Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Thanksgiving weekend was so much fun and relaxing at the same time. I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from work leading up the holiday so it was great to have time at home to take care of errands, household chores, and organizing. I took Ava to daycare those days for half days so that I could focus on my projects, while she followed her routine. We were looking forward to spending four days with the Berkey family and friends.

We drove up to Aaron's parents lake house on Thursday morning since we had a small gathering and our larger traditional Thanksgiving on Friday with my mother-in-law's side of the family. Our friend, Mathew drove in from Northwest Indiana with his young daughter. The first hurdle is always the two and half hour drive. Ava does not like long car rides and rarely falls asleep in the car. She is much better with air travel than car rides because she is stuck in the carseat. Flights are so much easier because she likes being on my lap. We just got a new portable DVD player to help keep her entertained on long drives. It really helps! She doesn't watch much TV so she totally zones out watching Elmo or any other kid DVD we borrow from the library. It buys us sometime, then she gets really antsy. So we try giving her snacks, water to drink, books, puzzles, an iPhone with baby games to play. And just as she was starting to lose it just south of Fort Wayne, Grandma called and she entertained her by talking on the phone. It really helped! We were planning to stop in Fort Wayne (2 hours into the drive) for a quick nursing session and refueling the car. Nursing helps because she get a break from the carseat and give her some snuggle time. When Grandma had to go to finish baking her pies, she recruited Grandpa to help, but that's when she had enough so we stopped. It was fun to see Ava talking on the phone. She was mostly listening and heavy breathing, but she laughed and sang. It was really cute!
About to lose it in the drive to Grandma and Grandpa

Talking to Grandma. Laughing, singing, and heavy breathing. Grandma loved it!

Homemade cranberry sauce is simmering.

Fun on the piano.

When we arrived at the house, I made homemade cranberry sauce for the turkey on Friday. I looked up my favorite recipe from Cooking Light that I have made for several years and I was so excited that they featured my recipe review in their Reader Favorites section for the cranberry sauce. It's really easy and tastes so fresh and delicious. I got some fresh cranberries from my weekly produce bin and I added to it with another pint that I froze last year. You simmer the sauce with orange juice, brown sugar, cinnamon stick, and allspice. It naturally thickens. I like to make it the day before to chill in the refrigerator and let the flavor deepen.

Ava had a blast visiting with her friends and playing with Grandma and Grandpa Berkey. Aaron's grandmother and aunt and uncle came over on Thursday afternoon for a steak and baked potatoes meal. Some years we do both Berkey and Parmenter family gatherings with turkey, but this year, they opted for steak. Aaron and I had chili beans on our baked potatoes instead of the meat. I was excited that Ava enjoyed Great Grandma Berkey's fresh cranberry salad with oranges, celery and walnuts. It's really tasty! She also loved the pumpkin pie! She ate a thin sliver all by herself.

Later that evening, we visited with Aaron's best friend and his family. Ava loves playing with Zac and Christy's 3-year old son, Colt! They're going to grow up like cousins because the Bollingers are close friends of the Berkey family, which is great because Aaron and Zac are the brothers that they never had, being in a family with two sisters each.

Early Friday morning, Aaron's sister Megan and her family came over. Ava had fun playing on a push cart with her cousin, Colin! They did a great job sharing and taking turns doing the ride, letting Grandma push them around in the cart. Ava and Colin are only 4 and 1/2 months apart, which is fun that they're in the same stages together. The Parmenter family started to arrive for the Thanksgiving meal and we had so much fun visiting and catching up. My mother-in-law is one of 8 siblings so we're used to very large gatherings. But this year it was very quiet with only a handful of the family in town, but it was really nice that you could talk to everyone longer. You can tell the grandparents loved having both their grandkids in the house together that day!

Being silly with Grandma Berkey.
Cousins sharing Grandpa's lap.
Later Friday night, we headed over to visit the Black family. Chris and Betsy have 3 kids and their youngest is only 5 days older than Ava. They're the same height, but he has 6 pounds on Ava! We had fun visiting them and Aaron's friend, who was in town from Turkey to get his Visa and spend the holiday with his family in Indiana. Ava didn't sleep a wink on the late drive home and thanks again to Dora the Explorer for saving us from a complete toddler meltdown at 10pm for a 20 minute drive! She fell asleep instantly when we got back to the Lake.

