NOT complaining, just "Venting"

Just so we're all clear on this, I LOVE my kids.  They are adorable in the eyes of their Mommy and Daddy and we are so grateful that the Lord gave them to us. 
I mean seriously, does she just melt your heart or what??
Pretty and sparkly on the outside...
...but more importantly, beautiful on the inside! 
Then there's this little guy.  Handsome and independent...
 ...wild and brave!!
But sweet to the core.  Is he precious or what??

We love them.  LOVE them.  L-O-V-E them!! 

But Heaven help me, this stage in our lives just might do me in!  I am barely treading water these days, breaking up fights teaching them to share, cleaning up accidents enjoying potty training, averting one disaster after another letting them explore their surroundings, tripping over toys giving them the freedom to play, fixing snacks and meals constantly serving them with a smile, tuning out all the whining and crying  listening to them express their emotions and collapsing into bed at night going to bed fulfilled and excited for a new day!  You know, nothing unusual or difficult, just your average day with an almost 18 month and 3 year old. 

I tweeted this afternoon that my coffee was no longer cutting it...I'm not sure what the next step up is, but I did enjoy a lunch today of a Lindt dark chocolate truffle (x3).  Usually I reserve those for a treat after dinner, but today called for a treat at 1pm.  Not sure how to proceed from there! 

It's intense being a parent sometimes.  These early years are not for wimps!  I know sooner than later this too shall pass and one day, I'll actually "miss the chaos."  I'm not sure I totally believe that, but all older Moms love to tell me that :)

 Yep, I love them.  We'll keep them forever.  But if you see me in line at Starbucks, with a trail of chocolate wrappers in my'll know why! 


Remembering to See Clearly

I just love it when I know the Lord is speaking a common theme in my life. When He confirms something again and again, from various sources, it's hard to deny that He's got a Word for me.  The thing He's been pressing on my heart has shown up in my morning devotional book, in my Tuesday morning Bible study, in the text we are walking through at Church (Matthew), in conversations with friends and in struggles I find myself wrestling with. 

In all of it, I keep hearing His voice speaking over the noise of my anxiety, saying to me;  

"I'm Sovereign...I have a plan...You can trust me"

It's so easy to operate in a state of worry or to grieve over the way a situation unfolds, all the while wondering where is God?  Has He forgotten me?  Is He not seeing what's happening?  Why would He choose this for me?  Those thoughts are common for all of us, in one circumstance or another.  Our finite minds cannot know or see the "big picture" and we have this crippling limitation due to our humanity. 

We forget. 
 Forget WHO HE IS. 

Unless we are intentional to remember, intentional to open our eyes and count the gifts, intentional to go to His Word...we forget.  We operate in what we feel, instead of operating in what we know.  But even better than operating in what we know, we should operate in what He's already done and what His Word promises.  It takes time and it takes work and it takes intention to be someone who remembers Him, who looks for Him in all things and who responds in gratitude and praise.  But that really is the best way to live, the best way to see Him clearly.  As I've done some intentional things lately, He has been faithful to remind me of His Sovereignty.  He has pointed out a plan that I couldn't see when I was in the thick of it, but as I looked back I found His fingerprints all over it.  He's also convicted me to stop doubting Him with my actions, living as if He doesn't exist, but to trust Him with everything.  In and over and under and through it all.  Every detail. 

One of the ways He's spoken so clearly is through my Tuesday morning Bible study and this walk through the Old Testament that we've been taking.  Tracing the major events in the history of Israel, the major players in God's grand story of redemption.  He did not give us their story so we'd be more informed about His chosen people and their place in time, or even so we could emulate our heroes of the faith and do what they did.  There are some whose actions are worth emulating, but each one is flawed to some degree and their stories are not the focus, even though we often try to make them our aim.  He gave us their story, so we could learn more about HIS story.  Knowing more about them, ultimately leads to us knowing more about HIM.  There is always a lower story going on, but praise be to God that He's also always unveiling an upper story that explains what we cannot see.  In His Sovereignty, He has a plan for all people, for all time.  He knows exactly where each of us fit in that plan and He's got a reason for everything He allows in our lives.  I don't know about you, but that is extremely comforting to me.  It gives me peace in the dark places, knowing that He's in control and always will be.  It gives me purpose to know that I play a role in the grand story, but perspective to know that life is not all about me and my role either!  It also reminds me that I have a responsibility to Him and that is to trust in His saving work at the cross in my place, to believe that He is God and only through His Son's death and resurrection can I have peace with Him and to obey Him in all I do, because I love Him and He is worthy of my surrendered heart and life. 

