Great Parenting on Display

Yep, I've resorted to Nick Jr. to babysit my child.  
But only on Sunday morning, when I'm trying to get ready for Church by myself and a certain little person, will NOT give me a break.
Although I don't think she has any comprehension regarding TV, nor do I think she really pays much attention to it, I would be in big trouble without Dora the Explorer and this excersaucer.  They afford me a precious 10 minutes to race around the house and get everything done.
10 minutes if I'm lucky that is.  
That's about all the time this one will give me before even she's bored of being "confined."  
She sure is cute for all the trouble she can cause, huh?
I guess I'll keep her.  


Ava, Ava, Ava...The Explorer!!!

Today my sweet little Ava woke up with a wild streak.
Yes, she was the same, delightful little girl she always is, but her sassy side was alive and well too.

I mean seriously.
Does she look like trouble or what???

Every time I turned my back, I found this grinning little monkey in another new spot, getting her sticky little hands into something.  Like my bottles of lotion.  Or Ryley's water bowl.  And a candle (unlit).  And the laundry.  And the cupboards.  And the blinds.  And my purse...etc., etc., etc.

And each time I found her, she flashed those 3 pearly whites at me.  Can you see them??

And I couldn't help but smile back.
I mean look at that little face???  Could you say "No" to this???

So today we ventured out.  Beyond our front door.  Out of the walls we live in.
And into...
The Hallway :)

She pushed her car around.  Stopped to examine everything.  And she put her hands on anything she could reach.

We stopped at the big window...

And watched the world around us for awhile.
And she loved it.  I could tell.

She was not happy when I brought her back home and she let me know by pulling up to our front door and banging on it for a long time.

The poor little thing just wanted to explore.  To stretch her wings.  Expand her horizons.  And venture out, beyond her comfort zone.
She is after all, her father's daughter.  She can't help it.  She was born with genes that long for an adventure.

And hopefully, her Mother can help provide those adventures day after day, after day, after day, after day...

Because one thing is for sure...

She will be pressing on ahead, with or without me!

She is a wild, wild woman!!


9 Months Old

Ava, I waited until your doctor appointment on Friday to write your 9 month update.  I wanted all of your latest "stats" to record :) It seems so crazy to us that your next appointment will be your 1 year well check!!  How is that possible??  Like every month prior, this month is flying by too...

And you are reaching one milestone after another!!  We can hardly keep up with all of your changes in fact.  Every day it seems you are doing something new :)

But first things first.  When I posted this picture last week in this outfit, I got lots of questions about it!  It really is darling.  Your Texie bought it for you and it's by Oilily.  When you first wore it, you could wear the top as a dress, but now you're so tall we have to put a little skirt under it :)  Mommy loves all the patterns and colors...It even matches your room!!

Ok, here are the stats...
-You weigh 16 lbs and 14 oz.  Which means you are still in the 10th percentile :) You're a little peanut.
-You are 27 1/2 inches long, making you "long and lean" as your Dr. put it.
-You are still napping twice a day, usually 2 hours each time and you're sleeping about 11 hours at night.
-You are wearing 6-9 month clothing, but we've been able to put a few 9-12 month things on you too.
-You wear a size 3 diaper still and probably will for a little bit longer.
-You are eating many, many things now.  Some of your favorites are bananas, mandarin oranges, cantaloupe, watermelon, chicken, cheese, yogurt, peas, puffs and yogurt melts.  We're finishing up your baby food, but you are mostly eating table food now.  We're still working on drinking from a cup with you.  You know to put it up to your mouth, but you haven't figured out how to suck the water or milk out.  Maybe by next month :)

The other thing you are doing like crazy is putting everything you can get your hands on in your mouth!
And why??

Because you now have 3 teeth!!  You got your first tooth on the bottom a few weeks ago and then one of your top teeth 2 weeks later.  Just a few days ago, we noticed that your 3rd tooth had also poked through your gums, also on the top.  You look so cute with teeth now!!  However, we are trying to be more patient with you because all of these new teeth have made for some rough days and nights while you deal with the pain.  But having lots of things to chew on have helped.

This month you discovered the windows Ava!  You spend lots of time pulling up and staring out the windows in each room.  You talk to yourself while you watch what's happening and you also bang on the glass.  Recently you discovered the curtains and the blinds...

