Confidence Shoes

He was up before his alarm, finished his breakfast without prodding, initiated brushing his teeth without a battle, and had his backpack, lunch, and jacket secured by the time the clock donned 7:53 (mind you, he usually leaves at 8:00).

Seriously, it was one of the smoothest mornings we’ve had since the first week of school, and the parents were loving it.

LOVE-ing IT.

And because I would absolutely love to have a repeat morning like the one we were having, I found myself racking my mama-brain, trying to figure out what positive triggers led to such a positive start to the morning.

Was it because we picked his clothes out the night before? 

Was it because we gave him a banana instead of oranges with “white stringy things on them?” 

Was it because his sister didn’t eat breakfast at the same time, serving as a distraction? 

Was it because he went to bed right on time the night before? 

What were the variables that were contributing to this very-awesome, super-great Monday morning???

Not gonna lie, this mama is prone to liking formulas that go something like this:

Mama does A + Daddy does B= Kid does C with a happy heart, no whining, and little to no drama

The variables were numerous, making the exercise rather futile…but this mama was still on a hunt for any and all insight that could help replicate the “dream morning.”

But as our son tied his new shoes and headed out the door, the hunt came to a screeching halt. All of a sudden it all made sense (and was only further confirmed) when our beaming son said, “I LOVE my new shoes. I’m going to call them my ‘confident shoes’ because they make me feel soooo confident.”

It. was. the. stinkin’. shoes. 

The gray high tops with the new laces. The Target $24.99 special. This was the swag that was makin’ our morning smooth.

Unbelievable.

Had I known this would be the key to our school-morning success, mama would have laid down the $24.99 sooner!

But as our boy literally jumped from the porch onto the sidewalk (remember, these were ‘confidence shoes’ he was wearing!) and made his way to school, I found myself thinking about what he said and why he was feeling the way he was feeling.

For him, putting on those shoes gave him confidence. And though there is absolutely nothing wrong with finding a pair of shoes, a friend, a skirt, a home, a hair cut, or an infinity scarf that brings a pep of confidence to your step, I found myself  reaching into the depths of my heart where those ugly idols lie…the parts of me that maybe put a little too much confidence in the things that rust and rot.

And as I pondered, I started asking myself some soul-assessing questions about the things and roles I “put on.”

Do I find my confidence in my ability to help others, my counseling hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my children, my mothering hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my home, my nesting hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my relationships, my friend hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my blogging, my writing hat? 

Do I find my confidence in the mirror, my appearance hat? 

Do I find my confidence in my intellect…my wardrobe…my bank account…or my ability to communicate, multi-task, understand Scripture, or balance the household tasks of cooking, cleaning, and caring for little people? 

I didn’t have to think very long or very hard to come up with the simple answer of, “Yes to all.” Because the reality is, I have and I do.

Everyday we are faced with opportunities to “put on” and “have.” Everyday we have a myriad of possessions, roles and responsibilities in front of us that can easily entangle us in webs of distorted beliefs and misguided trust. Everyday we are faced with all kinds of idols that compete for our time, attention, hope, and worship.

Again, I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong to be confident about the gifts we’ve been given, the things we own, the talents bestowed upon us, and the roles asked of us. I’m truly not. But I am suggesting that maybe we go a little too far in finding our identity, our confidence, and our hope in the things that aren’t eternal…that aren’t HIM.

So what would happen if I woke up tomorrow and was no longer a wife? No longer a counselor? No longer a mother? Or no longer had the opportunity to write, the ability to multi-task, and the bank account to pay for the wardrobe I like and the things I have?

Would I still have hope? Would I still have confidence? And if not, why?

And that is where I was yesterday…where I am today—re-arranging, re-prioritizing, and re-penting of some of the things I have and do that have given me more confidence than they should.

Because in all reality, I have some “$24.99 shoe-like things” in my life and maybe you do, too. 

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Bottles, Wanderers, and The God Who Fills

I wish I could catch it on camera.

That contented smile…

that deep baby sigh…

the limp arms…

those sparkly eyes…

that little (and 4

sometimes not so little) burp…

and those little lips with the leftover milk.

