9 Months with Braxy Boy

The older my son gets, the more obsessed with him I become. He is becoming such an awesome little boy. He is already so much fun to hang out with. He completely exhausts me because he is CONSTANTLY moving, but I chase him around with a smile on my face and a heart full of love. His sweet little smile not only melts the hearts of those who know and love him, but even strangers that see him when we are out and about. Everyone he comes in contact with can’t help but smile back at him. He has made some major developmental strides this month and he is reaching milestones much quicker than his big sister did. He is already a little dare devil…trying to crawl, climb, and stand anywhere he can…and if he falls, he rarely cries, but instead gets right back up and is at it again!

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Our Braxy Boy’s 9 month updates:

  • He is 18 lbs, 6 oz (25th percentile) and 28.5 inches long (75th percentile).
  • He is a pro at pulling up. He wants to do it ALL THE TIME.
  • He loves eating table food…especially mixed veggies.
  • He loves to make raspberry noises while eating baby food…resulting in a baby food shower for me at every meal.
  • He waves bye-bye (and it’s the most precious thing ever).
  • He can shake his head no.
  • He is obsessed with bath time with big sis.
  • He is talking more and more.
  • He is still a mama’s boy.
  • His favorite things to play with are all the fake kitchen food and dishes (particularly the chicken leg and the carrot).
  • He loves the “Hot Dog Song” on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
  • He loves to stand and climb on everything…everywhere…all the time.

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A common view of my little mama’s boy…

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The progression of sibling story time

Kinsie and Brax are still the best of buddies. She (usually) plays very well with him, but is still learning that if her toys on are the floor, they are free game for him. I love the way she talks to him and she LOVES making him laugh (as you’ll see in the following video)

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Seriously though…I’m obsessed! Happy 9 months Braxy boy!

Farewell, 2016!

2016 was a great year for us…one of the best we’ve had! We had so many wonderful and life-changing things happen this year, so I had to make a blog post giving a shout-out to 2016. I wanted to do a “Top 10” of the great things that happened this year, but I couldn’t narrow it down enough so instead you are getting the “Top 12 Favorite Moments of 2016!”

#12 – Kinsie was potty trained!

This may seem trivial, but to us, it was a HUGE deal. We dedicated so much time and energy from January through May trying to get this girl potty trained. It was draining and exhausting. We made very little progress throughout all that time, so being 8 months pregnant and completely wiped out physically and emotionally, we decided to give it a rest for a while. Once Brax was born in May, it finally started to click. She saw that Brax was a baby and he wore diapers, so she finally decided that she didn’t want to wear diapers anymore. Hallelujah!

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#11 – Trip to the Cincinnati Zoo

This trip to the zoo was very special to us. The reason we even went to Cincinnati was to visit Ryan, who was on a month-long rotation there. He tried to come home as often as he could, but it wasn’t always possible. When we went to visit him, it had been over a week since we had seen him. It was such a special day together, and Kinsie got to see hippos, so that was a major plus too!

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#10 – Halloween

This was our first Halloween as a family of 4, so we wanted to come up with costumes that we could be as a family. Kinsie is really into the Ninja Turtles, so that’s what we went with! We went to Zoo Boo, the Heritage Lake fall festival, and trick-or-treating as the Ninja Turtles tribe!

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#9 – Kinsie playing soccer

Kinsie participated in her first real soccer league this year. She had practice twice a week and games on Saturdays. It kept us busy, but we loved it! She was often your typical 3-year-old, picking grass and rolling around on the ground instead of paying attention to the game, but we were still proud of our girl and loved watching her play!

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#8 – Kinsie’s Third Birthday

It is always fun planning a birthday party, especially a dinosaur-themed one at the lake! Our girl was in her glory with the lake, dinosaurs, cake and cousins.

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#7 – Beach Vacation

We loved getting to take a trip to Siesta Key. The kids loved the beach and it was SO refreshing getting a break from the cold weather.

