That’s a wrap {February}.

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Links to Love:

  1. A Golden Girls themed café has opened in Manhattan.  My sister and I will definitely be visiting it someday.  We love The Golden Girls!  It’s one of those shows that I like to watch when I’m tired or sick or sad…those quirky ladies just make everything better.
  2. Maternity photo themed pics showing off that beautiful…beer belly??  These are funny.
  3. Did you watch The Oscars?  We didn’t.  But I read about the Best Picture debacle on theSkimm Monday morning.  Craziness!  I feel so bad for the guy who handed Bonnie and Clyde the wrong envelope.  These tweets are hilarious.
  4. Ava is officially walking more than she’s crawling.  In fact, she’s not really crawling at all any more.  She resembles a drunk sailor as she toddles around but she’s on her own two feet and loving it.  I’m so sad.  Does this mean I officially have a toddler?  These are the only shoes she’ll keep on.  We are fans.
  5. 13 Children’s Books that Encourage Kindness Towards Others.  I want Ava to own all of these.

Making Memories:

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  1. On my birthday, Kevin gave me a gift certificate for a 90 minute (!!) massage at a local skin and body retreat.  I redeemed that on the first Saturday in February and it was lovely.  90 minutes is such a luxurious length of time to be pampered.  Thanks, Kevin!
  2. Kevin went to Phoenix with his dad for their annual Sun’s game extravaganza.  They ate good food, did a little shopping (Ava made out like a bandit, as you can imagine), and enjoyed a close basketball game where the Sun’s came out victorious.  Not too shabby.  This was their 23rd annual father/son trip.  Isn’t that amazing?  They always have a great time.
  3. My mom and step-dad live a 2.5 hour drive away from us, which isn’t bad but they stay busy with their jobs/farm/ranch and we stay busy with life and the whole pack of us are homebody’s so we don’t see each other very often.  In February, my mom and I started Skyping on Monday mornings.  I think that’ll be a good way for her to stay up on Ava’s latest and greatest tricks and it’s a nice time to connect.  I’ve enjoyed that new routine.
  4. One blustery Thursday night in February, I met five of my friends out at The Melting Pot for a girl’s night.  It was so fun.  I always come away refreshed and recharged when I spend time with these ladies.  We wore tiaras and the restaurant supplied us with wands, because we’re princesses.  Have you eaten at The Melting Pot? That was my first time and I did all four courses.  I loved the cheese (bread was my favorite dipper, obviously), was underwhelmed by the salad, thought the entrée was okay, and ate too much of the chocolate.  Next time I think I’d just do cheese and chocolate.  Although I did love the mushroom caps in coq au vin with green goddess sauce.  I may do entree for those alone.
  5. Ava had a few social events in February.  She met a friend at the aquarium one afternoon, and went to a friend’s house for a play date one Saturday.  We continue to attend music class on Tuesday’s, which she always really enjoys.

Bookish:

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  1. I just finished listening to Anna Kendrick’s Scrappy Little Nobody and I really liked it.  I gave it 4 stars.  It is my favorite comedic memoir (or whatever that genre is) that I’ve read/listened to.  She’s not crude like so many of them are, and while there is some foul language, I think it’s well placed and not over the top.  She’s hilarious.
  2. Kevin and I finished listening to Duplicity by Newt Gingrich.  It was really well written and action packed.  Kevin gave it 5 stars and I gave it 4 stars.  We’ll probably start the sequel when we travel for Easter.
  3. I finished The Secret Garden and gave it 4 stars.  It’s a quick, easy, classic read.  I remember loving the movie as a kid, but I don’t think I’d ever read the book.  I also re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and it was just as amazing the second time.  I love that series.
  4. I’m currently still reading The Danish Way of Parenting:  A Guide to Raising the Happiest Kids in the World by Jessica Joelle Alexander & Iben Sandhal; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (reading this one on my phone/iPad); and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I’m in a jack of many, master of none phase when it comes to reading.  I need to commit to finishing the Danish parenting book and put some time in with Team of Rivals but Harry Potter keeps calling my name.
  5. Kevin has been reading The Looming Tower: Al-Quaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright. He’s enjoying his online class that he started last month as well.  They’re about to start a group project that’s a simulation of an Everest climb.  Sounds taxing.

