Sweet Jack

I know I should blog more about this baby!  He is one next month, and man has it ever gone fast.  James alsways says that we had it together with two, but having Jack has really thrown us off our game - which is true.  So.. instead of blogging about him I have been loving on him.

Can I just tell you that I have the sweetest, cutest, most energetic baby on earth - does every mother say this?  There is not a contrary bone in his body.  He is just happy.  And what a blessing that is for us. 

Everywhere I go people tell me how cute he is, of course.  But the other day this lady chased me down at TJ Maxx to tell me that she casts babies and children in ads and magazines.  She went on and on about how cute Jack is and how he would get work.  Although I am not (nor ever will be) that mother, it was nice for someone to validate what I already knew- cutest baby on earth :)

As cute as he is, he is also energetic (which is nice for wild).  I have had to really babyproof for the first time.  It is a job chasing that boy around, and I won't lie and say I love every minute of it (because I am exhausted most of the time).  But I will take this happy, healthy boy every day of the week.

We love our sweet Jack and how he has completed us in every way.

First Days and Junie B.

We have survived the first days of school.  It has been an adjustment on all of us in so many ways.  We all miss Ava during the day.  We don't particularly like the driving and waiting in pick-up line.  But, Sam and Jack get to have boy time during the day.  And I have my nap time again -happy day!

At first, Ava loved it, and I cried every day.  The hardest thing for me by far was dropping her off in the mornings.  She wanted to go through the line, so we did.  Watching her get out with her backpack as big as she is and walk by herself to her room made me literally sob every day.  SHe looked so little and vulnerable with all those big kids zooming past her.  I am doing better now.

Ava has had some hard days lately which are bringing up a lot of conversations that we need to begin.  Conversations about friendship, fitting in and being yourself, beauty, etc.  The thing is I want to protect her from all of this, but it is part of life.  And I wish I had all of the answers, but I don't.  We are going to talk and work on these things together, and I am so glad that I get to share this journey with my girl.

Our saving grace the past couple months - Junie B. Jones.  I have carved out some one-on-one time at night to read the Junie B. Jones series with Ava.  It is just the two of us every night, and we have laughed and talked our way through those books.  During this time, Ava really opens up about her day and we have some real time together. I look forward to it as much as she does.  We have our little inside jokes and quotes from the book that we use on a daily basis.  "Run Helen, run like the wind."  James and Sam don't get it, but Ava and I do (and with all these boys we have to stick together)!  It is such a special time for me -so thank you Junie B.!!

Our Sam

It is so hard for me to sit down and write these days!  But, Sam turned 4 last month and he had a wonderful birthday.  What a special kid he is!!  He is all boy, but at the same time he is gentle and sensitive.  He looks out for Ava and Jack.  Ava and Sam are both starting to get a sense of humor - but Sam's is actually funny (if you know what I mean).  Of all three kids, he will ALWAYS stay the closest to me and James, and he is happiest when he is with us.  He teaches me more than the others - mainly patience but lots of other things as well.  He is quirky in ways that I can't even describe.  I tell him every night that I am so glad that of all the little boys in the world that I got him - and I am!

I have really started to look at parties (and birthdays) as a family event.  So, Ava had some influence on this party as well.  Sam and Ava decided on a pirate party.  All Sam really wanted was weapons, so as long as there were swords he was great :)  We had such a fun pirate party that weekend. That theme was something that we could all get into, and I may have gone a little overboard.  But, you don't turn 4 every day right?

The Night Before Kindergarten

I have been meaning to write this for a couple weeks, but I have been busy and honestly, overwhelmed with emotion.  It is not all sad by any means - just draining.
This is something we have been planning, praying over, anticipating for a long time now.  James and I both put a lot of thought into the school we chose for the kids.  We did not take that decision lightly.  The school is chosen, supplies are purchased and organized, new clothes are ready for the week.  Our girl is starting kindergarten. 
In one of my favorite blogs, this family has a tradition of a back to school dinner sometime before school starts with a theme for the year (usually based on Scripture).  I have loved the idea for so long, and I knew that this is one tradition that I wanted to begin with my family.  So... we held our first annual back to school dinner.  
This is our theme for the year. 