When baby girl finishes that last drop of milk, that last gulp of goodness, it’s obvious that her thirst has been quenched and her hunger has been satisfied.

No more crying. No more yearning. No more wanting.

In those few, short moments, those 7 ounces fill her in a way that nothing else can.

At peace. At rest. Content.

And as I held her this afternoon, watching her bask in the sun and finding fulfillment in that bottle, I remembered the words of Psalm 107:4-9 I had read earlier this morning.

Some wandered in desert wastelands finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. 

Literally, these people described in this Psalm are lost, exhausted, hungry, thirsty, and distressed.

They are wandering in hot, arid places, and they are in need of water, bread, and relief from their hardships.

The psalmist doesn’t explain why they are lost and what their struggles are, but he does paint a picture of a group of needy people.

And what does God do for them?

He leads them to a city where they can dwell; He quenches their thirst; and He fills their hungry bellies. 

Does He bring them to a booming metropolis, a calming oasis? Does He do it with honey and grapes, wine and water?

We don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.

All we know is that these people have been found, filled, and satisfied. 

And as I sat with my cup of pumpkin coffee this morning, I found myself thinking through the deserts I’ve wandered, the times I’ve thirsted, and the times I’ve hungered.

I’ve wandered in the desert of people pleasing, thirsting for approval and hungering for affirmation.

I’ve wandered in the desert of performance, thirsting for competency and hungering for success.

I’ve wandered in the desert of doubt, thirsting for certainty and hungering for assurance.

I’ve wandered in the desert of comparison, thirsting for confidence and hungering for esteem.

I’ve wandered in the desert of pride, thirsting for acknowledgment and hungering for achievement.

I’ve wandered in the desert of fear, thirsting for answers and hungering for control.

I’ve wandered in the desert of bitterness, thirsting for repentance and hungering for justice.

I’ve wandered. Oh, have I wandered do I wander.

And when I wander from my TRUE home, I get lost. And when I get lost, I find trouble. And when I find trouble, I get thirsty and hungry. And when I get in that broken-needy-place, I need someone to rescue my desert-wandering self.

Praise be to God!

For He is that ever-loving, desert rescuer.

For He is the one who leads His wandering people to His home.

For He is the one who satisfies our needs with His holy self and His all-fulfilling presence. 

For He is the one works on our behalf, wielding His deed-working arm. 

For when we are dwelling in His home, resisting the urge to wander the dry and barren deserts of this life, He satisfies us with His “good things.” 

Praise be to God! 

O, Lord, help me to bask in your LIGHT, finding fulfillment in YOU and YOU ALONE!

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The Day You Paid for a Stamp and Wrote an Apology

Caden,

I don’t know if you’ll ever read the stuff I’ve written, but maybe just maybe…you will. And if you do, I want these memories and anecdotes (both happy and hard) to serve as sweet reminders of our love for you–reminders of our commitment to raising and training you to be a young man who walks in integrity, lives in love, and follows hard after Jesus.

So today, I’m writing you a letter about the day we made you pay for a stamp and write your grandmother an apology letter.

The details of your behavior aren’t important (sin is sin, and sin is never okay), but we want you to know that because we love you and care about your character, there are several reasons why we chose this specific punishment for your six year-old self.

