Snuggled In and Loving It!

Today is a snow day here and I have to tell you, I love it!  There is a beautiful dusting of fresh, white snow covering everything and it's hard not to be sucked in to the pure beauty of it.  I woke up imagining that we would all sleep in and enjoy the stillness of a freshly fallen snow, but 2 little nuts had a different idea!  So, after letting go of my sleeping-in dream, we packed ourselves up and went to Bible study.  Now we are all home again and snuggled in for the day.  I'm feeling very thankful that I got my groceries yesterday and that we have everything we need, in fact I think we're going to attempt to make some Christmas cookies with Ava tonight to share with our neighbors.  That seems like a perfect thing to do on a snowy night :) I'll let you know tomorrow if it was indeed as "perfect" as it seemed!!
Speaking of my little Ava, this is a perfect picture capturing her current cheeseball phase.  She is all about saying "cheese" for the camera and then giving us a shot of her teeth...every, single one!   I'm pretty sure she's getting another molar, which means most of them are in now.  I am truly loving this stage we're in with her.  She's become so independent and she's comprehending so much of what we tell her or ask her to do.  It's a great blend of acting like a "big girl" and yet, still wanting to be my baby.  She is doing just great with Carter too.  So much better than I expected.  I'm proud of her.  
And look at that face...How can that not make you smile???
 I have been looking at photos of her at this time last year, and I just can't believe how different she is!
  She was just starting to scoot/crawl towards things, but for the most part she was still stationary!
Oh, how things have changed :) 
 For example, this little guy entered the picture!  
 And he evened up the score :) 
I don't think I've shown you pictures of this yet, but this position is Carter's favorite!  When he is fussy or gassy or crying, if we just hold him vertically and let him rest his head in our hands so he can look up, he melts like butter...
Especially when his Daddy is holding him!  It's the weirdest thing, but it works every time!  He's spending a lot of time in the baby bjiorn for that very reason :) It's his "happy place" and our ace in the hole from dinner time to bed time.  It seems like it would hurt his little neck, but he just loves to lean back and look around.  He's such a little snuggle bug, we are just eating him up.  He's a great baby, really the calming presence I prayed he would be.  I love having a baby again, there are so many things that are fun to experience with him for the first time!  He is smiling a lot lately and responding to our voices by cooing back.  It's so sweet and I'm doing my best to get it on video so I can remember this stage.  I hardly remember Ava doing that, but I know she did.  They change so fast and although I'm enjoying it with both of them, I desperately want the clock to slooooow down.   If I've learned anything the second time around, it's to not wish these days away in favor of the next one.  

Some days are totally intense with both of them, but I'm so thankful for the opportunity to experience that kind of stress!  For every minute that I want to pull my hair out, there are twice as many that bring a smile to my face or tears to my eyes.  I love my kids!  

Now if you'll excuse me, I can hear each of them stirring from their naps, which means I'm about to experience one of those "intense" times in a few minutes!  One will need her cup, the other will need me, and they'll both need a new diaper...Let the games begin!  


P.ost V.acation R.ecovery.

I know I'm not alone today, when I say that I am in total Post Vacation Recovery mode!  We got home last night from a wonderful week away and now today, I am totally playing catch-up.  The laundry is piled high, the suitcases are sort of unpacked, and the fridge was very, very bare.  I've made strides in the food department, but that's about it :) At least I have my priorities straight!!  If you opened our front door today, you would find...

-Me in my jammies.  And Ava.  And Carter.  One would assume we never left the house today and yet, we did!  All three of us in our jammies and coats.  We braved the bank and Target for a few minutes and then quickly came home again so that we could hunker down and rest.

-Toys everywhere.  Ava has reclaimed all of her toys that she left behind last week!  She's opened every drawer, basket, and box as if to say "I'm back" to all those things that are hers to play with :) She's been a sweetie today and even slept in until 9 am then took a 3 hour nap this afternoon.  Oh how I love that little redhead!  She's in her Santa jammies and her hair looks wild!  It's how I prefer to see her these days :)

-Carter sleeping in the swing.  A week away has wiped my little guy out and this Mommy is grateful!  He did great at my parent's house, was an angel on the car ride home, and has been very good today too.  We are on day 5 of a sleep pattern that seems to be sticking at night.  He's going to bed between 10:30-11:30 and sleeping until 5:30 or 6:30.  It's heaven.  And his Christmas gifts just got better because of it!  Ha Ha...only kidding.  But he is looking especially cute to us these days :) Gotta love it when the nights are long again!

-Groceries in the cupboards.  Praise the Lord and Hallelujah, I signed up for a grocery delivery service and today was the first time they graced my front door.  I placed my order online last night when we got home and today at 2pm, they showed up with our order.  I literally walked from the couch to the front door and that's about it :) They unloaded my bags and I simply put my groceries away.  Now I told Travis I was only going to do this during the winter months when it's so cold and hard to load up two little ones, but after this first experience, I might have to define "winter" a little more loosely!

