And So it Begins...

This growing up thing is tough on a mommy's heart. Whether you are prepared or not, one day you look at your child and think "where did the time go??"  Lately when we look at Carter, this is exactly what we think.  He has lost so much of his baby face and is starting to look older and older as he fast approaches 5.  He is growing physically for sure, but emotionally he's been growing too. 
If you've read my blog for the last few years, you've seen a few hundred pics just like this one. You know this is Carter and his third arm, his giraffe! He got that giraffe as a baby and from about 18months on it has never been far from him.  He sleeps with it, plays with it, takes it places, constantly snuggles it and strokes its' tail over and over again.  Giraffey is what he's called it for a little while, but before that he was fraffy and then raffy.  He is very well loved! He's traveled to Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Iowa and all the states in between, and he even went to Disney World with us! To say Carter loves that stuffed animal is a major, major understatement.  Many, many times I have told him to please leave him at home because we didn't want to ever lose Giraffey.  Well wouldn't you know, just days before preschool started and on the eve of a really big transition for Carter, Giraffey went missing.  We traced his last known appearance to the double jogger stroller when Daddy took the boys for a run. We've concluded that at some point, Carter shared him with Walker, who likely held him for a few moments and then dropped him or tossed him overboard.  Somehow no one noticed this (what can I say, 3 men were involved) and later that night it was discovered that he was in fact, MIA.  We staged an epic search around the house, all believing he'd turn up as had previously happened, but he was nowhere to be found. That night Travis and I each drove around in the dark, re-tracing the route Trav had run, even scanning the park they had played at with headlights and flashlights.  We knew if this was the end of Giraffey, it would be a sad, sad day with one devastated little boy.  So we looked and looked and looked some more, but it was not meant to be.  Both Ava and I went to bed that night, distraught that he was missing and bothered by the thunderstorms happening all night, likely soaking his beloved toy.  Strangely however, Carter was not nearly as torn up as we all predicted he would be.  He just kept thinking he'd show up and he told me over and over that we could call the police and they would find him  :) 
After a few days of looking, we never did find his Giraffe.  Thankfully for Carter however, we did locate an almost identical replacement on Amazon.  Oh how lucky that was for us! Two days later a new Giraffey was waiting at our doorstep and Carter has never looked back! Travis and I still can't believe it, we thought for sure he would take this loss hard, but he's proven once again that he is growing up and reasoning on a much more mature level than ever before.  We are glad the issue resolved itself, although if Ava and I are honest, we are still sad about the original Giraffey being lost!  Can you say Toy Story 3, anyone???  That movie series has forever wrecked me when it comes to the kid's favorite toys!  She and I still talk about it but we are glad Carter seems to have moved on, ha! 
He has in fact moved on, to the big, exciting world of Preschool! 
  Carter has waited and waited for his turn for awhile now and thankfully this Fall it came!  Even though much of it was familiar, he was still a little nervous when it came time to go check it all out. 
 I took the boys to his open house so he could meet his new teachers and some of his classmates.  It was fun for us to get reacquainted with one of the teachers that Ava had and to meet his other teacher too. They are both so sweet and will be great for Carter!  After playing with his new friends, he was pretty excited to start this new chapter! 
When it came time for the official "first day pics" he was more than ready!
Doesn't he look so grown up?? And so handsome??
 We are so happy for him to have this great experience at the same preschool Ava went to.  He is gone three days a week and it's a sweet time for him to gain some independence and work on his school readiness while still having time this year to just play and be home a few days too. 
Star Wars is one of Carter's new loves, so he was thrilled with this backpack when we first saw it over the summer! I was thrilled it was a less tacky version of much of the Star Wars gear  :) 
 They know the drill! 
 Yep, your day is here Carter!
 On their own, they decided to get their snuggly things and pose for me. I love this picture of all three of them! 
 Ava was very, very disappointed that she couldn't be there for Carter's first day but she was glad to share these pics with him.  She is dying that she can't see him in action at Preschool, especially with her old teacher, but we promised her we would take lots of pics  :) 
Our very tall 4 year old!
Travis and I were able to take him on his first day since the preschool is inside our Church. 
I love this of the two of them! 

