cream Pie, next in line is her Homemade Divinity. Because successfully making candy is on my bucket list. And I can't wait to try it. Wish me luck!


(Pre-jelly. The soon-to-be-boiling goodness of fresh fruit juice.)

(Thassa whole lotta shugah.)

(25 pounds, to be exact.)

(Quick and Easy? LIES.)

(The most important section I referenced all day was at the bottom of that page. It also validated me in my mistakes because it meant that there are probably thousands of other women out there who had jelly that didn't set. Hooray for not being the only one!)

(Lagniappe jelly froth. Swiped from the spoon and onto my finger. Because I'm still 7 years old when it comes to jelly froth. I can't resist it. My kids loved it too.)

(Getting ready to pour the Plum syrup into jars. I was praying on the inside.)

(I will savor every.single.spoonful.)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

13 Things I WON'T Miss About Having A Newborn Baby

Alright, y'all. I have to admit that I cried a little a lot after writing last week's post. I clicked "Publish" and promptly melted into a puddle of "I-can't-believe-I'll-never-have-another-newborn-baby-ever-again" tears. So, in a theraputic effort, I decided to compile a complimentary list of things I will be more than happy to bid adieu to now that my youngest, Nathan is growing out of the newborn/infant stage. 
And, here they are. Enjoy.