-Bills and mail scattered on my kitchen table.  I'm still digging out from the hospital bills and insurance claims and all the other mail that comes with having a baby!  I feel like I keep remembering to mail things or pay things with a day or so to spare, but now that I'm getting more sleep, hopefully my mind will recover a bit :)

-My computer open to a million "Cyber Monday Only" deals.  I'm thinking I need to step away from the internet today because I'm feeling like I'm missing out on the "deal of the season" every time I check my email.  It's crazy how many "free shipping", "20% off", and "free personalization" offers are on my table!  All of this "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" stuff is stressing me out.  This is not our year to do much about it, we have too many diapers to buy and too much sleep to catch up on, but I'm just amazed at some of the finds people are getting!  I think I just need to get offline and forget about it :) You can see how much progress I'm making!  Ha Ha!!

-Spaghetti on the stove.  I haven't cooked for awhile because we were blessed with so many meals from friends and then it was Thanksgiving, but now it's back to reality :) Travis requested spaghetti, so I was happy to oblige.  However, everything is now sitting out and I'm sitting here.  I suppose I need to get off my blog and into the kitchen and get that table set for dinner!

We had a wonderful week away and now I'm glad to be home again and back to "our life."  Although vacation is always needed, one can only eat so much snack food and watch so much TV!!  We thoroughly enjoyed being lazy, but now I have no excuse, Thanksgiving is over!!  I hope you had a blessed holiday too.  The countdown is on til we do it all over again!!


Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving!  We have been enjoying a much needed vacation in Iowa this week and are soaking up some family time with my parents, sister and brother in law.  I've taken a million pictures (surprise, surprise) and have a few to share with you!  We had a wonderful day yesterday and of course, I ate more than I should have, but ask me if I regret it??  NO!!  It was delicious :) 
Here is a recap of our day!
I LOVE the Macy's parade and especially loved watching it on my parents' huge flat screen :) 
We sat with the kiddos and watched for awhile...Ava loved all of the big floats, but more so the music.
She got her groove on with every dance number and band that marched by!  
Travis and I have watched the parade every year since we've been married, but there is nothing like watching it in your jammies, with your babies in your lap.  So fun!
Although the parade occupied her for awhile, when she wasn't sitting still, she was most likely doing this.
Ava loves to sit and rock in this little rocking chair, which is close to 100 years old and was in my Grandma's family when she was a little girl.  
She drags it all over the house and likes to look at books or rock with her baby in it.  
I did the same thing as a little girl in that chair and now it's sweet to think that my daughter likes it too!
She also likes to follow/chase my Mom's new puppy!
This is Oliver or "Oddie" (or Ollie) as Ava calls him.
He is the new addition to the family and of course, the object of Ava's interest.
Thankfully Ollie doesn't have Carter to worry about yet!
He's got some time before there are 2 kiddos after him :) 
Speaking of Little Mr. Carter, here he is in his Thanksgiving best :) 
I think he looked about 10 yrs. old in that shirt!
He gets his good looks from his Daddy :) 
Jennie and I couldn't get enough of him in that little outfit!
Aunt Jennie and Uncle Dave matched Carter too :) 
Gotta love that hair!
It's not hard to come up with what we are most thankful for this year!  
These two little blessings top the list :) 
And I think Grammy and Grampy might say the same thing :) 
On this particular day, she was not the only turkey in the house!
My Aunt Sharae with her great-nephew...Appropriately aiding in our quest to make him a Hawkeye fan!
The only time my plate was empty was before the feast.  
I did nothing but eat the rest of the day and night!   
Ava spotted Dave in this chair and she left to get her blankie and some books for him to read to her.
And like a good uncle, he read every one :) 
Even more than usual, books have consumed Ava on this visit!
We keep finding her in all kinds of spots with a book of some sort in her hand.  
She is her Daddy's daughter!
Love him.
Love them.
The turkey must have kicked in for Carter too!  
He sure was sleepy yesterday :) 
Who said bouncy seats are only for babies??
Apparently they make great reading spots for older sisters too!
My Grandpa brought over a book that he used to read to me, 30 years ago.  It's a cloth Strawberry Shortcake book and as soon as I saw it, it brought back so many memories.  I loved it when I was little and hopefully Ava will too! 
Rockin those babies to sleep after a long and eventful day...
Like Grandpa, Like Granddaughter :) 

I love Thanksgiving and the chance we get to slow down and remember all that the Lord has blessed us with.  Family, friends and all the needs that he provides for are overwhelming, but there is nothing I'm more grateful for than the gift of Jesus and the salvation he provides.  

I hope your Thanksgiving has been a sweet one...We all have so much to be thankful for and someone who deserves the praise of a grateful heart.  This is truly my favorite time of year!!  


