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My Conversion: If you read nothing else from me this year, please choose this

Give me 10 minutes to share about Jesus converting me, please.

My conversion: (Though it’s long) If you read nothing else from me this year, please choose this.

I have not arrived. But I have something to praise my God for!

Three years ago I began to articulate to Emily how little joy I had. There were a lot of tough things going on at that time with extended family and ministry. But I had a small sense my joylessness was not because of my circumstances. I’ve known for a long time that joy is something we can have regardless of our situations in life because of Christ. But my head and my heart were not aligned. I had an amazing wife, incredible kids, my salvation, and many other blessings. But none of that seemed to matter to my heart.

Getting out of bed became a difficult task, and I would find myself weeping from a sadness I couldn’t explain. These became known as “hard days”. I would greet Emily in the mornings with a discouraged smirk. She would wrap her arms around me, sometimes pray silently, and always contend in the spirit for me all that day. Though nothing seemed to change. It only got worse. What was happening to me?! I had never wrestled with depression before. In fact, I was probably guilty of rolling my eyes at people who had. Why was God letting me slip away? Wasn’t He good?

We had landed in a church that preached joy in Jesus every week. This continued to illuminate the gap between my heart and head. A new season of ministry confusion began at that time as well. Maybe that was the problem? I thought, “if I could only land in the right ministry role, everything would be better. Maybe then I’d have more joy.” I spun and spun, trying to discern what my best ministry role would look like. The exhaustion of spinning only resulted in more discouragement and confusion.

However, not uncommon to me, I found myself with a whiteboard marker one evening frantically scribbling a diagram on my bedroom closet door. It was as though God was giving me a direct download again. He was giving me a grid for ministry that I could use to help others know and serve Him! Finally! A breakthrough! This new awareness felt joyful in the moment, but the following days were as hard as ever. My inner thoughts were darker than they had ever been. I began to feel like I didn’t care about anyone. And that was scary. Who is Nick if not one who loves well? Don’t I preach day and night, love your neighbor to Jesus!? Make new disciples! Reach the lost!

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The diagram/grid was simple. In our human pursuit of happiness (or joy), only the Gospel truly satisfies. And only from a deep encounter with the Gospel of Jesus do we ever truly realize how much he loves us, and therefore love him and desire to be with him. And it’s only out of that place that we begin to have true genuine love for others that looks like Jesus. He gives us his heart for people. And only when we love others like Jesus does do we love them fully by showing AND telling them the greatest news of love there ever was. And from that, new disciples of Jesus are made and God is glorified. A simple cause and effect (slash) motivation paradigm.

As I sat with this new lens, it was convicting. It caused me to ask, am I actually making new disciples? Do I actually desire to? Or do I just like telling others to do it? Uh oh…

Around this time, I woke up one morning early in a full-on panic attack, breaking out in hives. I had never had hives. I thought I was having an allergic reaction to something, so I ran to the ER. One thousand dollars later I was home and fine and frustrated. I remembered an instance a few years prior when I had ended up in the ER as a pastor with a panic attack. The conclusion from that experience was that “I loved people too much.” And the learning was, it’s the Spirit’s job to bring people to Jesus. So Nick, relax. This time, a small voice was again whispering to me, “you are working too hard to love people.” Ok, I get it! So why was I still doing this? Knowing that at the root of our behaviors are core beliefs, God began to reveal that I often work hard to love people so that they see me as one that loves. And if I love them well, they will begin to love Jesus. What I thought was a pure motive was really rooted in my desire to be known as “one that loves.”

Realizing that my ministry and prioritization on evangelism was largely rooted in the idol of me made my whole life feel like a lie. I had been found out. My scheme had been revealed. As I journaled through this season of new awareness, many of my entries contained new sin-filled honesty about how I felt about people, honesty like never before. The masquerade was over. Jesus had figured out that I “love” people for my own gain, and also the degree to which I actually lacked genuine love for people. My identity as “one who loves” was stripped away and I was left naked and freezing. This was crisis mode.

