Preparing the Soil

July 23, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

A-Camping We Will Go (part 2)

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After leaving Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we headed to Fall Creek Falls State Park to meet up with friends for five days of camping. We were really looking forward to spending time with them! We were also really looking forward to seeing up camp and then just STAYING for five days. Setting up and tearing down takes a lot of work and we were anxious to just be for a while.

I find it very helpful when others share some of the nitty-gritty details of trips and so I thought I would share a little about the logistical arrangements of camping with two large families.

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Two families

Two Campsites

Two pop-up campers

One tent

Eleven kids (ages 11, 10, 8, 8, 6, 6, 5, 3, 3, 1, 1)

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Our friends made the reservations at the campground, and they picked AMAZING spots. We had two sites on a small loop off the main loop of the campground. This meant that there were no cars coming through, except for the few cars of the campsites next to us. This allowed the kids to spend lots of time running around and scootering around the loop.  There were no sites to the back of us which meant 1) less noise, 2) more privacy 3) prettier woodsy view, 4) deer that walked through regularly. The bathhouse was just a 1-2 minute walk, which made cleaning off dirty kids super easy.

Each family had their own pop-up camper. We wanted to be able to have our doors facing each other (and thus create a sense of one big shared site) and so our friends maneuvered their camper to turn backward so that our doors opened up to the same side.

Our family also brought and set up a tent. This large tent served three purposes. First, it was our changing room. We didn’t want clothes all over the camper and with the ages of our kids, we can’t just change openly anymore. Our tent has three subdividivisions with walls which made changing easy. The second purpose of the tent was to house our camping toilet. Our friends have a toilet in their camper, but we don’t. During the day, most of us would use the bathhouse, but during the nighttime (or anytime when the little girls needed to go), we used the camping toilet in the tent. And no, they don’t smell. Those little contraptions are very well-designed. The third use of the tent was for Zachary and his pack ‘n ‘play. He is not at the age when he can be in a bed with others…he just thinks it is party time. He (and we!) sleep much better if he is isolated. He napped and slept at night in one of the sections of the tent.

As for meals, we decided to loosely coordinate what we were having, but each family brought and prepared their own food. With this many people, it would just be too much to prep and prepare for everyone at once. We did our best to have dinners ready at the same time and we all sat together along two picnic tables that we put together. Breakfasts were simple, but yummy: French toasts, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches/burritos, cereal, oatmeal, and fruit. Lunches were either snacky foods like cheese and crackers or were simple like pasta or leftovers. Many of the dinners were prepped ahead of time and so we feasted on amazing things like enchilada soup, grilled chicken, hamburgers, grilled pizza, and of course, the obligatory hot dog night.

Time

One of the great things about camping for a stretch longer than a weekend (we had five nights) is that you can slow your schedule down. Most days, we did only one big activity (hiking, swimming, etc). Mornings were slow. We enjoyed long cups of coffee, late breakfasts, our individual Bible times, and warming ourselves by the fire (three nights were in the 50s!) The two babies still take one long nap a day and so often, the dads would take the other kids to one of the ranger activities around the park. While the babies napped, the mamas read, chatted, showered, and rested ourselves.

In the afternoons, we spent our time exploring the gorgeous park. Then we would come back to the site, make dinner, eat, clean up, have a fire and s’mores, and head to bed. I’ve got lots of photos from our various hikes and swims, but for today, just a few photos of life around the campsite. Enjoy!

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Homemade breakfast sandwiches are yummy!

Homemade breakfast sandwiches are yummy!

So is oatmeal!

So is oatmeal!

Wildlife!

Wildlife!

Lots of scooter riding (and falling!)

Lots of scooter riding (and falling!)

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Good help is easy to find!

Good help is easy to find!

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The two three year olds spent much of their week running back into the field behind the sites and picking wildflowers, all the while singing, "It's a beautiful day to pick flowers!"

The two three year olds spent much of their week running back into the field behind the sites and picking wildflowers, all the while singing, “It’s a beautiful day to pick flowers!”

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July 22, 2014
by Janet
2 Comments

A-Camping We Will Go! (part one)

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Every morning as I woke up this past week  — chilled air and slightly damp clothes sticking to me — these words spilled out of my mouth:

 I LOVE camping.

I know it isn’t everyone’s sentiment…but I really, really love it.