A Tale of Two Kids

It's been a busy few weeks for the four of us!  As life with our little family has taken shape, so has our social calendar.  It's been great to get back into a routine and to enjoy some time at home together, but it's also been great to get out and do a few things!  
I was cleaning out my memory card tonight and I found some cute pictures that I haven't shared yet, so in no particular order, here are some of the things we've been up to...
Until this past week, the weather here has been unbelievable!  Our Fall has been just beautiful and unseasonably warm.  Before it took a nose dive, I took advantage of a mild afternoon and took my two babies out for a walk, in the world's biggest stroller :) 
Carter was all tucked in and slept the whole time...
...and this little nut was wide eyed, taking everything in.  
That little grin just kills me everytime :) 
A little over a week ago, we got to go to one of the Student Ministry's big events, The Gracies Film Festival.  It's a wonderful event where students spend the weekend with their discipleship groups, writing, directing, filming and editing their own movies for submission in our film festival.  After they turn in their movies, we judge them all and then host a red carpet event to celebrate their hard work!  It's totally fun and the kids and leaders love it.  Every group wins some kind of award, so no one goes home disappointed :) 
We decided to dress up and come out for the red carpet too!  I love this little dress on her :) Ava had a BLAST and walked around with her little snack cup and water cup, hamming it up for anyone and everyone.  Last year she was just starting to crawl, this year I was doing my best to keep my eyes on her while she ran around :) 
This little chunky monkey slept most of the night away :) He did get to make his big debut on stage with his Daddy however, when Trav had to present an award.  He was sleeping in his arms and I was chasing Ava in the back of the worship center, so Trav took him onstage and he made the crowd swoon.  He has the effect on people.  I mean seriously, look at those cheeks!!
Travis was the driver for the "party shuttle" that delivered all the kids to the red carpet and the waiting paparazzi.  Ava was thrilled when he arrived himself, to dance down that carpet :) 
Here is the winning group and their amazingly creative and fun leaders.  They won last year too, and rightly so.  Their film was hilarious.  
Sadly, this is the only picture I have from this past Wednesday night and both Ava and Grace aren't looking, BUT it was such a fun night!  It was a cowboys and chili night in junior high, so Carter, Ava and I put on our western wear (sort of) and joined in on the fun!  Ava had her authentic cowgirl jeans on (with the suede fringe on the sides) and her cute little cowgirl shirt.  She was legit :) The kids were all so cute and the chili we had was great!  In fact, no one liked it more than Ava.  I couldn't believe it, but she gobbled it up and ate an entire bowl of it!  That's good because I love to make chili and we have lots of it in the winter.  Now I know she loves it too!
Yesterday, we braved an ice storm and went to the 3rd hour service at Church.  Carter is growing like such a little weed and I am now putting him in outfits that I thought wouldn't fit him until at least January!  His face is so round and his tummy is too :) He's going to surpass Ava in a few weeks at this rate!!
One of the best changes this week is that Carter is now responding to us with intentional smiles!  He especially smiles for his Daddy, which I think is sweet.  We love to see those grins and even a little dimple every now and then on his right cheek :) 
We are enjoying him so much!
And ***knock on wood*** he's also been giving us longer stretches of sleep for the last week or so!!  His first stretch is anywhere from 5-6 hours, and then his next 3-4, which is heaven sent for two sleepy parents :)  The last few nights have been much better for all of us!
Meanwhile, we seem to have a little escape artist on our hands!
This week, she discovered that she's just tall enough to reach the handle on our front door and when unlocked, pull it open.  
Naturally, this provides endless opportunities for fun!  I've caught her on her way out several times in the last few days, always after one of us has just come in and before we manage to lock the door :) She moves at lightning speed and grabs whatever is in her path to bring with her!  Then she squeals as she walks/runs down the hall! 
However, nothing trumps her favorite activity as of late...trying on shoes.  
All day long and first thing in the morning, Ava has at least one shoe on her foot while looking for another.  They usually end up on the wrong foot, but occasionally she surprises us and gets it right :) There are many variations that are picture worthy, but this one made us laugh out loud this weekend.  
She's nothing if not bold in her fashion choices, wouldn't you say?? 


When the Mood Strikes...

...Go for it!! 
 For example, when the snow flies and you feel like decorating your house for Christmas, go ahead and put up your tree!
 And when you see a big, empty box that looks like it would make a nice bed, go ahead and just lie down.
When you unpack the boxes and you feel like you've got twice the ornaments this year than last year, hang them all anyway :) 
 And when your 18 month indicates ANY interest in sitting in your lap for a picture, take one!
 And when she wants to lay next to you for a kiss, pucker up :) 
And if she's motivated by promises of treats afterwards, take advantage of it and smile!
When your 5 week old son cracks a smile at your goofy face, keep make goofy faces :) 
And when you realize it's his first Christmas, and this is his first look at a tree, rally the troops for more pictures!
When you think the days are long, remember that the years of cuddling like this are short.
When you realize that you've got 2 kids now, give them both all of your heart and know that one day when they're grown, these are the memories you'll cherish forever.
And for Heaven's sake, when you've got your first pair of red, velvet jammies, embrace the fashion statement and wear them with pride!

So when the day is over and the house is quiet, go to bed with your best friend and count your blessings...
Because these are the days of our lives!  
  Especially when life is short and God has been good to you.  

Welcome, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, we've been waiting for you :)