Emily listened and loved me so well through this crisis. I began to articulate to her that it felt as though I was at a fork in the road. Either I was going to crash and burn because nothing mattered anymore, or I was in the midst of a conversion I had never had. She continued to pray, text me Bible verses to cling to, encourage me in God’s preservation of me, and give me space and time to emote or just be alone.

Based on my simple grid, if I didn’t love people, did I truly love God? Actually the real question was revealed, does God truly love me? How do I know? Friends said so. The Bible said so. But so what. I was wanting to feel it. I was wanting to be overcome by the “grace” I had preached about and encouraged others towards. I was wanting to experience it. I was not wrecked by the Gospel of grace. I didn’t know what grace was, and I certainly didn’t know how to identify it for myself in the midst of all my confusion and pain.

So I just believed it. And He left me there, clinging to a truth that I wasn’t knowing how to experience, waiting on Him…

And then God whispered again. He said the opposite of freely-offered salvation grace is self-righteousness.

Most of my faith journey has been about earning God’s favor or approval…being seen as one worthy of responsibility. I’m obedient, a hard worker for the King and Kingdom. But grace doesn’t care. Grace says, regardless of what you do (for me), you are mine and I love you. Come here, closer. Be with me. Let me tell you how I truly see you and who you are to me.

The revelation of the cause to my depression and suffering was rooted in my own sin/mis-alignment, and my need for a grace-filled Gospel. And God delivered this to me with the most incredible gentleness possible. As I had wondered why He had left me in the longest darkest season of my life, He was beginning to reveal to me that He had actually been leading me carefully, at the pace He knew I actually needed, with an incredible preserving gentleness, bringing me closer to Himself.

I don’t realize the depth of my self-righteousness. I’m sure it’s connected to my fundamentalist upbringing and various ways over the years in which I’ve learned to be pharisaical. But none of that matters now. I am experiencing His grace through a new recognition of my need for a Savior who’s blood covers my self-righteousness. I am beginning to repent and ask Him to make me new in this deep corner of my heart. He is giving me a conversion story I never had because I had been too committed to being self-righteous for Him. But He wanted something else…

He wants to use me to make new disciples of Jesus. But He wants me to be one first. He wanted me to be affectionately wrecked by the Good News of His grace so that I might live loved by Him. And from that place, genuinely love others as He does…inviting them to know Him too. Our lack of joy is always rooted in a misalignment with the Lord, not something else. And He’ll use our struggles to invite us closer to Him, which is where our ultimate joy is found. Theologians like John Piper, Jonathan Edwards and countless others have rightfully said that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. So He’ll do everything He can to help us know Him deeply. His desire to be glorified is the very thing that provides us with the opportunity to have the most joy.

This journey has certainly been full of work, receiving and believing the truth of scripture, inner-healing prayer times, and clinging to Him in the middle of the fog. I listened to countless sermons, had certain worship songs on repeat every morning wanting to believe what they sang about was true, and relied on the help of perpetual prayers of closet warriors, good friends and teammates. BUT GOD did the saving. 

As I’ve shared this grid with others I’ve coached this year, their lives are changing too! But it’s not about the grid. It’s about the Gospel it points us to. If you lack joy or maybe realize your desire to be with the Lord and build His Kingdom is minimal, dive in with Him and let Him lead you back to His Gospel. Maybe you are like me and you have a nagging sense that your Kingdom activity is driven by something poorly motivated or misaligned. Ask Him about that. Let Him speak to you. He will. And when He is quiet, He is still moving. Cling to His truth in scripture when you can’t feel Him. He is there, gently leading you because He loves you so so much and has incredible plans for you!

I have not arrived, but this year I am especially thankful for my Savior!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nick

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Roadkill

A few events occurred this Sunday morning that were out of the ordinary for me. They just don’t happen every day, and stood out to me. So I figured they were worth mentioning. 3 things, to be specific. Two of which are completely insignificant, and one that got me thinking.

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10 Years of Us

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10 Years of Us

Here’s to all the amazing, romantic, life-changing, mountain-top moments, and all the regular, every day, tired, hungry, silly, accident-prone, hilarious, leave the oven on for a week while we’re away moments in between...

