Monday, July 20, 2015

Once Upon a Time...

I want to tell you a story....

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a very stubborn nation.  They had lived a tough life under the tyranny of others.  But, thanks to the grace of God, they escaped from that tyranny and began their life anew.  Thankfully, God placed in their hands a guide to His will for their life.  They only had to follow it.  

But...being a stubborn nation, they ignored what God wanted for them and let their hearts stray.  God sent blessing after blessing their way and still they would not follow His will.  He sent punishment their way and, still, they would not follow His will.  So He gave them over to their stubborn, hardened hearts.  They would not enter His rest.

Who do you think I am speaking of here?

Possibly Israel.  Possibly the United States.  The truth is, it could be either one.  

Just like Israel, we were given a chance to follow the will of God.  He even gave us instructions by giving us His word (aka the Bible).  Yet, we harden our hearts and turn from His ways day after day.

Psalm 95:7b-10
7b Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 "When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest."

While our nation was not literally at Meribah or Massah, we have been in contention with God and we have tempted, or tested Him, which is the meaning of those two words (Strong's H4809 and H4532).  If any nation has followed after its own heart and neglected the word of God that was at their fingertips, it is ours!  We are just like Israel: "They knew God's ways well enough; but they did not like them; and would not walk in them" (Clarke).  What are God's ways?  How do we know them?  The Israelites had the 10 commandments.  We have the Bible.  He has given us a road map to follow His will!

And just like the Israelites: "It mattered not whether He blessed or punished.  They were impervious to both" (Expositor's).  It seems that no matter what happens to this country: fortune or famine, peace or terrorism, we never turn to God.  And this is why: "They strayed in heart; therefore they had an ever-increasing ignorance of the right road.  For the averted heart and the blind understanding produce each other" (Expositor's).  If that doesn't explain our country, I don't know what does.  The heart of the nation, the hearts of the people have gone astray.  Because of that, they can no longer see what is right...even when it is in the palm of their hands!  

We must be so very careful to keep our hearts in the Lord's will.  For once we begin to stray, it becomes more and more difficult to understand His way.  We are tempted and misled and eventually are hearts are hardened and "the seed sown on the rock never brought any fruit to perfection" (Henry).

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Church, our job today, is to steady our hearts.  Our job is to give our hearts entirely to the Lord so that they do not harden and we are able to produce fruit.  For when we produce fruit, we encourage others to do the same.  And soon, one fruit tree becomes an orchard and then the orchard becomes an entire forest.  

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Be the light in the darkness.  Be the fruit tree in this famished land so that one day, the Lord can harvest a forest full of fruit!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Must-Haves for Baby 3-6 Months

This post has been a loooooong time in coming!  Aelah is about to be 9 months and I've been meaning to write this since she turned 6 months!  haha.

I should preface, again, that these aren't actual necessities.  This is our list of "must-haves" that we don't think we could have survived without.  Though, in reality, I know we could have.  :)
This post contains some affiliate links.  If you happen to click and purchase, thank you so much for helping to support our family!


Our little lady, like many others, was pretty nosey from the beginning.  But she, obviously, wasn't mobile at 3 months.  So the exersaucer was a great way for her to see what was going on, to get up off the floor. She absolutely loved it.  Wacked herself in the face a few times with the toys, but she loved chewing on them....still does!


Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want
This was the very first time she was in this....LOVED it!


I didn't include this on my 0-3 month list and I probably should have.  So I'm adding it here.  While I never got the hang of it while nursing (it was just one more thing I had to figure out), the boppy pillow was the perfect place to lay her.  While she was awake, it was a nice place to prop her up so she could see a little bit better and later on, it was great for tummy time so she wasn't flat on the floor.  Naps were also great in the boppy!  Loved seeing her lay there so content and peaceful.  Additionally, it is great at this age for propping up behind them when they first start sitting up.

Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want
Full disclosure, she was only 2 months in this pic...but it was the only one I could find with her boppy....weird.