Challenges:

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  1. Naps continue to be a challenge for us.  Well, for Ava.  Kevin and I would gladly go down for daily naps if we could.  I’ve weaned Ava from the mid-day feed, so it really does have to be Goldilocks timing (not too tired, not too hyper) to get her to nap.  Sometimes we stroller nap in the late afternoon if I couldn’t get her down in the crib.  Sue has tried crib napping but Ava tends to wake up early and then they cuddle nap.  This too shall pass.  Days just seem really long when the child refuses a mid-day rest.  Overall though, we can’t complain.
  2. Kiki, while doing quite well for 14 years old (76 in human years), continues to refuse her thyroid medicine every other day or so, and she has been throwing up a lot.  We did some lab work over the weekend and should get results soon.  Hopefully there is something else we can try to keep her healthy.  She did gain weight though and seems to feel fine, so it’s not too bad.

Sustenance:

  1. I posted about our favorite chicken recipes in February – we ate each of those at least once during the month.
  2. We’ve still been into the overnight oats.  Those work especially well on the mornings that Kevin has personal training sessions at the gym.
  3. I’d like a chef to start doing my shopping and cooking.  I feel like we have been in such a rut recently.  And mealtimes just keep rolling around, not going anywhere.  Blah.

How was your February?  Would you choose a maid, a cook, or a chauffer to lighten your load? 

Feeding Ava.

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I want to start by saying that I believe fed is best.  Whether that is accomplished with breast milk or formula, I believe that we all do the best we can for our babies with the resources we have available to us and in the circumstances we face.  This is simply the story of my experience feeding my one and only child and that experience has been breastfeeding and a baby led weaning introduction of solid food.  If we have another child, I imagine that the experience will have some similarities but also be unique and different and personal to that child.  I’m not a lactation consultant or a pediatric nutritionist, so I say again – this is simply the story of my experience.  I did learn a few things though from lactation consultants and my extensive online research (wink wink), so I’ll put those little gems (wink wink again) in bold font in case anyone is interested in what I actually learned and not just anecdotal story.

Breastfeeding was not easy.  For the first 6 to 8 weeks (it’s all a blur – I don’t remember exactly), I would start each nursing session with the goal of simply making it through that session.  If there had been the slightest obstacle to me continuing to breastfeed, I don’t know that I would have persevered.  The stars aligned though and really, I had the best situation possible.  I never had a milk supply problem, I didn’t go back to work until Ava was three months old and even then, I only went to the office for four hour stretches, I pumped a bit to be offered to Ava in a bottle when I wasn’t with her (she was never very interested in a bottle), and really – I know I had it easy.  But it was still hard.  It was painful and it was emotional.  But we made it work and at around four months, we really hit our stride and I started to enjoy breastfeeding.  She got her first two teeth at six months old and then the second set at seven/eight months old.  Between six months and nine or ten months, I would be really tense during each feeding session because I had felt the sharpness of those teeth and I did not care for it.  I returned to the mindset of starting each session with the simple goal of making it through THAT session and that session alone.  Ava was overall, in hindsight, not a biter, which I’m very thankful for, but the anticipation and uncertainty was nerve-wracking.  At some point, I grew more comfortable and while my guard is never completely down, I guess I’ve just accepted the fact that she may bite (on purpose or unintentionally) and I’ll survive.  As of now, Ava, at 15 months old, is down to three milk feedings a day and that is working well for us.  She would probably nurse more if I offered – sometimes she tugs at my neck skin, which is her way of saying, “Hey Mama, is the milk shop open?” (she’ll also sometimes pull at Kevin’s neck and look down his shirt, which is pretty funny) but I have stuck with only feeding her milk three times a day for the past couple of weeks.  My goal is to continue to nurse her around three times a day until she’s eighteen months (if she gets a cold, I’ll likely up the feeding count), then feel out if she seems ready to start weaning further.  I imagine we’ll drop to two feedings a day and then one, so I anticipate that it’ll be a slow and steady process.  I’m definitely ready to not feel like a milk cow, but I know I’ll miss the quiet moments that we share.  The thought of weaning is bittersweet, for sure.

As I mentioned, I was lucky and never had a supply problem.  If anything, I had oversupply, especially if she went more than six hours between feedings.  I’d use a hand pump when I first woke up to slow the flow a little bit because otherwise she would sputter and choke a bit.  I know that sometimes there are health issues and supply simply isn’t there, no matter what.  I found that drinking a lot of water (80 ounces a day), eating a balanced diet, and offering milk often was key in establishing and maintaining a good supply.  I used this lactation cookie recipe, which may or may not do anything to help but they’re delicious and any excuse to eat cookies, amiright?  Provided there are no underlying issues, it is truly a supply and demand system.  The more the baby is offered the breast and the more the baby consumes, the more is produced.  I pumped around once a day from the time Ava was about three months old until she was around six months old (I think – I don’t remember for sure) and built up a little supply of frozen milk for her to drink when I was away from her.  I hated pumping and didn’t get much from a pumping session so it felt kind of pointless.  If you pump and don’t get much, don’t worry about how much the baby is consuming, provided the appropriate number of diapers are being change and weight gain is on the curve (even a low curve – Ava was in the 3rd-5th percentile for the first 9 months or so, but she was gaining steady and staying on that curve, so there was no need for concern.)  A baby is always going to get more milk than a pump!  Always.  That’s how our bodies are made.  If we have another child and our lifestyle remains the same in terms of when I go back to work and how often I’m in the office, I anticipate that I won’t pump and we’ll have formula on hand for when I’m not there to feed the baby (provided I am able to/decide to breastfeed in the first place!).  But who knows – why make that plan before it needs to be made?