He had just a few butterflies before the morning began but mostly he was ready to go!
 He did tell me once on the way to school that "it's ok if we just go home and maybe I could play Super Mario Bros instead??"  Ha ha! 
I knew as soon as he saw his best buddy, he'd be good to go! Lucky for him, they are in the same class this year and every day is like a special surprise when they see each other again.  Don't they look like twins??  They became fast friends in Cubbies last year and their friendship only continues to grow! I love those little blonde heads of theirs'! 
That verse above our heads says, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God." Genesis 6:9  
I love that verse and that is our prayer for Carter, that he would pursue righteousness and walk with God so that he could be blameless among the people of his time.  He does have a tender heart for Jesus and this kid can pray with conviction and a sincere passion that humbles us. We wonder if the Lord will call him to full time ministry someday, he certainly has a love for God that we are thrilled to see!

So far, just two weeks in, Carter is doing great, we think??  He does seem to love it although getting him to tell us about his day is about like pulling teeth!  We definitely see the boy/girl difference in this area! Most of my questions for him are answered with "uh huh" or "I don't know, I can't remember."  I have to play 20 questions every day or just accept the fact that he's good and that's ok too.  The car rides home are mostly all about what's for lunch and if he can play on the wii, as opposed to Ava who used to tell me what her teachers wore and who had on an outfit that was so cute in her class!  We are excited for him to have this year at Funshine and already we look forward to our first conference with his teacher so we can hear what he's like in class.  We love to see our big boy growing up and we look forward to a great year for him! 

First Grade!

I am breaking the chronological succession of my summer posts to catch up to what's happening in our world right now! School is officially back in swing and after a weeks in, we are finally feeling like we have mostly adjusted to having a schedule again. Miss Ava Page is a big first grader this year! 
We are grateful to the Lord for another sweet teacher that He has blessed our family with. We have enjoyed her so much and Ava is really loving being in her class. That is a big answer to my prayers specifically. I continue to see how the Lord provides for us in big ways and in small ways and the teachers he has given us for the last two years are a reflection of that. We went to Back to School Night in August and met her teacher for the first time. We knew nothing about her before the year began, but we ran into Ava's para from Kindergarten at Target, just hours before the school open house, and she raved and raved about what a great teacher she is and how she requested her for her own daughters when they were in First grade!  How sweet for Ava to hear that and for my heart to be encouraged by that too.  I know the Lord gave us that encounter for a reason! 
I took the kids with me and of course Carter wanted to be right by Ava's side.  This is her first year to have her very own desk! Ha ha! It was big news   :) 
We got to bring in all of her supplies and get her desk all ready. By the time this hour was over, I was sweating bullets trying to manage all three of them and Walker had eaten three suckers just to keep him occupied and quiet! It was quite the circus scene. 
Someday I will look back on these days and laugh, right??  
Here she is last year, after the Kindergarten Open House...
And here she is this year! I do believe she looks older, don't you??
The night before school started, we took a family walk to the school so that we could pray together. We did this last year and it was so important to me that we did it again. We prayed for Ava, for her teacher, for her classroom, for her school and for the Lord to bring her a friend who loves Jesus too. I love doing it because we want the kids to know that we intend to be a light for Jesus everywhere we go, but it's also sweet for us to pray over each other. Hearing Carter pray last year for Ava nearly had me sobbing and this year, I nearly had to beg him to do it! ha ha! In the spirit of keeping it real, we always go with great intentions and sometimes it's a sweet experience and other times we do it just because we know it honors the Lord, even if we have to stop and threaten certain children to stop complaining! 
We were greeted by a fun surprise, all of the teachers had drawn pictures and written messages to welcome the kids back the next day! 
That was special for Ava to see and helped calm some of her butterflies.
Hard to believe that next year, we'll be dropping two of these kiddos off! 
Ava's sweet teacher had sent this fun "ready confetti" home with us at the Open House and Ava could not wait to use it! I knew I was going to love her teacher when I discovered she is crafty and creative  :) We sprinkled this confetti under her pillow that night and sure enough, she popped out of bed the next morning and told us that she slept so great! The ready confetti gave her really sweet dreams! ha ha! 
Ready or not, the backpack and lunch bag were packed and organized the night before. I think this was as much an adjustment for me as it was for the kids. I loved the summer schedule and not having to plan for the next day! It was kind of a brutal wake-up call to get my act together  :) 
First Grade, here she comes! 
Of course I can't resist a little flashback, here is her peanut self a year ago on the first day!
This year it was Anna and Elsa for the backpack choice
Last year it was Sophia