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#6 – Harry Potter World

This trip was also very special, because it was the first get-away that Ryan and I had in years. We were in heaven getting to visit Harry Potter World and embracing our not-so-inner Harry Potter nerdiness!

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#5 – Lake Vacation

In late June, we spent a week at one of our favorite places, Heritage Lake. It was so relaxing. Every day we would fish, take boat rides, and more. It was like a vacation, but better because we were someplace familiar and comfortable. I could have stayed for another month.

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#4 – Christmas

My Christmas post is pretty recent, so I probably don’t have to do too much reminding on why this was a highlight of our year. Our first Christmas with two kids was pretty special. Seeing the joy on both of our kids’ faces on Christmas morning (and throughout the Christmas season) will always be one of my favorite things in life.

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#3 – Kinsie Starting School

This was a game-changer in many ways. It seems like my little girl grew up so much since starting school. We absolutely love her school and all the love, lessons, and activities that go with it. We’ve loved the crafts, the songs, the programs, the special occasions and the especially the huge change we’ve seen in our daughter. She is more mature, kinder, more polite, and had made many new friends.

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#2 – Kolly’s Birth

Our second niece, Kolly was born in October, and I was able to be in the delivery room when she was born. It was so special getting to witness the birth of this sweet girl, and we are all so in love with her. She is the perfect addition and the girl tiebreaker to the #5under5 cousin tribe.

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And our #1 moment of 2016 is….

Brax’s Birth

This was by far the best and most life-changing event of our year. This little guy stole our hearts in early May and changed the dynamic of our family and the way we do life, all for the better. His constant smiles and giggles bring so much joy to our lives, and we can’t imagine life without his sweet little self in it. Not only did Ryan and I become the parents of the sweetest little boy, but Kinsie also became a big sister. She is seriously the BEST big sister to him, constantly hugging and kissing him, protecting him, talking to him, cheering him on, and always trying to make him smile. They adore each other and have such a special relationship already. I can’t wait to watch them grow up together!

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So there you have it…our favorite moments of 2016. It was such a wonderful year for us. I’m anxious for see what is in store for us in 2017…finding out where Ryan gets in to residency, moving to a new house, Brax turning one, and I’m sure many more adventures…we can’t wait to watch it all unfold!

Cheers to 2016!

Why Parents Should Appreciate Teachers

Let me preface this by saying that I am not concluding that all parents don’t appreciate teachers. I teach in a small community and I know from experience that most parents are very appreciative and supportive of us. We have some awesome parents who are constantly telling us and showing us how much they appreciate what we do for their children. Our PTO makes lunches for us, buys us gifts, and even reimburses us for classroom supplies. Supportive parents reassure us that we’re doing a good job, and we need that every once in a while. However, I have only been teaching for 4 years and I have witnessed a disturbing amount of parent encounters and interactions that were lacking any kind of appreciation, and even being downright disrespectful to their child’s teacher. I’ve seen parents yelling at their child’s teacher in front of all the students for making one small mistake. I’ve seen parents bashing their child’s teacher on social media because they didn’t agree with a minor disciplinary action. I’ve seen parents blame teachers for their child’s poor grades, and also for their unruly behavior. I’ve seen parents allow their own children to be completely disrespectful to their teacher because they claimed they had a “personality conflict,” when really, their child was just a defiant troublemaker. Those are just a handful of examples that I’ve witnessed…and those all happened this past school year! I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I didn’t like every teacher I had, and I’m sure my parents didn’t agree with every move they made, but we respected the teachers and we made the best out of it and took lessons from each year. I still behaved, did my homework, tried my best, and if something didn’t go well, my parents would ask ME what happened, and help ME resolve the issue, not blame the teacher. Let me also say that I know not all teachers are outstanding educators. Not all teachers love and accept all of their students and not all teachers do everything in their power to help their students succeed. Some teachers are good teachers, but are having a really challenging year whether it be due to difficult students, or even troubles at home that affects their teaching. It is definitely no easy task to be going through a tragedy or some kind of internal struggle, and having to smile and pretend that everything is wonderful and go on with your daily lesson plans. Whatever the case or circumstance, I feel that I need to set the record straight or simply remind parents why they need to appreciate their child’s teachers.

