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Friday, July 29, 2011

We'd like TWO Tickets to Imagination Land, Please!

A couple of months ago a friend of mine informed me about a wonderful literacy program for children. A program that will send your child a book each month every month up until he or she turns five years of age. For those of you who don't know, I'm talking about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Being a mother who absolutely loves to read to her children (and to myself) as well as a huge advocate of promoting a child's language and reading developmental skills, I was most definitely eager to check it out. And I am so very glad I did. I signed both of the girls up for the program the moment I visited the site. I think it is an awesome idea and an incredible offer. I'm so thankful Dolly was inspired to create such a beneficial program for youngsters in our Nation and all over the world. What a wonderful gift to give!

We've already received two books for both Ava and Audrey. The first book they both received was "The Little Engine That Could," by Watty Piper. It's definitely a cute little book. The opening even contains a sweet message from Dolly herself, hoping the children will love the gifts and wishing their dreams to come true. How thoughtful and precious!

Once we received two copies of this book, I thought it meant they would continue to receive the same book each month, but then book number two came for each of them, and they were different. Ava received a book called "My Little Train," by Satomi Ichikawa, and Audrey's second book was more for her age category, "Where's My Nose?" by Susan Ring. When I signed the girls up for this magnificent program, I was required to give each of their birthdays, which in turn allowed the gift-giver to give age appropriate books for the child (and to confirm they were both of the proper age to enlist).

These are the second of many books to follow for my little passengers to Imagination Land!

 The books even display Dolly's Own Seal for her Imagination Library right on the front cover.

How cute that the books were even addressed to little Miss Ava and Miss Audrey. It's like getting a Christmas present delivered right to our home every month! And I'm just excited as they are (maybe even more so)!!

If you haven't already signed your child up for this amazing opportunity, I strongly suggest consider doing so. We have over 80 books for the girls in our collection already, but trust me when I say, you can never have to many books!! At least check out the site before making your decision. Your child will definitely be glad you did!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Happy Birthday To ME!

Yesterday was my birthday. Yes on July 15th of this year I entered the third decade of my life. The big THREE - OH! Should I be sad that I'll no longer see those good ole days of my twenties ever again? Should I feel depressed that I'm getting "old"? The answer, matter-of-factly, is NO. I'm not sad, and I'm certainly not depressed. If anything I'm extremely joyous. I'm exactly where I want to be in life. I've been blessed in so many ways. I'm married to the love of my life, my best friend, my soul mate. I have two beautiful, intelligent, healthy daughters, whom I have the privilege of mothering as a profession. I photograph a little here; I provide a little speech therapy services there. I've learned to enjoy the finer things of life like something as simple as being a part of fellowship with family and friends or something as extravagant as seeing the beauties of a distant land. Whatever it may be, or whatever I may be doing, I'm happy. So what that I'm older. Big deal that I'm aging as time continues it's course. I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today if I hadn't traveled all the crossroads that got me here. So, I'm glad to say farewell to my twenties and hello to my thirties. I'm certain I will have many adventures and memories and blessings during this decade to look forward to, and I wouldn't want to miss it for anything!

The first day of my thirties was indeed an amazing day. A true birthday worth remembering. I was surprised in the morning with an awesome gift from my hubby on the kitchen counter just after waking up. It was something I would have never expected him to get me. I don't even remember telling him it was something I would like to have. He just knows me so well, and he knew it would be something I would be thrilled to have. It was a Cricut Personal Electronic Cutter. For those of you who don't know, it's a totally awesome home crafting machine that allows you to cut beautiful designs, letters, numbers, and shapes... perfect for my scrapbooking and all my other crafting tasks! I am in love! I used a Cricket machine several years ago during a scrapbooking party I was attending and thought how awesome it would be if I could eventually have one of my own. And now I can say that I do! Thank you my wonderful, thoughtful husband for a truly special and much appreciated gift.

The Cricut was actually the second gift my hubby got me for my birthday. Several days before he gave me a Barnes and Noble Nook Color. It's awesome. My husband being the computer and technological genius that he is, has actually already hacked it by creating a custom ROM with all the features and advantages of Antroid, which includes but are not limited to the ability to download additional applications (Facebook for example), checking my email, surfing the web, and the ability to install movies. Plus, it still has all it's original features like allowing me to download books and magazines. I've already subscribed to and have read this month's edition of Parenting Magazine. I think I'm going to like this little gadget ;)  

After playing with my new birthday toys and spending a lovely day with my daughters, my husband and I did something we hadn't had the privilege of doing in almost two years.... we went out on a date. I'm talking the whole 9 yards. We went to a nice dinner AND got to see a movie at the theaters. What a treat! It's been quite a while since I've been able to wear my sexy stilettos! (They're not exactly mommy shoes, friends!)

My mom, sister, and brother offered to watch our little munchkins for us while we shared a beautiful, romantic evening together out on the town. Here's us at my brother's townhouse in Morgantown just after dropping off the girls. We both want to thank my mom, Aunt Brooke, and Uncle Brent again for keeping Ava and Audrey and allowing us to have a relaxing, peaceful dinner without the chaos that comes with having little ones around.