3. Teething Toys

Because of how much she loved to chew, we had thought Aelah was getting teeth from about 3 months on!  Currently, she has two nubs but nothing has broke through the skin yet and she is days away from being 9 months!  haha.  But teething toys were a lifesaver, these were a few of our favorites:

Sophie the Giraffe (see picture below)

These Blue Spoons - yep, she chewed on them before we started food

Wooden Teether

Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want
This is the...."Seriously? You guys are eating in from of me and all I get are these toys?" look.....

4. Noisy Toys

When I say "noisy," I don't mean toys that have volume buttons or flashing lights.  I mean simple toys that can be distracting and fun for a tiny little human.  :)  These were our favorites:

Crinkle Paper from Marleys Monsters.  Definitely one of Aelah's favorites from very early on.  And I recommend it to any mom I can!  So convenient to tuck in a purse or pocket!  (See picture above)

Maraca Egg - We had one that was gifted to us awhile before baby from the Earthbound Trading Co.  I found it after she was born and it was one of her very favorites from the beginning.  Daddy was playing with it when she laughed for the first time!!  These ones are also super cute!

Rattles - obvious?  yes.  But there were so many times that the rattle in the diaper bag saved the day!  I thought this one and these wrist rattles were pretty neat!

5. A Mirror

There was a mirror on the back of our bathroom door when we moved in that we replaced (it was outdated).  I have plans to fix it up and use it elsewhere.  But it was just sitting in the closet.  She loved that mirror!  She sat and talked to the baby in the mirror for hours.  And we used it for pictures but all she would do was give the other baby kisses.  ;)  If you don't have a large mirror for baby to play with, this plastic mirror is a safe bet and is very similar to what I used in the day care scene!

Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want
Video wouldn't upload of her talking to herself.  But I still love this picture!

6. A Good Sippy Cup

Aelah refused to take a bottle.  On a whim, I got out the Nuk sippy I had gotten at a yard sale and she took to it like a pro!  We probably would have introduced it around 5 or 6 months anyways.  But it was a definite must have for us right around 4 months!


Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want, Boppy Pillow, Bumbo, Exersaucer, Play Mat, Activity Center, Mirror, Sophie, Teething, Rattle, Crinkle, Spoon, Sippy Cup, Nuk
First time with a sippy...drank over an oz when Mommy stepped out of the room for just a couple seconds....

7. A Play Mat

While definitely not necessary....at all.....it was still nice to have a designated place to lay her.  And she loved the hanging toys and the tiny mirror that was attached.  :)

Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want, Boppy Pillow, Bumbo, Exersaucer, Play Mat, Activity Center, Mirror, Sophie, Teething, Rattle, Crinkle, Spoon
Pretty sure she was sitting and fell....but then she layed like this for awhile.  Too funny.
*BONUS*

Bumbo.  To be honest, we didn't use our bumbo as much as I thought we would.  We got her one for Christmas and I was SO excited...but it was set aside much earlier than I anticipated.  I included it on the list, however, because when I worked in the day care world, bumbos were a lifesaver!   They are perfect for when baby can't quite sit on their own but hates laying down because they can't see!  Aelah did love hers...but only until we pulled out the exersaucer.  They also come in handy when feeding starts...but since we did baby led weaning, the high chair was best.  If I had spoon fed, we probably would have used this A LOT more.

Baby, 3 months, 4 months, 5 months, 6 months, Gift, Registry, Shower, Must Haves, Necessities, Need, Want, Boppy Pillow, Bumbo, Exersaucer, Play Mat, Activity Center, Mirror, Sophie, Teething, Rattle, Crinkle, Spoon
This was also taken when she was 2 months. Can't believe how different she looks...

So, that's our list.

What would you add to it??

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Aelah Grace: 8 Months

Those cute little toes!  I just want to eat them up!  ;)

 A couple weeks late on this one, as usual.  But this little lady is keeping me busy!  And I am soaking up every single moment of it!

I could add cords and wires to this list but I didn't want any judgy looks.  I wouldn't let her play with them, of course,.but they definitely seem to be her all time favorite thing ever!  ;)


How am I growing?