  1. We wanted you to take ownership for your behavior. Though you may have been triggered or hurt by someone or something else, your behaviors are always and will always be your behaviors.
  2. We wanted you to take the time to acknowledge to someone else (even after the fact) that your behavior was not acceptable. Hopefully, taking the time to acknowledge your wrong, not only gives you an opportunity to reflect on the offense, but it also gives you some extra time to search your heart and allow for a soft and remorseful heart.
  3. We wanted the apology to take some effort. Because apologies can be easily uttered and moved on from, we wanted you to take the time to offer a heartfelt apology that required something from you. And for you, writing involves some effort, so you penned your apology with ink and a few tears.
  4. We wanted you to realize that your actions, though forgiven, can be hurtful and affect others. People are made in His image and because they were made in His image, they have value. And because they have value, we want you to realize that your actions should be ones that honor the value of the creation. And when they don’t, we need to confess and repent.
  5. We wanted you to know that though it’s good to accept the apology of another and move forward, it’s also okay to sit with your sin (a bit) and acknowledge it. Too many times, we want to ask for forgiveness without feeling the weight of our sin. We want to move on, and we want to move on in a hurry. Why? Because we don’t like our sin, and we don’t want to sit with our brokenness. But when we sit with it (for a bit), we realize our need for both earthly and heavenly forgiveness.
  6. We wanted you to realize that your sin (though not always immediate) has consequences, and sometimes those consequences “hit” us in places that are dear to us. Because of that, we asked you to use your own money to pay for the stamp to send the apology. We know that was hard for you, and we’re okay with it; sin hurts us, too.
  7. We wanted to teach you humility, helping you acknowledge that your imperfections and sins can only be made right by the ONE who is perfectly sinless. If we can’t acknowledge our imperfections to finite souls, how will we ever acknowledge them to our infinite Creator?
  8. We wanted you to know that because we love and care about your heart, we were willing to take the time to address your behavior in a tangible and intentional way. We were willing to help you invest in your apology because we have a vested interest in stewarding your soul.

Son, we love you and are crazy proud of you. Truly, you are all kinds of special and all kinds of wonderful to us. And because we love you (imperfections and all) and because we believe you and others have value, we asked you to spend your money, time, and effort on writing an apology letter to your grandmother on Wednesday, October 11th, 2017.

Love,

Your grace-needing, mercy-dependent parents

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Our Help, His Enough

I’m not even gonna lie, I wasn’t very thankful for her “help.”

Attempting to hang onto the side of the cart, while simultaneously reaching with all her might for the green onions, she was trying her best to offer help. She really was.

“Mommy, I am helping you!”

Grabbing for the stray can of black beans at the bottom of the cart, grasping for the cottage cheese, and straining for the frozen OJ, she was bustin’ her little buns to help.

“I am such a big helper! Aren’t I, Mommy?”

I didn’t say anything.

To be honest, she wasn’t really “helping” me…or at least that’s how I felt.

“I’m a big helper, right?”

She kept asking it over and over as I tried to figure out how to wrestle $113.00 worth of groceries into 5 Aldi bags before lunch time arrived and nap time left.

I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to lie, AND I didn’t want to answer with the truth.

The reality was…

I felt like she was in the way;

I felt like she was making the trip longer; and

I felt like I could do it faster and better without her.

Truly, I was having such a “mom-jerk reaction” to my little girl’s sweet attempts to be a “helper.”

Why couldn’t I find her “help” enough? Why couldn’t I be thankful? Why was I so hell-bent on my version of “help?” And why was I so stinking consumed with the task of loading my cart that I couldn’t see her heart in the middle of it all?!?!??!?!

My attitude was a pile of poo, and I knew it.

“Mommy? Can you hand me those cans?”

Realizing my heart was in all kinds of crappy places, I made a conscious effort to STOP and to ALLOW.

Handing her can after can after can (Why was this the week I bought 7 cans of black beans, 2 cans of corn, and 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes??), she thoughtfully and kindly took each can from my hand and stacked it on the loading shelf.

As I waited for her to retrieve each can…and then place each can…and then turn each can, the Spirit took the time to humble my task-focused, un-thankful, mama heart.

Jessica, aren’t you glad I don’t have the same attitude toward you and your “help?” Don’t you ever think I have the same feelings about you and your “human help?”

I stopped dead in my Aldi-lovin’ tracks.

The Spirit was right; He was sooooo right.

When I meet with hurting clients in the middle of my office, offering hope and help from my human self, does God look down and think, “Wow! I could do that sooooo much better?”

When I fumble through my human words and attempt to preach the Gospel in the middle of discipline, does God look down and say, “Sheesh! I could do that soooo much faster?”

When I volunteer to serve and meet the needs of those around me with my human hands, does God look down and sigh, “Man! I wish she would get out of the way?”

When I awkwardly attempt to share His story through my human experiences, does God look down and grouchily utter, “Wow! I could think of a 101 other, more efficient ways to do that?”

I really don’t.

