For My Valentine

Dear Valentine, 
Here we are, our 13th Valentine's Day together, last week...except in a funny twist of fate, we weren't together at all this year! You were working and so was I.  You with 100 or so students and volunteers, me with 3 little Armstrongs...both of us equally exhausted! It's funny and beautiful how life keeps moving and rolling along and sometimes this day is big and grand and well celebrated and sometimes, it's quiet and business as usual. What's funny is that as we age and our hands spin all the plates, we have a new definition of what romance really is.  The date night dinners, an occasional movie, flowers,'s all wonderful and so appreciated when we can make it happen.  But there is also something deeply romantic about knowing that you are doing what your job requires and so am I, and this is our real life and sometimes it's not all roses and chocolates.  Sometimes it's more like diapers and tantrums and late nights and junior high kids and below zero temperatures. And yet, in the absence we feel from one another, the romance is in the grace that we extend each other, the quick dance in the kitchen before you leave again, the texts to check in and the excitement of knowing that having you back home will come soon enough and that will be all the Valentine gift we both really need. Truly, real life with you is the best kind of Valentine's Day, every day.  Over the years our celebrations have changed and adapted to whatever season we are in, whatever state our bank account is in and whatever we need most at the moment. I'm so thankful that while it may look different year to year, the celebration has never ceased to exist. It's so easy to just do this thing called parenting and never make time for the two of us, beyond giving one another a reprieve when we need a break or just time alone. Those gifts are important, but what could and sometimes does slip through the cracks is our time together. Who knew we'd long to go out much more than we do and yet the work involved to make that happen just overwhelms us more times than not?  It won't always seem that way, we've definitely forgotten what it's like to have a baby in the equation...hello, unpredictable living! 

But here is what I want to tell you today, on the day we finally get to celebrate Valentine's Day...

13 Valentine's Days later, I am still excited to go on a date with you. My heart still races when you come in the door and leaving with you (and no children tagging along) feels like I just won the lottery! I have no idea what we'll feel like doing tonight, dinner, movie, errands, whatever...but I know that being with YOU, will be the best part. We heard the pessimists when we joined lives together who warned that some years get dull and marriage is work and kids are exhausting...I think we could agree to most of that, but while life may be dull, you've never been dull for a moment. In light of the most cliche phrase uttered, I've never loved you more than I do right now, at the season in our lives. All these years of history and the growing together and the ups and the downs, they mean something to me and they make us who we are becoming together. I laugh when I see pictures of us from those early years...maybe we were young and reckless like Taylor Swift  says we were, but mostly we were just young and only part of who we are today. There is risk in marriage, in not fully knowing who you are marrying and what the years will bring.  But seeing glimpses of who God was already making you then have turned into satisfying realities of who you are today. If there has been one thing that's stayed constant all these 13 years of celebrating love together, it's that we've seen nothing but change year after year.  Changes in life, changes in circumstances, changes in you and changes in me. Thankfully, God is still our steady rock, our unchanging foundation that holds us and this marriage together. Changes come and go, but He has stayed faithful and by His grace, He has kept us faithful to one another too.  

I couldn't imagine how good marriage could be, or how much more I'd love and cherish you and this life we have together. No, it's not perfect and it's certainly not without struggle and heartache. But it's all WITH YOU and that's the part I love the most. 

This couldn't be more sappy, but it's my blog and I'll do sappy if I want to, thank you very much. These are exactly the words I want our three kids to squirm through some day while secretly loving each and every word from the heart of their sappy Mom to their hero Dad.  

You are the Valentine of my dreams, babe.
You are my one and only, for always and forever. 

And I love dating you still. 