So hard to tell without a doctors appointment.  She is so much more mobile now, I really think she is thinning out.  So we may have lost a bit of weight...but I highly doubt that.  We have an appointment the end of this week though so I'm anxious to see the changes.  She has pretty much grown out of her 6 month clothes though I still have a few things I didn't pack away.  Some of the 9 month brands are still a bit big yet.  Since she grew so quickly in the beginning, it is amazing to me that we have been in the same clothes for so long!  We even made sure to get a bunch of summer clothes in 12 months - now I'm not sure we'll need them!  That's just how it goes I guess...

How am I sleeping?

Sleeping through the night has continued to be the trend.  Sometimes she wakes up between 11 and 1 or between 4 and 5.  But all I have to do is give her a paci and she usually goes right back to sleep.  So thankful for this (knocking on wood over here....).  But who knows what will happen once teeth actually decide to appear or some other developmental change.  ;)

How am I eating?

She loves her food!  Very much!  If she happens to nap through dinner time we have one cranky bear on our hands.  So she definitely depends on that evening meal.  But breast-milk is still her primary nutrition.  I've started giving her some oatmeal or cereal some mornings.  And she has been eating a "snack" for lunch.  We're slowly getting to three meals a day.  But I'm not in any rush.  She is happy and healthy and that's all that matters.

What else is new?

She is officially mobile!  She started king of scooching around and within a week she was crawling.  It is still very unique but she gets around very quickly.  I am getting less done around the house but enjoying watching her grow and change every day.  Even if it means pulling her out of the same corner or away from the TV stand every 2 minutes.  ;)  


This was the original scootch, army crawl, whatever you want to call it....I already miss how cute it was....


Her personality is really coming out as well.  So many faces, so many noises.  She laughs, she gets mad.  It is so fun!  But makes it a bit difficult to tell her no.  haha.

And she looooooves the pool!


Thank you Aldi - this is the best $5 I've ever spent.  ;)

And here are a couple of my other favorite pictures from the past month:

Our ray of sunshine...even when it rains every. single. day.

THAT face!  The super excited I can't contain myself face.  By far one of my favorites.

Monday, June 15, 2015

4 Easy Ways to Make Extra Money from Home

This post contains referral links.

Hey all!

I know it has been too long since I've written.  I've just been trying, more than ever, to put my family first and to take a few things off of my plate.  Less stress = a happier home.  Without blogging deadlines my mind has been a bit more clear.  But I still really enjoy spending quality time with my readers!!  So you will still hear from me on occasion...just not as frequently.

Most of you probably know that I believe God's calling on my life it to be a stay at home mom.  That meant really getting creative on my end.  I was hoping my blog might become a source of income but it turns out that monetizing a blog is tough work!  And it requires a lot more time than I am able to commit to at this point.  Thankfully, God has provided me with part-time employment outside of the house.  It's just 10 hours a week (a day and a half away from baby girl), sometimes I am able to work from home, my mom and my grandma are the best babysitters around, and I am doing ministry!  It is a huge blessing.  

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But before I accepted this position last week, we were surviving on savings and I searched high and low for different ways to make a few extra bucks.  This list includes a few of my favorites:

1. Swap.com

Not only is one of my favorite places to shop for Miss Aelah (and now myself) but it is such an easy way to make some extra cash.  I have sent a couple of boxes of things from around the house and made a decent amount.  But recently, I've started buying  baby clothes at yard sales for the specific purpose of sending them to Swap.  All I have to do is put the items in a box!  They photograph and put the items online for you to price.  I only have to worry about shipping once and I never have to photograph a thing (forget Ebay!).  The site says that on average users make about $50 a box!  Click here to get started or to go shopping! 

