Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

It’s the “MOST wonderful time of the year” (or so the song goes). But it is a time of year that just makes me sit back and smile. Christmas has already been lots of fun at our house. The girls are at the ages that the holiday starts to sparkle with its story coming back to life, the lights, music and building excitement of giggly little girls.

Our family? While you’ll find us more rested than last year, I’m not sure I can say the pace has slowed any! If I had a penny for every time I walked into a store with the girls and heard, “Well don’t you have your hands full!” I’d be quite rich. But I mean every word as I always reply, “but in such a good way.” Simply? The girls keep us hopping.

Ava is 3 going on 10. A first born in every sense of the word, she’s always ready and willing to let me know what I’ve forgotten, missed or should still be doing (or any one else who will listen). She delights in organization and her naturally disorganized mother stands back in amazement as she’ll get excited to pick up just for fun? My mom is just excited to see the fruits of her labor finally showing up in her grandchild.

Ava started both preschool and Sunday school this year and truly loves both. Going is always hard for my little girl but I’ve learned to enjoy the ritual of kisses, hugs, prayer and more hugs. She is a snuggler and there’s nothing I love more than her hugs and whispered “I love you’s” that I get to hear throughout every day.

Kate and Olivia (21 months) live life at one speed: fast forward. They are climbers, explorers and creators at heart (I hear “colored-on” blinds are all the rage?!). I’ve stopped trying to think ahead of them – life is lived mostly in the defensive these days. J

We hear new words about every week and I love hearing their language come to life. Well – let’s be honest, most of the time I love it. “No,” “mine,” “HEY!”, “stop,” and did I mention “NO?” are heard often around here (by me AND them). Both girls have lots of spunk and their daddy’s sense of humor. Watching the two of them giggle and snuggle and have fun with each other are easily some of my favorite moments of any day.

Ryan and I have found the past year both refreshing and incredibly stretching. Refreshing in the sense there’s been no “real” big changes. We’ve appreciated the routine, the sleep J, and the time to dig in and grow as individuals and together.

Yet amidst the routine, God has given us more than a few situations that have forced us to follow hard after Him and trust Him when we didn’t see the how or what. Through every prayer we’ve prayed this past year that God would show Himself, I can truthfully say that we stand in awe how every time we asked to see Him, He was there to offer us His best: Himself.

I think that’s the gift I’m standing in amazement at this Christmas. So many years ago, God sent His best, Jesus, to be born in a tiny manger. Not many years later, God once more gave His best, Jesus, to die on a cross that we could be in Heaven with Him.

Even today, He still offers His best, Himself, to every one who asks to know Him. Regardless of the unknown, the hard, and the uncomfortable, we can still seek His best and wait expectantly. That gives us all reason to rejoice this Christmas!

God bless,
R, A, A, K & O

first snow!

We were pretty thrilled to see the first good snowfall around here and Ava couldn't wait to get out and play in it. The twins had to wait a little, as the time that worked best was naptime, but Ava was ready to go!

Ava and Daddy

Getting pulled in the sled

Even more fun was that Uncle David and Aunt Tara came played in the snow too. Ava lasted a little longer than she would have without the extra company.

Warming back up inside with hot chocolate!

Christmas Program/s

Have I mentioned Ava's been excited about Christmas this year? She has. : )

But almost as exciting as Christmas itself was Ava's Christmas dress. She picked it out this year and kept waiting and waiting to FINALLY be able to wear it.

Ava had a Christmas party at preschool on the last day of the semester and she heard the two words together (Christmas and party) and insisted she needed to wear her Christmas dress. So I let her.

They were having a little gift exchange and Ava was quite excited to take her present (a princess one even) in to school.
When Ava came home later that morning, she promptly took the gift that she had been given, still unwrapped, and put it under our tree. When both Ryan and I tried to tell her that she could open it now, she emphatically insisted she had to wait until Christmas. It's still there waiting for her. Let's just say she doesn't get that from me. : )

Then Ava's first Christmas program at church came. It seems unreal she's that old but I'll spare you that whole saga. : )

We spent lots of time practicing and talking about it and Ava knew her songs and was so excited she was going to have TWO grandma's and grandpa's there.

