Thursday, August 21, 2014

1st Day of School...Yesterday!

A new school year has officially started for us.  Yesterday was Ava's first day of 4th Grade.  


Customary 1st Day of School Photo


My sister and niece Olivia came by to see her on her 1st day.  Olivia started 1st Grade on Monday and Ava is now a 4th grader! 


And a view of her overstuffed new backpack!


And off she goes! I cannot get over how tall she looks here!  So grown up.  Off for a new adventure in 4th grade!  Where did my little girl go!?!?!

Honestly, I have to admit it makes me sad to see the summer end and a new school year begin.  It is all going by so fast watching her grow up.  I remember being in 4th grade myself.  To think I now have a 4th grader of my own.  Parents should be equipped with  a pause or rewind button when it comes to moments in our child's life.  The first and last day of school always seem like the longest days ever though.  Yesterday dragged on for me to get to 3 o'clock when I could pick her up from school.  Then once the bell rang for the end of the school day, and she was in the car, the evening flew by until it was time for her to go to bed.  I definitely missed her yesterday.  However, I am glad to say she had a wonderful first day of school.  She said her teacher is funny, nice, and she loves her!  And she really emphasized the loves her teacher party!  :)  So here is to looking forward to a great year of 4th grade!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ten Thoughts....

I don't normally do these, but maybe it will help me get back into blogging again.  I've been missing it.  I just need to learn how to slow down and take some "me" time to do this.  So anyway here goes some random thoughts:

1. I am not ready for summer vacation to be over.

2. I do not like waking up to an alarm 5 days a week.

3. I am happy that football season has started.  Now there is something I actually want to watch on TV.

4. Enjoying my last day with Ava home, before school starts back tomorrow.

5. I have a lot of work I need to get caught up on.  So, I guess it is a good thing Ava goes back to school this week.

6. I need to go to the grocery store this week and I don't wanna!  lol

7. Time to get back in the routine of making lunches for Ava.

8. We had a great summer with lots of time with my extended family.

9.  Between yesterday and today all my nieces and nephews are back to school.

10.  My oldest nephew passed his drivers test over the weekend and on the first try.  I am so proud of him.  He also got his first job a few weeks ago.  Bittersweet watching him grow up.  It goes by so fast.

 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Football-Cheerleading Season Has Begun

A new JFL season has started for us and that means Ava is cheering again this year!  She is excited.  :)  



Sunday was our first game and we played against a very tough team.  The first division lightweights won. Our middle and heavyweights unfortunately lost but they gave it their all and that's all we can ask of our boys.  







This is our heavyweight JFL team warming up.

This was the other teams heavyweights JFL team warming up.  They took up almost half our field just warming up. I don't know that I've ever seen so many kids on one team!  


I have to say our heavyweight team was definitely outnumbered and outmatched.  This was just their heavyweights warming up before the game.  I counted over 60+ players on that team alone. Even the NFL has a max number of 53 players on the roster!  lol



Anyway happy football season!  Hoping for a safe and fun season ahead!  Let's go Cardinals!  


Friday, August 15, 2014

If Only In My Dreams

I don't often talk about my Mom on my blog but sometimes something happens in life where you feel moved to share it.  Today is one of those days.

This week Ava and I both celebrated our birthdays.  Ava's was on Tuesday and mine was Wednesday.  Well last night Ava has cheer practice.  While she was gone, I decided I'd take a short nap after having been up since 3:30 a.m. It is a nap that actually turned into quite a gift for me and a nap I am glad I took.  

When it comes to certain dreams, I fully believe when a loved one passes or a loved one can no longer communicate with us, such as my Mom in her final stages of Alzheimer's, they are able to come to us in our dreams. Today during my nap, I had a dream I was at work and my sister came to see me.  She had flowers for me for my birthday and she said to me I have a surprise for you for your birthday.  Next thing I know my Mom is walking through the door with the biggest smile on her face and walked right up to me telling me happy birthday and she loved me.  Then gave me the tightest hug.  I didn't want to let go of her.  I couldn't believe that she was there and that not only she remembered my birthday but that she was completely ok in my dream.  Tears were streaming down my face.  I then woke up with actual tears on my face and my pillow.  That is seriously the best birthday gift I could have ever received this year, even if it came to me in my dreams. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Talent Show...

