December was a busy month, as it tends to be each year. For the first time Josh and I are both working in the real world. Josh only had off for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. Can you believe it? Luckily since I work in higher ed, I had the same break as Ava except for the Friday before Christmas. As usual we spent most of our holiday in the car trekking from our house to grandparents to great-grandparents to other grandparents to other great-grandparents and back. In a four day period we were in the car for twenty-eight hours. Not sure if we're going to be able to maintain this pace of nomadic Christmas when we have an 8-month-old brother next year. How do you manage Christmas? I'd love to hear some of your perspectives on seeing all family without running ragged. Comment please!
Just before Christmas break it was Ava's turn to have the class bear, Hug-a-Bear, for the weekend. We toted him around with us for the whole weekend and snapped a few pictures for the class scrapbook. It was a blustery cold couple of days, so Hug-a-Bear borrowed some jammies from Levin. On Saturday night Ava carefully buckled him into the car so we could go and see the Down's Family Christmas Lights.
They moved to the front seat once we were parked in the field for optimal light show viewing.
The lights move in rhythm to a radio station and create a pretty magical 15-minute show for the low price of a canned food donation. Seeing these lights has become a tradition for us since we moved to Norman.
After all the fun it was time for Ava to write about her time with Hug-a-Bear.
She set right to work.
You can click to make this bigger and read about our weekend. I'm pretty impressed with her ability to produce written work like this with just a little spelling guidance from us.
I love to peek in on this sweet sleeper.
James stayed with us right up through Christmas Eve. He even followed us to Texas. I'm not sure why that surprised us since he did bash all over Europe with us last December.
We've always enjoyed playing games with Ava, but as she gets older the games are even more fun for us. The Game of Life and Skip-Bo Junior have been two of our recent favorites.
Independent reading is another activity that keeps Ava busy lately. She can read higher level books than she chooses, but when you're 5 you'd rather read about Sesame Street and Disney Princess characters. I encourage her to choose more difficult books when we're reading together, but if she's reading on her own I leave book selection entirely up to her. She doesn't even read the words out loud anymore. A few nights ago I decided to quiz her a bit on the book she was reading after we tucked her in, just to make sure she was actually "getting it". The book was a Little Golden Book that she hadn't read before so I knew it would be a good test of her comprehension. She was able to retell the story with detail and even flipped to a few pages to show me her favorite lines from a sarcastic Bert to an annoying Ernie. Nothing thrills me more than to watch her love of reading develop.
We made a special gift for Ava's class stocking stuffer exchange. I saw the idea on Pinterest and adapted it slightly for ease of construction.
The finished product:
We traveled with some great friends over the river and through the woods to see the Christmas lights at Chickasha. Rich and Stacy packed a yummy picnic dinner and we made an evening of it.
Bundled to walk through a small section of the light display.
Between Christmas excursions and fun, a lot of work was happening at the law school. Sure, some of it was happening with my feet propped up on the desk. I'm way more efficient that way these days.
Ava was in her first play this Christmas season. She played a child who was writing letters to characters from the nativity scene. Luckily the part allowed her to read her lines from the letters, no need to memorize.
When we first talked with her about the play she was hesitant and not sure she wanted to perform in front of that many people. We encouraged her to try a practice or two and see if she liked it. With an opportunity to spend one evening a week with her church friends, she was sold. I was so nervous for her the night before the performance, but she was solid and sure. We let her pick out a fancy Christmas dress and she was confident.
When the time came for her to read each of her letters, she marched right up to the microphone and nailed each line. I'm so proud of her for pushing through her initial fears and truly enjoying the whole experience.
During Ava's school Christmas party a special visitor came to see the children. After watching several of her classmates' younger siblings meet Santa, Ava insisted that Levin be introduced as well.
Soon we were all in Texas to kick off Christmas time with family. Baba and Ava make gingerbread cookies every year. This year cousin Nolan got involved in the fun too.
Watching Ava interact with 2-year-old Nolan was a great preview to how she'll be as a big sister to Levin. I know their relationship will be different, but she was so eager to help and take care of Nolan. She liked to help him wash his hands, stand on the stool to reach things, look in the direction of the camera, and just play. She was so careful to help him avoid dangerous places or things that Sarah had told him to stay away from. I love the relationship she has with Nolan. These two will be friends forever.
A trip to Houston mandated a stop in College Station.
A future Aggie?
Ava was so excited to see her Beene Beene, who now lives in Houston near Josh's parents.
Beene Beene with her two grandkids and one great-grandkid
For Christmas Ava asked Santa for a new doll and a real waffle maker. He made good on both presents. I can't help but think that next year we'll take a similar picture with her holding a squirmy brother.
We returned to a snow dusted Oklahoma and spent another day watching flakes fall.
Using her new waffle maker for the first time with help from Coach
Levin's first snow
After a yummy German dinner with Josh's family Ava scooted her chair back from the table and groaned, "Uh, I look like you now Mommy." Here we are with our respective full bellies.
Speaking of full bellies, I'm officially in my third trimester now! I remember struggling to make it through each day of my first trimester, but the second flew by. Levin will be "full term" on March 7 and his official due date is March 28.
I feel like he is sticking out a lot more than Ava did. I'm carrying him completely different than I did her. He's a spunky little guy, growing stronger judging by the kicks and punches I feel. He reacts dramatically when I use the coffee grinder or food processor; it's like he's trying to run into the living room and hide under the couch from the noise. Poor baby. We can't wait to kiss his sweet face in about twelve weeks.
Reading by lantern light late into the night
Since Ava and I had extra days off, we had a brunch date at Panera. When Josh was in his first year of law school and we lived in the tiny campus apartments, Ava and I frequently had school at Panera in the mornings. She learned to read and count by 2's in this booth. So many memories I cherish with my sweet girl.
We spent a very chill New Year's Eve with friends. Ava helped roll out yummy cinnamon rolls.
Proud of the finished product,
and eager to taste it.
We're wrapping up our Christmas break with a very relaxing anniversary at home. I've got black-eyed-peas in the crockpot and cornbread in the oven. I'm still in my pajamas and Josh is only dressed because he made a grocery run to grab paper towels and Fruity Pebbles (ahem, Levin) earlier. This is our glamourous life and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Enjoy a few of our favorite pictures from this day eight years ago:
Wishing you all a wonderful start to 2013!