Sure, it’s messy. It’s muddy. It’s wet and cold and it sometimes it means a baby who wants to play rather than go to sleep.

But I LOVE camping.

Along with all that mess and mud is something amazing:

It’s beautiful.

It’s being outside in God’s creation.

It’s roasting marshmallows with sticky-fingered kids and looking for the perfect s’more recipe.

It’s long walks with friends in the cool of the morning.

It’s putting your watch, work, and makeup away.

It’s looking at the gorgeous stars as you share your hearts with friends.

It’s listening to three year old girls sing, “It’s a beautiful day to pick flowers!”

It’s watching a mama deer and her babes drink from the river.

It’s hot coffee, both to drink and to keep your hands warm.

It’s time for extra cuddles, from big kids and small kids alike.

It’s chicken, pizza, french toast, and even cookies cooked on the grill.

It’s lazy mornings with nothing to do and nowhere to go.

It’s bliss.

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The plan was to spend two nights together as a family in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and then meeting up friends for five days at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Due to some problems with the lights on our camper, we had to delay our start by a day. But after a long and slow trip, complete with car trouble, we finally arrived at the park and had one night alone as a family. After a very busy few months it was so wonderful to just be together. After setting up camp, we ate tacos and then the kids played in the woods. Marshmallows and bed followed. The next morning was spent on a nice walk, getting our car fixed, and cleaning up camp. Our time was short, but it was oh-so-sweet.

We needed to stop to get something for the car, so we decided on a WalMart parking lot breakfast picnic!

We needed to stop to get something for the car, so we decided on a WalMart parking lot breakfast picnic!

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It takes sites like this to say, "Woah...we have a big family!"

It takes sites like this to say, “Woah…we have a big family!”

I've heard of a beach bum before, but this is my first experience with a camping bum!

I’ve heard of a beach bum before, but this is my first experience with a camping bum. Oh well, “dirt don’t hurt.”

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Nothing beat French Toast while camping!

Nothing beats French Toast while camping!

The site next to us was empty and had just had its tent pad res-anded. Our kids were in sandbox heaven!

The site next to us was empty and had just had its tent pad re-sanded. Our kids were in sandbox heaven!

 

Stay tuned for Part Two! 

 

July 12, 2014
by Janet
3 Comments

She’s Beautiful

She's Beautiful | www.preparingthesoil.com

 

We’re headed out for the week to go camping with some dear friends, but I have been meaning to post these photos for a while now. A few weeks ago, as my sweet Alaina was coming in from playing outside, I saw this beautiful young woman in front of me and asked if I could take some pictures. She reluctantly agreed. She only gave me a few minutes before the silly faces came out, but what I saw made me swell with pride.

This girl is truly amazing.  She’s 11 1/2 and she is…well…amazing. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain how truly amazing she is. All I know is that I am blessed to have her and it is so incredible to watch the Lord work in heart as He grows and matures her. As I see her selfless service and the way she looks out for her siblings and is always watching and waiting to see if I need something, I am truly in awe. Although part of me wants to keep her little forever, I am so very excited to see the woman that God is growing her into. I believe that she will be one of my very best friends one day. Her character blesses me, gives me hope, and inspires me. I am one lucky mama.

And let me tell you…she has great hair.

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July 9, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

We Met Them Six Years Ago

We were attending a two week training course before leaving for Indonesia. We would see them in the halls of the nursery as we each walked from room to room picking up children. I remember standing outside talking with them, being thankful for an instant connection with another family. They had their two children and we our four, and we chatted by the baby pool as the kids splashed and we talked of our future: ours in Indonesia and theirs in China.

I prayed, right then and there, silently in my heart: “Lord, I want them in Indonesia. They are meant to be there.” I told no one but Jason.

One sold house, one positive pregnancy test, one “wait to come to China until later” and a whole bunch of prayers followed. Through twisty and turny stories of God’s faithfulness, their plane touched down in Indonesia six months after ours. Her belly seven months swollen, two toe-headed boys clinging to mama’s legs, and finally, we were together again.

For two and a half years we enjoyed their friendship and fellowship. We enjoyed trips to the beach, to Malaysia, to Jakarta. We enjoyed ice cream with the kids and PB&J sandwiches on the floor the day they left Indonesia. They were balm to our souls, in more ways than they will ever know.