All About Carter

Oh, Carty...there is so much to say about our Carter boy! I'm in rewind mode again today, looking back on some pictures from the last 6 months or so and writing a little about him.  It's taken me three days to finish this with all the sickness in our house but finally I'm ready to share!
 Carter Travis...our middle child, our oldest son, our born on 10/10/10 boy...It's hard to even know where to begin with him.  One of the things I love the most about Carter is that he is not easily explained!  There is a depth to Carter that I love exploring and more sides to him than rubik's cube. 
 When Walker was born last summer, Carter felt like our wild card.  I just did not know what to expect from him, I knew he'd love his brother but I really thought he might be jealous or that he'd grow tired of the constant interruptions that come with a baby.  It wasn't more than just a week or so in that I realized how wrong I was.  I love these pictures of Carter and Walker...
Right out of the gate Carter took on the protective role of a big brother and he looked at him with adoring eyes.
 Since then he's only continued to love on Walker.  Sure, sometimes he bugs him too.  He's definitely going to be a typical older brother! 
 But what warms our heart and gives us hope, is when we see the many tender moments between them.  A long time ago I listened to someone speak about raising boys and she used the phrase, "tough and tender" to describe what she prayed they would be like as men.  I think about that a lot because it echoes what I see in Carter beginning to develop and what I hope he will choose to work toward.  I want to affirm his manhood and help him embrace the things that make him different than his sister and I and yet, I hope he sees his tenderness as a great asset too.  It's one of the very best things I love about his Daddy.  Tough and tender men make great husbands and wonderful Fathers.  I pray both of our boys are like their Dad in that regard!
One of the best things about this year with Carter is that I am getting so much time with him.  His October birthday means that he can't start Kindergarten until he's almost 6, which we think is a great thing.  This year could have been spent at preschool, but so could next year.  We will likely send him for 3 of 4 half days next year, but this was a "free year" that I wanted to gift to Carter.  I wanted the time with him yes, but I also wanted him to have more time to just play.  To use his imagination, to stay in his jammies, to play with his toys, and to just be a little boy for a little while longer.  I'm so glad we chose this.  We went on several "nature walks" together this Fall, collecting treasure and just seeing what we could see.  He STILL talks about it and asks when we can get back out there.  I predict a lot of walking the trails in our future!
 There is a built in love for adventure in Carter and if he has freedom to roam, you can be sure he will be climbing something...
 ...jumping off of it and then looking back at me to see if he can do it again!
 I am learning, with some guidance from Trav, to let him jump more than I tend to say no.  Sometimes I wince, sometimes it doesn't go as planned, but most of the time it thrills Carter and I get to see how God made him so differently than He made me.  Totally built for adventure  :) 
 And speaking of adventure, dart guns have made an appearance in our world now.  Carter loves, loves, loves them and his Daddy loves to play with them equally as much! There are darts everywhere now, but it's all part of the fun and so far (fingers crossed) no people have been targets and especially no babies!  We mostly take them outside to play with and that seems to work for everyone.
Carter and his Daddy are becoming quite a pair.  Carter loves everything about his Dad and he is blessed to have a Daddy that loves to include him in as much as he can.  We loved watching soccer games this fall and Carter was on hand with me when Trav's team won their championship game.  Carter thrives on competition and has a natural drive in him to win.  Everything! Sometimes that becomes a struggle and we have to learn how to be gracious in defeat, but that's what growing up is for.  When harnessed and channeled in the right ways, being competitive is a great thing.  We can see already that this is something God has built into Carter so we will be working on this for a long time to come I'm sure! It's good for me to remember that and start praying now for the Lord to help Carter use that drive for His glory and His kingdom.  
One thing Carter and I found is that we share a love for Legos!  I loved them as a kid and even as an adult, I still love the challenge and the blank slate to create.  We gave Carter a small lego kit as a reward for something this summer and it was totally up his alley.  For his birthday and Christmas he also received some lego kits and they have been really fun for him to play with.  One of us still needs to help him get started and see some of the more complicated designs through to the end, but I can see the gears in his mind turning while we work on them.  
 We have to be pretty strict about playing with them while Walker is napping and making sure we get all the pieces picked up but it's worth it for the joy on his face when we finish and just for the quality time we get together.  
Turning 4 was a huge event in Carter's world!  In fact, still today he likes to tell people (usually total strangers) that he *just* had a birthday!  Ha ha!  October was the big month, but who cares about details??
