Lately, in our Neck of the Woods...

Happy Tuesday, friends! 
I decided to post some updates today, I'm well overdue for some of those and today is the day.  I have been working on a writing project that has consumed my time lately and my brain is fried in a big way.   I've been thinking about and writing about theology for hours every day and this mama needs some rest from heavy subjects!  

 I am really enjoying the discipline of writing about the names of Jesus and I will continue to do that, but I'm giving myself some additional freedom there to post those as they come for the foreseeable future and not just in time for Easter.  Surprise, surprise, it turns out I have lots to say about each name and I want to take the appropriate time to think through those posts and give them the research they are due.  It's not possible for me to crank those out everyday in this season of life so I'm taking the pressure off myself!  That's personal growth, people.  The Stephanie of 5 years ago would have killed myself to make it happen simply because I committed to it.  The Stephanie of today is taking the personal grace route instead!   Plus, I miss writing about my kiddos and some other things happening in our world.  I love that this blog has become our family scrapbook/journal, so to speak, and I don't want to skip over things happening in our daily lives.  

So, having said that, here are a few things going on with our kids as of late...
Ava is just killing us these days, in the best possible way.  She is weeks away from turning 5 and we are just enjoying her so much.  This is a great age and she keeps us laughing from the minute she wakes up until bedtime.  She is DYING for summer around here and has continued her love for wearing dresses, but she's officially made the switch from long sleeved dresses to summer sun dresses, whenever we're at home.  This girl can't wait for the sun and heat and we are right there with her.  It's not unusual for her to be running around in a sun dress or even a swimming suit most days and after this long, historically cold winter, we just can't blame her!  She is sunshine to her Daddy and I and we just can't believe we are already here, staring at 5 and talking about Kindergarten all the time now.  
Preschool has been a wonderful thing for her this year, she loves every single second of being at school and can't wait to go each day.  I love to hear her take on the day and what she's learned, we are also amazed at how much we've seen her grow over the year.  Her MOST favorite thing about school is the daily selection of a "line leader."  For some reason that floats her boat and whenever I pick her up or she gets home from our carpool, I immediately hear "So and so was the line leader today and I'm happy for them, but I hope I'm the line leader tomorrow!" She plays school all afternoon most days, roping Carter into it sometimes but she's good to play on her own too.  She has a bag of slips of paper and popsicle sticks that we've painstakingly written every name she can think of on, so that while she is playing she can pick her own line leaders too!  It's so funny to us and so much fun to her.  