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Jackson Turns Five

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Jackson Turns Five

Jackson, my darling boy, is five. years. old.

This boy made me a mommy, and I can't believe we are now five years on the other side of becoming parents. Wow. Five years old is such a big deal! We're learning to ride a bike and sounding out words and getting ready for Kindergarten! It REALLY does seems like just a second ago he was my little baby.  I know the coming years will seem to fly by just as quickly and I'm so grateful that I've taken the time to cherish these littlest years.

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Sutter Turns One

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Sutter Turns One

My little bitty baby turned one today! This year has truly fulfilled the old saying "The days are long but the years are short" This year, in days, has seemed like one of the craziest for me in the world of mommyhood. 1 kid was definitely a game changer, 2 kids was an adjustment but fairly seamless for me, but 3 was just nuts. I'm not sure why...maybe the fact that they outnumber parents now, or that they outnumber the number of hands I have, or that Sutter has easily won the award for worst sleeper and eater, but three little ones to care for has been a year of whaaaaaaaaats going on!...

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Cooper Turns Three

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Cooper Turns Three

Kind of amazing. Three years ago, Nick, Jackson and I took our last picture as a family of three, left J in the capable care of Grandma, and made the 20 minute drive from San Clemente up to the hospital in Irvine ( We had been slightly nervous about being 20 whole minutes from the hospital, even though it was a scheduled c-section. it was not close enough for comfort. That was before Big Bear of course, where the local hospital does not deliver babies, and your closest option is at least a solid hour away. Sutter's birthday is in 12 days so we'll cover all that then)...

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One year and 10 months...

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One year and 10 months...

One year and 10 months ago, I wrote my last blog entry. And 1 month after I wrote that entry, we loaded up a giant Uhaul with everything we have, and drove one hour inland from the coast, and one hour up a windy road until we hit 7,000 feet, and landed next to a Lake, in the middle of the woods...

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Greenwood Family Update

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Greenwood Family Update

I've been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, 5 months to be exact, and tonight it is finally time to break the blogging silence with a family update! And there is a reason that update comes tonight...we have some big news to share with all of you, our family and friends. No, we are NOT pregnant (that's the first place my mind would go if I were reading this)...

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Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving this year with the Smith side of the family. That's my parents, my older sister Amy and her husband Drew, my little sister Ashley, her husband Eric and my 2 nieces Emma and Ella, and my little brother Andy...

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Summer Wrap-up

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Summer Wrap-up

So now that fall has officially arrived, both by date, and FINALLY, by temperature, I've found some closure to Summertime. Coopers first summer ever, and Jacksons third. These baby summers will end before I know it and I'm glad we packed it full of just enough stuff and just enough nothing...

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Laundry.

Today I folded the laundry. We just moved and now have this adorable window seat upstairs where I sat today and folded. Both boys were sleeping as I quietly sat in the hallway, sun drenching in, but also a cool breeze floating through the open window. It was one of those sweet quiet moments that I love. And today it brought me back to another very specific sweet, quiet, laundry moment.

When I was in college I cleaned a house once a week for a family in Chicago. Thursday. Took the EL to the south end of the loop, cut through an elementary school playground to get to their cute little house and spent the next few hours scouring 3 levels of house. I don't mind working hard, and actually love cleaning, it's a good time to think, so it was a good job to have.

One of the last chores I'd do before leaving was fold laundry. The washer and dryer were upstairs, so I'd empty the dryer into the hallway, sit on the floor and fold. I remember it being sunny in the hallway, and quiet. It was always a calm moment. Probably my little restful place in the middle of a very busy day. After folding I'd leave the house, take the train back to school, change into my food service clothes with barely enough time to throw on a hairnet and make it to my 6 hour shift in The Commons. My thinking here was one big busy day of work meant 6 less busy school and work days. It worked. Anyways, that laundry moment happened every week. I looked forward to it. The family had 3 kids and I remember sitting there, rolling together little pairs of socks and folding up teeny t-shirts thinking how fun it would be someday to be folding my own kids little clothes. To have my own family, with my own little kiddo's, and to take care of them, and their little clothes. Every week that thought would come into my head. Not in a desperate, psycho, maternal clock kind of way. Just a sweet whisper of a thought for a sweet moment.