Why?

Because God knows we’re broken. He knows we aren’t perfect, and He doesn’t expect us to act contrary to our dust-created selves. He knows we’re “slow,” rather inefficient at times, and desperately weak in most areas where we offer our hands, our hearts, and our help.

And even though God knows we’re busted and broken saints, hangin’ off the kingdom cart wielding our best attempts to proclaim His fame and help in His name, He wants to use us.

He wants to partner with us; He wants to use us; and He wants us to grow in relationship while we do it.

No, he doesn’t need our help. And sure, He could do it a bazillion times better and a trillion times more efficiently (Hello?! Whole world…7 days?! BAM! All kinds of powerful and all kinds of efficient!) But that’s not the point.

God wants our help and even enlists our help because not only does He love us and want to be in relationship with us, but He is also committed to His mission of showing the whole world His glory.

We don’t have to be perfect to be used. 

We don’t have to “know it” all to be used. 

We don’t have to be strong to be used. 

And we don’t even have to be “good at it” to be used. 

And neither did my daughter. 

Had I looked at the heart of her help and pondered the motivation for her meager assistance, maybe just maybe…I would have marveled at the beauty of her willingness with a thankful heart.

Maybe I wouldn’t have fixated so much on the method, but rejoiced in her servant-driven heart.

Maybe I wouldn’t have found so much fault, but reveled in the beauty of her faithful and willing hands.

Maybe I wouldn’t have focused so much on the time, but celebrated the joy of our relationship.

As I buckled my helpful girl into the backseat, I planted a big kiss on her head and with the most heartfelt  and humbled “thanks” I could muster, I said, “Evie, thank you soooo much for your help. Your help meant soooo much to me.”

And with eyes the size of two full moons, she beamed and said, “You’re welcome, Mommy. I love helping you.”

May we, too, be found willingly eager and faithfully committed to “helping” our Master–trusting He wants us and will use us…no matter the size of our “help.” 

 

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The Result of Eve’s Apple Eating: 50 Things

  1. Multi-part sippy cups
  2. Child sleeps in when you are awake at 6:30 on a Thursday morning; child wakes up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning when you are asleep.
  3. Opened bags of snacks that have dumped in the bottom of your purse
  4. Pooping during meals
  5. Peeing during meals
  6. False poops and pees during meals
  7. Sneezing while feeding green beans to a baby
  8. Caillou
  9. Stray Legos in your heel
  10. Laundry for daaaaaayyyssss
  11. Unquenchable thirst at 8PM
  12. Bathrooms at the back of the store
  13. Jeans and shoes that fit for all of two months
  14. The eternal missing sock
  15. Pee on the floor
  16. Pee in your scarf
  17. Sandal buckles for 3 year-olds
  18. Chunky, vomited formula
  19. Poopy diapers in the middle of nap time
  20. Stuck arms in crib rails at 3 AM
  21. Paying to have someone else watch your kid, so you can pay to spend time ALONE with your spouse
  22. Paying for something that will catch poop and then be thrown away
  23. Lukewarm coffee
  24. The packaging on cheese sticks
  25. Toilet paper rolls and small children
  26. Feet in the back of your seat
  27. Kids bring home germs and give germs to parents
  28. School Fundraisers
  29. Neck rolls accompanied with cottage cheese-like stuff
  30. Red juice
  31. Candy racks that stand exactly 36 inches tall
  32. Cheeto fingers
  33. Gum
  34. Walking with a 30 lb baby carrier car seat across the burning-lava asphalt while juggling a small child in the Kroger parking lot
  35. Hiccups, Blow-Outs, and Runny Noses
  36. “How many more bites?”
  37. Carpet with children
  38. Car rides with children
  39. Cleaning with children
  40. Coats with children
  41. Whining
  42. Tattling
  43. Whining about tattling
  44. Homework for children parents
  45. Car Drop Off lines
  46. Snapping onesies at 4AM
  47. Doing anything at 4AM
  48. $5.99 Kid Meals that feature bowls of Kraft mac-n-cheese
  49. Attempting to schedule anything during flu season
  50. Peeing with small children at your ankles

Eating DQ ice cream cake during nap time=not a result of the fall

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Loving Her, Modeling Him

Our son never told me I was his “best girl friend;” he never aspired to be a “mommy” when asked what he wanted to do when he got bigger; and he never walked around the house mimicking the things I did.