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We got the go-ahead from our pediatrician to offer cereal at four months, but I was intrigued by the idea of baby led weaning.  After reading Baby Led Weaning:  The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods-and Helping Your Baby Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater and talking to Kevin about what it entails, we decided to go that route.  Official baby led weaning means that the baby is only offered breastmilk or formula until they are at least six months old and even then they need to meet other criteria like being able to sit up unsupported, have lost the tongue thrust reflex, and be able to grasp and hold on to food.  The book talks about how a baby’s digestive system isn’t fully developed at four months old.  I am no doctor and know nothing about the development of a baby’s digestive system, but I genuinely believe that it does not hurt to let their little systems develop without the introduction of solid food (even something as mild as rice cereal) in the first six months.

When Ava was six months old, she met the above criteria, so we started introducing solid food to her at that point.  We started slow, but basically gave her whatever we were eating.  Ava loved food from the beginning.  She loves flavor, including a bit of spice, and she’s been very good about trying things.  It was really, really cute to watch her discover different flavors and such a relief to skip right over the puree stage.  If baby led weaning is something that interests you, I highly recommend the aforementioned book.  A few things that stood out to me as I read it are as follows:

  • An advantage of baby led weaning is that a baby learns to chew early.  With purees, the baby can continue to suck, like they do from a bottle or breast, and they do not learn to chew.  When solid chunks of food are eventually introduced, the baby has a tendency to suck rather than chew because they are accustomed to sucking.  This can lead to choking.
  • Speaking of choking, there is a difference between gagging and choking.  A baby’s gag reflex is much, much further forward in their mouth than an adult’s gag reflex.  It is triggered very easily!  This is a defense mechanism because it forces forward anything that has triggered the reflex before the item moves further back and gets lodged in a baby’s throat.  The baby learns early on how easy it is for their gag reflex to be triggered and how to control the amount of food they put in their mouth because they, by instinct, want to avoid triggering the reflex.  Baby led weaning can include A LOT of gagging.  The baby is learning about that gag reflex and because it is so far forward, it doesn’t take much to trigger it!  The gagging part of baby led weaning is scary.  It is so hard to sit idle and watch a baby gag.  But it is really, really important that the baby is allowed the opportunity to let the reflex push the food forward and that they work it out for themselves.  Adult intervention can cause the food to move backwards and get lodged in the throat, which can lead to choking.  If the baby is turning blue and not breathing, follow the steps of infant first aid/CPR, obviously!  But if they are gagging, let them be.  This was by far the scariest and hardest part of baby led weaning to me.  And Ava wasn’t a frequent gagger at all, so we were lucky.  But it’s still nerve-wracking.
  • Baby led weaning allows a baby to eat at their own pace.  They have control over what goes into their mouths and the quantity.  If they try something and don’t like it, they can spit it out and not try it again during that meal; the food can be offered to them repeatedly but it isn’t forced on them.  (Recently we have repeatedly offered vegetables, and Ava has repeatedly refused them and that’s okay.  We’ll keep offering and eventually she’ll come around to them.)  Eating is enjoyable to them because they’re in control and they’re part of the family gathering at the table.  There aren’t any tricks like zooming the airplane (spoon) into their mouth to get them to take another bite of something they don’t really want.  They follow their own instincts and also learn by example.  They won’t forever be eating with their fingers as long as they are given the opportunity to use utensils, because ultimately, they want to do what mom and dad and older siblings are doing.   Mom and dad can focus more on their meal because the baby is picking up their own food and bringing it to their own mouth, versus mom or dad wielding the spoon. 
  • A baby learns to recognize when they are full which can help them develop healthy eating habits as a child and later as an adult.  Rather than meeting a “quota” amount of jarred pureed food, the baby follows its own instincts, eats at its own pace, and stops eating when he or she is full.  Healthy eating habits are established as young as infanthood, and can help prevent obesity later in life. 