I've been blessed beyond measure to refresh my heart and mind about the Old Testament account of God and His people.  He awoke my heart to Who He is anew, when He led me to read through the Bible chronologically last summer and then when I joined this study and we started tracing His redemption from the beginning.  It's been worth all the reading and time spent, a thousand fold!  The study has been incredible, but just as good was the simple reading.  It matters that we know God's Word.  It matters that we take time to read it for ourselves.  It matters that we can explain how the Bible is written and why.  It matters that we can give a reason for the hope that we have. 

I'm letting you in on some of the work we've done this year as we've traced the first chunk of Israel's story.  We are moving into the New Testament now, to the entrance of Jesus into the story and His divine invasion that turned Israel and the world upside down.  But I didn't want to let go of the Old Testament without first sharing it with you.  I know the Old Testament gets a bum wrap sometimes and it's not the easiest thing to read.  The stories can be confusing sometimes and God often seems harsh or angry or impatient when we pick stories at random.  But the truth is, He's not any of those things and when your read His story from beginning to end, He paints a beautiful picture of His great mercy, His Holiness, His tender care, His unending love, His faithfulness and His justice.  It matters to know Him and to know His story because He is worth knowing and a saving relationship with Him, changes everything. 

So here is a snapshot of His story from the Old Testament, a highlight reel of His redemptive plan through His people, Israel...It's not comprehensive, but hopefully helpful or just a good reason to give God praise today and be reminded that He always has a Sovereign plan, no matter how we feel or what we see.

Genesis 1-7
Creation- World spoken into being/man & woman/ Adam & Eve
The Fall- Sin/curse/ forgiveness promised
The Flood- Noah/warnings & judgement/a promise & covenant
Abraham- Covenant with 3 promises/patriarch/foreshadowing of coming gospel
Isaac/Jacob- Patriarchs/sacrifice test/chosen by grace to lead
Joseph- Actively trusted/picture of redemption

Exodus-Time of Judges
Israel enslaved- Moses born/called to lead/nation called out of slavery
Israel freed- Passover/delivered from Egypt/Red Sea crossing
Desert wanderings- God provides/law given/cycles of sin, repentance, obedience
Desert wanderings- God provides/tabernacle instructions given/cycles of sin, repentance, obedience
Desert wanderings- God provides/sacrificial system given/cycles of sin, repentance, obedience
Promised land- Joshua leads
Judges- Time of unrest/Ruth/kinsman redeemer/foreshadowing of Christ

Kings of Israel- Exiles
David- Israel's future King promised/good reign under David
Solomon- Wisdom/peaceful reign/temple built
Kingdom divided- Solomon's sin/Israel & Judah/Evil kings & good kings
Prophetic warnings- God given prophets/patience/Israel & Judah fall
A Nation Exiled- Prophets/Consequence/Hope
Exiles Return- Temple & wall rebuilt/Worship restored

400 years of silence from God
Stage being set for a new way, a Savior, a plan for all of mankind, not just Israel...


" I'm Sovereign...I have a plan...You can trust me."
Yes, and Amen!!