She is growing up and continuing to amaze us with what she understands now and wants to talk about. She misses NOTHING that we say around here and I often catch her just a few feet from Trav and I, trying to hear every word between us.  Oh my!   She is still a crazy good eater, both in quantity and variety.  She took over my Thai Bangkok Curry at Noodles, twice recently!  She's a salad lover, wants a fried egg with cheese most mornings and has fallen in love with soup this winter.  Lately we've noticed she's had another growth spurt and many of her leggings and sleeves are a little shorter now.  
Recently I pulled out her baby books in a final attempt to fill in the blank journaling spaces and call them done!  She just pours through them, yes she has 2 from her 1st year, and loves to see so many faces she recognizes and tells me which blankets and outfits she loves too!  She is really processing all that is ahead with baby Walker and her new cousin Sawyer.  It's fun for her to look at these pictures and put the pieces together.  I'm so glad I did these books and I pulled them back out because my goal is to finish Carter's book too before Walker is born.  I made myself finish our taxes before I would let myself do fun projects, but now I've got the green light and I'm attempting to crank his book out.  
These two are continuing to strengthen their little bond together and they are such good playmates.  They have their moments for sure when the accusations fly and the tears too, but lately I've just been thanking the Lord and praising them for the way they play together.  It cracks us up when their worlds of imaginations collide.  For instance, the other day Carter was playing with his train table at home and Ava was lining up all her little princess figurines along the tracks because they were having a parade!  Ha ha!  I heard Carter say, "Ok Princesses!  You need to watch out for the mighty machines coming by!"  They make huge messes these days but it's a small price to pay for the time they have together and the ways they are learning to share and flex with each other.  I'm so thankful now, a few years into this, that their "18 months apart relationship" has turned into a great thing.  We have many seasons ahead I know, but right now we're enjoying a sweet one before the winds of change blow through our family again! 
I've got a great little helper who is SO excited about having another baby around here.  I recently told her she will be like Wendy, from Peter Pan, with two younger brothers.  That resonated with her because they love that movie and she has begun embracing the role of the only girl.  I've noticed she is playing a lot more with her baby dolls now, mothering "her baby Emma" in anticipation of our baby.  She's always three steps behind me when it's time for a meal, wondering if she can help me cook.  I'm letting her take a pretty active role now and taking the opportunity to show her how to do a few things that will be helpful for her to take on when I have a newborn.  She's greatly anticipating her birthday and the promise of a party with her friends.  Preschool uncovered the once hidden world of birthday parties for her and now she is ALL ABOUT them!!  We are making plans and doing our best to keep her expectations in check...oh the dreams of an almost 5 year old girl!  Everything right now is "maybe we can do that for my birthday??"  At this rate we'll be celebrating for a month!  Of course I have loved her from the moment I knew God gave her to us, but I am really enjoying this stage and season of her life.  The Lord has created such a sweet spirit in her and a nurturing heart, I can't wait to watch her continue to grow.  
And speaking of growing, this little guy is just something else right now too!  I am cherishing my Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings with him while Ava is at school.  He is my carpool buddy, my movie on the couch buddy, my coffee shop buddy and the source of much laughter.  His personality is getting revealed more and more these days and I am laughing often at how much he is like his Daddy!  Carter is 3.5, although mistaken constantly for Ava's twin.  He's very tall and he's talking so much more now and in pretty articulate ways.  The things that come out of his mouth have Trav and I barely holding it together, he's got opinions now and demands he doesn't hesitate to share, but we're also working through the right/wrong ways to handle his disappointment and regret.  