Posing with a present from Grandma Sunday morning

me and my little girl

Ava wanted a "just girls" picture. : )

Overall, Ava did great. I had been worried because she's definitely shy in setting like that. So we had talked through it all, that mommy would wave and that we would pray that Jesus would help her be brave. Well the day came and I went to go sit down and I couldn't find a seat that would put me in her sight. I panicked and had a slight mommy meltdown for her but then like many other times yet to come, had to trust that she'd be ok.

When she went up I could see her looking very hesitantly around and was worried she'd come crying off the steps as her teacher had to "help" her up the stairs. But she stayed up and while she didn't sing, hung in there until the end (a sweater sleeve that totally ripped didn't help her concentration). : ) For the last song that the whole Sunday school sang together, she got to see Daddy and my mom and I could see her visibly relax and she sang along.

We told Ava how proud we were of her that even though she was scared and couldn't see mommy, that she still stayed and stood nicely. Although after we had talked through everything and about how she couldn't see me, she soberly asked, "Mommy, next time, will you sit so I can see you?"

So if I shove you aside while trying to get inside of church for the next program, don't take it personally. Just trying to keep a promise to my little girl. : )

But the most special part to the whole story? That night as I was putting Ava to bed and saying her prayers with her, I heard her quietly tell Jesus, "and thank you that I could have two grandma's at my program. . ."

oh I love my little

Thursday, December 23, 2010

decorating galore

Now that we had our tree we could really start getting ready for Christmas!

Ava proudly puts the first ornament on the tree
Don't you wish you had HER help at your house?! : )

Kate was excited too

Daddy and his girls

Ava was really fun to decorate the tree with. We put the twins to bed and let her stay up late helping. I realized pretty quickly I had a choice to make: care about where the ornaments went or just enjoy the time. Let's just say the front 1/3 of our tree is about a full foot lower than the rest from Ava's grouped decoration. But it manages to make me smile every time I see it.
Decorating for Christmas this year was pretty sentimental. I kept pulling out pieces that my Grandma Maibach had given me specifically (like a Hummel angel I have) or the many ornaments we were given by Grandpa and Grandma each year. They remain to this day my favorite present every year. They felt extra special this year as I put them up and thanked God for the special Grandma I was able to enjoy so many precious memories with. This year, she truly knows the meaning of Christmas as she celebrates with the Savior Himself.
Ava loves all the ornaments herself and kept exclaiming how pretty they were.
Then on to the baking. Ava loved helping me with these turtle candies. They're the perfect kid friendly holiday treat.

My parents dropped in for 24 hours for the Christmas program. My mom brought along her gingerbread houses and the girls were all thrilled.
Let's just say there was A LOT of this.

Which brought about even more of these. : )

Ava and Grandma hard at work

Olivia was all smiles until I told her to show me her finished house. It was fun to see how hard both Kate and Olivia worked on their houses. They're growing up fast!

Ava's finished house

getting ready for christmas

Sorry for the barrage of posts . . .trying to get caught up before Christmas officially arrives. : )

It was exciting to get our house ready for the Christmas tree. It's neat to see Ava at the stage of anticipating everything and remembering the little things. She was quite excited to get Daddy's train set up before we went out for our tree.

We got it all set up - Kate and Olivia were a little unsure.
As soon as we turned it on? Let's just say the party dwindled to two.
As this is where the 3rd child planted herself.

Ava wasted no time having fun.
The wait for our tree lasted one more night. But Ava and Daddy made up for the wait.

And when we finally got out (on a FRIGID night), we found just the right tree. Please note my daughter. sigh.

excited for Christmas!

christmases begin

The morning after we returned home, we got to spend the day celebrating Christmas with the Ryan's extended family.

Ava opening up a pair of pajamas from Gpa and Gma
I'd take this present gladly!

Ryan's cousin had his little boy there and he's SO sweet. My girls LOVED loving on him and poor little B got snuggled to pieces.

Did I mention he was snuggled to pieces? and then some. Thanks for letting my girls love on your little guy so much M & R!

Kate and Ava modeling their new pj's. Notice Olivia absent? That may be because part way through the day Olivia proceeded to hurl all over mommy and was taken home. Thankfully, after a couple hours of being sick, she was back to herself. We decided the poor girl's body was just reacting to 2 full days of no sleep and lots of junk food. But we did have to miss part of the fun.

Growing up, Ryan and his cousins always put on a "christmas play" as they acted out the christmas story. With more little kids AND an actual baby this year (wouldn't have worked when our girls were babies unless we had multiple nights for a show : ) ) the play was brought back. The older crew were good sports.