Lucky 900

We got a fun new toy, just in time for Spring this weekend!  The family that I used to nanny for graciously gave us their Burley and we finally got a day to go pick it up and bring it home.  The kids had no idea what it was or why we were bringing it home, but once we got it all put together and ready for an inaugural trip to the park, they were sold!  Ava especially.  Can you tell she is totally into it??  Carter had only been awake from his nap for about 5 minutes, so he was still partially asleep when we strapped him in there, but it didn't take long for him to love it too. 
 I would also like to point out the scabs on both of my kids' knees.  Can you see them??  Hello, Spring and all your "owies" that go hand in hand with being outside again!
For sure Ava's favorite part of the Burley experience is being all zipped up inside it with her blankie, her cup, and her brother.  She just loved it...Wait til she discovers how many babies that thing could hold!!  We were laughing and cleaning our garage spot out last night (again) because we were slowly accumulating a small fleet of strollers.  We have had all of the following in our possession at one time: 1 travel system stroller, 1 double stroller, 1 sit and stand stroller, 2 umbrella strollers and now a Burley.  PLUS, when I was pregnant with Ava, I took 1 single and 1 double stroller to my parents' house so that we wouldn't always have to bring ours!  Before you think we've totally lost our minds, with the exception of our travel system and our double stroller, all of the rest came from this one family whose boys I took care of for several years!  We are so grateful for the way they've blessed us with so many things!  We've passed several of their things along to friends and gotten rid of what we didn't need.  I think our neighbors must think we need a stroller intervention...It was getting crazy up in here!!

The size of the Burley trumped all of them.  Honestly, it's like parking another car!  We need to get an easier part for the bike conversion arm, but thankfully this Burley is also a walker/jogger, so right now we are just using it like that.  I forsee lots of walks/runs this week! 

We had a great weekend and I hope you did too!  I am loving the new comment forum, although there are still some bugs to be worked out, but I think it's going to be much better.  Thanks for all the fun conversations we got to have!  I will be putting up a post soon with some answers to a few of your questions, but I certainly have some room for more!  You guys are shy this time around, last time I did a Q&A it took me 3 posts to answer everything!  Maybe we've finally reached the point together where I've told you everything before?  What more is there to know about me??  After all, this is my 900th post!!!  Can you believe that???  I know, I couldn't either.  Hard to think that I've had 900 posts worth of thoughts to share!  Well, maybe not. 
I've never been accused of not having anything to say :) I inherited that gift of "opinion" from my Mother.  I like to think we excel at it.  It's our spiritual gift, ha ha!

Hoping your Monday is off to a great start!  Gotta love a fresh start and the grace a new week brings.  I don't know about you but I'm always grateful for a new day and the chance to live it better than yesterday. 
Happy Monday, friends!!

Lamentations 3:22-23

New International Version (NIV)
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.


Let's Chat, Q&A Style!

I'm feeling all kinds of tech savvy this morning!  I've been wanting to update my comments form for some time now and this morning I finally got around to it!  I imported the Disqus Widget so that I can connect with you in a much better format.  Now, when you leave me a comment, I can comment on your comment and we can have an actual conversation!  Ha ha, somehow that didn't sound quite as personal as I was hoping it would :)

The biggest reason I wanted to change things up is that so many of you leave me the kindest thoughts or ask me a question or something and unless you are a blogger too with a blog address or email, it's often hard or impossible to respond directly to you.  Or I just get busy and never get around to looking you up...(insert an apology here).  But now, this new format will help me be able to quickly and easily follow up with you.  I hope you like it as much as I think I'm going to!  I do apologize that you'll probably have to get used to it the first few times and decide how you want to login, but one reason I like it is that you can login and leave a comment using your facebook or twitter account, so you don't have to create one more user name and password if you don't want to!  But even if you don't have facebook or twitter, you can still comment as "you" :)

Currently, all of the comments have disappeared from my entire blog as they are in the process of being imported into Disqus, so I'm feeling a little lonely this morning!  Do you think we can try this???  Will you drop in and say "hi" so that we can chat a little bit?  It's been awhile since I've done this, but let's do a little Q&A too.  Any questions you'd love to ask me?  Things you've been wondering about??  Leave me a comment and I'll answer the short ones in the new Disqus format and do a post about the deep ones in the next few days.

Ok, so are you ready??  Let's chat, friends!


Under Construction

I'm guessing you've noticed that things look a little different around here, huh?  For starters, it's probably a breath of fresh air that you don't have to stare at my giant, enlarged head every time my blog loads!  I had no plans to spend my day rearranging my blog, but as it turns out, that's exactly what I've been doing while my kids napped and now that they are in bed.  My quick little "tweak" turned into a brand new template being applied and thus all of my previous settings getting lost in the shuffle.  Whether I was ready for a change or not (I was) it was forced upon me today.  So, I cannot promise that this will look like it does right now when you come back.  I'm sure I'll be playing around for little while til I get the look I'm going for.  Or until I can't stand to look at a layout editor anymore! 