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Reason #1: This job is harder than you think!

I think that some people are under the impression that teaching is an easy career. I mean, we already learned all that stuff when we went through school, right? Well, just because you have knowledge of something doesn’t mean you can teach it. Just ask my husband, the med student. There are some brilliant doctors who teach his classes, who are clearly extremely knowledgeable about their field, but they can’t teach worth a darn. Most classroom teachers these days are trying to teach at least 25 kids with different learning styles and a ridiculously wide range of reading levels (I think my record range is reading levels of 1st grade to 10th grade…and keep in mind I teach 5th grade). Each student practically has their own individualized education plan because every kid needs something different. And not only does each kid learn differently, but each kid also responds to different behavior plans. A classroom is a constant  revolving door with kids coming in and leaving for speech classes, resource rooms, remediation classes, literacy groups, etc. On top of the actual teaching part, teachers have a lot of other responsibilities, paperwork, grading, student data, and much more to keep up with during our “spare time.” My desk is constantly cluttered with papers, piles, and post-it notes reminding me of all the things I need to do that day before I leave, what can wait until tomorrow or even next week. My point of all of this is not for you to feel sorry for how chaotic our job is, but for you to realize that we do whatever we need to do to help your child succeed! If each kid needs a different plan, a different lesson, a different behavior system, you name it…we’ll do it because that’s what we do. If your child doesn’t meet their potential, we don’t feel that we’ve done our jobs.  We don’t give up on your kids because our job is to help them succeed!

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Reason #2: We have our own lives…but we’re still always thinking about your kids!

Please remember that teachers are people too. We have families to love and care for, houses to clean, chores to complete, errands to run, bills to pay, etc. Teaching is just our job, not our whole lives. However, while many people leave work at 5pm, go home, cook dinner and don’t think about their job again until 7am the next day, teachers always bring their work home with them. I don’t just mean grading papers or preparing crafts. Every night, I think about my students. I think about if they have a parent to greet them when they get off the bus. I think about if they are getting a meal that night. I think about if they are getting tucked in at night or if they are basically fending for themselves each night (it happens more than you think). Many teachers do bring papers home to grade and other schoolwork home to work on that evening or over the weekend. I know of a lot of parents who expect grades to be posted first thing every day…but they must forget that we have families too, and we are trying really hard to balance our home lives with our job. Since I became a mom almost 2 years ago, I have struggled daily with this balance. I feel like I can’t be a great mom/wife AND a great teacher. I feel like I have to pick one to be great at, and the other I will just settle for mediocracy. I know of SO many teachers who struggle with this as well. What works best for me to accommodate both is to compartmentalize each one. When I’m at school, I’m all in…100% teacher. I hardly think about things I have to do at home. I try to focus on my students and what they need from me that day. When I get home, I’m all in…100% wife and mom. I don’t work on school stuff at home (most of the time) and I cherish that time with my family. I may always feel behind on grading and other school work, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay because my family deserves all of me. If you want us to be at our best when we are with your kids, then we need time with our families to relax and rejuvenate, just like you do when you get home from your job. And keep in mind…even when we are at home “relaxing”, we are still thinking about your kids. We never stop.

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Reason #3: We genuinely love your kids!

