Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to me!!!

I celebrated my 29th birthday yesterday for the fifth time in my life! I am happy in knowing I am forever young since I will not be aging anymore. I happen to always have Wednesdays off in my work schedule so I lucked out this year and celebrated my day at home. I enjoyed spending my time with family and friends which is a blessing and something to be thankful for. I loved all of the phone calls, text messages, and Facebook notes containing birthday wishes. I am hopeful this is going to be a great year filled with wishes come true.

My day started with Ava greeting me at 7:10am. She was very excited to tell me Happy Birthday and to give me the cards that she picked out with Rob. She also made a special present for me from the garden and picked a white clover flower for me. How sweet is that?!?!

Ava giving me her gifts... bright and early!

Here is an up-close shot of her birthday creation! It was filled with several things: love, dirt, grass, and cabbage. Thanks for keeping this in the garage Rob!

My big gift item this year was a new sewing machine from my mom. Thanks mom! I LOVE it and look forward to making my own creations filled with love.

I have taken one sewing class this August with my best friend, Kris, who also received this sewing machine for her birthday this summer. This will be a hobby we enjoy together. We hope to take another class this fall. She made me her first mini wallet and filled it with a gift card. Thanks Kris!

I loved opening my cards with Ava. I didn't really have a choice in the matter because there was no way she was not helping me. I received a card from my mom that played the song, "I want candy." It was her favorite and she laughed so hard over and over. This card may may end up at my moms. Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!

I had to include a photo of my cards. Jack and Emma made me special birthday cards which is so sweet of them.

I ended up being the only one in my family with the day off so I made  my own dinner. I tried a new recipe out from Pinterest, called Panera Mac-n-Cheese, and it was a success. I served it with smoked sausage, french bread, and a salad. We were all stuffed. When I looked out at my table I saw some of my favorite faces looking back at me. I am so bummed I only captured part of my brother, Mark's, face. Sorry Mark, I thought for sure you were in more. Darn photographer! I probably should have taken more than one. Next year I will be sure to included everyone's face on film!

We ended the night at "Get the Scoop" for Ice Cream. Thanks for singing, Happy Birthday to me- Cha-Cha-Cha!

Thanks again for all of the birthday wishes and gifts! It made my day all the more special and filled with lots of LOVE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

John Ball Park Zoo

We gave Ava the heads up the night before we took her to the zoo that we were going. She was so excited before bed that she could barely settle into sleep. At 7:30am she barged into our room yelling, "I'm ready to go to the ZOO!" I think that will be the last time we give her any notice. Rob and I have been to John Ball Park Zoo and are well aware it isn't worth all of that excitement in the early morning hours. But... Ava's enthusiasm for going really made us excited to take her!

We arrived to the zoo at 10am and were surprised at how many people in Grand Rapids had the same idea on a Thursday morning. It was busy and the temperature was rising. We paid our admittance fee and headed in. The first exhibit happened to be of alligators. This is some what funny because for the past month Ava's imagination has ran away with her and she is convinced one is living behind her bedroom curtain with a snake. She stared at them with awe and one was really kind of big. This is sure to fuel her bedtime fears.

Next up were the Loons... a bit more PG.

I love the Penguins...

Rob showed Ava some Trout. She called to them, "Here Fishy Fishy."

Rob and I fed the Sting Rays while Ava watched nervously...

We looked at the Black Bears while Ava, "Rawwwed" at the glass.

Ava like the Pink Flamingos.

Two Kolkman's on a mission... Hand in Hand... Typical!

Rob took her to pet some goats. They were gentle as house cats and she was still a little scared to touch them.

Thankfully, she did work up her nerves and pet one.

She loved playing the drums... "Bang-Bang-Bang!"

I took her into the Bird Hut.

She had a fun time feeding the Tweets and so did I!

All in all it was a great trip seeing the animals at the zoo. She was pretty good for the most part and we will take her again next season. She was pretty funny about all of the smells at the zoo. She hollered out in the reptile house, "It's terrible smelly in my nose!" It was pretty bad and the frog hut wasn't much better. She loved watching the pigs and laughed at this rooster who was busy "cock-a-doodle-doing!" She did wonder where the giraffes, elephants, and zebras were. Maybe someday we will take her to Chicago to see some bigger exhibits. But for someone who is only two she had a ball at John Ball Zoo. She finished off two rice crispy treats while we were there with lots of water. Then at bed time told God she was most thankful for going to the zoo. That is a successful trip!