Which led me to this.  Some days you leave them alone but most days we have to keep them out of your reach so you don't hurt yourself :)

But it doesn't stop you from looking for more trouble somewhere else!  You are so fast now and you move from one room to another in "stealth mode" often.  Just when we think you're safely playing in your room, you're actually...

In the kitchen trying to get in the cupboards!!

You LOVE trying to pry the cupboards open Ava.  It's the highlight of your day.  We've dealt with pinched fingers and I've had to baby proof all of the lower cabinets.  You haven't started taking anything out yet, so far you just love to open and close the doors.

But I'm sure that's going to change soon because I can tell you're ready for the next challenge!

You aren't still for very long Ava!  You're always on the prowl around here :)

In fact, if you aren't at the window or in the kitchen, you are most likely sitting with your toys and really playing with all of them.

This makes us simultaneously happy and sad.  You look like such a big girl these days.  Gone are so many of your "baby" ways...

In fact, just 2 nights ago, when you were "helping" me with the laundry...

You reached one more of those big milestones!

You stood!!  All by yourself!!  For quite awhile!!

We've known walking is just around the corner for you, but now it seems it's going to be here any day!  You didn't even seem to know that you were standing unassisted until you got tired of it and just sat down :)

Your Dad and I were just beside ourselves with joy and you looked up at us like
"What's the big deal??"  Oh Ava, we are so proud of you and we love watching you grow up.

You are definitely acting and looking like a big girl now and we could not love you more.

We are having so much fun being your parents.  You entertain us all day long and make us laugh more than we ever thought possible.  Your Daddy is your favorite playmate and he loves to get down on the floor with you and be silly.  You light up when he walks in the door at night Ava and so does he.  I love watching the two of you together.

I have loved all of our days at home together too Ava.  This winter has been so fun for us to snuggle in and play together.  I have so many of our memories forever sealed in my heart.  You are my little monkey and it is so rewarding to have all this time with you.  I know you'll never remember these early days, but I always will and I'm so grateful to the Lord for that.

Happy 9 months sweet girl!
Your Mommy and Daddy love you!!


If Variety Really is the Spice of Life...

Then my mind is quite spicy!  Because right now, I've got a variety of things going on...

-In the last week I have met with or talked to 5 brides.  As of now, I have 5 weddings booked for this year. That makes me very happy and tingly inside.  This little side business that I've poured no money into and only as much time as necessary, seems to have a real blessing on it.  All of my wedding business so far is by word of mouth and is just enough for me to handle.  You know, without having my own shop and my own employees.  Which was, is and always has been a dream of mine.  But for now, I'm very grateful and very thankful for exactly what I've been given.  It's plenty to keep me busy in between the many other things I've got going on.  In fact, as of tonight, I've got 5 proposals to work on for my next round of meetings.  Hmmm...How is that going to happen??

-I took Ava out today for a little adventure and I happened upon Ann Taylor Loft.  Don't you love when your adventures lead you there??  On a whim, I decided to look for some jeans.  That statement alone usually causes me to break out into a sweat and head straight back into the car, but I poured through the racks and in a moment of divine bliss, I found a pair ON CLEARANCE, PLUS an ADDITIONAL 40% OFF!!  Seriously.  The Heavens parted and the angels sang.  Well, that might be a little bit dramatic, but it was the BEST deal.  I got a great pair for $11.  And in this new post-baby body, that is a miracle my friends.  I was almost so giddy I could have cried...

-And speaking of crying, I don't know what it is, but I am a total faucet these days.  EVERYTHING makes me cry.  A sad story, a nice contestant on American Idol and anything involving Haiti.  I am such a mess.  My hormones must be off the charts because I'm not sure I've ever experienced a season of spontaneously bursting into tears at any given moment, like this one.  The evening news about sends me over the edge.  I just can't bear the heartache that is oozing out of Haiti.  Those orphans and those precious people who are homeless, traumatized and starving.  I just can't get them off my mind.  Which frankly, is a good thing.  I hope I never get to a point where a tragedy like this one leaves me unaffected. It's ok that I can't seem to keep my mascara from running...especially since that's the worst thing I'm facing right now.