He just didn’t, and that was perfectly okay.

He wanted to swing a golf club like his daddy; he wanted to shave his non-existent beard; he wanted to be a city manager when he got big; and he wanted to grow hair on his body “like a man guy.”

And it was adorable.

I always knew (and still do) that he loved me, but I never felt like I had a pair of watching, adoring eyes on me. I never felt the weight of being his role model, and I certainly didn’t feel any kind of pressure to “do” or “not do.” Not that I didn’t care about setting a godly example or modeling fruit for him, but I didn’t feel as responsible for modeling like I do now.

But now I have a little girl.

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And that little girl wants to carry a baby around the house like mommy carries a baby; she wants to wear “tu tu dresses” like mommy wears; she wants to spray herself with “smelly spray;” she wants to sip on hot lattes; she wants to wear strappy sandals; and she wants to talk just like her mommy.

Now I’m not suggesting that I currently feel a burdensome weight to be the “Proverbs 31 Woman,” or a taxing pressure to model godly femininity (What is that anyway?!?), but I do feel a sense of honored duty–a privileged responsibility–to model being a grace-rescued soul who has a Kingdom mission.

Because though it’s cute and adorable that she wants to mimic the tasks I do and the things I wear, I find it more important to shape her heart…to impress upon her the beauty of being a woman who doesn’t just love Jesus, but a woman who follows hard after Him…no matter the cost.

And as I was watching her this morning, toting her baby around and multi-tasking a game while knee-bouncing her baby, I felt this joy well up within me. It’s hard to explain, but it felt like champagne bubbles of excitement rising to the top of my soul as I thought about the beautiful privilege I have to be her mommy, and the special role and voice that gives me.

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Because though I think there may be value in teaching her the basics of cooking, cleaning, and managing her home, and though it will be necessary to instill the values of modesty, true beauty, and godly confidence, I want to model so much more.

I want to model love–the kind of love that sacrifices for others; the kind that goes the extra mile and believes the best; and the kind that intentionally invests in the things that matter.

I want to model joy–the kind of joy that remains no matter the circumstances; the kind that rejoices when others get what she doesn’t; and the kind that oozes from a soul that smiles deep within.

I want to model peace–the kind of peace that rests in His mighty arms; the kind that makes others feel at ease in her presence; the kind that anchors when the storms rage and the wind howls.

I want to model patience–the kind of patience that walks the distance even when it would be easier to give up; the kind that is willing to sit with others in the middle of their hard; and the kind that believes in the perfect timing of her Savior’s plans.

I want to model kindness–the kind of kindness that thinks of others and asks about them; the kind that remembers another’s needs and purposefully prays over them; and the kind that cooks a meal, bakes a cake, or sends a gift of roses.

I want to model goodness–the kind of goodness that sees beyond the surface and looks at the soul; the kind that does right when no one else is looking, applauding, or caring; the kind that extends grace and offers mercy even when it doesn’t seem fair.

I want to model faithfulness–the kind that refuses to walk away from good friendships and a loving marriage when times are troubled; the kind that holds His hand even when it can’t be seen; and the kind that perseveres through the monotonous and mundane.

I want to model gentleness–the kind that tames the tongue and bridles the anger; the kind that whispers hope and offers a hug; and the kind that says, “You go first.”

I want to model self control–the kind that is able to resist the temporary fixes and the empty promises of this world; the kind that “says no” to the luring temptations and the tantalizing idols; and the kind that knows how to discern the “when,” the “if,” or the “not at all.”

I want to model the things that matter, the things that last.

I want to model Kingdom values and eternal hope that stands the test of time.

I want to model grace, confession, and the beautiful-messy truth of imperfectly following a perfect Father with other imperfect, grace-needing people.

I want to model what it looks like to live and love differently because of His great sacrifice and our great treasure.