Last Tuesday was Ava's Talent Show at school.  Originally she was supposed to sing "Roar" from Katy Perry.  Then the Friday before she changed the song to "Let It Go" from Frozen.  Of course, I already had a dress bought and a hair bow made for the Roar, song, but since she changed her song, I wanted to find the perfect dress for the Let It Go song.  Thankfully Von Maur had the perfect dress and I dare say it was meant to be since they had one left and in her size!  

The night before the talent show she had a rehearsal for the show and oh my how my little girl was nervous.  However, she got up there and performed her little heart out and it was the very first time she sang the song to only the instrumental version.  I was one very proud Mom.  The parents and other kids in the talent show were in awe of Ava's voice and her performance.  She received a huge response of claps and cheers for her rehearsal performance.  It brought me to tears watching her perform.  This little girl who was so painfully shy not so long ago.  After her rehearsal performance, I had parents I didn't know coming up to me telling me how awesome she did and how beautiful her voice is.  

The next night was the big night for the Talent Show.  Ava had so many friends from school who were coming to just watch her perform.  Also two of my aunts, my sister, and her two children where there to watch Ava perform as well.  I heard from parents before the show how their kids went on and on about Ava's rehearsal performance.  I was probably just as nervous for Ava, as she was to get up in front of a huge crowd to perform.  Not because I doubted her, but because I wanted people to see what I get to see at home with her.  When it was her turn to perform, I could tell she was nervous, and I was praying she would be able to get the words out and on time to the music.  


Here is the video of her performance.  The quality isn't the best and the volume on your speakers will need to be turned up.  The microphone they gave her was some how turned down, so it wasn't up like it should have been for her , but you can still hear her performance.  

I was beaming again with pride after her performance.  I don't know how I have been so blessed with such an amazing little girl.  On Wednesday I had so many friends and family asking for video of her performance. I received message of congratulations for Ava on her performance all day and night long.  I even received such a touching e-mail from Ava's teacher letting me know how touched he was by the students congratulating Ava all day from all different grades on her performance and how he was moved by their show of support and he said it was something he had never seen before.  I've even been encouraged from her teachers and music teachers to seek out enrolling her into different music programs.  It has definitely been an amazing week to say the least.  I hope you enjoy her first talent show performance and her first time singing in front of a crowd.  Her confidence is definitely growing.  :)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday Aliyah!

Yesterday was my niece Aliyah's 1st birthday! I cannot believe a year has passed since her birth.  She has brought so much joy and blessings to our lives in just the last year.  Her smile is contagious and her personality has me head over heels in love.  



I thank God for blessing us with such an amazing little girl. I look forward to seeing what this next year brings for her and for our family.  


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Whew!

What a crazy few weeks it has been since I last posted.  Even better, I've survived these past few weeks.  lol  In my previous post I mentioned Ava had auditions for her school talent show!  I am proud to say she made the cut.  So here in a little over a week she will be performing.  I am excited and nervous for her, and most of all extremely proud! She has quite the line up for family coming to watch her perform as well.  I hope the weather cooperates and she has a nice support network there for her! 

Two weeks ago was Spring Break for Ava at school and I took the week off.  We ended up going on a short trip to St. Louis and Hannibal Missouri for the past week.  We took along my 9 year old niece Alyssa with us as well.  We left on Tuesday early in the afternoon.  


Ava had never been to St. Louis yet, and as we were driving as soon as the Arch came into view, she teared up at how awesome it was.  This girl wears her heart on her sleeve I tell ya.  I love that she isn't afraid to show emotion and she truly sees and feels the beauty that surrounds her.  It is a joy to be able to experience these kinds of things with her.  


Our first official stop however was not in St. Louis or even the Arch.  That would have to wait.  We first checked into our hotel and then off we went to the American Girl Doll Store.  I had two girls who could barely contain themselves in the car. In fact, as soon as they saw the logo on the outside of the store, they erupted into squeals and screams of excitement.  I don't know that I've ever seen these two more excited over something in their entire lives. Their excitement of course was quite contagious.  


Walking into the store was a dream come true.  They held fast to their American Girl dolls (both have Julie).  They of course were in search of the latest girl of the year doll "Isabelle".  It's one thing to see her in a magazine, but to see her up close and in person...well that is a whole different story.  Of course, you can't go to an American Girl doll store with little girls just to look, they thought there were going to maybe get an outfit for their dolls they already had, but I had a big surprise in store for both girls!