For lots of reasons, turning 4 has been so much fun!  Three is a hard age from start to finish and we had lots of power struggles, boundary lessons, authority issues, and just general development stuff to work through constantly.  It's certainly not all learned yet, we've just scratched the surface, but there is something about 4 that is SO MUCH EASIER so far.  Carter reasons so much better, can think through scenarios and consequences with some insight, and generally just wants to obey and do the right thing with a greater enthusiasm than we've seen before.  We love to see that in him but more than that we love to see how God is working on his heart.  Carter has a sweet tenderness and he is very quick to apologize and to ask for forgiveness.  He doesn't like to be at odds and so far he is willing to show some humility and ask to be forgiven.  He melts my heart when we see that response in him.  Our goal is never that he (or any of our kids) would obey like robots or simply because they don't want a consequence, but that we would help cultivate their hearts to submit to God's ways over their own and then learn how to ask for forgiveness and how to extend forgiveness.  It's extremely convicting to teach your kids this and then not see how blatantly I refuse to do the same thing!  I'm always getting rebuked in my spirit by what I say to them and then the heart revelation of how I often choose the opposite.  Parenting is a whole lot of sanctification! Helping Carter, helps his Mama.
 This picture is so classic! For all the sweetness, believe me, there is spunk times a thousand! 
I went to get Walker up from a nap and here I found Carter already in his room, sitting on the edge of the crib, in his undies, eating a sucker I didn't give him...
 He will keep up on our toes every day of his life, I'm quite certain! 
 I love how much Carter is looking like his Dad. Same grin, same chin, same square jaw line, same blonde hair Trav had in childhood, same zest for life.  If Ava is a mini me, I do believe Carter is a mini Travis!  At least that's what I love to invoke whenever he doesn't something outrageous!  
He's all YOU, Travy!!
 Being a boy Mom has been such a fun experience and such a joy. I love sharing girly things with Ava but I also love enjoying all the boy stuff in my world now. Well, most of it.  
Body noises I will never enjoy!!
 Ava and Carter, AKA the twins, are still good buddies.  These days they have to work a little more to compromise and play together in a way that both of them enjoy.  Sometimes that looks like a line of princesses having a "parade" at the train table while all the trains go by and show off their best tricks around the track!  It cracks me up to hear the scenarios they come up with but it's good for both of them.  I think they enjoy a little break all day to be with their own friends or in their own space but they really do love to play together still and do a pretty good job.  The fighting between them has increased with time, I can see how quickly their relationship could deteriorate and how they could easily pit one another against the other.  But I so long for them to treat each other with respect and grace and I hope they will remain friends, even as they grow up, because I know how much that will benefit them as adults. 
 There really are some sweet moments between them, lots of giggling and playing and love, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that wasn't always the norm.  They are just like every other set of siblings! They push and argue and accuse and overreact...BUT we are willing to fight that battle with them and push them to "be kind, to be tenderhearted and forgiving" like Paul encourages us to be in Ephesians 4. It's flat out exhausting most days and sometimes I feel like I should dress in a referee uniform with a whistle.  But this is the work of parenthood and these are the years of setting the foundation of what's allowed and expected in our home and in our family.  So we pray and press on!
 Carter's love affair with cars, planes, trucks, and anything that moves, continues. Those are the toys that get the most action in our home and in Carter's imagination.  Who knew the number of cars in our home would rival a nascar event??  We are full to the brim with them and yet, with Walker right behind him, I know they will all get plenty of use for years to come.
If there is a way to make something slightly dangerous and exhilarating, these two will dream it up.  I truly think Carter will love extreme sports like his Dad did and will likely give me a heart condition.  He is so funny, he is either up for anything or a complete chicken.  We get such a kick out of his extreme reactions.  The fear in him actually calms me a little bit but I'm guessing that won't be around for long.  Especially with a Dad who loves to draw out his sense of adventure and challenge him to be brave. 
In his 4 short years, this kid has already had more bumps, bruises, cuts, gashes, scrapes and even staples than Ava will likely ever dream of getting.  I keep worrying about scars on that sweet face but his Daddy likes to remind me that they will just be battle scars.  As if that makes me feel better??  I just adore this face and those big eyes, I don't want to mess it up on our watch! 
Seeing him in a football uniform was so hilarious at Halloween!  If you ask him what sports he might want to play someday, he says football immediately (which makes me cringe in the concussion driven conversation) and then maybe basketball, golf.  I love those options but you know Trav is trying with all his might to indoctrinate him with all things soccer! Who knows what he'll choose and enjoy someday but it is fun to think about those years.  