Ava got a special crown for the dinner with pictures of some of her favorites and the theme for the year.  Our menu included:
Chicken Cordon Bleu
Cheesy Potatoes (Ava's favorite)
Green Bean Bundles
Sourdough Rolls
Homemade Chocolate Cake

I wrote this letter for Ava in a special place, but I wanted to share here.  This is the best way I can put into words this new kindergarten experience--

Dear Ava,
There is a lot going through my head right now.  I am so excited for you.  I know the possibilities for you - discovering your passions, making lifelong friends, learning, reading, growing.  But I can't help but think too how much I am going to miss you.  I think of not being there if you are scared or if someone says something to hurt you.  I want to protect you just like I have done for the last five years.  I think that is being a mother - loving you so much it physically hurts.
But I want you to know that even though I am not there with you, I am with you.  I will at the front of the pick-up line waiting to hear your stories.  I will be at every assembly, game, play clapping my hardest for you.  I will always be your biggest cheerleader.

I know that you are a little nervous about starting school, but I want you to know that I know more than anything that you are going to soar. The best parts of my character have come from when I have stepped out on my own even though I was scared and learned that I am strong and capable. You will do that this year.
Ava - the possibilities are endless for you.  I can't wait to see what my creative, artistic, party-planning girl can do to that kindergarten classroom.  I can't wait to hear about all the shenanigans on the playground.  And I can't wait to hear about everything you are learning.  I loved school, and you are so much like me I know you are going to love it too.
Spread your wings girl  and show us all how it is done!

Summer Recap 2

Our summer wouldn't be complete without trips to the lake.  That is one thing that we ALL love.  The kids love to have our undivided attention - we are not on the phone, computer, etc.  And James and I love the break it gives us from everyday life.  We have so many wonderful memories there - and hopefully many more.
Our first trip to the lake this summer.  I was trying to get a picture of the three kids, and James happened to be walking by and stuck his head in this one :)

First of many boat rides.  He was such a good sport.

The big kids had swim lessons again this year with the same teacher, Mrs. Lynn.  They did great.  Ava is swimming unassisted throughtout the pool - even the deep end.  She is also learning to dive.  I have decided that she is SO much braver than me at her age.  Sam is now swimming in the shallow end with no floaties.  That is a huge accomplishment for him, and I am so happy to see him having fun in the water.

This girl spent half of the swim lesson huddled in a towel.  It could be 100 degrees outside, and she will be cold in the water!

We took a quick trip to the lake for the 4th of July and invited our very good friends, the Potts family to join us.  They have 4 precious kids and we all have so much fun with them.  
Headed down to the boat
You know when you see a picture that really captures personalities - this one does it!

Sweet girlfriends - Ava and Blakeley

Best buddies - Brooks and Sam

Isn't he a cutie!!  Love those blue eyes and that sweet smile

We held our first annual Piraino Olympics.  The kids and I worked all week to decorate, make medals, create activities for this little party.  
Our Olympic sports included:
Relay through the backyard
Fencing with pool noodles
Balance beam (on the garden ledge)
Bicycle races
Diving competition
It rained some that morning, so we couldn't compete in every contest.  But the kids had a blast, and James and I have talked about making this an annual event  (on a much bigger scale).

One of my favorite days this summer was my birthday.  I don't have any pictures to share though.  I think sometimes it is fun to not worry about taking pictures and just soak in a day.  That is exactly what I did. Erica's family met us at the lake - not for my birthday just because it was a week that worked for everyone.  We just took it easy in the morning; she has teenagers that sleep late!  And we went on the boat all afternoon watching Erica's kids, James, and Tony try to ski.  It was just a fun day and a great memory. 

More posts to come soon about our exciting kindergarten adventures.  I will write as soon as I can get through without tears. 

Summer Recap 1

How do you fit a whole summer into a couple paragraphs?  First of all, this was a hectic summer, but it was also Ava's last summer before school.  So.. my goal was to be a "yes mom" this summer and create a lot of memories for these kids.  That is definitely easier said than done.