Let’s face it…nobody goes into this profession for the money. And you really can’t say that people go into teaching for the summers off anymore considering most school districts are on a balanced calendar and our summers are painfully shorter than they used to be. So why did we choose this profession? Because we genuinely love children! We want to make a difference in the lives of children! I can’t speak for every teacher, but I know that most of us spend a considerable amount of time trying to get to know and connect with each and every one of our students. I try to relate with them, whether it’s through books, sports, video games, or even fishing. I do this because I want them to know that they are accepted, worthy and loved. Most of you are aware that a large portion of our teacher evaluations is based on standardized test scores. We do everything we can to teach all the standards proficiently, and even if we teach until we’re blue in the face, little Johnny could come in on test day in a bad mood, click through his test indifferently and completely screw up my evaluation. To be honest, I could care less about my kids’ test scores. I spend every day with them and I can tell if they are where they need to be academically and what kind of growth they’ve made throughout the year. The bottom line is that at the end of the year, if I could make a difference in one kid’s life, then I feel that I have done my job. As teachers, yes we care about their academics, but we care MORE about developing their character and helping them succeed in life…not because we are paid to do so, but because we genuinely care about them. Need I say more?

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In August (or July for balanced calendar schools like mine), when you are buying school supplies for your child’s upcoming school year, or when you are taking pictures of your kids before they get on the bus before the first day of school, please keep these friendly reminders in mind. Teachers aren’t perfect and you may not agree with everything they do or say, but before you run to the school to cause a big scene, or before you type a nasty email or leave an angry message with them, please take a deep breath, count to 10 and think about the things I discussed. Unless the teacher has done something that puts your child in physical danger, or has done something illegal, just give them a little bit of grace and let it go. If you don’t get along with your child’s teacher or don’t agree with everything they do, a school year only lasts 180 days…just deal with it the best you can for that amount of time and grow from it. It is good for everyone to encounter people that you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on everything. It helps us grow. Be a good example for your kids and teach them how to handle those kinds of situations the right way. I am a parent myself, so I know the strong internal instincts we possess to protect our children, but remember they are in good hands. They are spending 180 days with someone who will love them, accept them, protect them, and do anything to help them succeed. I hope nobody sees this post in a negative way. This was not meant to bash or complain about parents. Like I said, most parents are wonderful to us. I just wanted to set the record straight that at the end of the day, we are on the same team. You love your kids, and we love your kids. We want them to succeed just as much as you do!

A New Business!

I am so excited to officially announce that my sister, Krista and I have started a photography business! Leigh and Kay Photography (Our business name incorporates both of our middle names) is up and running and ready for new clients! Like I’ve mentioned before, photography has always been a passion of mine. I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but became obsessed when Ryan surprised me with a new Digital SLR Nikon camera last summer. Of course my obsession grew when Kinsie was born, and she has been my lovely little model anytime I want to practice! Krista has been doing photography on the side for a few years as well, so we recently decided to join up and start a business! Not only do we get to do what we love, but we get to spend more time together! My sister and I are extremely close and have always had a special relationship that not many siblings have. She has always been my best friend and my number one supporter, so you can imagine how excited I am to work with her!

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If you can, take a moment to browse through our website, www.leighandkayphotography.com. If you are interested in booking a session or have any questions, feel free to email me!

A Tribute to Cecilia, Carson and Scotty

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will give us later. Romans 8:18

Within the past few weeks, there have been several tragedies in the lives of people that I know. Each of these tragedies have struck me to my core not only because people that I know are suffering tremendously, but also because all 3 tragedies somehow involve a baby. Having a 7 month old daughter myself, I have had extra empathy. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to grieve or show my condolences for these families, but this blog post is a start…

Jennifer (Swihart) Trapuzzano was a classmate of mine at Avon High School. While we were not real close ourselves, we had many mutual friends and every time I came in contact with Jennifer, she was nothing but kind and genuine. As many of you have seen or heard on the news, Jennifer’s husband, Nathan, was out for a walk on the morning of April 1 when he was viciously mugged, shot and killed. It’s a tragic loss of not only a husband, but also a soon-to-be father, as Jennifer is 8 months pregnant with their first child, a daughter to be named Cecilia. Nathan’s death was completely senseless and left a wife without her husband and an unborn baby without her daddy. The news of this tragedy has spread like wildfire, and thousands of friends, family and strangers have sent donations to Jennifer to provide for baby Cecilia, totaling over $170,000. Nathan had a very close relationship with Christ that he shared every chance he got, and his story has caused many people to turn to Christ themselves. Learn more about their story here.