So something about today brought me back to that thought. Must've been the combination of quiet sunny hallway and laundry. But I smiled with God about it today while I folded. The sweetness of a dream come true, a desire fulfilled, trumped the sweetness of every young anticipation I had of it. It is hands down MUCH more work than I ever realized, but still, I am so thrilled to have been given this gift being wife and mother. It is a blessing I am determined never to take for granted. But the blessing that is the greatest is that I shared my full-circle moment today with the same great and only God who sat with me folding laundry back in Chicago. I felt Him today the same as I felt Him then. What an ever-present, strong, loving, faithful, patient, good God I have the privilege of knowing and serving and loving. My heart is full and my heart is His. May laundry abound.

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Laundry

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Laundry

Today I folded the laundry. We just moved and now have this adorable window seat upstairs where I sat today and folded. Both boys were sleeping as I quietly sat in the hallway, sun drenching in, but also a cool breeze floating through the open window. It was one of those sweet quiet moments that I love. And today it brought me back to another very specific sweet, quiet, laundry moment...

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Snapshot: Friday

Well, we've made it to our final day. Friday is always a little bit of a giddy day for me. Sometimes for no reason, but I welcome the giddiness nonetheless. So 5 days logged, and as I cap it off here is a highlight of my weeks activities:

15 meals prepared

15 naps administered (sleep optional)

50 diapers changed (approximately-no way was I going to count each diaper change)

2 grocery runs

4 LOOOOOOOOONG walks

2 loads of laundry cleaned

5 full sinks of dishes cleaned

6 baths given (although daddy must take the credit for 2 of them)

5 blogs written!(whew!)

and an undisclosed amount of time playing cars, monster trucks, trains, legos, scooter riding, Bible story reading, Word World watching, boo-boo kissing, tickling, coloring, and a handful of other household chores and playtime activities.

I love watching all these boys being happy and feeling safe and loved and taken care of. I feel like my legs did after that long uphill walk a few days ago-the good kind of tired!

So, here's Friday!

Good morning! Jackson and I were up first together this morning! We drove some cars around these "huge hills" up in his room.

Morning Cooper! Daddy and Coop woke up a little bit later.

This kid smiles at the drop of a hat. I love it.

When he gets really tickled he puffs up his chest and tightens up his arms and legs. Totally cute. Of course I took a million pictures of this giggle time!

Today a "picnic breakfast" was requested. So there was a blanket, milk, an apricot and "just plain bread".

Cooper wants to be vertical so badly, he is happy sitting here for a while even though his feet don't even touch the ground yet!

Took an early walk today to the "little park". I thought we should get out early because when I was up this morning the sky was clear and blue...which here at the beach a clear blue sky in the early morning usually means it's gonna be a hot day! We usually see the morning covered in fog!

Still getting used to Jackson playing like a big boy at the park! He's not a baby anymore!

For example, today was the FIRST time he's ever been brave enough to go down the tube slide!

Another big boy move.

Swinging like a super hero.

So big.

Cooper was totally happy to sit and look around...this is still amazing to me after 14 weeks of colic! This would've never happened.

Jackson burying pine cones and telling me "Jesus was buried. And He rose again! He is coming to get us" Love it when I hear the Jesus stuff that sticks with him. Starts in the head...and we just pray God's grace will eventually reach into his heart.

Home from our walk and Jackson grabbed this stuff, put it all on, then came running to me saying, "I'm ready to go to the beach!"

Lunch with Uncle Andy (he stayed with us Thursday night). Jackson loves any and every extended family member. We're always talking about all the cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents!