We are going to love cheering for any of our kids who want to play sports!
Carter loves helping me in the kitchen, he's my dishwasher unloader and if we're making cookies or scones or something yummy, he's all over it.
 It's been fun to see how much he's picked up from Ava in the learning department.  She LOVES to pretend she is his teacher and for him to play school with her.  Whether she's playing that role or not, he's actually always learning from her.  He definitely listens to what she has to say and he wants to keep up so he's pretty good at his numbers and letters and he seems to be a quick memorizer.  
He gets so excited for Ava to get in the van after school.  
He pretty much always says "Hi Ava! How is your day?  How was your school? We missed you, Ava."  I love that.
We get a little bored somedays while we wait...he loves to make silly faces and take pictures so we can check them out.  I'd never post this if I didn't love him so much and love being silly with him!
I think Carter will make a great husband someday.  He's very affectionate and loves to give and receive a good hug! He's always trying to hug his sister and his brother and he's now clued in that Trav and I love those hugs too.  Sometimes he has trouble knowing when to stop or what personal space looks like, but he's got a lover's heart for sure. 
 However, when he wants to be, make no mistake, this boy can be as SOUR as a lemon! Not getting his way or declaring something unfair brings out the BEST scowls in Carter.   It's nearly impossible for Trav and I to keep a straight face, which usually makes him more mad.  He's mastered this face and we get the biggest kick out of it.  It's especially charming when a sweet stranger offers to take a nice family pic, don't you think??  To my delight I've discovered from pictures of Trav's childhood that he inherited this scowl from his Father  :) 
 Suckers are Carter's primary love language, hands down.  There is really not anything he won't do for a sucker! He feels that way about candy in general, but suckers top his treat list in a big way. 
 Sometimes I look at him and I feel like I get a glimpse of what a 20 year old Carter will look like.  He is growing up and getting older by the minute it seems.  He finally outweighs his sister, his shoe size is two sizes bigger and he's only half an inch behind her in height.
And yet, my big boy is still just a little guy too!  
Curled up with his truck and his giraffe...I cherish those moments when I see him as little, still.  
 One of our favorite memories with Carter this year is when he just jumped right up on Bob Stoop's lap when we got to meet him!  Classic Carter, he looked right at him and said, "Can I sit on your lap?"  If he does play football someday, this picture will resurface for SURE!
 Winter is a hard season to keep an active little boy busy, but we are thankful for indoor, heated garage where he can still ride his bike! That's a perk of condo living :) 
 We also introduced Carter to the wii before Christmas, which was hilarious and as it turns out, his new favorite activity!  We taught him to play MarioKart so he could play along with us at my parent's house and that little stinker picked it right up! He struggled for about two or three days before he suddenly got the hang of it and then he started beating all of us!  Just last week he beat the entire game actually, something Travis and I have never done!  Having the wii as a reward and a consequence has been very helpful and it's been a great distraction for this season of being cooped up inside.  
 He and I continue to play with the train table, that may have been the best thing we've spent money on and Walker hasn't even been able to enjoy it yet!  I frequently get summoned to make new tracks and new cities for Carter to play with.  I don't mind that part, it's the designer in me I suppose.  I have realized what a trap the Thomas people have created!  There seems to be a never-ending need for more tracks and different configurations that can only be solved by buying more pieces...or having great friends!  We've been the very grateful recipients of some friends who have passed along tracks their older boys are done with and that is a great gift we have benefitted from. I'm hoping as Carter learns to put tracks together and think through configurations, he'll pick it up just in time to do for Walker  :) 
Carter is finally at that age where he is making friends and going to Church means seeing those friends! We recently got to host one of his friends who moved to Indiana, sweet Clara.  She and Carter were born 4 days apart and we sure miss her and her family!  They were in town and the C's were reunited.  They finished their  play date dressed as Cinderella and her superhero Prince! It's fun to watch Carter learn to be a friend and to enjoy his friends.  It always seems like a rite of passage when they move into a bigger world, a sphere of peers.  We look forward to seeing his world continue to expand!
 I'm grateful for this fleeting season, before preschool and then kindergarten interrupt his world with more fun and new voices of influence.  It's precious to me to have him at home, for Walker to enjoy his big brother and for Carter to spend his days playing. 
 Playing with puzzles...
 ...playing in the snow...
 ...and still getting a huge thrill out of seeing and watching the Garbage truck every week! 
We just love you to pieces, Carty! 
You make our days exciting, our family rich, and your parents, grateful.  
Life with you is a wild ride and we love it! 