First we dined at one of our favorite places to eat in Morgantown, and in fact the location of our first date, a quaint little Italian restaurant known as Puglioni's. The meal was as perfect as the night almost four years ago when we were dating. A delicious house salad with pine nut dressing, fried zucchini, and a shared entree of eggplant parmesan accompanied with fine music, soft lighting, and one another set the most surreal and perfect mood. We wanted to stay there forever... but of course, we couldn't!

After dashing back to the townhouse (a whole mile away) to nurse Audrey, we were off to the cinemas. I had almost forgotten how exhilarating watching a movie on the big screen with the loud noises and enormous images was! I had certainly missed doing this! Being huge fans of the books and previous movies, we decided to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 in 3D. It was completely awesome. I'm sure the 2D would have been super too, but seeing it in 3D was like having a huge scoop of the best tasting ice cream on my favorite pie. In other words, I really really liked it! And my husband did too :)  But more than anything, we were just thankful to be able to snuggle close to each other and enjoy each other's company (something that isn't always easy with a toddler and infant at home!). 

I should also mention that all of the driving we did to and from each destination took place in our sweet little two seater convertable Mazda Miata. Pretty snazy, huh?! ;)

When the evening came to an end, and we were all at home tucked snugly in our beds, I laid there smiling and thinking how blessed I am to have had such a wonderful birthday and such special people who love me so much that they were willing to make this day a treat for me. Thank you all so very much again! I love each of you so dearly! I most certainly can say that I in deed had a very, very Happy Birthday :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Look Who's Ready for Real Food!

On July 10, 2011 my little girl, Audrey, turned 5 months old. FIVE months old, already?!! How can that be?! My darling little girl is growing up so fast right before my eyes. It's so amazing to see her develop both physically and cognitively. Her sweet little voice makes the most precious little coos, and recently she's learned how to scream. Talk about cute! She'll usually throw a little scream in when she gets real excited about something or when she's laughing. She really does already have the sweetest little personality. One thing you should know about Audrey is, she is the observer. She sees and hears everything! Nothing gets past this little girl. She's definitely a little genius. I'm pretty sure she's going to be a rocket scientist when she grows up. But let's not talk about her growing up right now, or anytime soon for that matter. For now, let's just enjoy her as she is, my sweet little five month old baby girl, who in fact, has only recently started eating real food! I suppose you could consider rice cereal real food, right?! I mean when your diet consists solely of breast milk, any new addition should count as real food, I would think. So, here she is tasting her first food (rice cereal) via soft-tipped spoon, and believe it or not, she's actually enjoying it!

We're already looking forward to introducing more new foods (bananas, applesauce, or green beans perhaps) into her diet within the next couple of days and weeks. Hopefully they too will be well received!

If you're a new mommy and aren't quite sure if your little one is ready for real foods, which is generally around 4-6 months, here's a couple developmental milestones to look for in your little one:
* independent head control
* sitting well when supported
* ability to accept a spoon (has outgrown the tongue-thrust reflex)
* showing interest in what you're eating

I waited until 6 months of age to start my older daughter, Ava, on solids because she was born early and needed a little extra time to prepare herself for the experience. But, she took off beautifully once she was ready! If your baby isn't quite ready, be patient. The time to eat solids will eventually come. We certainly don't want to make our babies grow up any sooner than they have too ;)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Miss Ava!

So, I'd say this past Saturday's 2nd birthday party for Ava was a hit! I'm sure she'd say it was anyway ;)  Although many of our friends and family were unable to attend due to weddings or vacations or what have you, those of us who were able to attend had a great time. With the kiddy pool, slip-n-slide, and little slide set-up, the kids were destined to have a fun experience. I'll just let these pics of the little ones having a blast together in the sunshine speak for themselves.

As soon as this delicious cake was brought outside, you should have seen all the children swarm to it! Sesame Street is quite the rave for a two year old :) (FYI - I got it at the Kroger Bakery. Not only beautiful, but super delicious!!)

How cute is Ava while she's being sung "Happy Birthday" to just before she's to blow out the candle?!! She didn't know whether to smile or cry.

I think the children enjoyed eating the cake as much as they did looking at it!

Although, I think Ava just wanted to play with the toys on the top of it....

She was more than happy to open her presents. Thanks so much to everyone who gave her a gift (even those who didn't make it to the party). It was so very thoughtful and much appreciated!

Because Ava knew that all of her friends attending the party would be boys, she made these party gifts specifically for them with a Cars sand bucket and shovel, a Hot Wheels sports car, and several little containers of Play Dough... I think they were well received ;)

Ava's little sister, Audrey, very much enjoyed getting lots of lovin' from her aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends at the party.

And, of course, we always look for opportunities to have pictures taken of our little family.... you can never have too many ;)

When family and friends get together to share in a happy occasion like celebrating the special two years of life of our first daughter, Ava, there's bound to be memories made and fun times well remembered. Thanks to everyone for coming and being a part of Miss Ava's special day! I know she'll love looking at these pictures (and watching the videos) for many many years to come!