-Today I had the sweet pleasure of re-connecting with a student who has been a burden on my heart for YEARS.  A student who has faced insurmountable odds with almost no resources and no parents, an orphan of a different kind.  My heart has been broken by her, for her and with her on several occasions.  Travis and I have weathered a season of being heavily involved, followed by a season of almost no contact.  Through it all, I've asked the Lord so many questions and wondered what in the world He was doing with us (specifically me) but today I felt like I got a little glimpse of an answer.  It was a conversation that lit my fire a little more intensely and gave me a dose of re-ignition that I needed.  One of those talks that makes me remember why we are in junior high ministry again.  I'm still left with plenty of questions and trying to keep my heart from expecting anything, but I do have hope.  Hope for her, hope for the possibilities in her future.  I LOVE when the Lord does that.  She has been on my mind constantly today.

-It's been delightfully warmer here, like double digits, for the last week or so.  I've loved it.  But it appears that we are about to get another dose of reality this weekend.  Much, much colder temps are on their way as is a generous amount of ice.  Yuck.  I've been avoiding the grocery store because I need to make a meal plan first, but tomorrow is my chance.  Well, hopefully tomorrow.  We've got Ava's 9 mo. appt. and I've got another meeting with a bride, so if I can squeeze the grocery store in there then I won't have to go on Saturday.  Because THAT will be a nightmare.  When cold weather is predicted, the shoppers come out of the woodwork.  Couple that with a weekend crowd and I'd rather get a tooth pulled.  Well, maybe not.  I guess I'm not really a fan of anything involving my tooth.  Or teeth.  Good thing this is purely hypothetical.

-I know this is riveting so far, but Travis just walked in the door and Ava is still sleeping, so I'm off to enjoy these rare moments.  I'm trying to be very good about only blogging when someone doesn't need my attention and right now, I believe Travis would LOVE my attention!

Hope your day has been a blessed one, or in my case a spicy one!!


Another Post With Food.

Seriously, with all these recipes lately, it might seem as if I'm pregnant again...
I mean, at this time last year when I was 7 months pregnant, the common theme to all my blogging was not Ava or her pending arrival.  No, if you look back in my archives, you will notice that the biggest thing on my mind was apparently my next meal :)

Don't get any ideas, I am NOT pregnant again (although I'm not saying I wouldn't like to be!) but I am in fact hungry.  And willing to cook.  I think it must be the weather.  This time of year makes me want to hunker down and have a hot meal on the stove.  And a warm dessert to follow. And maybe a cup of decaf in my hand...I'm just saying, it's not diet-friendly, but it must be the weather, right??

Regardless of my excuse, here are two easy recipes to warm your bones...

This one is a creation of my Mom's friend Joan.  It's a great, hearty meal that is a one-dish wonder.  If I would have had any presence of mind to photograph it in the making, I would have.  But I was too hungry to worry about that.  So here is the finished product and here is the recipe below:

Meat and Potato Casserole
(Don't ya just love a title that's straightforward??)

Hamburger (1-2 lb., depending on your crowd)
Green Pepper (1-2)
Green Beans (I used one bag of frozen green beans)
Onion (1)
Celery (1 C)
Potatoes (1-2, washed and sliced)
1 8oz. can of Tomato Soup
1 pkg. of Lipton Onion Soup Mix
1 C of water

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Form meatballs from the hamburger, put on bottom of 9x13 pan.  Cut up fresh veggies and layer on top of meatballs, ending with the potatoes on top.
Mix tomato soup and onion soup mix together with water.  Pour over top of veggies and hamburger.  Cover with foil, bake for 1-1.5 hours (depends on your oven and how much hamburger you use).
This is a great, flavorful dish that is perfect on a cold winter night!  The soup mixture makes a thick sauce that gives everything a wonderful taste.  It's so simple and yummy and that's the beauty of it.  Plus, you can tweak it with the ingredients you have on hand or the ones you prefer.  I've made it several ways, depending on whether or not I feel like grocery shopping!

Now for the best part...

The world's easiest dessert.
A Dump Cake.
(I know, this one needs a much better name, doesn't it?)
The items pictured above are all you need.

Dump your can of pineapple (drained) in the bottom of a 9x13.

Dump the cherry pie filling on top of the pineapple.

Dump the package of yellow cake mix on top and melt a stick of butter.

Pour the melted butter on top and bake at 350 for an hour.
Be prepared for your house to smell like the most heavenly of smells.

Remove from the oven and serve while warm...

With a scoop (or 2) of vanilla ice-cream.
It's a wonderful, cobbler-esque dessert that is easy and oh so good!

I'm pretty sure I should be doing some stomach crunches right about now...


Dear Ava...

Do you think it is possible that you could slow your rapid growth down??