Hold me! Hold me!" Little sleepy boy heading for his second nap. This kiddo had a great napping day! Maybe after 5 days of no swing, success is almost here! He broke the 30 minute naptime barrier...an hour in the morning, and almost 2 in the afternoon! AND he was sleepy, but not ASLEEP when I put him down in the afternoon, and this champ drifted off to sleep on his own. Yay baby!

Daddy had a little downtime this afternoon, and stole the show! He's been crazy excited to play legos since the moment we found out we were pregnant. And then it was a boy-even more excited. So today was THE day. He's been scouring the internet for a good deal (legos are expensive!) and found a great deal on Craigslist. So not only did Daddy get Jackson up from his nap, AND make him a smoothie, he also had a box FULL of legos to play with.

LOOOOOOOVED the legos. Huge success. With a dinner break in between, he played with them for 4 hours!

"Here's some pretty things for you mom!" The yellow one from Jackson, the green one from Daddy.

well rested Coopy!

Bathtime for Jacksy! Cooper came along to hang out.

Love these brothers : )

And so ends my Snapshot Week! It was a little extra work added to my day, but I'm glad I did it! This will definitely have a sequel.

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Snapshot: Thursday

Thursday!

Good morning! Happy and rested and ready to go!

I mean, c'mon! How cute is this guy?

We were playing with trains and cars and I had given Cooper a train and Jackson insisted that he wanted it, so I told him he had to trade with Cooper not just take it...please pick out one other toy for him to play with. So he gave him the flashlight.

Cooper fascinated with his big brother, nose picking and all.

more sprinkle pancakes today, upon request.

And he wanted to eat his pancakes like this...chair pulled up to the counter.

Cooper getting sleepy...time for morning naptime. He had a "please hold me" kind of morning, so even getting put down for a diaper change was very sad.

mid-morning living room. Jackson watching Word World while I put Cooper down.

Cooper's naptime = laundry time. Had some help loading it in.

Also seemed like a good place for a quick foot wash.

next, washed the windows.

Then swept the floor. Side note: Jackson doesn't always do all the chores with me. I do a lot of that while they are both sleeping during naptime or later after bedtime. But if he is awake these are generally the chores he likes helping with...so I usually have him be my helper. : )

Big emotional shift from the last picture to this one. Cooper only slept for 30 minutes yet again, so he was still pretty tired, Jackson was getting tired, but I wanted to run to the store for milk before they slept. Cooper screamed the whole way to the store, and Jackson got aggravated and started crying too, as well as saying with as much authority as he could, "Cooper, that's enough! Cooper, that's enough!!" (this is sometimes that Daddy says to Jackson when he needs to settle down about something). This was the successful moment when we arrived at the store. Luckily the ride home was smoother-Cooper was calm and Jackson got some "nem-in-nems" at the store.

Successfully back at home. Whew! Some lunch and off to naptime-Jackson had no objection whatsoever to his nap today-and he fell asleep right away, as did Coops.

Woke up from naptime a little grumpy. Daddy got home a little early today and showed J a crazy huge caterpillar we found outside. We were outside both trying to put a window screen back in that I had taken out in my morning window washing frenzy and hosed down, during which time Jackson also asked that I hose down his little mickey mouse airplane rider thing, which splashed everywhere and got Jacksons shorts wet so we took them off and dried them on the patio table. That was a sidenote. Jackson was moderately interested in the caterpillar.

Late afternoon was calm and uneventful. just home and relaxed.

Managed to catch a little brother love moment. "Hi Coopy Coopy Coopy!!! Little baby!!"

Boys doing some work together.

Dinner tonight with Uncle Andy, Uncle Drew and Aunt Amy!

Jackson loves to play pretend, and food is no exception. Tonight the noodles and the vegetables turned his hand into a robot hand. This bread was Lightning McQueen at one point winning the Piston Cup, and was also a lion. Nick and I have to remind him to eat his food, eat his food every couple of minutes. He finally downed it all when I tempted him with peanut butter cookies.

And there it is! We'll see you tomorrow, bright and early!