All About Ava

Walker has pretty much owned the blog for the last six months, but I thought it was time to update you a little on his sister and brother.  Today I'm looking back on Ava and specifically her year so far in Kindergarten! 
 It's hard to believe we are already 5 months into the school year and this sweet little face looks much older.  I can't believe how much her hair has grown and how much bigger she is!  
If you'll recall, on the day we sent Ava to school, I cried my eyes out the entire day while Miss Ava hopped, skipped and smiled her way into her new school! After we picked her up on day 1, she was sold on school being the "most fun!" and we (Carter and I) resigned ourselves to accepting our new reality.  
Kindergarten was definitely all she hoped it would be!
 Since that "meet the teacher" night, we have been so thankful for Ava's teacher.  Ava just loves her and we have enjoyed getting to know her better and sitting with her at Ava's first conference.  She is a blessing to Ava's days and we have prayed, and keep praying, that Ava will be a blessing in her life. I'm thankful for an older, experienced teacher with four kids of her own!  She's made this year an easy transition for sure.  
We have learned quite a few things in this process, Ava and I.  Packing her back-pack, sending lunches, signing permission slips, returning library books, and remembering hats and gloves...we've had a learning curve together!  For the most part she is great at remembering things but every now and then we miss something.  I feel like no one prepared ME for the amount of work I would have in Kindergarten! Good grief, the special days, the fundraisers, the online everything accounts, the school spirit days, the posters...I'm ready for summer already. I feel like I really need to re-state my appreciation for the last 6 years at, were they ever laid back and relaxed!  School has put a major damper in my preference for quiet days at home.  
Carter and I spent the first few months like this, while waiting for Ava after school in the carpool lane! We are always excited to get our girl back! The carpool lane has become my second home this year, another reality I've come to accept.  I've never loved my minivan more! We live too close for Ava to ride a bus so we drop her off and pick her up everyday.  That has probably been the biggest adjustment to my daily life.  I no longer have a day with "no plans." Although it seems like a long window while she's in school (6.5 hours) it is amazing how quickly it flies by!  I really expected Ava to be more exhausted than she is, but she's adjusted very well and hasn't really had meltdowns related to her being overly tired.  
When the weather was still warm, we took the opportunity to walk to school most days.
 Have you ever seen a cuter Kindergartener??
I loved that time with her to talk about her day or say hi to new friends. I also used it as a great chance to get my daily exercise in and as soon as it got too cold for Walker to be out that long, I really missed burning those calories. So did Carter!  He loved those long walks together.  As soon as we can, we'll be bundling up to get back out there.  
 We got introduced to the P.A.W.S award at Ava's school, which we proudly celebrated the first time one came home!  We quickly realized those are handed out quite liberally when she started bringing them home daily, sometimes more than one a day! Haha! 
We are still proud, but maybe not rewarding her with treats every time  :) 
Ava's biggest concern each and every day is what she will wear  :) 