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

Ava and I made our first batch of cookies together last night. She did a great job helping me in the kitchen and I look forward to our next cooking adventure. I decided to make no-bake cookies with her because they are easy and they just happen to be a favorite in this house! She loved standing on a kitchen chair and adding in the pre-measured dry ingredients and watching me stir them. At the end she added the oats while I added the peanut-butter and mixed the ingredients the rest of the way. She helped plop a few cookies out onto the tin-foil and was very pleased with herself. She could not wait to try one after they cooled. I know she liked them because she smiled and said, "Delicio-So!" She also happens to be wearing her favorite pair of kitty jammies. They are getting a bit snug and no longer cover her tummy. If she eats a few more cookies she will be forced into retiring these favorites. Eat up Ava!

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

1/2 cup milk
1 stick butter
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 peanut-butter
3 cups oatmeal

Add the first 4 ingredients in a large pot. Stir continuously and boil them for a full minute. Remove from heat and add the last two ingredients and mix the mixture completely. Scoop cookies out onto some tin-foil and let them cool.

Use small Quaker Oats. Make sure you time your boil for a full minute or the cookies will not set up.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A day at Pentwater

Rob and I reserved this week about seven months ago for a vacation slot on our calendar. It seemed to creep up faster than we planned and we ended up not planning much of a vacation. So at the last minute we planned a few days of fun around staying at home and relaxing. Luckily, it doesn't take a whole lot to make us happy. A handful of days away from work is enjoyable no matter what is on the agenda to take it's place.

Poor Rob ended up working Monday and I enjoyed a day at home alone while Ava went to daycare. I must admit that I loved this day at home to myself. Please don't take me the wrong way because I do love my time at home with Rob and Ava. However, alone time is few and far between these days and a little time to yourself is rejuvenating no matter who you are. An eight hour window to spend the day doing what ever I wanted whenever I wanted really left me feeling energized. I accomplished so much in such a short period of time. I was able to fit in some cleaning, packing, exercising, sewing, reading, showering, napping and running a few errands! I think we can all use a day like this every now and again.

On Tuesday morning we loaded up Rob's truck and headed to Pentwater to spend the day with friends who are camping there this week. Rob and I are not huge fans of camping but in the land of camping Pentwater is where you want to be. Our neighbors, the Barksdales, had a very nice wooded lot with a camper hooked to running water. Then the Arnoldinks were roughing it in a tent, which seemed rough to me with kids, but they were having a good ole' time. There were a lot of places to walk to or ride your bikes to within the campground. You could go to the pool, arcade, Craig's Cruisers, a store, or to get ice cream. What more could you need or want while camping, right!?!?

The Campsite...

The kids are all water bugs so we spent most of our time at the pool. Yes, I said pool. This is my kind of campground! With little kids this is an excellent feature instead of a hot sandy beach and a freezing cold lake. Below are several pictures of just Rob and Ava... I would have taken a few of the rest of our group but no one is really a fan of having their picture take these days as adults in swimwear. So, I respectfully only took pictures of my family. I also happened to not make any of the pool shots. Hummmm?!?! Maybe after the Thirty Day Shred with Jillian Michales, LOL!

Rob and Ava in the shallow end...

 Loving the deep end...

 Not a day of swim lessons and she has no fear of jumping in! Ava is a natural in the water and loves every minute of showing off.

"Jump & Splash"

 "Look at us Momma!"

All of the swimming and jumping lead to the consumption of many snacks and the need for a few breaks to rest up!

You can't have a day without books even on vacation. Ava thought it was big fun to read on the bed in the camper. I enjoyed a little reading time of my own from the picnic table.

 Laugh Till Your Belly Hurts!!!

We left Pentwater after dinner and bath time to head for our cabin. Ava slept in the car on the way over and she woke up only briefly when we arrived for a snack. I am bummed that I didn't get a picture of the paint job again because it really looks wonderful. The exterior wood on the porch is painted white and the area under the siding is painted a creme color around its entire perimeter. We were there so briefly this visit that the moment passed before I remembered to grab my camera. Next time readers... Next time. All in all it was a great day and evening spent with friends followed by a relaxing retreat to our favorite spot in the woods. We definitely have a lot to be thankful for!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Playground Fun

Ava loves hanging out with her cousins Jack and Emma. They spoil her rotten and play, play, play with her! I took Ava recently to hang out with her Uncle Todd and Jack at my old childhood stopping ground, Cummings Elementary. We had so much fun. I love how good Jack is with Ava Elise. He is so protective of her and he can make her laugh like no one else can. Ava, on the other hand, is always trying to show off around him and acts like she is two going on ten! I am so happy that there is a definite love between the two of them. Watching them play together reminds me a lot of my brother and I growing up. Todd is about six years older than I am and we have always been close which is something I am thankful for. We remind each other daily that we are stuck with each other forever or as we like to say, 4ebs! I am hopeful that Ava and Jack will be 4ebs too!