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Snapshot: Wednesday

Went a little wild with the pictures today. Whew! We've made it to Wednesday night! Something about Thursday just feels weekendy already. Although I should note that my weekend looks perfectly and exactly like my weekdays...but Daddy is thrown in the mix for 2 days straight, which makes for a great weekend everytime!

Ok Wednesday...

Good morning Cooper! Waking up slowly...if you look closely, notice how loose his onesie is. He is a little heatbox so sleeps in onesies and this is what I put him in after his bath last night. Every other onesie in the drawer was too small for him, except for this one...and it's size 24 months. It's humongous. Time to get out the hand me down bins and exchange the newborn to 3 month clothes for the 6 month clothes! Poor kiddo!

Daddy taught Jackson a trick this morning: how to use your shirt as a net to put cars in-that way you can carry a bazillion at a time.

Scrambled eggs with cheese and bananas with chocolate sauce while watching his current favorite show: Word World. Although his love for all things sweet was trumped by his new desire to keep his hands clean while he's eating. I should've stuck the bananas in the freezer for a few minutes so they weren't so gooey.

Sometimes Coopers toys are too fun to pass up.

Cooper went down for his morning nap and Jacksy and I played trains. This used to be the main activity in our house, but it has lost its lead to playing with cars.

Considered doing the dishes during Coopers morning nap. Breakfast dishes AND, I must admit, last nights dinner dishes too. Decided to procrastinate again this morning.

Coopers morning nap only lasted 30 minutes...so we rescued him.

middle morning: this guy was getting...

a little bit...

antsy!

Time to go outside! I wish this picture accurately portrayed how STEEP this hill was! I have yet to join the runners, but I am a walker-determined to get as far and high and low as this double stroller will take me.

My look for the day.

Special treat today...saw a bulldozer! Especially great that we saw it today, June 18th, on my Grandpa Sutter's 79th Birthday! He worked at Caterpillar : )

Jackson also showed me where Jesus died on the cross at this "Post Office"

Home for lunch. We usually don't play with crayons and markers while eating lunch, but I get the privilege of being fun mommy whenever I want to. Anytime we do anything out of the norm, I make it a big exciting deal! He ate a huge bowl of raisins and graham crackers and cheerios on our walk, so I just made a little dinosaur chicken and corn bowl for him and let him keep playing.

still being fun mom.

hangin' out! people are starting to get tired though...naptime!

Did it.

Afternoon nap for Cooper was much more successful. Jackson not so much. I had to go in his room multiple times. Once because he had turned the volume up on his Bible story cd to SUPER loud and was crying about that. Once because he was kicking the wall. And once because he leaned too far over his "special railing" and fell right out of bed. This is a picture of his wound from the fall. I was no longer fun mommy during these visits. In the end this was a sleepless naptime.

Late afternoon. Just playing and waiting for Daddy to come home. Cooper loves watching Jackson. Time to make dinner. Chicken Fettucini, peas, and applesauce.

Watching Jacksy and getting so sleeeeepy. Little sweet baby.

Surprise visit from Aunt Amy and Uncle Drew! After bathtime, playing the "popcorn game" with Aunt Amy.

So now my legs are aching, the good kind of "I moved around today" ache. Looking forward to a shower, watching Design Star, and of course discussing all kinds of plans and dreams and silly kid stories with Nick!

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Snapshot: Tuesday

Day #2: Tuesday

This morning we were all up bright and early, thanks Jackson. Daddy and Cooper are waking up slowly...Jacksy is ready to go!

"huge hills" for the monster trucks to drive on

while I put Cooper down for his morning nap, Jackson watched some home video's, a favorite activity.

Scooter riding while Cooper slept.

sometime between 10 and 11, still in pajamas.

Took a "lunch walk" to the "big park" when Coop woke up. Pb&j, apples and "bunny cookies" in the stroller.

Playground time.

Mommy made the boys take a brother picture!

Coop took another catnap on the way home!

A little "Cars" after naptime today(which actually was a good sleep!)

rice cereal!

bathtime...Jackson was too busy to look at the camera.

Grande Finale of the day-bedtime with daddy- tonight that also involved doing the Noah's Ark puzzle.

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