We made several trips to the lake with family and friends, swam a lot, made picnic lunches when it wasn't 110 degrees outside, and just had a lot of family time.

Here are a couple snapshots of our summer--

My little man

Sam participated in TOTS (a little basketball program) all year and had a little performance for the parents.  He was beyond excited about this trophy and still tells everyone it is real gold.  Miss priss Ava HAD to wear her cheerleader outfit to cheer him on since she had been deprived of this opportunity at every other event.

Ava had her 2nd dance recital.  I was the backstage mom this time - and let me say that is a very eye-opening experience!  These girls worked hard made us all so proud.  In our first dance we were world travelers, each representing a country.

Next we were Little Bo Peep. 

It has been fun (and a little wild) watching this boy grow this summer.  We call him "Jack attack" because he does not slow down..ever.  I wanted some baby time - you know rocking and snuggling.  This boy has a different idea.  He was crawling at 5 months and has no time to
sit still for this tired mama.

I couldn't help it.  As I was going through my pictures I stumbled upon this little number. A lot of times I find some random pictures on my camera, but this one really cracked me up.  (And I know that Ava lifted her skirt for this - she is just that kind of girl).

We had a lot of swim time.  It was so hot this summer that we just couldn't do much else.  It is way too convenient in the backyard--

Love Jack's face--

More on our summer coming soon!

I hope I never forget...

how Sam completely melts my heart for a million different reasons.  He comes in our room almost every morning, climbs into bed, and says, "I love you and I trust you."  He tries to fight James EVERY time I am being tickled.  He stands by his sister; when she is sent to her room Sam is right behind her.  He laughs so easily and has the very best laugh.  He loves his buddy Brooks and cries sometimes because he misses him.  He will go with his Daddy and ride a tractor, work, whatever and never complain.  He listens to waht I ask him and usually does what I ask.  He tries SO hard at everything he does.  It took him hours to learn to pedal his bicycle by himself, but he never gave up.  When we are driving, he is constantly on the look out with his "spy-eyes."  He absolutely believes with his whole heart that his shoes and his underwear make him run really fast!  Of all the little boys in this whole world, I am so glad that I got Sam.

I hope I never forget...

how sweet my little Ava is.  She did something last summer that sums up her sweet little spirit.  We had a pretty large group of our friends over one day last summer for a swim party.  Ava was absolutely enamored with some bigger girls and kind of stalked them for a couple hours.  She wanted to play with them so badly, but she was so scared. 

I was playing with Sam in the water, but watching her out of the corner of my eye.  I saw these two big girls go into the house to use the restroom.  Ava stood a the door for a minute and then walked on over to a bush at the side of our house and proceeded to pick two flowers (not even really flowers - just leaves off of the bush).  She went back to the door and as soon as the girls came out she handed them the flowers and asked them to play.  I know she was so scared, and I was just dying inside at her innocence and vulnerability.  I was so proud of her in that moment.

Although I wish that I could safeguard this innocence, I am aware that when she goes to kndergarten next year she will have so many influences.  I pray that she doesn't lose this part of herself.  And I thank God that he trusted this sweet little spirit to me.

Three in the bed

and the little one said...

Valentine Dates

James and I used to go on romantic Valentine dates!! 

Check out our dates this year!

James and Ava went to a "fancy" dinner, and the boys and I had pizza at home with a movie.  Wouldn't trade it for anything :)

Our girl

Our sweet girl turned five in February. I look at her all the time and I just can't believe that I created someone so beautiful - inside and out. She made me a mommy five years ago and has made every day brighter since.

We celebrated her birthday with an art party.  Her favorite thing to do right now is color, paint, cut, glue, etc.

Here are Daddy and Uncle Steven helping me with last minute stuff for the party :)

I think the cupcake platter turned out really cute (and cheap)!

 Ava's sweet art teacher - Mrs. Lori

Wonderful party!  Sweet girl!  Happy Mommy :)