And then God called them back to the US. My heart grieved. It still grieves for the loss. And yet, my heart rejoices that in the past three years since our homes have had different names, we have remained close. Emails, phone calls, visits. Our hearts have remained knitted together and I still selfishly pray for the day when we are reunited for the long haul.

Our families look different than they did six years ago. In 2008, there were six kids between us. Now there are eleven.

In a fun string of events, I was able to spend two days in their hometown. It was a totally different experience being with them without my family. With my kids not there to need me and to attract their kids’ attention, I was able to truly enjoy their family all to myself. Games on the couch, long and unexpected hugs from their sweet boys, and lots of “Aunt Janet, watch THIS!” It was a blessing.

And then I got to watch them with my camera. The heat and the bugs kept our evening short, but still, my camera got to capture their love and sweetness and silliness. I am so blessed to know them.

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July 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

Just For You, Rebecca

It had been fourteen years since I had seen her. The last time we were together, she was wearing a white dress and walking down an aisle and I was weeks away from moving to India. Her wedding was a goodbye that lasted fourteen years. Because of the wonders of Facebook, we have been able to reconnect over the last few years, mostly since our two little men were born just days apart from each other. Back in May, I got a sweet message asking me if I wanted to spend a weekend at her home with another one of our dear friends. It took me all of about two seconds to say, “YES!” And so, last weekend I hopped on a flight to Memphis and spent an amazing weekend catching up with friends. Fourteen years and twelve children later, it was like we were back in college. We talked…a lot. We laughed…a lot.

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One thing I learned about Rebecca was that she loves blogs. And so, I thought I would dedicate this blog post to her as my way of saying thank you for initiating an amazing weekend that refreshed my soul. I haven’t laughed that much in years.

On Saturday night, Rebecca ran out to pick up some dinner for us (poor Ada was sick in bed). I was the lucky one who got to stay with her sweet little man, Graham (a Zachary look-alike). We only had a few minutes but I snapped from photos of him to bless sweet Rebecca with. And so Rebecca, here’s your little man. You are a beautiful mama and your four beautiful children are so blessed to have you as their mom. Keep walking, praying and trusting God, and He will fill in the gaps for you. You are doing an amazing job!

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I think he has a pitching career in his future!

I think he has a pitching career in his future!

We had to come in because it started to rain. But he loved it while it lasted!

We had to come in because it started to rain. But he loved it while it lasted!

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Have you ever seen a more adorable pout?

Have you ever seen a more adorable pout?

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Those eyes!

Those eyes!

His brothers are very involved in baseball. I think this little man wants to be just like them!

His brothers are very involved in baseball. I think this little man wants to be just like them!

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Thank you, Ada and Rebecca, for the late night talks, the great advice (Ada!), and the many, many laughs. Some things never change…3SE is the place to be!

July 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

How’s It Going?

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It’s the question we get asked the most. People want to know how our transition has been and how we are enjoying life back in the United States.

Unfortunately, it’s not an easy question to answer. I’m not sure if I should be honest (“It’s been really busy and really crazy but we somehow are hanging in there and sneaking in a bit of fun”) or just be polite and positive (“We’re doing great!)  Either way I spin it, it would only be a small portion of truth. To explain what the last few months have been like would take hours. And obviously, most people who ask us how we are doing don’t have hours to listen to the laundry list of happenings and emotions.

www.preparingthesoil.com

In a few words, though, here is what we have been up to:

Transitioning: Moving back to the States takes time. There are many boring (but necessary) tasks like getting new driver’s licenses, plates for our car, choosing cell phones, getting our kitchen stocked, etc. Moving life for a family of 8 to a new country means many hours spent doing things we would rather not be doing.

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Decision Making: We’ve had a mot of decisions to make. We had to buy a car. We had to decide how to spend the summer. We have had to try to plan out our fall. There have been many long (and often interrupted) talks as we try to be wise with our time, talents, and money.

www.preparingthesoil.com

Interviewing: The big “next step” in our life is still in process. It has been a lengthy ordeal (starting generally in November and specifically in January). We’re still not done. This has meant many hours filling our paperwork, tracking down specific documents, interviewing via Skype, and more. It is all worth it, but again, it takes time.

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Reconnecting: We have enjoyed getting to reconnect with family and friends, both in person and on the phone. We have loved being back with our church and feel so blessed to be a part of an amazing fellowship of believers. Jason and the boys enjoyed a weekend father/son camping trip with a number of other families and I enjoyed an amazing five days in Memphis reconnecting with friends from college and from our time in Indonesia. What a soul-filling time it was (and admittedly, a nice break after being a single mom for five weeks).