Reading old school story books with Daddy.
What I love about the Lake house is that we have our bed there so we always have a place to sleep. We keep our things there so it's easier to pack on our regular visits. And our room faces the back of the house with the trees. Bill and Michele have a huge bookshelf with the books that Aaron and his sisters enjoyed as children. Before Ava's nap one day, Aaron read her a story and I enjoyed the sweet moment. She's really interested in keeping tabs on Mommy and Daddy is all the time, especially with all the family and friends in the house. This trip, Mom B. gave Ava her Daddy's baby quilt! We put it in her bedroom for her to snuggle.

Digging Grandma's pumpkin pie!

Relaxing morning.
Nursing a toddler with Bena on my lap.
 On Saturday, the house was really quiet since all the family had gone home and it was just the 5 of us left to relax. We all just relaxed and ate leftovers. Ava loved the pumpkin pie and asked for it when she caught sight of it on the kitchen counter. She got a hold of a measuring cup, one of her favorite things to play with at home too! She likes to transfer things from different bowls and cups, especially standing on a step stool to help in the kitchen. Zac's sister, Hilary, dropped in for a few minutes with her 3-year old son, Kaine, and 6-month old daughter, Kendall. Ava loved seeing the baby and gave Kaine lots of high-5's.

Last night, Chris and Betsy and the kids dropped by again for another short visit. Their baby, Sam, and Ava had fun sorting sea shells. Bena was snuggling on my lap for awhile, then Ava decided she wanted to nurse. I pulled her into my lap, then they both settled together while Ava nursed. It was really sweet! Usually Bena freaks out sharing a lap, but she wouldn't budge. I bet it was because of all the activity. And Ava didn't mind for sure. Toddler nursing is so different! She nurses often, but briefly during the day and longer for naps and in the evening. I'm happy to continue nursing since it has protected her health so well. Some kids in her daycare class have been sick for weeks. It's really comforting that she's thriving. I know that it won't last forever and she'll soon outgrow the need for nursing, but for now, we're enjoying it.

Big girl used the potty to pee 2 mornings in a row!
Another new thing is Ava is starting to use a potty! She started to get really curious about the whole bathroom experience. She is very aware of her wet and dirty diapers. Since we're using cloth, she can feel the wetness. Also, with cloth, I empty her dirty diapers in the toilet and then put them in the diaper pail by the toilet. It's all related to each other. Compared to when we used disposables, you keep the diaper pail in a bedroom and toss the whole thing away. It's kind of a mental disconnect that I never thought of until now. In general, she is very curious about the toilet. So last week, I bought her a potty. She was so excited and curious. I got a potty that has different phases that grows with the child. The seat comes off and attaches to the big toilet and it always doubles as a step stool. I love using her leg warmers and cloth diapers because the velcro closures on her diaper covers are so easy for her to remove herself and the leg warmers keep her warm now that the weather has cooled off.

I noticed that she usually pees in the morning after she wakes up. So the first morning after we got the potty, I asked her if she wanted to sit on her potty and she nodded. I sat her on it and she decided to stuff her PJ bottoms and washcloth inside. I told her that she can't put anything in there because that's where she pees. And a few minutes later, she did! I was so proud of her! She was excited, but it also seemed so natural to her. Later that day she sat on it, but didn't pee in it. But then Thursday morning, we did the same thing and she peed! I was so excited! Aaron said she was a little surprised when she peed in her potty. It's a new sensation for sure.

At the Lake on Friday morning, she stood outside the bathroom and told us that she had to go to the bathroom. Grandma noticed it so I rushed over to take her diaper off and asked her if I could hold her on the big toilet since we left hers at home. She said no, because she didn't feel comfortable that way. But she peed on clothes since I took her diaper off. But, I was SO excited that she told us and that she knew she had to go.

I'm surprised that she's interested at 20-months, but I know lots of babies that start potty training at this time. I'm trying to follow her lead and not trying to force the issue. I don't want her experience to be negative. I'm thinking that we'll offer her to use the potty in the morning as a new routine and go from there. I'm thrilled with our decision to use cloth diapers. I remember hearing that potty training is so much easier for cloth diapered babes and so far, it seems to be the case for Ava. Obviously, it's still the very beginning, but it's big first step!

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