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Jessica (Wager) Broady was also someone who attending high school with me. She was a year older than me, but we had many mutual friends. Jessica was always very upbeat and friendly to anyone she surrounded herself with. On the evening of April 12, Jessica was in a deadly car accident, leaving behind a husband and an 8-month old son named Carson. This sudden tragedy shocked everyone who knew her, and left us all heartbroken. It was very obvious that Jessica absolutely adored her sweet boy, and now the poor baby won’t get to grow up in his mommy’s arms. However, Carson is surrounded with many wonderful family members who are embracing him and loving on him in every possible way.

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Jess (Hoffman) Kim is someone I met in college at Indiana University through mutual friends. I only hung out with her a few times, but each time she was extremely pleasant to me. Jess gave birth to twins, Scott and Logan just a few days after I had Kinsie. I always enjoyed seeing pictures and videos of her precious boys on Facebook. At only 6 months old, Scott passed away for unknown reasons. When I heard of this news, I was completely torn apart. I never even met the twins, but the thought of an innocent child losing his life before even a year old is more than I can bare. Jess has set up a website for people to share their thoughts and to honor this sweet boy’s memory.

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As a new mother myself, each of these stories has hit close to home. I just can’t even begin to imagine what these families are going through. Not only do I mourn for these families, but I especially pray for each and every one of these children. The main reason I wanted to become a teacher was to make a difference in the lives of children. In my school, there are many students whom were born into broken, unstable homes, or have been placed in unfortunate circumstances through no fault of their own. I just want to take these kids home with me to protect them from their unfair situations. Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing a child suffer, whether it be physically, mentally or emotionally. If I could save every child in the world from any harm or suffering, I would do it in a heartbeat. Life can be so unfair, and we will never understand any of it until we join Jesus in heaven. When I have gone through a tragedy myself, I really struggled with why God would let something like this happen. After many prayers and countless hours with my Bible, I came to the conclusion that God isn’t responsible for bad things happening in our lives. He is incapable of doing evil. Not only is Satan causing corruption in our every day lives and blaming God for it, but we also have been given free will, which in turn causes many terrible things to happen. When God’s children are weeping, He is weeping right along side of us and carrying us the entire way. We just have to let Him.

 

Cecilia, Carson, and Scotty…

Each of you, being so young, have already suffered a great tragedy. Your lives have not started out, or ended,  very fairly. However, you have many people around you that love you so much and would do anything to protect you from harm. Cecilia, your mother is unbelievably strong and has a wonderful faith in God that I’m sure she will instill in you. Even though you never got to meet your daddy, he loved you with all of his heart, and he will always be watching over you along with your Heavenly Father. Carson, you may not remember your mommy someday, but she absolutely adored you. It was obvious in the way that she talked about you and looked at you. Even though she may no longer be here in a physical sense, she will always be with you wherever you go. Scotty, I never got the chance to meet you myself, but I could see through pictures how cheerful and rambunctious you were. Even though you were only here for a short time, you made an impression on so many lives, and you will never be forgotten. Even in the wake of disaster in all three of your lives, you have been blessed by the outpouring of love that people have shown you and your families. You are all so loved, and not only by those here on Earth, but especially by your Heavenly Father. Take comfort in that forever.

Waiting for Spring

As I type this, we are in the midst of yet another major snow storm. This winter has been absolutely brutal! If I didn’t have Kinsie to keep me occupied, I would probably be sinking into a black hole of seasonal depression right about now. It seems like this winter is crawling by. January seemed to be unbearably long and now we are just a few days into February. Spring is not quite in sight yet. It is this time of year where it is hard to get out of your warm bed in the morning  only to drive through the darkness and trudge through the snow while the cold wind bites you in the face. Can you tell I am not a fan of winter? This winter is especially difficult when you have a baby that you have to bundle up, load in and out of the carseat, try not to slip on the ice while carrying her, and avoid letting the wind blow open the carseat cover so her sweet little face doesn’t get exposed to the harsh weather!