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Studying: My class in educational therapy has stared and I am enjoying being a student again (minus having to look up things like the current APA format for papers!) I am enjoying what I am learning and I look forward to a much deeper look into things during the residency portion of my class at the end of the month.

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Unpacking: We’re still sorting through the things we brought back from Indonesia as well as working through paperwork for our small shipment that will come in early fall. It’s especially difficult since we are staying with family for the summer and don’t want to truly unpack until we move into our house in September. But being able to find things is highly desirable and this has meant a lot of shuffling things around.

Missing: With being Stateside for almost two months, I am definitely missing Indonesia. It comes in waves and I find it hard to really make sense of all the mixed emotions. I suppose it is only normal to grieve for a place we called home for the last six years while also looking forward to what God has for us in the future. And we’re all missing Rendang.

Photographing: More and more I am realizing how alive I feel when I spend time with my camera. Whether it is taking pictures on my morning walk or watching friends snuggle as a family in front of me, capturing the beauty I see with my camera is so filling. I love capturing small moments in time for people to enjoy for years to come. I am especially looking forward to a wedding I am shooting this weekend and as long as baby behaves himself and doesn’t arrive while I am at the wedding, I will get to photograph the birth of a beautiful friend’s little man.

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Buying: Lots of stuff. It’s amazing when you realize how many little (and big) things you need to just “do life.” Whether its a major purchase (like a car) or a smaller purchase (like running shoes for the whole family), it all takes time. Lots of it.

Sorting: There have many many details and things to sort out — phones, insurance, doctors, etc. I will be so thankful when all of that stuff is done and we can feel like we have officially settled. And although I had to wait for two hours, I can finally say that as of today I am officially a North Carolina resident.

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Praying: Lots of it. Not much more to say than that I am glad that David gave us such an example in the Psalms of honest prayer. I love that I can pour out my heart in all honestness and He knows and loves me still.

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Planning: We’re gearing up for a month-long road trip to visit many friends and family. Planning for eight people to be on the road for a month is no easy feat! We’re working on finalizing our itinerary and then we need to get working and making definite plans with all of you who have said you’d like to see us.

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Writing: Although I haven’t been writing in this space much, I have been doing quite a bit more writing over at THE DAILY DIGI. You can look HERE for a list of my recent posts (scroll to the bottom). Some of my favorite ones are Memories Don’t Have to be Planned, No Manners Meal,  Flour Bombs, and Ice Coffee Pops.

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Baking: Although I haven’t gotten to do a ton of cooking, I have loved being back in an American kitchen where so many yummy things can be made!

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Worrying: I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also mention the worrying I have been doing. I try to turn it right into praying, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with all that has to be done and with all the unknowns of the future. This life of faith is filled with many amazing stories of God’s provision and His unswerving love for us, but it is not — in any way — easy. I let it get to me sometimes and I start to fret over many things. I’ve been working on memorizing the Sermon on the Mount so that I have something to fight the fear with. I’m partway through chapter 6 and I love to let the words flow through my thoughts.

 

 

June 20, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Dirt + Watermelon

Busy day playing outside in the dirt. Ending the evening with juicy watermelon. Bath in the sink to follow. Summer makes for happy memories and a blessed childhood.

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June 19, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

A Year Ago Today

Mr. Z was only three months old and slept for nine straight hours in his little airplane bassinet.

Mr. Z was only three months old and slept for nine straight hours in his little airplane bassinet.

 

A year ago today our family left Raleigh in the wee hours of the morning. We were on a journey that would take us to Los Angeles, Shanghai, Phnom Penh, and a month later, back to our home in Indonesia.

In Shanghai, waiting for our flight to Cambodia

In Shanghai, waiting for our flight to Cambodia

 

After a month in Cambodia, we returned to Indonesia, having no idea it would be for such a short time. Never would we have guessed that in less than a year our family would be back in North Carolina, getting ready to trust God for things unthinkable. Never would we have guessed that just one year later we would be buying a car and a camper. Never would we have guessed that we would be planning a 30 day road trip that will take us through 18+ states, allowing us to visit family and friends from high school and college and from our times in Malaysia and Indonesia. Never would we have guessed that I would be getting ready to have my first formal schooling in fourteen years with the goal of bringing hope and healing to our sweet boy and, Lord willing, to other missionary families who are battling with the questions of how to care for their children with learning disabilities. Never would we have guessed that we would have taken a health journey that covered 1000+ miles of walking and running and that would take 30 pounds from each of us. Never would we have guessed that the stories we have used to explain missions to our children when they ask, “Are we real missionaries?” would be prophetic of our future life. Never we would have guessed.