I haven’t read the book in around a year and I know I’m not mentioning so many perks, so again, read the book if you’re interested in learning more!  The biggest con is the mess, but really, isn’t feeding a baby and/or toddler messy regardless of how the food is delivered to them?  I reiterate what I said above – we all make the decisions that we feel are best for our child so if that means cereal at four months for you and your baby, you do that, mama (or dad!)!  Baby led weaning was simply the option we chose for introducing solids to Ava and we have been very, very happy with how it worked for our family.

How did you introduce solids to your kids?  What did you like or not like about the process? 

That’s a wrap {January}.


Links to Love:

  1. I have been loving the Daily Connoisseur’s YouTube videos.  I don’t watch YouTube often, but hers are some that I seek out.  I find her very soothing and I agree with so many of her philosophies.
  2. I came across her video about three ways to do overnight oats and recommend the blog post with the recipes.  We have tried the blueberries and cream version and the chocolate almond version and they are both delicious.  What overnight oats recipes do you recommend?
  3. This song.  (Million Reasons by Lady Gaga)  It has been on replay in my brain for the past week.
  4. Amanda linked to this article recently.  Definitely check it out and consider searching for yourself and opting out of having your personal info displayed on the site.
  5. This first look video was so funny!

Making Memories:

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  1. We had our guest bathroom renovated this month!  It looks so great.  Kevin and I marvel over all the things we’ve done to our home since moving in.  It really is like a different house!  The previous owners wouldn’t recognize the inside.
  2. We also had some touch up painting done around the house.  It felt good to get a few things patched and cleaned up!
  3. I was on the Nominating Committee this year for Junior League and got to help interview candidates for the slate next year.  I was slated as Nominating Chair for the upcoming year, which is exciting.  I go back and forth on leaving Junior League because I sometimes feel resentful when I’m at events, wishing I could be at home with Kevin and Ava.  But ultimately I know that it’s good for me to be involved in the organization and get out of the house for meetings and events.  I am very grateful to have such a supportive, amazing husband – he doesn’t bat an eye when I have meetings or events that take me away from home for hours at time in the evening or weekend.
  4. I went to an Escape Room with some girlfriends one Friday evening and it was such a blast.  I can’t wait to go back and am already planning a triple date with Kevin and some friends.
  5. Kevin and I made an early bird reservation at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse as a joint birthday celebration dinner.  It was so nice to get dressed up and have a date night.  We ate so much food and it was amazing.

Bookish:

  1. Read Truly Madly Guilty.  It’s Liane Moriarty’s newest and I gave it four stars.  I can understand why some people didn’t care for it.  The story did seem to move a little slowly at times, and the characters are very strong personalities.  You’ll likely either love them or hate them.  I loved them.  Each of them!  I thought they were well developed and quirky and real.
  2. Read At Home with Madame Chic:  Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott.  I’ve read the other two books by her about lessons learned from Madame Chic (the author’s hostess when she lived in France in her early twenties) and polishing poise.  I think At Home is my least favorite of the three (I gave it three stars).  I have gotten into Jennifer’s vlogs recently.  (See above in the links section.)  I agree with much of what she says and think that she’s a great role model for teenagers and young adults.
  3. Currently reading The Danish Way of Parenting:  A Guide to Raising the Happiest Kids in the World by Jessica Joelle Alexander & Iben Sandhal; The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (on my phone/iPad); Duplicity by Newt Gringrich (listening to this one on Audible with Kevin); and Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  Oh and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, because it’s time to re-read that series.
  4. Kevin has been reading The Looming Tower: Al-Quaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright and Duplicity, as mentioned above.  He also started taking a class (Leadership and Organizational Behavior) this month, because he didn’t feel like he had enough on his plate with only a baby and a wife and a full time job.  :)  He’s toying with the idea of getting an MBA through UMass Amherst and this class allows him to metaphorically dip his toe into the graduate school waters.
  5. Ava hit the 1000 book mark in her 1000 books before kindergarten challenge.  We’ll try it again in a few years, when kindergarten is on the horizon.

Challenges:

