Happy Halloween!

It's Ava's first Halloween and the only year she'll remain clueless about the whole candy thing!

Daddy's little love bug :)

Mommy's little cuddle bug!

We went to my cousin's house and saw some cute trick or treaters, including Gracie and her neighbor friend!

Gracie was "Not a morning person!"  Good choice of costumes as it was quite chilly tonight!

Our little catepillar checking out her treat bucket...
Soooo, people are actually going to put candy in here??

I think I'd rather lick it instead!

But not until I get this thing off my head.

Whoops!  I got caught in the act :)

On Wednesday night, we joined Daddy's junior high costume party and got to see all kinds of cute kids dressed up!  The girls couldn't wait to get in a picture with me :)

Ava with her cousin Emma, also a darling little insect :)

Grandma and Grandpa even got to see Ava in her costume a few weeks ago!

Of course they were smitten...

Who wouldn't be with this little face looking at ya??

Even Ryley loved her costume!  He licked her feet to tell her :)

She wasn't too phased obviously.  She took the opportunity to just chill...

Who knew how much we could love a little bug like this one??

Hope your day was as fun as mine!
Happy Halloween Everybody!!

Does Anyone Know What Today Is???

Happy Halloween Everyone!!


A Night With The Boys!

On Sunday night we spent a little time with 3 of the cutest boys I know!  Travis, Ava and I got to watch the 3 little guys I used to nanny for while their Mom and Dad went out on a date.  It has been a couple of months since we've seen them and we had the best time catching up!

It didn't take Ava very long to realize a house full of 3 active boys is nothing like the house she lives in!  She was wide-eyed in the midst of all the chaos!

The boys were darling and couldn't wait to get their arms around Ava.  They each asked me a hundred times if they could hold her and no one was more excited than Finn :) He was quite proud of himself!

Ben and Barrett loved holding her too, although she did not know what to make of being between them!

The one thing they told their Mom before we came over was that they wanted to do an art project with me.  Isn't that sweet?  When I used to be with them every week, we always made art projects, especially Finn and I.  They loved it and I had fun trying to dream up some creative things for us to make every week.  It's been 6 months since I've been back and their Mom said they haven't done any projects since!  So, we came prepared with several options :)

I knew they would love making these pumpkin bats and I was right.  Aren't they cute?

We also made these witches with hats, which look cute but were kind of a disaster to make :)

I loved seeing these cuties again and I know it will be just be a matter of time before Ava is doing her best to keep up with them!  Let me just tell you however, this was good birth control!  We love each one of them, but we are not ready for 4...yet :) It's a good thing they just come one at a time!!


The Wisdom of Perspective

This afternoon I went to the grocery store with Ava and a very long list.

I pushed my way through the store, kept her from a meltdown and one by one, crossed my items off my list.

We were there an hour.  She was good, but squirmy.

I endured a new checker, who to the best of his ability, was SLOW.  Painfully slow.  And unorganized, therefore SLOWER.  He loaded all of my things (from a very long list) into about 4 paper bags, each weighing about 10 lbs.  I HATE that, but I didn't have the energy to protest by the time I caught on to what he was doing.  Whatever.

By the time he was done, I was holding an extremely wiggly Ava, who was reaching as far as she could to touch whatever she could.  Without doing a backbend, I managed to pay for the groceries and push my extremely heavy cart, one-handed, in a very un-straight line to the car.  Once we got there, I realized that I had about 3 minutes until one of us (or maybe both of us) reached major-meltdown status.  As quickly as I could, I loaded the car up and got out of dodge.

As I was turning onto our street, I realized that the garage door opener was in Travis' car and not mine.  Major meltdown status now reached.  In an instant, I realized I was going to have to park, unload Ava, head inside our building, take the elevator to the garage, pick up a spare cart, go back outside, unload the car, push the cart back in the building, take the elevator up to the 2nd floor, and unload everything inside our kitchen.  Major bummer on a million levels.

As soon as we got inside, Ava made it clear that she was not going to wait any longer to eat.  So I fed her, groceries waiting on the counter, and to my delight, she fell asleep.  I gingerly tip-toed into her room, laid her in her crib and watched in horror as she woke right up and began to cry.

For 3 days running now, Ava has thrown huge fits at each of her naps.  She's refused to nap or just taken tiny little cat naps.  AND. I'M. ABOUT. TO. LOSE. MY. MIND.  We've never had a napping issue, ever, ever, ever.  She's a great napper!  2 hours in the morning, 2-3 in the afternoon.  It's been perfect.  However, from day one, she's been napping in her swing and I recently decided that it was time to transition her to her crib.  She's simply getting too big for her swing.  Well, apparently I should have consulted her first, because she is NOT happy about it.  I've done it in slow, gradual steps and I've made it about as inviting as possible.  It's not that she won't sleep in her crib, she sleeps like a champ in there every night.  But for some reason, she is not cooperating AT ALL during the day and I'm doing my very best to stand my ground and weather the storm.  I know she'll cave, eventually.  I just have to be patient and consistent until she does.  But in the meantime, I think I might eat my weight in girl scout cookies while I listen to her scream and wail.