The good news about change is that you get to clean house, so to speak, but the bad news is that you have to clean house.  I'm getting rid of some clutter but also trying to make some updates that I've been wanting to do for awhile.  For those of you who like to keep up with my posts regularly (I'm primarily speaking to family right now!) I've added a great tool to help you do that.  If you'll notice my "subscribe by email" gadget, you can enter your email address, follow the very simple process to verify your subscription and then receive an email every time I post.  You won't have to check back to see if I've updated or not, you'll just get it delivered right to your inbox.  Pretty cool, right??  Also, if you are a feed burner subscriber, you can also subscribe to my posts and comments (not sure why you'd want to do that??) on the right as well.  If you have no idea what that sentence means, then it doesn't apply to you!  ha ha!  I'd love to have you keep coming back just like you always have.  Not everything about this new update has to bring change :)

Aside from blog housekeeping today, I've mostly just been catching up around the house.  It is crazy the amount of laundry that 4 people can generate in a week!  This heat wave is not helping me out.  I swear we've had double the clothes in use the last few days due to playing outside in various temperatures, getting messy at the park and realizing what fits and what doesn't.  I've got my work cut out for me in the next few days as I sort through everyone's wardrobes and pack the cold stuff away, while figuring out what warm stuff we each have.  As I was thinking through how I was going to do that today, it occurred to me that so much of motherhood is really about management.  Between keeping up a house, stocking up on food, planning meals, doing laundry, shopping for growing people, and creating a calendar of daily activities, there is NEVER something that doesn't need my attention or management.  Somedays I feel like I run a small company, but most days I have to be very intentional about choosing to set all of it aside to give my best attention and effort to the Lord, my husband and our kids.  There will always be a million things to juggle and some of it is essential for us to live, but none of it is more important than the people God has given me to love and serve.  And that's where the tension and management comes in.  Keeping the washer and dryer running while snuggling with a little one to read a book.  Tough to always do well, but thankfully the grace of God is abundant and full of forgiveness and fresh starts. 

Just like my little blog held it's ground today and pushed for a fresh start, so goes my heart.  I'm tired tonight.  It's been a long day and I'm already looking forward to the fresh mercy of a new day tomorrow, assuming He gives me the gift of another day!  More of Jesus to know, more wisdom to gain, more mistakes to learn from, more changes to come...It would seem that there are two of us under construction and Lord willing, I hope you'll be able to see the difference in both of us as the coming days and weeks unfold.  Good, bad and ugly,  it is happening over here! 

Thanks for being readers and friends through all the changes you've graciously weathered with me over the years.  Years...So hard to believe I've been blogging for a significant chunk of time now.   One of these days I just might refer to myself as an actual "blogger" but somehow that title still seems to big for me.  I guess if I'm not a blogger, I'd have to admit to being a giant time waster, right??   Maybe I'm finally ready to own "blogger" after all :)