Kinsie was born in the fall, so she hasn’t really gotten to experience nice weather yet. There were a few days after she was born that we took her on a little stroller ride around the neighborhood, but she was too little to look around and appreciate being outside. Right now, her personality is really blossoming and she is becoming so curious and interested in the world around her. With that said, I cannot wait for my little girl to experience spring and summer. I know that she will absolutely love playing outside and enjoying the sunshine. After all, she is my daughter and nobody appreciate the warm sun more than I do!

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Ready for some sunshine!

My sweet Kinsie Kay…

Even in these dreadful winter months, you are such a ray of sunshine in my life. Your smile shines brighter than the sun on the warmest summer day. You’ve only had a glimpse of this world and yet you are already so curious and intrigued with what it has to offer…just like your daddy. Thank you for keeping my spirits up during this harsh winter and for constantly reminding me how beautiful life can be. I can’t wait for spring to come and for you to see more of God’s beautiful creation. There is so much beauty that you haven’t gotten to experience yet and I am so excited to see the wonder in your eyes as you continue to explore the world around you. I know you will love the warm weather, the sunshine, the flowers, the trees, and all of the new life that blossoms with the spring season. Just another month or two and we can put this winter behind us and move forward into a much more enjoyable time of year! Until then, we can snuggle up and keep each other warm all day long!

Spreading the love of Jesus one duck at a time

Like many others, I am a huge fan of the television show, Duck Dynasty. When Ryan first started watching it, I never really watched with him, but I’d hear it in the background of whatever I was doing at the moment, and all I thought was, “What a bunch of ignorant rednecks.” However, it turns out that I was the ignorant one. In June, we had the pleasure of having Willie Robertson visit our church, Trader’s Point, to discuss his faith. After hearing Willie speak, I gained a new respect for him and his family. I decided to give the show a chance and actually watch an episode. Then another. Then another. Then, I was hooked. Not only is the show probably one of the funniest shows on television, but it is so refreshing to see a real Christian family in the Hollywood spotlight.

The more I learn about the Robertson family, the more I know that they are the real deal. They are who they are, and they don’t try to be anyone different in front of the cameras. When the producers asked them to cuss more and fight with each other, they refused and said “That’s not us.” When they were asked not to pray on camera, they did it anyway and said, “That’s who we are and that’s what we do.” If only everyone were that determined to stay true to themselves and what they believe in!

It is really sad how so many people are turned off by Christianity based on what they see and hear in society. They often feel judged and ridiculed and have religion shoved down their throat. That is not the way to get people to church. The more you shove it in people’s faces, the more turned off they become. This is why I respect the Robertson family and their show so much. They don’t shove their religion in people’s faces, and its not all they talk about. But you can see the way they live and the way they present themselves. Even though they have fun, wreck havoc and make fun of each other, their love for each other and for Christ is very apparent. People who have Jesus in their hearts have a certain joy that you can’t get any other way, and that joy shines through. If you live your life according to God’s word with that joy in your heart, it attracts other people. It may spark people’s interest enough to discuss the Gospel and invite them to church, but at some point, you have to let God do the rest.

The Robertson family is filled with the holy spirit and they let it shine through the big screen. Millions of people of all different types watch the show every week in order to be entertained by the hilarious insights of Uncle Si and the crazy adventures that Willie and Jase have while they are supposed to be working. Anyone who has watched the show knows that they are in no way perfect, but they live their lives with Jesus in their hearts and are not ashamed of it.

Below is the video “I Am Second.” Phil, Jep and Reed Robertson all share a part of their testimony on how they came to know Jesus Christ. As they talk, you can see the raw emotion in their eyes and how much knowing Jesus has changed their lives for the better. Take some time to watch this video and witness the power of Jesus working in their hearts.