  1. Lowering Crib Mattresses. See the opening of last week's post. 
  2. Digging Things (bugs, beads, half a crayon, dog hair, etc.) Out Of Crawling Babies' Mouths. We're still not quite out of this stage yet. Nathan's snack yesterday may have been 4 cockroach legs, some cantaloupe and blueberry muffin. How do they find dead bugs SO QUICKLY? They can find any dead insect or marble or scrap of tin foil within a 20 foot radius within 3.7 seconds. Babies were born with skills for this. It's scientific fact.
  3. Diaper Rash. C'mon, y'all. AMIRIGHT??? The changing table in Nathan's room looks like combo between a CVS Pharmacy and a VooDoo man's medicine bag. I've got at least one of each of the following in a container/bottle/can currently sitting at the end of Nathan's dresser: Coconut Oil (in a mason jar, of course), homemade diaper rash cream, A&D Ointment, Boudreaux's Butt Paste, a jar of Apple Cider Vinegar/water combo, Desitin, Desitin Maximum Strength, Desitin Creamy, Aveeno Soothing Relief Cream, corn starch (in a Sam's Club sized jar), a prescription cream, Maalox, Neosporin, homemade bottom spritzing spray, and a half a tub of Vaseline. The struggle to keep my baby's bottoms fresh and rash free is real
  4. Used Cornstarch Diaper Pebbles. (See #3.) Y'all. It's awful. You open their wet diaper to change them and those little rocklets of cornstarch balls scatter from one end of the nursery floor to the other. They get EVERYWHERE. When I vacuum the carpet in front of Nathan's dresser/changing table, it sounds just like Christmastime, except instead of hearing that sound of sucking up pine needles, I'm hearing that sound because I'm sucking up little pebbles of urine and cornstarch balls. How nice...
  5. Cottage Cheese Foam Spit Up. Seriously. You nurse-and-burp-and-nurse-and-burp and yet you STILL get covered in that foamy, funky-smelling, curdled spit up goop half an hour later. You get to walk around for the rest of the day smelling like the dairy case of a WalMart 3 days after a hurricane. {While we are discussing spit up, I can't forget to mention the projectile variety my daughter was so adept at creating. The force that little bundle of pink could muster to spew her latest meal across the room was unreal. She could knock down a Coke can 20 yards away, I'm sure. You'd have to position the burp rag just right in order to make sure you could catch it, squeeze it into the fabric and reopen your hand to catch the second wave that you knew was coming out, wether you were going to be ready for it or not. Burping a baby that's a spitter is an exercise in hand/eye coordination for sure.} So yeah, I'm glad the spit up days are behind me. 
  6. Teething. More specifically, nursing while teething. Because they've gotta cut their teeth on something. And, if you're nursing them: IT IS GONNA BE YOU. (Ouch.) Plus you get the low grade fever, sparkling personalities, and explosive diapers that go along with cutting teeth. It's a gloriously splendid time for all parties involved. We still aren't out of the woods with this stage, either. UNFORTUNATELY.
  7. Cluster Feedings. Because 48 hours straight of being a baby's personal AYCE buffet isn't exhausting at all. (The resulting chubby baby rolls are pretty cute, though.)
  8. SIDS. All three times around, this was the biggest fear that I had a really, really, REALLY hard time letting go of. I wanted to sleep. I needed to sleep. But I couldn't. If they were sleeping longer than usual, I was NOT relieved that they were stretching hours between their overnight feedings. I spent the whole time hovering outside their door praying that they would start to cry, or twitch, or grunt just so I would know they were alive. At night, I would watch the baby's video monitor like a TV news junkie because I just Now that Nathan's hit the 9 month mark, I feel like I can cross this compulsive fear off my list. I can't imagine the pain a syndrome like SIDS can cause to families. I realize I am blessed beyond measure to have three healthy, happy babies in my house.
  9. Post-Circumcision Care. Did y'all know that skin cells can heal back onto themselves as they heal? Did you know, that after a circumcision, you do NOT want that to happen? Did you know, that if this happens to your baby boy, what that means you will have to do??? BECAUSE I DO. ::shudder:: I am so, so, so relieved that the Vaseline-slathering and skin-stretching and delicate-diaper-changing period is OVER. Hallelujah.
  10. Cord Stumps. The days that my three babies lost their cord stumps were bittersweet ones. It signified to me that they weren't 'brand new' anymore. I might have welled up a little when it happened, but in the week or so preceding that event, oh my mercy. Y'all. Cleaning and accidentally snagging it on a gown WAS AWFUL. I know they say that cord stumps don't have nerve endings, so the babies don't feel anything when you touch it, but I still got the heeby-jeebies when I would have to clean it. And, at the end, when it's juuuust about to fall off and it's just hanging on by a thread... Heavens.
  11. Newborn Skin Conditions. This includes, but is not limited to: Baby Acne, Cradle Cap, Ear Fur, Back Fuzz, but especially that weird transitional period about 6 days after delivery when your baby's skin just kinda peeeeels off in layers. Then, when you take off their gowns, you can see all sorts of those little rolled up pieces of waxy, sloughed off skin on the inside of their outifts. Ewwwwww.  
  12. Newborn Nail Clipping. Probably the most stressful task you can undertake, short of #9. In my house, it's nothing short of a surgical operation. I've resorted now to just biting them. Gently. 
  13. Tar Poop. You have a baby and suddenly someone else's bowel/bladder functions become the most important, most closely watched events of your day. You count them, chart them, compare them, color-code them, and maybe even write FB status about them (guilty!). The amount of time you spend examining your baby's body eliminations is nothing short of magnanimous. Their first dirty diapers are a thing to be celebrated (Hooray for fully functioning intestines!)... until you go to clean them up. I'm not sure what is in the black tar that babies create during their first days of life, but I'm pretty sure it could fix a hole in the bottom of a leaky boat. If they would have had a jar of this stuff onboard, I'm pretty certain the Titanic wouldn't have sunk. They fill their diapers with that black goo and you swipe and swipe and wipe and wipe, and it doesn't budge. That stuff is HARD TO CLEAN OFF. Mercy, the amount of wipes you go through... 

I realize that this list is longer than my previous post's. I guess this means my self-imposed therapeutic exercise was a success. It has been a joy to watch our youngest grow and change. It has been a blessing to see his older siblings meet and fall in love with their new baby brother. It has been bittersweet, at times, to realize how quickly he's growing. But with every phase he leaves behind, there are bigger and newer and better milestones waiting for him to achieve. And with two fantastic older siblings to forge a path for him to follow, I can't wait to see what coming around the next bend in the road for our family of five.