On the day we left Indonesia

On the day we left Indonesia

 

And yet, here we are, a year later. After a month of of mama and kids in North Carolina and dad in Indonesia, we are together again.

Waiting at Raleigh airport

Waiting at Raleigh airport

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Father's Day with Jason and his dad

Father’s Day with Jason and his dad

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

James 4:13-14

June 7, 2014
by Janet
0 comments

Strawberry Picking With Friends

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.comIt’s only the beginning of June, but strawberry season is already over here in North Carolina. Earlier this week, though, we headed out with friends to see if we could find any berries left to pick.

I don't think Zach wanted his picture taken...

I don’t think Zach wanted his picture taken…

It was pretty hot and sunny and there were very few berries to be found, but that didn’t stop the kids from having fun!

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

I spent most of my time with Bethany who was determined to pick lots of strawberries.

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.comIt was a little slow going at first as she learned which berries were good and which weren’t, but eventually she got the hang of it and her bucket started filling.

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

And after almost an hour of watching the other kids eating most of the berries they picked and Bethany saying, “Yuck, I don’t like strawberries!”, she finally put one in her mouth and said,

“Oh! These are YUMMY!”

And that was the end of strawberry picking for Bethany. She sat herself down on a chair and ate berry after berry.


Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.comStrawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

And although we didn’t have a lot of berries to show for the morning, the point was to have fun and be with friends. Mission accomplished!

Strawberry Picking With Friends_10 Strawberry Picking With Friends | www.preparingthesoil.com

June 4, 2014
by Janet
1 Comment

This Boy is Loved

This Boy is Loved

Many people wonder how large families make it work.

How is there time for all of the kids?

How is there enough money to feed and clothe them?

How is there enough love for each of them?

Don’t some of the kids feel unloved or ignored?

How do you manage all the sibling squabbles?

These are great questions. I can — obviously — only speak from my own experience of having a larger family, but I know without a doubt that having a big family is worth every single tear, moment of frustration, fear for the future, spilled drink, dirty diaper, and middle-of-the-night wake up. It is is very hard and so very rewarding.

I hope that in the future I can share a little more about the hows and whys of the way we make it work. I know that many people, even in their insensitive (and sometimes downright ludicrous!) comments, are really just curious. They want to know how it works.  I want to share some of that and I hope that in the coming months there will be opportunities (and if you have any specific questions I would be more than happy to try to answer them!)

For today, though, I just want to help set aside the notion that there is not enough love to go around. For some reason people think that baby #6 is in no way capable of receiving the same amount of love as babies #1 and #2. And you know what? That is true.

Baby number six receives SO MUCH MORE.

 

My friends, this boy is LOVED.

He is doted on. He is cared for. He is played with. He is adored. He is photographed.

And not just by his parents (like poor baby #1), but by all of his siblings.

They ADORE him. They want to be with him. They want to get him dressed, get his bottle, and strap him into the car. They play ball with him and they slide down the stairs with him. Just this week, when given the opportunity to go out to lunch with mom, two of the kids decided to stay home to play with Zach (my sweet Aunt Becky was watching him for me).

From the moment they met him, his brothers and sisters have cherished him.

This Boy is Loved | Preparing the Soil

 

And for some recent proof….

Mr. Z looked crazy-adorable on Sunday before church and I wanted a few pictures of him before we got into the car. He isn’t totally steady on his feet yet and I didn’t want him falling in the dirt, so I asked Alaina to hold his hand while he steadied himself. She was happy to oblige.

This Boy is Loved | Preparing the SoilHe finally stood still for a minute or so and I was able to capture his cuteness.

This Boy is Loved_2 This Boy is Loved_3 This Boy is Loved | Preparing the Soil

 

And then he wanted to walk. Again, not wanting him to fall into the dirt right before church, Alaina and Levi were quick to let him grab a finger or two.

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A lack of love is not a problem in this family.