2. Grocery / Shopping Apps

There are so many different grocery apps out there, it is hard to know which ones are worth it.  Well, I've tried quite a few and these are the few that I use on a regular basis and have stood the test of time  (in order of how much I like and use them):
  • Shopkick
    • This is, by far, the easiest way to make some extra money.  Just open the app when you walk into select stores and you get points!  The only catch is that you can only redeem points for gift cards.  While not actually cash, you can get Walmart or Target gift cards for groceries or even gift cards to major Gas Stations like Exxon or Shell.  This helps the budget which means extra cash! Click here to sign up.
  • Walmart Savings Catcher
    • Just scan your receipt and they price match for you!  Since we usually buy off brand, I don't get a huge return on this but if you buy name brand, the savings add up quickly.  And no matter what, every little bit helps!
  • Receipt Hog
    • Snap pictures of your receipts for points.  This isn't just for specific stores either!  It takes awhile for points to add up but it is super simple so I don't mind the extra few seconds it takes to snap a picture of my receipt.  If you use my referral code, SPOG8394, you will get 5 free spins on the "Hog Slots"...which might mean extra points!
  • Ibotta
    • This app has you scan barcodes and receipts to earn points for specific items that you buy.  Some things are name brand, other things are general like '1 dozen eggs' or '1 gallon of milk.'  And it only works at specific stores.  The only place local for us is Walmart.  I don't make a ton extra this way but every little bit helps.  The plus side is that the bigger your team is the more money you are capable of earning.  Your team grows in a couple of ways - direct referrals or any Facebook friends that join (you don't have to invite them, you just have to have your account linked).  You can join my team and we can make money together if you use my referral code: tyjrokq 

3. "Points Per Activity" Sites (Surveys, Videos, etc.)

This is popular way to make a few extra bucks.  But again, there are a ton of different sites out there. I have tried a few and only three have stood the test of time for me.  
  • Swagbucks
    • They give you a "daily goal" every day which I try to reach so I get the bonus points.  But if nothing else, I do the daily to-do list on the left hand side and I "watch" my allotment of videos on the Swagbucks TV app.  I made Swagbucks my default search engine so I can get points if I need to look anything up online.  I occasionally do other things like surveys or tasks to reach my daily goal.  And, if I'm shopping online, I make sure to do so through Swagbucks so I can earn points that way as well.  Click here to see all the awesome ways you can earn swagbucks.
  • Perk.com
    • I use Perk in two ways.  I have the Perk TV app on my old iphone that I can "watch" videos on all day.  I have the Perk Scratch app that is basically a lottery ticket game that I play when I'm wasting time (while nursing or watching TV).  The points take longer to add up...but it doesn't require a lot of my time.  Go here to start earning Perk points.
  • Superpoints
    • Again, another one that takes a bit longer to add up but requires very little effort on my part.  I push the super lucky button as many times as I'm allowed each day, do the "daily click surprise" and open my daily email (receiving the email is a requirement...opening it means you might win points).  SUPER easy.  Click here to try your luck at the super lucky button.

4. Reward Credit Card

We have one credit card, Chase Freedom, in our house that we pay off every month, well, technically multiple times a month, but the point is, we never have a balance on it.  We get 1% cash back on every single purchase and then 5% back on different items each quarter (gas, restaurants, etc.).  With no fees and no balance, they are paying us $15-$30 a month just to use their card!  If you sign up by the 16th of November and spend $500 in the first three months, they will give you $100 cash back!!  Just follow this link and you are on your way!

Bonus... Start an Etsy Shop

I included this as a bonus because it isn't exactly *easy.*  If you can sew or have any kind of creative gene, having an Etsy shop is a fun and creative way to make money from home.  Since I made all of our own natural, chemical-free cleaners and bath & body products, Hubby suggested I start selling them.  We try to attend at least one craft show a month and started an Etsy shop.  Not only is it a fun way to make some extra cash, but we get to spend some extra time together....which is always nice.  

Thinking of starting your own shop?  Use this link and we'll both earn free listings!

You can check out all of the natural products we sell here.  Use code MYBLOG10 at checkout for 10% off.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Truth: Our Days are Numbered

Let me ask you a question.  And I want you to really think hard about the answer.

Do you know when you are going to die?

Seriously....do you?  Or don't you?

The answer is easy.  You don't have a clue....just like I don't have a clue.

But we live like we know we won't die until we're old and grey.  

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We have no way of knowing if we will be old and grey or if we will even see tomorrow.