We talk about it, negotiate based on weather and then she likes to put something together and show me...oh man, I have totally met my match in her!  We've had some heated discussions of course, usually due to her desire to wear a sleeveless, summer dress when it's like 10 degrees outside!  I have chosen not to battle her and I usually go with what she chooses but every now and then I have to overrule her.  Travis always bursts into laughter and tells me that she's all mine when the teenage years hit!  She is as stubborn as a mule when she has her heart set on something.  
We've learned lots of give and take this year!  
Usually, she just wants as many colors of the rainbow as she can possibly wear! 
And how can I say no to that??
One of her very favorite weeks this year was when she was chosen to be the "Special K" at school.  Part of that title meant she needed to bring an "all about me" poster in and she couldn't wait.  
 She was supposed to put pictures of her family on there as well as some of her favorite things.  We made this together one weekend and she loved every minute of it.  We bought our supplies, printed our pictures and then she told me she wanted me to draw her favorite things, ha ha! I love what she chose to include.  I think she loved sharing this with her class.  She came home beaming and thoroughly enjoyed the line leader privileges all week, as well as some other perks in her classroom. 
 A few months in and Carter finally adjusted to Ava being gone all day, every day.  He really missed her and the first month was hard for him, but as Walker gets bigger he's enjoying that and once he clued in that he could play with all the toys he wanted to, his attitude drastically improved. 
 Still, when this is my view every afternoon, I think we all feel happy to be reunited! I love those two monkeys, way in the back!
We've had only one snow day this year, which is crazy for Minnesota, but we enjoyed it thoroughly and made some hot chocolate to celebrate while Ava poured through the American Girl catalog. 
 Once it officially became Winter, that meant the winter gear became part of the daily routine.  By now we have it down pat and she is great at getting herself all dressed and bundled up.  It's a lot for a little girl to remember but she does it every day! I love my little rainbow! 
The theme days have been totally hilarious and fun!  
This was 50's day when they celebrated the 50th day of school with a sock hop in the gym!  
Thank goodness for amazon and free 2 day shipping!  
That skirt came to our front door and it was perfect.  It came with the scarf and we had all the rest. 
Can you even stand her in those cat-eye glasses???  I wanted to be at her sock hop so badly! 
The very next week it was another theme day, this time it was Cowboy/Western day! We loved this one and although I could not find a cowboy hat at the last minute, she sure made one adorable cowgirl!
 The boots were a great purchase from Target before we left for our Texas trip! 
They've gotten constant use, she loves boots as much as her Mama I think :) 
Pajama day was a fun one and the perfect chance to wear her new Christmas jammies from Texie! 
 In the month of December, Ava's class learned about Christmas traditions all over the world, including this one from Sweden where the oldest girl in the family wears a wreath with candles to serve a traditional bread to her family.  Ava wore her cute crown everywhere for days, including on this morning while we ate breakfast at McDonalds!  
 While learning about Hanukkah, Ava remembered she had a dress from Israel that Trav brought home for her a couple of years ago.  It's one of her go-to dress up outfits but I never let her wear it outside the house because it's so thin and sheer. She convinced me this was the *perfect* occasion to wear it to school and so we let her. 
I thought the cowgirl boots were a nice touch, ha ha!