They could get any doll of their choice.  Yes, a new American Girl doll...any one they wanted.  I am pretty sure I vaulted to the Best Mom and Best Aunt in the World charts quite quickly! They both opted for Isabelle (the girl of the year doll).  I couldn't leave my 6 year old niece out either, so I called her while there at the store and she picked Isabelle too. Then I let Alyssa and Ava get their dolls ears pierced.  Ava chose to pierce Julie's ears and Alyssa chose to pierce Isabelle's.  Olivia got hearing aids for her dolls like she has. Each doll was a big success with each of the girls!


3 dolls, 3 hairbrushes, ear piercing, and a set of hearing aids later, we said our good-byes to the American Girl Doll Store.  And this mama is glad that we do not have one of those stores in our city or within even an hour of us, because I would be in some serious trouble.  lol   For anyone though who does have little girls or granddaughters, I highly recommend checking out the actual store if you ever get the chance.  Definitely worth the trip and I do look forward to taking Ava back there again or maybe next time to the one in Chicago.

Afterwards we went to dinner and then headed back to our hotel so the girls could swim for awhile and play with their dolls before we called in a night!

And this is where I will call it a night for this post.  Will update more with our trip to Missouri in another post tomorrow.  :)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Catching Up....

I feel like that is what I am always trying to do.  lol The last few weeks have just flown by.  Even with the crazy weather we have had here in Illinois.  Snow, Thunderstorms, Tornado Warnings, Ice, and even a couple nice sunny days thrown in too.  Today is supposed to be another nice one as well.  The high today is 65.  Now for tomorrow, that's a whole different story, snow, sleet, and who knows what else.  Welcome to Illinois! lol  Here are some of the things we've been up to the last couple weeks.  

I had a newborn photo session.  Less than 2 weeks old this little guy was.  This is my first little boy newborn I've photographed.  And he is actually the youngest I've ever photographed.  So that was exciting. He was awake about 99% of the time. lol  I did a maternity session for this family as well back in late November I think it was and was pleased to get to also do the newborn session.  I've attached a few photos from the session below.  






Ok so that was more than a few.  :)

As for Ava, she had ISAT's all last week.  This is her first year having to take the state standardized tests. She was excited to take them.  She came home the week before that when they were doing the pre-tests for ISAT's and said "Mom I think I am the only one in my class excited for these." lol  So last week she went into the tests not at all nervous.  I was thankful for that because there is so much pressure on them to do well and so many of the kids go into them so stressed out over them.  Of course, by the end of the week Ava was ready to be done with the tests, but she still likes them.  She did like not having any homework last week.  :)  What kid wouldn't.  We also found out last weekend who her softball coach will be this season and we were very glad she got the coach we wanted for her.  Whew!  So practices should start up here really soon if Mother Nature can decide that it should be nice out from here on out.  Spring Break starts for her next week.  So one more week of school and then a week off.  I am taking that week off from work as well.  Oh how I look forward to a week without an alarm clock!  

Last Monday, my oldest nephew turned 16.  Aaah! I cannot believe it. My sister and I threw him a surprise party at a local restaurant.  He came to my house after school and he had no idea what we had planned.  I thought maybe he would really wonder when one of my other nephews sent him a text asking him when the party was.  I was able to cover and be like oh we are just going out to eat when your Mom gets off work.  He bought it thankfully.  His face was priceless when he walked in and realized so much of our family and some family friends had show up just for him.  He doesn't get his license probably until the fall.  He had wrestling during the winter and so he decided he would wait to take Driver's Ed until this summer.  For being 16 he is in no hurry to get his license.  Which is just fine with me.  He has his permit and he is happy with that for now.  

 Happy 16th Birthday!

Celebrating Kylar's 16th Birthday with some of his cousins (Kaylee, Kylar, Haley, and Brycelynn) 

Kylar & Ava

This past weekend Ava took a painting class at the library.  She had so much fun.  She was able to have one of her best friends and a couple other friends from school in the class with her, which made it even more fun.  It was a canvas class where they were able to paint the Initial of their first name on it.  