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  1. Ava has been a bit of an inconsistent sleeper for the past couple of months.  I feel silly saying that has been a challenge because in general she is such a good sleeper.  But there were a few nights where she woke up out of sorts and on one night we threw up the white flag after an hour and a half of crying it out.  Kevin slept on the floor of her room and that seemed to satisfy her.  She also does not like to be left alone to fall asleep, whereas she used to sooth herself to sleep just fine and dandy.  Now we need to stay in the room with her until she drifts off.  It’s just different and we don’t know what caused it.  Our trip to Denver last month?  A developmental leap (she’s in the ninth Wonder Weeks phase now and she is always hyper-aware during those leaps)?  We finally seemed to be getting back on track and then…dun dun dun…she got a cold.  However, the latest and greatest is that as of last night, January 31, Ava has been left in her crib awake and has not cried a bit for four consecutive nights.  She chats to herself and then falls asleep alone and on her own.  It’s been very exciting and I hope it continues.  January – I guess you could say it came in like a lion and out like a lamb on the sleeping front for the sweet girl.
  2. There was a bit of a challenge to our schedule when the reno work was being done to the bathroom.  The cats had to be locked up in our master suite (woe is them) during the day and it was loud and disruptive.  Ava couldn’t nap or even peacefully play at home so we spent a lot of time at Craig and Sue’s house.  Fortunately they live close so it’s easy to go back and forth.  We’re glad to have this project done!  We’ll tackle our master bathroom in the spring when we can play outside more.  That’s going to be a longer project.  Yikes.
  3. After almost 15 months of perfect health, a cold virus struck my poor baby.  She was sniffly, stuffy, and sneezy, and it was so hard to watch her struggle with not feeling 100%.  She is such a trooper though, and we were really lucky – overall she continued to feel well and be her cheerful self during the day.  She struggled to get comfortable at night and had a hard time breathing while lying down.  Fortunately it was pretty mild and passed relatively quickly.  We did a few steams and ran the humidifier and diffused peppermint oil.
  4. I don’t want to get into politics, but regardless of where any American stands on issues, January was a challenging month.  As a nation, we are very divided.  That division scares me.  I am scared for this country and the world, and I am disappointed in how leadership has handled many things.

Sustenance:

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  1. This month we ate a few of our regular rotation meals – chicken fajitas (strips of chicken breast, bell pepper, onion, seasoned with salt/pepper/garlic powder, sautéed in olive oil, and served over a tortilla with cheese), beef stroganoff (we usually use ground beef rather than stew meat and we always add mushrooms), roast, a smoked salmon that we regularly get at Whole Foods, these Cuban sliders
  2. We made lentil soup for the second time and really enjoyed it again.  It’ll become part of the regular rotation in the winter.  It’s not an Ava friendly meal though.  Soup is hard to eat for a little lady mastering utensils, and she did try it…but didn’t love the flavor.  We made her a ham sandwich and she was content.  :)
  3. I feel like we tried more than two new recipes this month, but I’m only remembering these – braised coconut spinach chickpeas with lemon and the Pioneer Woman’s Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce.
  4. Perhaps the meal highlight of the month was our joint birthday celebration dinner date out at Ruth’s Chris.  Oh it was so delicious.
  5. Effective January 5 (we had to wait until after my birthday :)), Kevin and I are back on our righteous eating plan and allowing ourselves three cheats a week.  Cheats include fast food, fried food, sweets, pizza, and pasta.  We followed this plan for the majority of last year and feel like it is a good way to stay on track with conscious food decisions while also not depriving ourselves altogether.  Kevin also has started seeing a personal trainer once or twice a week.  He’s hoping to expand his repertoire of workouts that he can do on his own.  I’ve signed up for a month of unlimited hot yoga at a place very near our house and I’m excited about getting into that.

How was your January?  Tell me something good!

Ava // fifteen months old.

Our little Ava is 15 months old!  Time, it is a flying.  We had her 15 month wellness check today (one shot, boo) and she weighed in at 18 pounds, 14 ounces (17th percentile), is 30 inches long (32nd percentile), and has a big head (75th percentile).  Our doctor said (loudly – Ava screams like a banshee as soon as she steps into those exam rooms) she’s doing great on all levels.  We wish that our doctor would ask to hang out with us in real life so that she could see first hand how smart, social, and calm Ava is when she’s not afraid that someone is going to jab a needle in her at any moment.

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SLEEPING

Ava continues to sleep well through the night – anywhere from 7:00 to 7:30 until 6:00 to 7:00.  When she wakes up, she soothes herself back to sleep, nine times out of ten.  We’ve noticed that we need to go into her room to soothe her more often when she’s in a developmental leap or when she’s got teeth actively pushing through the gum.  But overall we are so lucky to have such a good sleeper.  Ever since our Denver trip we have struggled to get her to fall asleep alone. Hopefully that resolves itself. She takes one nap a day.  It is usually around an hour and a half, but can be as short as 45 minutes or as long as 2+ hours.  Where she naps is a bit inconsistent – I usually make her take crib naps, but Kevin, Sue, and Craig usually do cuddle naps.