OH, I almost forgot to show you the actual invitation to the party... it's definitely going in the scrapbook!

Happy Birthday, my sweet girl! May you have many blessed more! Daddy and mommy love you with all our hearts!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just Can't Get Enough of that Good Ole Sunshine State

Whew! The extremely busy month of June is finally over. Ahhh... I can finally prop my feet up, sit back, and.... look at all the work I have ahead of me now that I'm home. The house needs cleaning. The yard needs mowing. The bills need paying. ETC. ETC. ETC. But, truth be told, it sure is nice to be back. And don't forget, I've got a party to plan for Ava this Saturday (it's a week after the day she actually turned two, but I won't tell her if you don't!)

So, what did we get ourselves into while we were in Florida this trip you ask. What a great question, and I'd be more than happy to tell you.

If you remember from my last post, I told you that my family (well, most of my family) came with us to Florida this year. My mom, dad, two of my brothers, and one of my sisters got to share in the wonders and adventures Merritt Island and Orlando have to offer. I'm pretty sure they'll be planning an annual event after the trip they had this year.

During the beginning of our trip, we were blessed with a visit from my husband's brother and his family, Jonathan, Lauren, and Brody. We hadn't seen them since November of last year, so it was definitely a treat to catch up with all of them. I'd say the one who had the best time catching up with them, particularly with little Brody, was Ava. They played together as if they were long lost best buddies. This, my friends, is a life-long friendship in the making. (P.S. - I'm just going to go ahead and apologize in advance for the massive amount of pics to follow as well as the length of this post.... but, wouldn't you agree that's it's simply near impossible to cover a whole week of our adventures in Florida and not have a lengthy post?!)

Grandma decided to get a little lovin' from the children as well.

Brody, Ava, and their daddy's also had fun in the pool together.

And even Aunt Lauren got to spend a little time with Ava.

 .... and with her other little niece, Audrey.

During their visit, Jon and Jeremiah were able to take the sail boat out in the river for a little ride. They later noted that it wasn't the greatest ride because the wind was about as strong as a mouse's breath, but it was still nice to be outside on the boat together.

So, that's a lot of pics to show you already... and that's only from the first part of our trip. I have so much more to tell you about, so don't lose focus just yet!

During the time my family was visiting Florida, they were able to see and do many exciting and adventurous things. They went to Universal Studios Theme Park and Harry Potter World two days during their stay. They went fishing right out the back door in the Indian River. They went water skiing, wake boarding, and water tubing. They went on many boat rides, swam in the pool on multiple occasions, and even went to the beach. Now being a mother of two very little children, I wasn't able to capture photos of every event, so I'll just show you the highlights of the trip from my eyes. (I don't have any photos from the theme parks since I wasn't able to go, but trust me when I say, each of them thought they were awesome!) (Also keep in mind that most of these action shots, on the boat and at the beach for example, were taken with our little point-in-shoot, hence the lower quality).

A day at the beach is a definite recipe for fun.

I'd say these wake boarders look like quite the professionals, wouldn't you?!

Check out my hubby on his windsurfer. This looks like the next cover for a top sports magazine!

The boys went sailing several times. And, my hubby even taught my brother, Brandon, how to sail.

(This is a far off shot of my brother sailing with my dad, while my hubby teaches my other brother, Brian, how to wind surf, and the shot just below that is Brandon sailing while Jeremiah windsurfs. Talk about utilizing the river's adventurous advantages to the fullest!)

My sister, Brooke, had an absolute blast tubing on the river.

While we were going for a ride on the boat, we spotted over a dozen manatees in the shallows. They are such interesting creatures. Peaceful and harmless they may be, I'd still rather not get caught next to one while in the water. Although, true story, one came within a foot of my brother, Brandon, while he was strapping in getting ready to wake board. He wasn't too thrilled to get back in the water after that happened!!

We took the boat out for a ride as often as we could. I know it's one thing I really love doing on hot sunny days.

I'm pretty sure my brothers spent the majority of their time in the water fishing.

Ava and Grandda had sweet times on the dock together.

We went out to eat at Grill's Restaurant a couple times while we were there. All I can say is Yum!

And because we were there on Ava's birthday, we got her a little M&M ice cream birthday cake...well, she pronounces it nim-a-nim :)  Happy Birthday, my sweet little girl!

Once again our trip to Florida was a complete success!! We shared in many wonderful times with family, both mine and my husband's. I think that's what marriage is partly about.... bringing families together and sharing in precious times. My family has already insisted the Johnson's come up to WV for a visit to explore the wonders the north has to offer. I think they've agreed to it! Perhaps around hunting season since Mr. Johnson is an avid hunter.

So, I'll leave you with this pretty shot of a small taste of Florida and say I'm so thankful we were able to spend so much time down South.

I'm already looking forward to when we'll be able to return.
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