Walker is cracking us up because he starting to catch on to the picture drill in front of the door! 
He knew something exciting was happening! 
Daddy's girl
And Mommy's girl
We walked together on the first day, last year...
... and we did it again this year! I think we can also safely say that Travis prefers to wear orange when the kids go back to school! 
The mascot greeted us while we waited for the doors to open. Thankfully Walker didn't cry at the sight on him!
And much like last year, sweet Carter just had a hard time saying goodbye! He followed Ava in her room, gave her about three big hugs and kisses, followed by several rounds of "Are you Ok Ava?" and "I'm going to miss you today." It was totally precious and as we left, many tears were shed from his big eyes. Thankfully Ava was only excited and she didn't cry at all!
This was our hilarious picture of the three amigos last year! Carter was not happy, Walker had to be woken up and Ava was thrilled!
Everybody got bigger this year and so did their little sibling bond. 
I love this pic I snapped on my phone because I love the way Walkie is holding on to both of them! He definitely didn't understand what was happening like Carter did, but I can tell you several weeks later, he doesn't like to see them leave in the morning. He has since cried many times too, now that his playmates are gone for hours of the day. I just can't imagine when it will be his turn to go! He will have witnessed this scene many, many times over. Wonder if he'll even need me to go with him??  He'll probably be a pro by then! 

Ava has adjusted very well to her new class and her new routine. She loves being at school and is very chatty when she gets home about what she did all day. We had some tears this morning over our first lost library book (seriously, I have spent more time looking for that dumb thing and we still can't find it!) and whether or not she was going to have to talk to the principal because of it!?!? Sweet girl! I assured her it was important that we find it but not worthy of visiting the principal  :)  I am thankful she is making friends with some new faces in her class and still connecting with faces from last year. We are learning she is very opinionated (still) about what she wants to wear and how she wants to wear her hair, that was another meltdown morning about a week ago! She is all girl and feels these things pretty deeply, so you can imagine the tension she and I already have sometimes. I am doing some coaching to myself about picking battles and letting lots of them go.  I love to see her independence and her confidence and I am glad she is speaking up for herself more and more. But for crying out loud, is insisting that we brush her hair everyday an unbearable burden!?!?!  Ha ha! Oh the refinement that comes from the school years, and no, I'm not referring to Ava's refinement but rather, mine.  Suddenly I feel for my own poor Mom and the drama of having three girls to get ready for school every day! The tension, arguments and fights that erupted over shoes, clothes, and being late should have been enough to make my Mom nuts! But she survived it and I imagine I will too. I'm thankful that at least I have two boys who will likely not stress about their hair  :) 
We truly are off to a great start this year and our first fundraiser packet even came home this week, oh boy! Travis and I are grateful for the blessing of a neighborhood school and love to see Ava doing so well there.  We thank the Lord for these last few weeks! 


Super Cooper!