I want to model a life that finds excitement in preaching HIS story, of sharing HIS love, and of proclaiming HIS good news.

I want to model HIM… through the platform of being “her mom.”

More than anything, that’s what I want my dear daughter to see in my heart, hear in my words, and watch in my actions.

Christ Alone, Mommy’s Cornerstone.

That’s the message I want her to hear…the one I want her to reverently fear…the one I want her to dearly hold near.

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19 Things You’ve Said that I Don’t Want to Forget

Caden and Evie,

Your daddy and I were worried about how you would feel about our decision to foster. We were worried you might feel displaced, resentful, and maybe even jealous. We were concerned that it might be a hard transition, that it might drastically change our family dynamic, and that you’d possibly rebel against the whole idea. We worried you might not “attach,” and we were concerned you’d struggle with new roles and new spaces on our “family couch.” We were concerned that our decision to love might make you feel unloved, confused, and maybe a bit angry. We had concerns about the changes it would bring to our family time, our schedule, and how it would affect the attention you receive. Suffice to say, we had a few concerns about this decision.

And yet…we did it anyway.

We did it because not only did we feel led to open our hearts and home, but we felt nudged to let the Gospel lead our decisions, not our fears and not your comfort. We made a commitment to let go of our need for safe and secure in order to make a commitment to trust and love. We made the choice to walk this road as a family unit in hopes that we would grow, learn, and change as a team. And lastly, we felt confident that as much as a little soul might need a foster daddy and a foster mommy, they might also need a foster brother and a foster sister.

And wow, we’ve been utterly and entirely blown away by your response…by your love…by your relentless sacrifice and flexibility.  There’s so much we could say about your response and how you’ve transitioned and handled it all, but I decided I wanted to keep track of the things you’ve said. Because let’s be honest, your words speak for themselves and they speak better than I could speak on your behalf.

So kids, whether she stays forever or leaves tomorrow, I wanted you to have your own words to serve as a reminder for how much she’s meant to you–a reminder of your deep love for her–and a reminder of the beauty that can grow when you step out in faith.

In this post, I’ve changed her name to “sweet girl” to protect her identity, but let’s be honest…that’s one of your very favorite names for her. 

I love you. All three of you. And always will.

-Mommy

  1. “Mommy, if ‘sweet girl’ has to go back to her home, do you promise to take lots of pictures and paste them all over our house?”
  2. “Will we get to keep ‘sweet girl’ for a long time or a short time? I hope it’s a long time.”
  3. “If we have to give ‘sweet girl’ back, I can’t wait to get the next baby and love them.”
  4. “Mommy, I know she’s not my official sister, but she is still a sister in my heart.”
  5. “One time at school I wrote a bad sentence. I said I had only one sister, but then I realized that was not true. I pretty much have two.”
  6. “I think ‘sweet girl’ loves you, Mommy. She always looks at you like she loves you a lot.”
  7. “I hope God decides that she should live here forever.”
  8. “When ‘sweet girl’ grows up, I hope she always remembers me.”
  9. “Do you think we’ll get to see ‘sweet girl’ walk and say her first words? I really hope so.”
  10. “I hope ‘sweet girl’ gets to stay until Christmas because I want her to get presents from under our tree.”
  11. “I can’t imagine how hard that would be if I were ‘sweet girl.’ I can’t imagine how it would feel to not see your other family.”
  12. “If ‘sweet girl’ stays with us forever, I am going to walk her to school on her very first day and hold her hand the whole way.”
  13. “I think we would have a big hole if ‘sweet girl’ leaves, but I also think you wouldn’t be so busy.”
  14. “If I took ‘sweet girl’ to the circus, I could just sit her in the middle of the tent, and she could blow bubbles and spit for everyone.”
  15. “I am not going to my bed until ‘sweet girl’ comes to bed. I don’t sleep without her.”
  16. “I think our family feels better with ‘sweet girl.’ “
  17. “When ‘sweet girl’ is gone, I feel like there is a giant hole.”
  18. “I didn’t think I would like two sisters, but it’s been pretty awesome.”
  19. “Mommy, Evie and I are playing house and caring for our baby. We love having a baby to take care of.”

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