Today you are 9 months old and your Mom is having a hard time believing that.  Well, maybe I believe it,  it's just that I don't want to accept it.  This year is going by too fast and you are growing up too quickly.  I'm sure this won't be the last time you hear me say this, but could you just be my baby forever?  Is that ok with you?  Can we just put the breaks on this "growing up" thing and dabble in this moment just a little bit longer?


I didn't think so.

You know what Ava??  Soon you may think that it's hard being a little girl, but let me tell you something, it's even harder being a Mom.  Choking back tears while your heart swells with emotion...

Well, someday you'll understand what that's like.
I love you sweet girl and I always will.



Today I...

-Woke up next to the man of my dreams.
-Smiled when he brought Ava into our bed after she woke up, her wild hair stuck to her head and her sleepy eyes still squinty from the bright sunshine streaming in.  My two favorite people.  My heart swelled watching them.
-Fed Ava her first bottle and then watched while she tore around the house on her knees, looking for something to get into.
-Tried to skype with my parents while Trav vacuumed the living room for me.  Almost gagged at the amount of dog hair he emptied from the canister.  Twice.  Tried to troubleshoot my parents microphone issue, but to no avail.
-Said good-bye to Travis while Ava took her morning nap.  Told him to "be careful" about 20 times.  Not a big fan of ice-fishing up north on a huge, frozen lake, overnight. But he is.  I threw an extra pair of gloves and a hat into his bag and kissed him.
-Played all afternoon with Ava.  We crawled from one room to another for hours.  She pushed her little car while walking behind it.  I organized her toys.  She pulled all her clean clothes out of a drawer I had open.  I put them all back.
-I fed her a bottle, in hopes of her falling asleep for an afternoon nap.  She did.  And in rare form, she fell asleep all snuggled up in my arms.  I melted a million times over and stared at her sweet face.  I took in every single feature and flashed back to our first day in the hospital.  I held her much longer than usual and then laid her down in her crib.  She stayed asleep.  I climbed in my own bed and snuggled in for a nap.  2 hours later, we both woke up.  Bliss.
-Trav called from the lake.  Ava and I had some dinner.  Skyped again with my parents.  Laughed while she performed lots of tricks for them.  Sent some love notes, via text to Travis.  Took Ryley out.  Sent some more texts back and forth with a friend.  Did some laundry.  Cleaned the kitchen.  Vacuumed (again).  Put Ava to bed.  Ate some ice-cream.  Took Ryley out. Organized Ava's diaper bag for Church tomorrow.  Said goodnight to Trav.  Kissed Ava.  Gave Ryley some love too.  Settled in to bed.

Today I had a good day.


Spider Monkey

Ava has been making us laugh today, mostly because she's been in one of her active moods.  This girl...She has so much of Daddy's energy in her, it's scary!!

For awhile she entertained us by crawling and cruising around the house with this toy hanging out of her mouth.  She acted as if it wasn't funny, just totally normal.  I mean, who doesn't hang a ring of beads from their mouth?

Then she just stared at both us.  As if to say, "Sooo, now what are we going to do??"
(By the way, Ryley is only yawning in the background, not looking for his next meal!!)

So, as I tweeted earlier in the week, we decided it was time to take our high energy baby to the play land at the mall and let her work some of that energy out.
And whoa it out she did!!

I imagined it would be a bit overwhelming, this first visit.  But instead, it took all of 30 seconds for her to take off and leave us in the dust!

After we took her down the slide one time, she spent the rest of the time trying to figure out how to get back up it!!  I assumed we were safe to let her try, there was no way a tiny little 9 month old could do that...right??  WRONG!  She scaled that slide like a little spider monkey and went straight for another slide on the other side!  I had to run to catch her from going head first and squealing, down that one.  Apparently she's going to be a wild climber, just like her Mommy was and there isn't a fearful bone in her tiny little body.

Pure joy!

We also discovered a little tunnel that thrilled her...

And it wasn't long before she accumulated a little posse of girls to follow her around!

I don't know who loved it more, Ava or those little girls??  They LOVED "helping" her and watching her squeal with delight over every square inch.  Seriously, she was so happy there, she was rapidly breathing in and out (snorting) between squeals!

I'm sure it was a breeding ground for germs, but sometimes you've just got to throw caution to the wind and live a little :)
Ava LOVED it and we can't wait to bring her back soon for more!

Plus, I think it did the trick!
She was fast asleep by the time we got home...
Bliss for everyone :)