Ava & Friends

And that is just some of the things that have kept us busy.  Oh and on another note, awhile back I mentioned Ava wanting to do the talent show, but I wasn't sure if she would follow through on the sign up.  Well she turned her form in to audition and we have auditions tonight.  We should find out later this week if she gets to do it or not.  It is 3rd - 8th grade who get to participate. So I am not sure if she will win a spot or not, but I am just so proud of her for being brave enough to even audition.  She has told me that even if she doesn't make the cut this year for the talent show, she will just keep trying and do it again next year.  So fingers crossed all works out.  Regardless of what happens, I am so proud of her already.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Best Gift

Ava and I went to dinner over the weekend and she was writing on the kids menu they gave her. Her answer to question #2 just melted my heart. She is one of the sweetest little girls. Love this girl to pieces. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Throwback Thursday

When Ava was little she used to do her "pretend cry" when she was being silly.  And oh boy did she go over the top with it.  It was the cutest thing ever.  And every time I see these pictures it just makes me smile.  She would grab a tissue, do her fake boo hoo hoo cry in her little hands, and then wipe her eyes for the finishing effect!  lol  I seriously just love this kid!  :)




Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Comfort Food Recipe

I don't know about you but I am over winter! Yes, totally and completely over it!  Even though we live in Illinois, we haven't seen this much snow and this much cold in quite a long time!  We've gotten kind of spoiled really.  And though it sounds like a great idea to move south, this year they haven't been so lucky either! Ava has been out of school it seems like a day or two each week since going back after Christmas break.  Eh, but what can you do?  Scroll through post after post on Pinterest you say! I say that sounds like a marvelous idea!

This week I even found a recipe on Pinterest that not only sounded good, but one that I might actually even make that included minimal effort.  It is a version of Tater Tot Casserole.  This is a recipe I would definitely consider a "comfort food".  It was a hit though in our house and I consider that a success.  After making it there are a few slight changes I would make but overall a great recipe. Several step by step picture below. Please excuse the not so wonderful picture quality.  I had a light bulb out in the kitchen and without getting out a step ladder to change it, well it just wasn't happening, besides I was in the zone cooking, ok!  Don't worry though, the bulb has been changed now because secretly it was driving me crazy!   

Tater Tot Casserole Recipe
Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs. Ground Chuck 
  • Onion, diced (or minced onion)
  • Shredded Cheese 
  • 16 oz, Sour Cream
  • 1 Can Cream of Chicken (small can)
  • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom (small can)
  • 1 bag Tater Tots 
  • Pepper to taste

Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Brown ground beef and onions in a skillet. (I also added Lawry's, garlic powder and pepper to my ground beef for added flavor)

In a large bowl, add sour cream, cream of mushroom, and cream of chicken.

Drain browned hamburger, add it to the bowl with the sour cream, cream of mushroom and cream of chicken.

Stir it all together.  It mixes up incredibly easy. I think you could even add maybe a little more ground beef if you wanted too.  

In a 9x13 pan spread mixture evenly across the bottom of the pan.  I did spray my pan lightly with a cooking spray since I wasn't sure if any of it would stick or not.  

I added a layer of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the mixture.  You don't have to, but I did. And if cheddar cheese isn't your thing, add another flavor of shredded cheese.  

Add your tater tots on top of that! I didn't arrange mine all pretty and lined up in even little rows.  Why? Because honestly this isn't a cooking show or even a cooking blog and really I just want to get it in the oven! :)  It is all going to taste the same anyway, right?!?!
Ready to put it in the oven...sounds good.  Bake for 45 minutes (oven times may vary)

After 45 minutes take it out.  Add some cheese to the top of the tater tots.  Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes at the same 350 degrees. 

Timer goes off, and this is what should come out of the oven!  Yum!

Serve it up to the family who will be singing your praises and if they really like it, they may even go back for seconds...and if they really really like it, maybe they will offer to even do the dishes afterwards.  Feel free to serve it with your favorite vegetable too. 

Next time I make it, I would use a reduced sodium cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup.  I never added salt to this at all and for me personally I don't think it needed any added salt at all.  You could also add in some vegetables like peas if you wanted, but I know my family wouldn't eat this with them added in. I think it would also be good with some green pepper diced in it. Could also substitute ground turkey which I will try next time as well and a lower fat cheese if you like.  I wasn't sure how I would like the cream of chicken and cream of mushroom mixed together, but it was actually really good.  Surprise! Surprise! So anyway try it, you and your family just might like it too.  Thank you Pinterest for making dinner a success!  Oh and the leftovers were quite good the next day too!