Our Week in iphone Pictures

I took the kids with me to Iowa this past week, because my Mom was off all week on spring break.  She works for a University, so most of the school year she is working, but whenever she gets a good break it's always fun to go see them so we can get all day with both of my parents.  The kids were SO excited to go to Iowa, they totally understand what that means and who they get to see.  We were very sad to have to leave Daddy at home though, he had a pretty busy week already scheduled so it didn't work for him to go.  But it was probably best that we were busy all week because he was gone every night, which would have been irritating if we were waiting at home with nothing to do :)
We stopped at Jennie's house on the way to my parents' and picked up a stranger, Ryley!!  Ava and Carter love Ryley and we miss him a lot.  It's still such a blessing that he's living at Jennie and Dave's though.  I cannot imagine how we would all fit in our condo now that Ava and Carter are always on the move.  It's lots of fun for them to see him on a regular basis and to enjoy him still.  Trav and I love to see him too and love on him a little bit!  They were beside themselves to have him in the car with us, they both leaned over and petted him for the 30 minute drive.  I love how big he looks (is) compared to them!
It was spring break in my hometown for all the area schools, so we had lots of fun options to choose from.  We took the kids to a children's museum that I'd never seen before.  It was a hands-on museum with tons of great stuff for them, they were totally into it!
My Dad is about to start coaching his high school golf teams again, so he was all over the little mini-golf course they had set up.  Ava was also into it and after they "played 9 holes" together, she told us all week that "I love golf!"  or "Grandpa loves to play golf with Ava, do you want to play golf wif me Grandpa?"  You can imagine that was sweet music to his ears :)
Carter also "played" or was at least in the same room as us!  He was more into taking other people's balls, walking in front of them while they putted  or army crawling under the bridge they had :) We've got some etiquette training to do with him!!  Ha ha! 
We were in a building that was downtown, on the water.  It was a gorgeous day outside and we were able to out everyday this week!  I cannnot believe this heat wave we have in March.  I'm not complaining AT ALL, it's amazing, but it's so crazy!  It was incredible to have the option to be out all week and we took full advantage of it. 
My kids LOVE my Mom's dog, Oliver.  They call him Ollie and Carter tells him "Hi! Hi! Hi!" a million times a day.  Ava has finally reached an age where she knows how to be gentle with him and she loves to pet him and give him kisses.  It will make her life complete the day he lets her hold him! 
Last summer we turned Ava into a park rat, but this summer it's Carter's turn to get hooked! 
We've done lots of playing at an indoor playground throughout the winter, so he knew just what to do on all the equipment.  He's proven to us that he's fearless about heights or new things, but it cracks us up that he still does his backwards "safety slide" every time!  Don't get me wrong, I'M SO GLAD, it's one less thing to worry about, but it's so funny to watch him tear through the park and then cautiously slide down.
He's got a pro to keep up with though, so I have a feeling he'll be trying lots of new things this year and I'll be in a constant state of panic watching him learn!
Aunt Jennie had to force him to slide on his bottom but he did it!
We also introduced him to the art of swinging!
It started off so pleasantly...
...then quickly became something that made him nervous. 
Ava on the other hand, could swing all day!  And she did.  Also while talking a mile a minute to anyone who would listen!!
She is such a little park nut and is very brave, even from last fall til now.  She just does her own thing this year, which is incredible to me that we've reached that stage already!  I had to remind her that there are still a few things she needs us to help her do, but mostly she is able to just run around and do all the big stuff on her own.  I have a feeling Carter is going to keep me busy enough for the both of them!
We were outside a lot, but they also did lots of playing in my parents' house every morning and night.  I adore this picture of the two of them dancing.  Our little princess is all about a dance when she's dressed up and now she's started asking Carter to be her partner.  Her exact words at this moment were, "Carter, will you hold my hands and dance wif me?"  Being the good little brother that he is, he put those little chubby hands out for her to hold and let her spin around with him til he fell and she giggled.  So precious.  I just love them!!