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PLAYING

Ava is so. much. fun.  We absolutely love playing with her.  She is so good at entertaining herself, and loves to play with us as well.  We are still in our weekly music class and we occasionally meet up with friends who have kids for play dates.  She is a homebody and always so excited to get home after we run errands or go out.  Non-toy toys are her favorite – the Tupperware, baggies, boxes, etc.  She likes to put cloths or clothes on her head and we tell her that we like her hat and she smiles so big.  She thinks it is hilarious when Kevin blows his nose.  She loves when we take phone calls – on our phones or on her pretend kitchen phone.  She loves this one song that involves waving a scarf in the air and chanting about popcorn kernels.  Really she just loves songs in general.  She loves reading and is very interested in books of all shapes and sizes.  She loves dancing.  She shakes her whole body when she dances on her own and it’s very cute.  She also loves to be held by Kevin or me and be our little dance partner.  She loves to be outside and adores her stroller walks and trips to the park.  We’re hoping the remainder of the winter is mild enough to allow us to get out for regular walks each week.

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EATING

She eats very well – everything but vegetables.  Not touching that poison.  She sometimes has pre-conceived notions about how a food will taste but she’s pretty good about raising it to her mouth and tasting it.  Sometimes it’s a hit and she can’t get enough of something she was convinced she’d not like.  She also doesn’t love milk, which I was a little worried about but the pediatrician said today that she doesn’t think milk is that big of a deal – there are plenty of other sources of protein.  We may try almond milk soon.  She’s great in restaurants – as long as we keep food in front of her.  She has 12 teeth (the regular front eight and four molars) – plenty of chances to show the food who is boss.  Her favorite foods are peanut butter (especially Bamba) and chicken thighs and sweet potatoes and bananas and blueberries.  Ava continues to nurse 3 to 5 times a day.  My goal is to make it to 18 months and then begin weaning.  I’d love for her to continue to get all the good stuff from my milk through the winter months.  She caught her first cold last week.  We were delighted that we almost made it to 15 months before she was under the weather, and she recovered pretty quickly.  Lots of steams and a humidifier and diffusing peppermint oil seemed to really help.  I also upped the number of times I was nursing her so that she could get some cold-fighting power from that.

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DOING

Ava is a mover and a shaker.  She is on the go anytime she’s awake, and I just love to watch the little wheels turning in her head as she figures out how her world operates.  She loves putting pants on – she sticks her legs straight out and does a little dance when it’s pants-putting-on time.  She leans her forehead in for kisses.  She went through a brief phase where she would give open mouthed kisses which were basically the cutest thing ever.  But alas, she decided her response to kisses will be to lean her forehead in – kind of like she’s saying, “You may kiss my crown.”  She’s very fast as she creeps along the furniture and when she pushes her zebra push toy (or the dining room chairs or her high chair or the travel crib or…whatever she’s in a position to push).  In the past week or so she has begun to take more of an interest in walking.  She’ll take up to a dozen or so steps and then remember that it’s much faster to crawl.  Initially I said that I refuse to call her a toddler until she’s walking.  Then she started walking a bit and I’ve changed it to a refusal to call her a toddler until she’s walking more than crawling.  Actually, scratch that – I refuse to call her a toddler until she’s only walking.  I’m calling my baby a baby for as long as possible, thank you very much.

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COMMUNICATING 

Ava is putting lots of syllables together and can say a few things very clearly (Mama and Dada top that list) and a few things clearly enough (cat, dog, duck).  What truly amazes me every day is how much she understands.  It is remarkable.  She recognizes when we’re turning into our neighborhood in the car, when we pull up in front of Grandma and Grandpa’s house, etc.  She knows what she is not allowed to touch (an electrical cord, for instance) and will reach out toward it and look back at us, like she’s saying, “See this?  I’m testing boundaries.”  When we tell her to put toys or books away, she’s getting better about following instruction.  Body language usually gets the job done – she’ll reach her arms up to be picked up and who can resist that?  Or she’ll hold her arm out and grunt urgently to indicate that she wants something or wants us to give her something.   Basically the only sign language sign that we use consistently is “all done” and she’s good with that one.  She doesn’t like good-byes.  Even if we’re saying goodbye to the clerk at the grocery store, she whimpers when she hears the word.

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We are delighted and amused by her every day and we hope that she always knows just how much she is loved.

A couple of thirty-something birthdays.

I turned 32 a few days ago and Kevin turned 33 back in December.  The birthday celebrations for each were fitting for thirty-something…low key and based around food and home – two of our favorite things.

Kevin’s birthday fell on a Sunday and Ava and I insisted he open his presents from us right away.  (She had her personal assistant – me – get him a photo that we know he likes for a frame in his office.  I got him a few things including this steak brand, which he really likes and I highly recommend as a fun, unique gift for the grill master in your life.)

We headed to Flying Star for breakfast, which was very tasty and filling, as always.  Then we went home and hung out and played for awhile.  Ava went down for a nap right around the time the Broncos started playing and each of those things occupied us for a couple of hours.  We grabbed coffee in the afternoon and just relaxed at home.  At around 5:00 we picked Craig and Sue up and went to dinner at Bravo.  Ava was a little charmer, as she tends to be in restaurants.