Fun times over here.

As I sat and contemplated my irritation with this whole thing, feeling very sorry for myself all the while, I got online and got a very healthy and needed dose of perspective.  Suddenly my grocery saga, my no-nap baby, and my cookie stuffing felt very, very small and insignificant in light of some much harder circumstances.

I pulled up my twitter and saw that little Stellan is once again in a fight for his life.  He's gravely ill, although doing better at the moment, but back in the hospital facing all kinds of unknowns and more tests.  His parents are hoping and praying, waiting and watching,  and trying to make the best decisions for him, in order to save his life.  I'm just hoping Ava will sleep for a little bit so I can get a break.

I also read an update about sweet little Kate and pictured her newly shaven head, the latest reminder of what this horrible cancer has done to her precious little body.  I read Holly's struggles about juggling her time and attention between her three kids, each who need her in a different way.  I thought of my friend Steph, Holly's sister, who packed up her life, moved in to help and is now in the midst of an intense crisis in her family, every single day.  And all I want is to go to the grocery store alone.

Sometimes a little perspective is all you need to shake you up and out of a bad mood.  Or help you realize all the blessings you take for granted.  Or inspire to be a little more thankful and a lot more grateful.  Yep, a little perspective does even the grumpiest of us a whole lot of good.

Suddenly I'm not so irritated by the ordeal of buying food.  I'm thankful for a healthy, squirmy girl, who has lungs that are clear and working and a body that isn't in a fight for survival.  I appreciate her feisty, independent spirit that won't quit, even when she should be exhausted.  And although I hope and pray we're never in that position, I realize that feisty personality could be exactly what she needs, should she ever be in her own fight for her life.  Perspective.  It doesn't always solve your problems or make them disappear.  But it does size them up and help you see them a little clearer.  I still wish she'd go to sleep and stop crying.  I still long for the day when the grocery store isn't as daunting and I really hope I can get back in shape soon.  But until then, I'm grateful for today.  I'm thankful for a healthy daughter.  And I'm at peace with a God who is Sovereign.  Perspective....Do you need a little too??

Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."


6 Months Old!!

Wow Ava, you are already 6 months old!!  It's crazy how quickly time is flying by...You are growing like a little weed right before our eyes!  A cute little weed :)

Would you like to know some of your 6 month stats??
-After we took you to the doctor last week, we know that you are now a whopping 14 lbs. and 8 oz.!!  You're on a good, steady growth curve, but you are a petite little girl :)
-You are 26" long and you now wear size 6 mo. in clothes.
-You've been wearing a size 2 diaper comfortably, but we moved you up to a size 3 for bedtime.
-You still drink 4-5 bottles a day, but somedays are better than others!  Sometimes you like your bottle, but you're so distracted these days, it's kind of like a wrestling match to feed you sometimes.  You do love your baby food though!  Right now you are eating the following things: applesauce, pears, bananas, peaches, sweet potatoes, peas, squash and carrots.  You gobble it up every time and you get so excited when you see your bowl on the tray!  You're now old enough to start snacking on some banana pieces and some soft crackers, according to your doctor.  I'm sure you're going to love that!

Yep, I knew that would excite you!
Would you like to hear some other "firsts" from this month?

Your Dad and I love that we often catch you sucking on your left thumb now!  
We wish you'd trade it for a pacifier, but it's so cute to see you put that little thumb in your mouth :)  Speaking of your pacifier, you've wanted nothing to do with it for the last few months until just a few days ago, when you found one and started chewing on it.  Now you love it!  Not for sucking, but for chewing...those teeth are definitely on their way!

The biggest change in you this month is in how well you sit up!  You love to sit on the floor with your toys and explore everything around you.  You look like such a big girl when you do this and you still stop me in my tracks sometimes when I realize how quickly you are growing up.

It doesn't last very long though because you are a girl on the move!  Within a few minutes, you are usually on your tummy, scooting and reaching for something else.  We know it's just going to be a matter of time before you are crawling, you are such a little wiggle worm!

Did I mention that you just keep getting cuter??

You still love your excersaucer and anything that you can dance in.  You're kind of a wild woman in this and especially in your johnny jump-up!  You run around in it and swing yourself from one side of the doorway to the other.  It cracks us up and makes us nervous for when you are mobile!  I have a feeling you are going to a lot like your Dad...

Ava we love taking you places!  You are so good about being out and about and on the go and you're so darn cute that we get lots of people who stop us and want to see you.  But, you may have seen your last restaurant for awhile because...

When we took you out with your Texie, you were such a stinker!!  You tried to climb out of your car seat and I am not kidding!  With a grin on your face, you literally tried to pull yourself out and over the edge of your car seat, numerous times.  Obviously we had to take you out and hold you, which was also a nightmare!  So, for the first time, we strapped you into a highchair and prayed that would satisfy you :) Oh how we underestimated you!  You pulled everything off the table in sight, you tried to bite the corner of the table and you threw your toys on the floor repeatedly.  Oh Ava, if we didn't love you so much...