On the 4th of July we welcomed our newest nephew, Cooper into our family! My sister had her second baby and on the 8th we were able to head down to Iowa to meet him. Love when a plan works out! 
Nothing like brand-new-straight-from-Heaven babies!!
 The shadows in this picture make his hair look dark but actually he was born with a full head of blonde hair! So sweet, we loved being there to welcome him and to have a few days to just hang out with my whole family. It seems like yesterday and not a year ago already, that the kids and I were making the same trek down with a newborn Walker, while Trav was off to Peru! 
 Since we would all be together and because we didn't get to celebrate Walker's first birthday with any family, we made the most of the opportunity and had a little ice-cream cake in honor of the new 1 year old!  My Mom ordered it for us and had them do a little mickey mouse theme, Walker isn't really "into" much yet but he does recognize and react to Mickey Mouse, courtesy of his siblings love for Disney cartoons every morning  :) 

 The 5 mouseketeers! 
 We took his cake outside to share with everyone, after we got our pics inside. 
The lit candle was a surprise to Walker...
 ... so much so, that he tried to touch it and Ava saved the day by stopping him! 

 We tried to get Sawyer in on the action, but he wasn't as thrilled with the hat as we hoped, ha ha!
 Most of our afternoons were filled with these two in the backyard, playing in all kinds of water! It was beautiful the first few days we were there, but then it got crazy hot and humid, making the slip n slide and the local water park a necessity!
 Who could be bothered with sagging shorts when there is fun to be had??

Even Oliver came outside to see what all the fuss was about!
Stacie and Jesse flew in to meet little Cooper too, which was a bonus for all of the rest of us!
These two were twinning!

 Four generations! 
My grandparents came over one afternoon to see all of us and I can never resist this picture! Plus, I think Walker has inherited my Grandpa's cheeks when he smiles.  You can't tell here, but he reminds me so often of him!
And Cooper got in on the 4 generation-throwback fun, too!
 Grandparents and granddaughters. When we were little, they used to buy the three of us beautiful and fancy, matching dresses every year for Christmas. We got to order them from a special catalog, which we thought was thrilling, and often we had our pictures professionally taken after we got them. They loved seeing us all dressed up as much as we loved being dressed up!  We don't dress alike anymore, but we still like those sister pictures  :)  It is amazing to me how the passage of time is especially reflected in a visit with grandparents. While they must look at us and think the very same thing, it's a interesting and kind of sad time to wonder how many visits we will share in the future.  I'm glad we could get one in! 

Meanwhile, Cooper continued to sleep the visit away in somebody's arms at all times. 
I don't think he minded!

 Walker thought he would be brave and crawl right into the freezing water like his siblings, but he quickly realized the gravity of that choice! He was not a fan! 
Daddy to the rescue  :) 

 But, even after all those tears, he couldn't stay away  :)  He is an Armstrong male if I've ever seen one! The thrill is just too much to walk away from!
He slowly made his way right back to the water and decided he could handle it, one small dose at a time!

 I love those little water bugs!
 Super Grandpa took all four of these grandkids for a walk after dinner one night.  It was crazy humid and my camera could not stop fogging up from the thick blanket of moisture in the air!  He deserved a medal for that! 
 Cousins and two peas in a pod. These two are already double the trouble when they are together. If one of them isn't into something forbidden, the other one is :)  I can't imagine Christmas! When they are in confined spaces! And around all things breakable! We'll all need a padded room by the time we part ways! 
 Travis had to go back to Minnesota a few days after we got there so it was up to me to take over the swimming duties! We enjoyed a neighbor's pool one night, which was a great way to stay cool!

 And the uncles came to my rescue and helped me with all three of my kids too. 
 We joked the whole time about Jesse being our "manny" because he totally entertained Ava and Carter for me. He took them to a water park in town, twice, and created a giant waterfall with the hose suspended from an antenna near my parent's roof! It was hilarious to see and the kids went wild for it! I never would have survived with my sanity somewhat in tact if it weren't for his energy for them. It was so hot out but he helped all of us enjoy it! 
And on our last night, after we were ready to say good-bye and go to bed, we realized we never took a picture together all week  :) Something about having a newborn and 4 other kids that got in the way of our shopping, eating out and late-night game playing ways of the past! Oh how kids are changing the game, of course in good ways  :) 
It was wonderful to love on Cooper and to just be with our family for a week. I am thankful we could come down to see everyone and escape the summer grind at home. The next time we are all together, this little guy won't be so little! Welcome to the family, Cooper  :)