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That little lady loves dining out.  We got gelato after dinner and paused for pictures at the big Christmas tree.

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Then it was home.  Kevin enjoyed his birthday and we mega-enjoyed celebrating him.

The following weekend we traveled to Denver for a Broncos game; the tickets were an awesome and much appreciated gift to Kevin from his parents.  You can read about our adventures in this post.

My birthday rounded out the holiday season on Wednesday.  Every time we said the word birthday, Ava would giggle.  “Is it Ava’s birthday?”  Giggle-giggle-giggle.  “Is it Daddy’s birthday?”  Giggle-giggle-giggle.  “No!  It’s Mama’s birthday!”  Giggle-giggle-giggle.  She was really excited to talk about birthdays.  Kevin picked up burritos from our favorite burrito spot.  Bacon, Christmas (that means the burritos had bacon and both red and green chile).  Kevin went to work and Ava and I hung out.  We read books, played in her kitchen, did some laundry…  At one point we were hanging out in her room and I was sitting in her bear chair, talking on the phone.  She threw all the clothes out of one of her drawers and started rolling around in the clothes.  It was completely random and hilarious.

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She wore herself out and took an hour and a half crib nap.  Which, I like to think, was her gift to me.  I finished Truly Madly Guilty while she napped, and read a bit on Team of Rivals.  When she woke up she helped me get ready for work and we cuddled a bit.  My favorite.

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Kevin brought home Blake’s burgers and fries for lunch because there’s no time like age 32 to continue clogging those arteries.  I went to work and had a productive day.  At work they surprised me with a cake and bouquet of flowers and a card.  It was lovely.

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I headed home around 5:00 and hung out with Ava while Kevin whipped up my requested dinner:  green chile spinach alfredo with chicken and rotini.  It was so very delicious.  Craig and Sue came over for the meal and fantastic, heartfelt gifts and cards.  It was a really nice time.  The card Kevin gave me was specially chosen for me by Ava earlier that day and she had basically held on to it all afternoon.  She didn’t want to let it go at the store when the clerk needed to ring it up and she’d carried it with her on her walk around the neighborhood with Kevin.  At one point on the walk she tired of it, I guess, and flung it over the side of her stroller.  Fortunately Kevin was paying attention and saved it.  Sue had brought cupcakes made from my favorite cake recipe that was passed down to her from a friend.  They had a delicious buttercream frosting.  After Craig and Sue left, we put Ava to bed and just enjoyed the remainder of the evening.  I was floored by all the sweet birthday wishes on Facebook.  It was also really fun to hear my phone buzz excitedly as text messages floated in through the day.  I love the people in my life!

And those were the birthdays.  32 and 33 are proving to be great ages, thus far!

Do you like big birthday celebrations? 

Snapshot {December}.

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Making: Lists in my 2017 planner.  I accomplish a lot when it is on a list and I know I’ll have the satisfaction of crossing it off when it’s done.  My plan is to write out in advance (like right now) five goals for each of the 52 weeks in 2017.  We’ll see how it works!

Cooking: Mmm, good food recently.  Yesterday we made the Pioneer Woman’s potato soup for dinner.  Tonight we made our favorite – pan seared chicken with balsamic cream sauce.  Tomorrow night will be our favorite beef stew and homemade bread.

Drinking: Water.  80 ounces each day.  Some days are tougher than others.

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Reading: Several books.  The Secret Garden on my phone.  Team of Rivals, slowly but surely.  Truly, Madly, Guilty, my current library book.  Kevin and I are listening to Duplicity as well.

Wanting: Ava to reach the end of her current teething phase.  The first set of top molars have been visible for a week and minimal progress seems to be happening.  Poor thing.  She’s also in a developmental leap which means she’s hyperaware and clingy and doesn’t go down for her regular bedtime as easily as usual.  Will I ever stop obsessing about her sleep habits and patterns and phases?  I certainly hope so.

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Looking: Forward to 2017.  A fresh year just feels so full of promise.  I don’t know how I want to capture each monthly recap on the blog, if at all.  I enjoyed this format this year and it allowed me to share my favorite five or six Instagram photos from each month.  But I don’t think I want to do another year of it.

Eating: Well.  See above under cooking.  :)

 Wishing: My parents and sister lived closer.  I know I’m very lucky that they’re only 2.5 hours away – some people are so much further from family.  But schedules prevent regular visits.  I wish Ava had the chance to know them the way she does her other grandparents.