Monkeying Around!

Jack helping Ava on this wobbling bridge.

Ava and I on the tire swing.

Jack and Ava on the tire swing.

Ava Elise... Big Stuff!

Todd's King of the Hill!

A swing set race!

Jack and Ava on the slide... Weeeeeeeee!

Thanks Uncle Todd and Jack for so much Playground Fun!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Family Christmas Parties 2010

We had family Christmas at my moms this year the day after Christmas. This is the day that we "the kids" are spoiled rotten and the grand kids are spoiled beyond rotten. My Dad lived for this day each year and he would sit back with his camera and take it all in with a grin on his face throwing out a few "Oh, Boys!" In his memory we said a prayer and light a candle for him and one for Elise. The holiday season will never be the same without him in it. I can only hope that he is with Elise and that they check in on us from time to time and see that while me move forward they are never forgotten.

Christmas at the Barrons...

Ava and I by the Tree filled with lots of Gifts!

Jack and Emma...

Ava & her kitchen from my mom...

Jack in love with his Harry Potter Lego Set.

Emma in love with her Easy Bake Oven.

Jack made Ava a Penguin Pillow at school... He was so proud of it and excited to give it to her!

In effort to cheer my mom up this season I decided to get her a gag gift which is something we don't usually do. But when I laid eyes on this beauty of an owl necklace I knew she had to have it even if it was only for a giggle. My Grandma Rietsma (my mom's mom...) wore an owl necklace from my grandpa that had a three tiered body and her birthstone for eyes, Citron. It was kind of creepy in a quirky grandma sort of way. Now when I see owls I am reminded of my Grandma with great fondness. They have a funny way of showing up when I least expect them and they make me smile and they definitely warm my heart! I love and miss you Grandma Rietsma. I know you are shaking your head at me a little but I hope you also see the humor in this too! I know my mom did. HEHEHEHEHE!!!
Grandma getting a "GAG" out of her gift!

 What a "HOOT!"

This season we also hosted Rob's family at our home the Wednesday after Christmas. We had a a great visit with everyone and especially enjoyed all of the family from out of town and out of state. Rob cooked a delicious prime rib dinner and not a soul left the table hungry! Aunt Dawn also brought a pumpkin pie from the dutch bakery. YUM!

I didn't do a great job taking pictures but here is one of the family hanging out while the girls play.

The best picture is of Great Grandma with Sylvia, Evelyn, and Ava!
Here's to many more holidays spent with the ones who love us the most... FAMILY!

Christmas 2010

This post will be an oldie but a goodie. I wasn't going to post anything on our Christmas season but then decided that just because our overall Christmas day was not the greatest this year our Christmas morning with Ava was the greatest and definitely worth sharing. Rob and I were obviously more excited than she was for this magical morning filled with holiday spirit. We wondered what Ava's expressions would be as she discovered Santa Claus had came and left presents! What a priceless morning with her.  We heard lots of "WOW's" and "Oh, Boys!" Here's hoping that our family traditions will create memories that will last and last.

Christmas Morning 2010

The Stockings were hung with care...

Ava checking out the gifts with wonder...

Oh BOY!!!

Rob shows Ava her stocking...

The opening begins... Who knew socks would be this exciting!

Brownie Hoots came into our lives... Ava loves this owl.
She also received a matching owl necklace and bracelet from me which is so beautiful on her!

 A gift from Daddy Bear...

Looks like a bird feeder to me!

The biggest gift goes to Ava from Santa!

Wow... Santa brought me a cool table and chair set.

 Ava tried the chairs out a bit early.

 Rob hard at work with his little helper!

Ta-Dah... Thanks Santa!!!

A trip to visit Elise's resting place. Elise, we love and miss you so much on special days like today. Here's hoping your celebration in Heaven for the birth of Christ is AMAZING!

Merry Christmas Elise!

Merry Christmas Grandpa Barron!

Christmas isn't Christmas without a visit from your Grandma. Ava's so lucky to have a good one!

We spent the rest of the day snuggled in at Home Sweet Kolkman with my mom and my brothers. Just a day of movie watching, eating, and relaxing. Noting overly exciting but all in all we made it through this day as a family. My dad and Elise would be so proud of us I think.