One afternoon, my sister and Mom and I took the kids downtown for a little stroll AND to our favorite cupcakery, Scratch.  Their cupcakes are to die for and this was the first time I'd seen their new location, so it was fun to pull up a table and enjoy a treat together.  My Mom bought each of the kids their own cupcake, which was hilarious.  They were THRILLED at the sight them!  Carter devoured his entirely, literally every crumb!
Ava ate mostly the icing and some of the cupcake.  But she was JUST as thrilled to have her own treat WITH sprinkles :)
She looks naughty here, but really she was just being silly.  She started announcing to everyone who came near her, "Dis is MY Grammy!"  It was pretty funny.  Most people didn't catch what she said, but she emphatically told whomever would look her way!
What a ham she is!
I'm not sure she needed any sugar, but she sure loved it!!
Carty was the exact opposite, completely silent while he ate every bite.  Afterwards he rubbed his icing coated hands all over his clothes, his hat, the table and anyone who got near him.  Good thing he's so darn cute because he was one big mess!!
We love Grammy!!
And cupcakes!!
This was on a random morning when Ava told my sister Jennie to "take my picture" while she put her arm around Carter.  Normally that never amounts to a picture *actually* being captured, but this time it did!!  And it's my new favorite picture of them!!  I just love it.  I hope they always will be willing to cuddle up for a picture no matter how old they get!!
This little table and chairs is a family heirloom.  It was my aunt Kay's when she was little, so it's 70 some years old.  It was at my Grandma's house for years and years where my sisters and I ate at it every Sunday.  Then it moved to Minnesota at my aunt's house, where her grandkids used it.  Now it's made its' way back to Iowa and my kiddos are using it. 
Carter especially loved to climb up in the little chairs and sit at it.  This is his favorite book to look at and he always flips through it until he gets to the page with the phone, where he points at it and says, "Hi! Hi! Hi!" 
Love seeing them playing together or even coexisting without a fight breaking out!!  Ha ha!
That little profile gets me every time...
My sister and I got a little time to do some shopping one afternoon and I found these cute shoes for $6!  Gotta love that!
On Friday night, we were able to attend a great benefit night in honor of Dave's Dad, to support their family.  It was a fun night with hundreds and hundreds of very generous people attending.  It was LOUD the whole time because several bands played.  My kids became dancing fools and spent most of their time at the edge of the stage, like little groupies, rocking out and dancing.  Did I mention how LOUD it was???  I can't believe they didn't freak out by the noise, since they were right next to the speakers.  It was all my Mom and Dad and I could do to stay on top of them.  They were WILD all night and I was missing their Daddy's help like crazy!  But it was nice to be able to go and see so many people in our community come out and support Dave's family.  They auctioned off some great things and it was fun to see lots of people we knew there.  I was glad it worked out for us to be there.
And as soon as we got home and changed into our jammies, this is what became of the little dancing queens. 
They worked themselves into total exhaustion.
I had NO arguments or resistance to bedtime that night!!
We had such a fun time, thanks Mom and Dad!!  It was great to be with Jen and Dave too and to have a week with nothing pressing for our time or attention.  But we did miss Travis quite a bit, so we were all happy to come home yesterday afternoon and back to life in Minnesota.  We had a busy day at church today and tonight, so I look forward to a quiet day tomorrow, hopefully putting my house back together.  I'm so grateful to be within driving distance from my parents.  It's always such a treat to go home and just relax.  Iowa is such a breath of fresh air sometimes because the pace of life is just generally slower there and less materialistic.  Don't get me wrong, I love living in Minnesota and I love being near the cities, but it's so easy to get caught up in a very busy, driven lifestyle here.  There is something very peaceful about small towns and cornfields and quiet streets...It's not perfect (or Heaven!) but it's Iowa and I love it. 