Kate refused to put on her angel outfit.

My angel. And yes, she's always this sweet. ; )
Can't believe we didn't get a single picture with Grandma Great or Grandpa Mel - but thanks for a special day (the part I was there anyways : ) ).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

when you have to kill time in an airport . . .

On the way home from florida we were delayed in Atlanta. The girls all truly did great. But by the end of the night (we didn't fly OUT of atlanta until 10:30), we were all a little tired and looking for diversion.

Suddenly, we glanced over and caught this.

Then Ava had to join in, of course!

Then we just got goofy (although it did get me thinking . . .)

This would be cheaper than plane tickets.

And then my amusement was overshadowed by the germ factor.

And the fun was done.
the end.

thanksgiving in florida

Every other year, my entire family spend "Christmas" in Florida together over thanksgiving. It was such a fun trip this year with the ages of our girls. They loved vacation. Ava's love language is "quality time" so she was in heaven having so much family around with nothing to do and nothing to get done! The 3 girls all shared a room and Ryan and I would laugh so hard each night listening to the 3 of them together.

Our first night there, it was only our family, my mom and my niece Auburn there. We were eating dinner down by the pool and they had karaoke going on that no one was participating in. Ryan asked Ava is she wanted to sing with him and as I watched in total shock, my shy little girl did! She didn't sing loud but her lips actually moved. It ended up being a "duel" between Ryan and Ava and another 4 yr old little girl and her mom. After 2 rounds of singing, "If you're happy and you know it," and "Halleluh, Halleluh", a "tie" was declared and they both went home winners. It was pretty cute to watch.

Getting to wear a crown was the icing on the cake

Ava and Daddy in action!

Their "band"

We actually had a lot of time as a family on our own. With our girls schedules different than my sister's older kids, during the day, we often went our separate ways. But it ended up being a really special time of our little crew. I cut down MANY pictures, but here's quite a few still. : )

Getting in the sand right away - LOVE finally having 3 girls who like it!

What's better than vacation and a frozen drink Kate asks (non-alcoholic of course ; ) )?

Sharing it with your sister

And snuggles too!

The hotel had this awesome indoor play are that beats any other I've ever seen. My girls spent hours playing here.

Kate trying on Grandma's hat

Olivia's in the picture somewhere : )

Round the rosie with Brynne

On a boat ride in the lake

This is what you call "super daddy."

Ava did awesome swimming. Made those private swimming lessons seem worthwhile!

Ava and Kate getting their toes buried in the sand

Kate thought she'd let Ava take this one all herself

And Olivia just thought she'd cheer them both on

Doesn't get better than this : )

We got to spend a day at Epcot with everyone. But since the 4 youngest girls can't ride that much there, we split up for most of the day.
The Nemo ride was a HUGE hit

On a ride - sometimes it's the memory, not the picture : )

Grandma and Brynne

Some of the girls got to go eat lunch with the Princesses - Ava was thrilled (although we had a slight panic for a bit when she realized Tinkerbell wasn't there. Explain that one - the girl has never seen the movie or read the story with me?!)

This is probably one of my favorite moments of the day. They brought our dessert platters and Brynne took one look at them and exclaimed, "IT'S A MIRACLE!"

Around 3, Kate and Olivia finally sacked out for about 40 minutes.

So we walked around with Ava and she got spoiled a little bit.
She picked a "kitty princess" for her face painting (only Disney would charge $15 for something you wash off that night . . .and only at Disney would you pay it : ) ) We spent the rest of the twins naps finding characters for Ava to take her picture with.

This is why you don't see any pictures of the twins and characters. . .they just cried and Ava was mad because she wanted to take the picture herself.
Because at least half our pictures from Disney are of Ava and a character, I've spared you. : ) But here's one of her favorite's, Minnie Mouse!

Before we left for the night, we had to take one more ride on Nemo. This pretty much sums up Kate and Olivia's opinion of Disney: the food was pretty great (notice the ice cream cones being scarfed down). : )

Riding our tram to the van.
Kate's loving life: chocolate in her belly, cell phone in her hand, and snuggling Papa.

How cute are they?!

We had to get one last swim in before we headed home.
The twins would climb up the side, climb down the ladder and jump to Daddy over and over and over.

Kate's turn!