Due to the same squirminess, you also had another big first on a shopping trip to Costco with me.  In a moment of desperation, I put you in the seat of the cart, wondering if you were even big enough to sit there!  Well, I should have known how much you were going to love your new perch!!

You hung right on to the edge of the cart and looked at everyone and everything, so proudly.  And then it took you all of 10 seconds to look in my purse, spot my phone, and pull it out to put in your mouth.  It I wasn't so sentimental about this whole thing, I would have enjoyed it more!  Something about you being this big makes me a little sad...where is my newborn baby??

Bath time has become a lot more fun for all of us!  You sit so well in your little tub and you love your toys, especially your books.  You splash like crazy and try to drink the water now too!  Your Dad thinks that's so funny :)

You are still such a great sleeper Ava!  You sleep an average of 10.5-11 hours at night and you take 2 naps every day.  We love you for that :) You are just a little monkey in your crib and while we still lay you down on your back, you immediately roll right over to your tummy and you sleep that way all night.    We usually find you playing in your crib in the morning, trying to put your feet in your mouth or trying to move all over the crib.

You're so snuggly in the morning, it's just the best!!

Ava, do you know how much we love you little girl??  6 months is such a fun age.  We are enjoying everything about you getting older and we are the proudest parents in the world watching you grow.  You are a precious gift to us Ava and we could never have predicted how much of our hearts you would take over.  The days keep falling off the calendar but our hearts are overwhelmed with the joy you've brought us for the last 6 months.

We think you're the sweetest little girl and we love you deeply Pagey.
Happy 6 months baby!


Best. Fall. Day. Ever.

Today was a day, start to finish, for the record books!  It was one of the best days I've had in a long time, and lately, there have been some good ones.  We got a major break in our gross weather and finally had a semi-warm, semi-sunny day.  So, we took advantage of it, knowing it could all end tomorrow and went straight to the apple orchard to create a memory with Ava and start a new fall tradition.  I'm just warning you now, this is going to be loooooong.  However, I do think I scored some of the best pictures we've ever taken, so hopefully it's worth it!  Well, it's definitely worth it to me, but as for you, at least you've been warned :)

All dressed up for the orchard in our red sweater and booties from the talented Melissa.

And of course, what would a photo op be without a big flower hat??

We went to a new place this year (to us) and they had all kinds of things for Ava to see, including this little petting zoo.

This is a picture I dreamed of when I was pregnant alot.
Is there anything sweeter than a Daddy with his daughter??

Two of my favorite blessings.

As if we could think about selling her!

Whoever took her home would quickly realize the amount of spunk they just purchased!

Quite possibly one of my all time favorite photos.

I think my heart skipped a little when I found this spot.

Ava was loving all the grooves her little fingers fit into.

And we were loving her.

Forever my girl.

The trees were dripping with the most beautiful apples.

And we hopped on a trolley to see them.

They took us to the great pumpkin patch...

Where we picked out a pumpkin that Ava clearly loved!

Our first of many visits I'm sure :)

We strolled through the orchard for more photos and some apples.

I mean come on, in that red sweater??  I couldn't resist.

Ava's hands were so busy, touching and feeling everything in sight.

And her eyes so big and full of wonder.

Our precious little family...
Yes, these are kind of days that I know are a GIFT from the Lord.

And look who we ran into??  My cousin Jenny and her family!
Merry Christmas from the Lowe's!
Is this not a great Christmas card picture or what??

After we got home and everyone got a nap, it was time to carve our pumpkins!  Ava licked hers (we washed it) and kept hitting it with her hands.  I think she liked it :)

Travis was the top carver and the scooper.

And I was the decorative carver.  Of course.

Although it's hard to tell in this shot, our family pumpkin says "BOO!"

And Ava's is a little heart.

Once we lit them, she was totally fascinated by the whole deal!

Although she'll never remember this, we had so much fun starting this little tradition with her today.  In fact, I kind of have a lump in my throat thinking of how many years we'll do this together and how quickly I know they will go by.
I hope to freeze frame just a little bit of today in my heart forever...It was a sweet day for the three of us.

After we carved our pumpkins, Travis was dying to roast the seeds.

So we did and they were great!  We both ate them by the handful when they came out of the oven :)
Does this day have "americana" written all over it or what???

In the most spectacular ending, to the best fall day ever, we even got a last second win from my Hawkeyes!!  With 2 seconds to go, on the the last throw of the game, we scored a touchdown to beat Michigan State.  I think I may have developed an ulcer watching this game!

And now Iowa is 8-0 for the first time ever!  And we are somehow marching through this season in the top 10.  It hasn't been pretty and we've come from behind in 7 out of 8 games, but we're winning and we'll take it!

So there you have it.
The. Best. Fall. Day. Ever.
With one very grateful heart, I'm off to bed.  
Today has been a very, very good day.