I hope you have a great start to your week! 
Looking forward to warm days at the park with my little family.  We are ready for SPRING!!


All About Pagey

I've been meaning for days, to follow up my All-About-Carter post with one about his big sister too!  Life with our Ava is nothing short of hilarious.  She is growing up before our very eyes and we are just hanging on for the ride.  I can't believe her 3rd birthday is quickly approaching but as I watch her blossom and grow, I suppose it's only right.  She is mine, so I will tell you up front that I am incredibly biased in my thinking, but we think she is so sweet and so funny.  I'm not promising that this post will amuse you, but I want to remember this stage because it's been such a fun one.
It's become very hard to get a picture of this girl and it's a near miracle that she's looking at me AND smiling!  I love that little face but it's not very often that I get it captured forever.
She is sugar and spice and everything nice, that's what our Ava is made of!
I took these pictures of Ava a few Sundays ago because I couldn't get enough of her in that outfit!  The highlight of Ava's week is for sure all of the little classes she attends at Church.  Between Sunday morning, Tuesday morning Bible Study and Wednesday night, Ava gets three days a week to be with all of her little friends and she gets so excited when I tell her which class we get to go to that day.  She gives us a detailed report everytime we get home about who did what and what she learned.   Her most frequent report is that "Da boys were so loud, I say, shhh!  Be quiet boys!"  Because of course, "Da babies were sleeping!"  She cracks us up.  She also likes to give a report on who disobeyed the teacher or told her "NO, Ava!" We've got some work to do on tattling I think :)
What is very precious to us, however, is that she is truly retaining some of the Bible stories and truths that her sweet teachers are faithful to teach.  She came home a couple weeks ago telling us that "God is our Shepherd" and "He takes care of the lambies."  What a sweet, little lamb herself!!  I've heard from lots of people about how much she loves song time and that's no surprise to us.  She sings non-stop at home and during dinner last week, she all of the sudden started crouching in her seat and singing, "Read your Bible, pray every day and you'll grow, grow, grow!  And you'll grow, grow, grow and you'll grow, grow, growwwwww...."  It was so funny, totally out of the blue and it brought me right back to my 5 year old self.  I hadn't heard that song for years and years but her broken melody brought it right back to my mind.  Man she makes us laugh!  We've been asking her if she wants to pray at dinner for over a year now.  She said no for about 6 months (ha ha, humbling!) and then one day, decided she was ready to pray too.  Now she prays all the time and while she melts our heart with what she thinks to say, she also makes us shake with giggles too.  She usually starts strong, thanking Jesus "for our food, for this day, for our family and Jesse and Stacie" (always put them in there, without fail) but lately, she's decided to tack on all of poor Carter's "sins" against her for the day.  She tells Jesus that Carter took her toys or hit her or whatever else she can dream up before we stop her :) We usually step in and help her thank Jesus for forgiving us and ask him to help us be kind to one another and to forgive one another too.  It's always funny to hear her rat on Carter while he sits in his high chair, grinning and saying "Amen!" 
If only he knew that she was throwing him under the bus!  As funny as she can be, we've also marveled at some of the tender things that have come out of her mouth. 
It's an amazing thing to hear the praise that God ordains from the mouths of babes...
One of the most noticable changes in Ava is her embrace of all things "princess!"  I was waiting for this day to come and I can say with certainty that it is here.  She is totally into all of the Disney princesses right now, although she hasn't seen most of their movies.  She just likes to name them and tell us what each of them are wearing :) What a little GIRL she is!!!
Her favorite princess is Belle, from Beauty and the Beast.  She loves the movie and the music and a few months ago, I took her to see the play at our local high school.  She talks about Belle non-stop and now she dresses like her too.  I bought her a dress up outfit when I started to catch her asking for a pretty dress or skirt to wear, "like Belle." We've had it for about a month now and I think she's worn it at least 5 out of 7 days each week.  It's a regular part of our day now :)
She's also into lots of imaginative role-play now, which is great and totally funny to listen to.  I hear her all day, deep in conversation with her babies or toys, and it always makes me laugh. 
We sure love this little princess Ava! 
It's not uncommon to find her without her Cinderella Bear or her Belle doll these days, she loves the sparkle of a glittery dress and a tiara!  Who doesn't??
Ava has also turned a corner in the "helper" department.  She is all about watching me do just about everything and asking if she can help me too.  I've tried to let her at least watch me in the kitchen, sometimes letting her truly "help" where she can.  On this day I was making a pie and she was totally into the whole process.  She stood with me, asking a million questions and spreading flour til the cows came home, but when we were done I had one happy little girl on my hands!  It's hard not to say no sometimes when I know I can do everything faster and without a mess to clean up, but her little smile and sparkling eyes are always worth the extra time and work.  It is such a blessing to have a little helper, I'm amazed at how much she can do and how often I ask for her to get something for me or do something!  My patience is being tested often but I can see what joy she gets from my affirmation of her.  It's kind of bittersweet to think about all the ways she'll continue to change and gain independence.  Somedays I think the next stage sounds like Heaven and other days, I just want to dial it all back and re-live it because it's moving too quickly. 

I could go on and on about Ava, but the bottom line is that we love her, no matter what stage she is in!  She's doing so great with her potty training, we've conquered about 95% of it and she is not looking back!  We are very proud of her and again, amazed at what she's able to do.  Lately she is all about wrapping her little arms around me tight and telling me that she loves me "so much!"  It's the best reward, no matter what kind of day we've had or how she's worn me down.  I am grateful the Lord gave her to me to mother, she is such a delight to us, such a gift. 

We love you Ava Page!!