We had lots of good discussions during this series at school and were able to have a good dialog with her teacher who presented a Christian perspective on Christmas for two days.  We were very thankful for the balance and that was a sweet thing for Ava to recognize and for us to see her faith grow as she asked us questions and we got to encourage her to stand confidently in the truth.  Kindergarten has presented so many of these discussions and we are so proud of Ava and how tender her heart is toward her classmates and her teachers, and her desire to see them know Jesus.  We are more convinced than ever, that what happens at home far exceeds and trumps what happens at school.  Not that peers and other voices in her lives carry no weight, they certainly do, but we are learning how critical it is that we encourage her, build into her spiritually, seek her heart out daily, pray with her and for her every day and simply allow her to ask questions and process.  I can't believe the depths of her heart and how much she is capable of understanding, spiritually speaking.  For all the fear I may have felt going into a public school system, God has been faithful to us and He has shown us where His grace has gone before her and how He is taking care of her and giving our family opportunities to live our faith out and share Christ with gentleness and respect.  
The classroom teddy bear got to come home with Ava over Christmas break and oh my did she love that!  We had to take pictures with "buddy" for their class book and she was totally into it.  He made it into the annual sibling pic on the night we opened presents...
and even came to a Christmas party with friends! 
She loved adding our adventures with Buddy into the classroom book!
On the day of Ava's Christmas party at school, it was another pj day and lucky for Ava, she had just opened these from us the night before! Frozen still ranks right up there as one of her all time loves!
 I signed up to help at the party and it was very fun for me to be there and see Ava with all her buddies!  This is one of her little friends and she was so excited for me to meet her.  I spent most of the party spinning kids and blindfolding them so they could pin the carrot nose on frosty and win some tattoos!  Ha ha! 
 I think I shared these before but I love them. This envelope and the handcrafted stationary and ornament appeared under the tree one day! 
 Ava's love language is all things arts and crafts right now and she made us the best gifts at school! What a sweet surprise! 
 Here are some other sweet things she brought home over Christmas...I am learning how to love these and then quietly get rid of them when the next holiday is ushered in! She is so proud of each and every thing she makes, but oh mylanta, the paper that threatens to take over our house is never ending! 
She made this adorable menorah that she lovingly called a "canorah", ha ha! 
This came home recently, after they studied Martin Luther King, Jr.  Isn't that great??  We loved it!  She was so excited because her teacher told her class that he was a Pastor, just like Ava's Daddy.  
Very sweet. Trav told her he'd like to hang this in his office and that thrilled her too. 
Ava's typical routine as soon as she walks in the door is to immediately shed all of her school clothes and proceed directly to any of her many dress-up outfits.  She gets herself in character and then sits at her art table for at least 30 minutes before she barely acknowledges the rest of us.  I'd say it's her "decompressing time."  This "winter dress" is her current go-to.  She's in love with it and asks me constantly if she can wear it to church, school, to Target, etc.!  
Maybe the very best development of late is that my wonderful neighbor recently offered to come any day I need her to stay with the boys while I run to pick up Ava.  She saw me loading everyone up, day after day, and offered to ease my burden and allow Walker to keep napping.  I can't even tell you how great that has been!  I hated waking Walker up everyday in the afternoon, it really was screwing up his sleep and therefore the rest of the afternoon, and it's just kind of a pain to get everyone in the car only to sit in the carpool lane. Many days Walker cried the whole time and Carter told me a thousand times how bored he was.  This new arrangement is so much better!  We text most days and unless Trav is home or we have Awana, she comes right over and 15 minutes later I'm home with Ava.  Now I sort of look forward to those 15 minutes of peace and quiet before Ava gets in the van.  
I get to hear how her day was and then we get to go home and see the boys.  
It just never gets old picking up this polka-dot princess and seeing that smile when she climbs in! Kindergarten has been a great change for us, although it has been a change.  She is doing great academically and socially.  We love seeing her reading comprehension grow and her ability to do simple math and other skills.  She soaks up what she is learning and often comes home with a "hey, we just learned about that in school!" comment.  I can't believe how convenient it is to live so close to school.  I will be anxious to get back to walking sooner than later, but for now it is so nice to leave our garage and be there and back, 5 minutes later!  We have lots more fun in store, the 100th day is coming up soon (hello pinterest, help me out with some ideas!) and of course Valentine's day is this week, which is big business when you are  5. We've only had tears a couple of days, once when she realized that Texie was visiting and she'd miss out on the days' fun at home and again when she was sad about Carter going sledding with Travis.  Other than that, she springs out of bed each day and asks if it's a school day?  I've already started to gently point out a few things that will be different next year because really, Kindergarten is just one big party it seems! Snacks, naps, recess, dress up days, who wouldn't love that?? First grade might be a big disappointment  :) 

So there you have it, that's our girl in a nutshell these days.  She's loving school and we are loving the ways she is growing and changing.  It's hard to believe her sixth birthday is just around the corner.  I can't believe we are in these school days already and yet it's good and right and just what God has planned for Ava.  We just love her!