One of his latest things is that after he's done something he realizes he wasn't supposed to, his panic begins to set in about the consequences and he is extremely to quick to say "I apologies Mom, I just apologies.  And I want to turn my attitude around!  I just apologies so much!"  It is so hilarious and so sweet and also a little too late sometimes, but it's giving me ample opportunities to teach him about grace and justice :) We are feeling like we're turning a corner with him right now and seeing some great fruit from all the instructing and reminding we seem to do all day, everyday.  He is really understanding more and more and processing right, wrong and possible consequences before he makes certain choices.  Sometimes I hear him tell Ava, "Ava, remember what Mom said??"  It doesn't mean he still isn't a 3 year old boy with impulses that take over, but we are loving the tender heart God has given him and the way he wants to obey, even if he just can't quite get there all the time.  He is precious to his Daddy and I and we just love him like crazy!  
 He also never stops moving, is always jumping, wants to sword fight everything and makes a million noises when he plays.  He loves to say "Blast you Captain Hook!  or "Take dat and dat and dat!"  when he's playing with his toys.  He's allllllll boy for sure!  His Daddy is the apple of his eye, they are wrestling partners and hide and seek gamers and sword fighters and runners.  It's fun to see different sides of Carter but I have to admit when he is engaging in all things boy, it's a delight to see the grin on his face and the twinkle in his eye.  Carter is a helper to the core.  He is often asking if he can help me with the laundry, the dishwasher, vacuuming, and of course cooking too.  "Can I help ya Mom?  I just love to help ya, I'm a great helper!"  is what I hear from him all the time.  Truly, his help is not always that helpful, but his heart is right and I have to remind myself to cultivate that in him and not squash it, even if it's 10 times easier and faster to do it myself.  I hope he's always this eager to jump in and I'm trying to praise him for it as often as I can.   We are seeing such a huge leap in development and growth in Carter.  We keep telling him he is our big boy now and he loves to hear that.  
I am so, so happy to say that potty training is going SO great!  He is just amazing us at the progress he's made and I am very thankful to have him in undies and clothes again, as opposed to him being naked as a jaybird all the time!  His accidents have been so minimal, most just a moment of being absent minded or not quick enough.  He is very proud of himself and we are testing him in public more and more with lots of success.  It definitely paid off to wait until he was ready because it has been almost dreamy to go through this with a kid who is eager and able to tackle it.  He's even been dry overnight for several nights now so I have high hopes that we are in the home stretch.  Seeing him run around in the cutest little undies really grows him up in our eyes.  No more little toddler, he is shooting up and with another baby on the way, we are not mourning that!  We are embracing it and celebrating it.  
Carter's go-to toys are his garbage trucks, his trains, his cars, his pirate ship, and his golf clubs.  He loves watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse the most and is into Disney Planes right now too.  He has an old school, low budget DVD on John Deere Tractors that he just LOVES and he is a big fan of any book with a vehicle in it.  He loves to play Star Wars Angry Birds or Kung Fu Panda on the ipad and it's a always a big treat for him to watch an episode of "Mighty Machines."  We will be MOST excited for it to be warm outside again because the best activity of all for this guy is running free!  I have a feeling the parks will be his oyster this summer and I can't wait to watch him conquer the slides and the swings and everything available to climb.  I have a feeling we'll be logging many hours there this summer! 
Like most of America it seems, Frozen took over our house last week.  We have been waiting and waiting for it to be released and we surprised the kids with it after they cleaned their disaster of a room last Tuesday night.  
They were both thrilled and we watched it 4 days in a row!  We all know the songs and we saw it together twice in the theater.  It's really fun when a movie captures everybody's attention and this has been a fun one to enjoy together.  After watching it a few times, we overheard them playing "Frozen" together and Carter say, "Elsa, Elsa!  Why did you froze my heart??"  He also said, "Elsa, why do you shut me out??"  Ha ha ha ha ha!!!  That one had us cracking up!  
As you all know it was basketball Heaven last weekend with the dawn of the Big Dance.  Oh what a drama filled season my Hawkeyes have had...the last few weeks have not been kind of us at all and we were going into our play-in game with zero expectation of what might happen.  
Because the game was late on Wednesday night, I took my troops to Church with me, decked out in our best fan gear!  Aren't they the cutest things you've ever seen??  Unfortunately it wasn't enough and we didn't pull a win off in overtime, but as it turned out our coach was faced with a cancer diagnosis for his teenage son last week and I've thought several times since then, it's probably a blessing for him to have basketball off of his mind right now.  I'd love to be cheering for the Hawks, but things like cancer put games and winning and losing into perspective.  We did thoroughly enjoy 4 days of non-stop college basketball around here!  Trav and I watched tons of games, watched our brackets get destroyed and endured way too many nail biters.  It's been such a crazy tournament, but I LOVE this time of year and I love having games on all the time.  It's an easy, family friendly event and fun to hear all the backstories and watch the rivalries and crazy upsets go down.  It's killing me that our rivals, the Cyclones, are still playing.  I can't get on board the fan bus, it just goes against everything in me and I don't expect you to understand unless you are from Iowa and have the slightest bit of competitive juices running through your veins.  I would never expect an Iowa State fan to support us so please don't give me the song and dance about "we're all from Iowa, we should support each other..."  LAME!!!  Can't we just pick our teams and all live with our choices???  They are playing well and have earned some big victories, I'll give them that, but I won't be wearing any crimson and gold or singing the fight song anytime soon!  Ha! 

Ok, rant over...trying to control my blood pressure these days :) 

Life with Ava and Carter is fun right now.  Full of excitement, never dull and always exhausting.  They are busy, busy and growing by the minute.  This has been a looooooooonnnnnggggg winter and yet we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Our kids have been real troopers through it all, I can't believe how much we've been confined inside and that we've not had bigger meltdowns over it.  It's been a snuggly, movie watching, game playing, imagination driven winter and that's fine and good with us.  
We're slowly emerging from the cave of hibernation and ready for the newness of Spring and the promise of Summer!  I'm grateful for life with Ava and Carter and can't wait to add another little blessing to the mix, as crazy as life may get.  Parenting is quite a ride and I don't think you can survive without a healthy sense of humor and wisdom from the Lord!  Every day is challenging and every day I wonder if I'm doing the right thing or making the best decisions for them.  I've accepted that I can't always get it right but I'm also resting in the grace of God and his new mercies for all of us each day.  

In the words of Al Roker, "That's what's happening in our neck of the woods..."  

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