Psalm 90:12
So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

If you take a look at what the Bible has to say about our hearts, you will see that our hearts are the key to spending eternity with our Savior (for more on that, check out any of the posts I've written here).  We must be pursing the Lord with all that we are, and we can't do that if our hearts are not in the right place or if our affections are divided.  

It seems, however, that most of the general church population wants to put off cleaning up their hearts and giving them completely to the Lord until....well, until tomorrow. After all, we always have tomorrow.

But what if we don't?  What if we don't have tomorrow?

If you were to take a look at your life right now, would you be okay with everything if you died today?  Or are there things you need to take care of?  People you need to talk to?  Relationships that need fixing?  Family or friends that need forgiving?

Most importantly - is your heart in the right place with the Lord?  Could you present your heart to Him and tell Him that you gave it your all?  Would you be presenting Him with a heart of wisdom or a lukewarm heart that never left the fence?

I want to rephrase that verse for you a few different ways so that you really get the point.

John Wesley puts it this way: 

"Teach us...to consider the shortness of life and the certainty and speediness of death...That we may heartily devote ourselves to true wisdom."

Because, yes, death is certain and, often, quite speedy!  Therefore, we must devote ourselves to true wisdom which is seeking the Lord.

From Matthew Henry:

"We must live under a constant apprehension of the shortness and uncertainty of life and the near approach of death & eternity."

Everything we do should be with eternity in mind because this life is, most definitely, temporary and uncertain.

And lastly, Adam Clarke rephrases it perfectly:

"Let us deeply consider our own frailty, and the shortness and uncertainty of life, that we may live for eternity, acquaint ourselves with thee, and be at peace; that we may die in thy favor and live and reign with thee eternally."

 Eternity depends on our lives now.  Do you get that?  Do you really get that?  Everything we do, every choice we make affects that. 

Today, I challenge you to live like you were dying.

Make amends.  Apologize.  Forgive and let go.  Love like you have never loved before.  Give.  Enjoy life.  Be thankful.

And, most importantly, get your heart right with the Lord.


Monday, June 1, 2015

Chidren's Book Review: Drinking Animals

Story time is one of our favorite times of the day.  I especially love it because it is a quiet moment where I get to watch my husband be a wonderful Daddy.  Even when she is grabby and can't sit still, I think he still treasures that time with her.


Children's Book, E-Book, Animals, Educational, Fun, Picture, Dan Jackson, Review
An E-Book

I was given the opportunity to review the e-book: "Drinking Animals" by Dan Jackson.  It is a fun and educational book!  While my little lady is quite young for anything deemed "educational," I still appreciate when things are meant for more than just fun.  I have worked with children for long enough to realize the importance of combing the two.

"Drinking Animals" does a fine job of that!  Each page pairs a picture with a fun caption and an educational fact.


Children's Book, E-Book, Animals, Educational, Fun, Picture, Dan Jackson, Review
Who knew dogs needed so much water?  I learned a thing or ten from this book!
  
Unfortunately I only have a Kindle Paperwhite, so it doesn't display the color.  But from the images I have seen online, the images are really quite vivid - definitely something children would appreciate.

I think it will be a fun book that Aelah will definitely enjoy when she is older.  It even has a giraffe...which is our favorite:


Children's Book, E-Book, Animals, Educational, Fun, Picture, Dan Jackson, Review
Giraffes look so awkward when they drink....

For now, she enjoys books she can get her hands on (which means board books are our friends...)


Children's Book, E-Book, Animals, Educational, Fun, Picture, Dan Jackson, Review, Story Time
She so does love reading.
The description of the book on Amazon does say for children 4 - 8 and notes that it can be read aloud or that it would work great for beginning readers.  I'm not convinced that it is suited for beginning readers as the "facts" contain rather large words like: 'efficient,' 'retention,' or 'quantities' to name a few.

However, I can envision the child reading the quirky captions for the pictures and an adult chiming in with the facts.

All in all, it is a very cute book that is full of great pictures, education, and fun!

What is your favorite children's book?  I'm looking to grow our collection...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Aelah Grace: 7 Months!