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Enjoying: Some of Ava’s newest mannerisms.  She picks up books and holds them up to us, making this cute little grunting noise to indicate that she wants us to read them to her.  She’s also started dancing and girlfriend has rhythm on par with her mom, which is to say, no rhythm.  But it’s adorable.  I love how she pulls herself up on her little bear chair and looks so proud to be sitting there.  She knows where we keep the crackers and gets so excited anytime we go near it.  She’s a master climber of the stairs and has also gotten really good at going down them properly.

Loving: My new booties.  I thought I hated booties, but maybe I am just really, really picky.

Hoping: The weather allows us to resume our regular walks around the neighborhood.  It’s really so good for the mind, body, and soul to get that fresh air and leg stretch in semi-regularly.

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Needing: To remember this verse:  Ephesians 5:4 – “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”  Amanda shared it recently and it really resonated with me as something I need to focus on myself.

Smelling: Lavender mist from my diffuser.  So soothing.

Feeling: Relaxed and happy.  I am so blessed.

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Wearing: Sweats and a t-shirt.  New Year’s eve party clothes.

Watching: Homeland.  We’re on the first episode of the sixth season.  Poor Quinn.

What are you wishing/needing/loving/eating right now?

Christmas recap.

Christmas 2016 was a lovely one. Ava – at 14 months old – was old enough to realize that something special was going on, but too young to understand what exactly that special something was. She basically ignored the tree and we didn’t put the presents under it until Christmas Eve, so she couldn’t get into too much trouble with bags and boxes and tissue paper.

My mom and sister came to town on Christmas Eve and Craig and Sue and my great aunt and great uncle and a family friend came over for dinner. We served up tamales and posole which Kevin had ordered from our traditional spot. This is the fourth consecutive year we have done this with basically this same group of people and we love the tradition.

Earlier that afternoon Kevin, Craig, my mom, and my sister had set up the luminarias around our house. They were especially beautiful this year and a lot of our neighbors set them up as well so the neighborhood looked lovely. After dinner my mom, Kevin, and I walked a few streets in the neighborhood, admiring the lights and chatting with a few neighbors we saw out.

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When we got home from our walk, Elf #1 (Lisa) was hard at work, setting up the little play kitchen we’d bought Ava for Christmas. Mom, Kevin, and I dove in to help and it was quite an undertaking! I think it took us about 3.5 hours to get that kitchen operational.

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We are so grateful that Lisa and Mom were there to help. Otherwise Santa and Mrs. Claus probably would have moved the million parts into the garage and sent Rudolph to deliver it in the spring.

The next morning Ava woke up at her regular 6:30 and Kevin brought her into our room. While she nursed he brought our gifts to each other and her up into our room and turned on the fireplace. It was so cozy! We started to open gifts near the fire but Ava was a girl on the go and promptly crawled into the bathroom area. So we opened a few presents in there. :) Marginally less cozy, but she was content dropping things in the tub, so everyone wins really.

We moved downstairs and my mom and Lisa had woken up. Nibbled on a bit of food for breakfast and then moved to the gift area. Ava loved her play kitchen and it made our trials the night before seem worthy. Her current favorite activity is to open the cabinet doors and shut the cabinet doors and put things in the cabinets and take things out of the cabinets. She discovered the phone that came with the kitchen and really enjoys holding it up to us and grunting an urgent grunt to let us know there’s a call. We take the phone, hold it up to our ear, and have a pretend conversation. She gets a real kick out of it and let me tell you, that phone has been ringing off the hook since Christmas.

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Kevin went to his parents’ house to start the prime rib and when he got back home Craig and Sue came over and we began opening gifts. Then Dale (my stepdad) arrived and the gang was all there. It was a lovely, joyful time and while I know it’s not at all about the gifts, I’m always humbled by the generousity and thoughtful love and care that goes into the selection and exchanging of gifts.

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Kiki laid low all day, but Rue hung out with us. The cats got a few new toys and a bag of treats, but Rue was most interested in the boxes.

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Craig and Sue left to tend the prime rib and the rest of us finished getting ready and napped (Ava) and watched John Wayne on AMC and started preparing some of the side dishes. We went to Craig and Sue’s and met up with the other lunch guests. The food was all so delicious – prime rib, green chile mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts and kale, two types of bread (including my favorite rolls that my mom makes), green beans… Such a hearty meal! We had frozen cherry pie and Craig’s sugar cookies for dessert. No one left hungry!

Mom, Dale, and Lisa hit the road and Kevin, Ava, and I headed home ourselves. Ava was too wired to take a second nap so we basically just hung out and played and fielded the phone calls coming into her play kitchen. :) She was a busy little bear.

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It was a lovely holiday and I am so grateful for Jesus and that God blessed me with this family.

How was your holiday?