She loved sitting in the basket!  :D

Woo hoo!!  Another month older and she is changing soooooo much!  Every day I stare at her and wonder how in the world she is mine.  Pregnancy seems like a distant dream.  Now I have this baby, this almost crawling, talking all the time, beautiful baby girl!  It still doesn't seem real.  I've come to treasure her "dream feed" before I go to bed.  When I go in to feed her, I'm the last one awake. The house is quiet, and its just her and I.  I stare at her as she sleeps and my mind goes 5 million directions - her past, her future, how wonderfully adorable she is, how thankful I am for her, and so much more!  Then I pick her up and snuggle her close and breath in that baby smell before I nestle her in to nurse. 

The list could go on......
In fact...I should have added 'feet' to that list.  She loves feet.  This is how she sat through the sermon a few Sundays ago...

How am I growing?

Her growth has really slowed down lately.  She isn't growing out of clothes near as fast.  In fact, this is the longest we've ever stayed in one size.  She is still able to fit in her 6-9 month clothes (been in those for quite some time) but we do fit into some of our 9 month stuff so we have a mix right now.  And there isn't much of a visible difference either:

I'm okay with this though....I wish she could stay little longer!  
How am I sleeping?

So much better!!  She doesn't fuss at all at night and she has been napping like a champ.  I lay her down around 8:30 and then do a "dream feed" (which I mentioned above) when we go to bed between 9:30 and 10.  A dream feed is when I go in and nurse without waking her.  This has been working wonderfully and has helped me get a good 5, 6, or 7 hour stretch before she wakes again.  If we miss that dream feed the night tends to be a little more difficult.  If she wakes before 6 I've been giving her a binky and going back to bed.  She doesn't suck on it but chews on it or plays with it until she falls back asleep...she usually stops fussing before my head hits the pillow.  If she wakes after 6 I will nurse her and lay her back down until 7:30 or 8 when I wake her.  Loving this routine and it is working well for both of us!

How am I eating?

Like a champ!  I am so glad that we decided to go the baby led weaning route.  Since breastmilk is still her primary form of nutrition, she usually only "eats" one meal a day.  Sometimes I'll give her something at lunch but she has been napping around that time lately.  She especially loves bread and pasta...just like her mama!  We give her something off of our plates each night.  If there isn't much she can eat then I'll get her some fruit or veggies...sometimes pieces and sometimes purees, it really depends on what I'm in the mood for.  Same goes with what we give her from our own meals - sometimes it is chunks and other times, like spaghetti, I'll put it through a grinder so she can easily eat some.  She doesn't have any issues transitioning between solids and purees and she hasn't disliked a single thing yet!  

But if you are eating and she is aware of it....you better plan on sharing!  She will make it known that she wants some!  :)

What else is new?

She is really developing her own little personality.  It is so neat to watch her figure things out.  Today, while I was cleaning the kitchen, she pulled her walker over to the stove and figured out how to reach the tea towels that were hanging there, which she immediately pulled down.  haha.  I would put them back up, pull her back across the kitchen and she would do it all over again...probably 5 or 6 times.  That walker is her favorite thing right now!  At first she could only go backwards but once she figured out how to go forward, she hasn't been able to be stopped!  ;)

She has also started sticking her chin out and growling/grunting when she is angry or frustrated. This can be pretty entertaining until she gets very mad and starts fussing.

She is almost crawling!  She figured out how to get up on her hands and knees.  Right now all she has mastered is rocking back and forth.  But I know that any day now my life will be changing big time!  Along the same lines, she managed to go from laying to sitting the other day....still not sure how she managed to do that since I missed the crucial in between phase, but she definitely did it!

Here are my favorite pics from the past month:

Love this outfit!  Those are actually 12 month capris....but we're rockin' them as pants for now!

She never naps with us anymore.  But this was the week my Grand-dad (Dad's dad) was given days to live (just a day or two before he passed) and she must have known he needed a snuggle buddy.  Never even fussed.  Treasured memory for sure.
Daddy is reaching her to love plants just as much as he does....and making sure she doesn't eat them.  ;)

Out of curiosity....when did your little one start to crawl?