Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter Weekend

One of the reasons we were excited to move to NJ last year was because we would be closer to my family in MA and our good friends, Dan & Brenda in PA. However, despite being only a couple hours away, this past weekend was the first time we have been able to visit with them since our move. Ryan finally had a free weekend, so we drove down to their house first thing Saturday morning.

Dan & Brenda have been some of our closest friends since we were first married and living in Greenville. Our apartments were only a couple minutes away from each other, and we were always getting together for an impromptu dinner or movie night or Wal-Mart shopping run at 10:00 pm to buy more Christmas lights. I love that we can always pick up right where we left off every time we see them. They have two little ones, and another baby due any day!

The weather was absolutely beautiful, and Avery did great in the car on the 5 hour (round trip) drive. She slept for about an hour each way and spent the rest of the time talking to her toys and giggling to herself. We couldn't ask for an easier baby!

Avery loved playing with Carter and Elli and thought they were hilarious! Elli was so sweet to Avery and wanted to sit by her at meals and share her toys. After lunch, we walked to a nearby park and let the kids play on the slides and swings. Avery greatly enjoyed her first ride on the swing. I think she would have been happy to swing for the rest of the day.

 After a relaxing afternoon and pizza for dinner, it was time to get back on the road and head home. Although we wish it could have been longer, we are so grateful for a great time of fellowship with such sweet friends.

Resurrection Sunday was pretty low-key for us. We had great services at church, and Avery slept for 2 1/2 hours this afternoon, so that makes for a good day! Our Easter outfits were actually coordinated this year. I needed a little sweater for Avery's sleeveless dress, and I found some yarn I bought a year ago that just so happened to match a dress I got last month. Add a new tie for Ryan, and we were set!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Cadbury Cream Eggs

Several months ago I found a recipe for homemade Cadbury Cream Eggs. This is Ryan's all-time favorite candy. He starts asking about them in February every year, and I usually buy him some when they come out in the stores around Easter. But this year I surprised him with a homemade version. I've never been a big fan of the candy, so I wasn't sure if they would taste similar to the name-brand or not. Last night he tried one, and gave them a big thumbs up. I even tried a small one today and was pleasantly surprised. Plus not having the extra chemicals and artificial flavors makes me even happier.

There is a lot you could do with flavoring the filling - mint, caramel, coffee, etc. But I just left these ones plain. Although the filling softens very quickly and is kind of messy to work with, the overall recipe was very easy to follow. Oh, and you have to look closely to notice that mine are (somewhat) egg-shaped. I don't have a hollow egg mold, so I had to do these by hand.

We don't typically celebrate Easter with eggs and bunnies and candy. But I heard a great idea from another mom that we plan to implement next year with Avery. We'll celebrate the first day of spring with candy, pastel sugar cookies, flowers, and chocolate eggs and keep the focus of Easter on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And now that we can make these delicious treats ourselves, there is no reason to wait until next spring to enjoy them!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Weekend with Grandparents

We had been counting down the days until my parents would visit ever since we left them at Christmas. They were scheduled to arrive on Thursday. But Wednesday morning, I was watching the weather report early in the morning and saw a big winter storm headed our way. I called Mom and Dad and they were going to reevaluate their flight schedule and be in touch later that morning. Avery and I headed out immediately for the grocery store and were able to beat the crowd and bought everything we needed for the weekend. As we were leaving the store, Mom called to let me know that she was going to arrive that night! Dad had graciously offered to change her ticket so that just in case the weather was worse on Thursday, she would at least be able to still make it up for a visit.

Avery and I spent the day cleaning and cooking in preparation for their visit. Mom was originally scheduled to arrive at 7:00pm, but due to the heavy winds, her flight was delayed until 9:30. So I put Avery to bed at 7:00 as usual, and woke her up at 8:45 to head to the airport. Although a little less cheerful than normal, she didn't fuss at all during the trip. It was my first time driving to the Newark airport by myself, but we made it and picked up Mom without any trouble. After arriving back at home, we put Avery to bed and stayed up until after midnight talking and eating. Ryan was on call that night, so he didn't arrive home until the next morning.

Mom and Avery had so much fun playing together in the morning. While Ryan slept that afternoon, the girls went out for a little shopping. We were getting a little rain and snow mix, but nothing was accumulating. Dad's flight arrived on time at 8:30 on Thursday night, and Ryan and I drove downtown together to pick him up. We had a great time catching up with each other that evening before heading to bed.

Ryan was back at work on Friday, so we spent a fun day at home watching the snow and relaxing. Dad and Mom loved playing with Avery, feeding her, and making her laugh. I loved watching them together!  I was especially glad to see that it hardly took her any time at all to warm up to them. She sure loves her grandparents! Avery's second bottom tooth also popped through on Friday. She was slightly clingy and took a 2-hour nap in the afternoon, but other than that, she seemed fine.

On Saturday morning, we packed up and headed down to Princeton for the day. Our friends, Eric and Clarissa Brown, are at a church in South Jersey, and Eric asked Dad to preach at his church on Sunday. We met the Brown's and the Wagner's (also friends from our church who are now on deputation) for lunch.

The weather could not have been more perfect - 60 degrees and sunny. It was a beautiful day to walk around the city and the University. Avery took a little nap on Dad while we were touring Princeton.

We still have a few little shops and restaurants that we want to take Mom and Dad to some day, but we did get to visit the Princeton Cemetery and saw where several famous people are buried, including Jonathan Edwards and Aaron Burr. Mom and Avery spent a little extra time together while we walked around the cemetery. Avery has started smiling with her mouth closed, especially when she sees a camera.

We joined the Brown's at their house for pizza that evening. Then Ryan, Avery, and I headed to our hotel while Mom and Dad spent some more time with the Brown's and other members from their church. We had an adjoining hotel room with Mom and Dad's, so we put Avery to bed in her pack'n play in our room, plugged in her baby monitor, and watched TV in Mom and Dad's room for the evening. She was so tired after her busy day, and slept until 8:00 the next morning. We had breakfast with Mom and Dad at the hotel and then drove to the Brown's church for the services.

It was wonderful to hear Dad preach again. We have really missed being at Cornerstone. Avery loved playing in the nursery and even took a 2-hour nap while we were there. After lunch and an afternoon service, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and snapped a few pictures.

Finally, it was time to say good bye to Mom and Dad. We were sorry to see them leave and definitely wish their visit could have been longer. But we are so glad for the time we had together, and especially that Avery was able to enjoy her grandparents for a couple days. She burst into tears as soon as we got home that evening, so I think she missed them already. And Ryan said he is really hoping for a residency in Greenville so that we can be close to them again soon. We can't imagine Avery growing up without her family close by. 

But my sisters will be here in about 4 weeks, we'll (hopefully) be visiting my cousins at the end of May, and then heading down to Greenville in June for my youngest sister's wedding. And Mom and Dad are already making plans to come back up in July. So while we hope to live near them in the future, we are thankful for the many visits we can have in the meantime.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

In the Details

Today, I am especially grateful for a God who not only cares about the small things in our lives, but is powerful and gracious enough to answer prayer. Ryan began his 12-week surgery rotation yesterday. From what he had heard, the hours would be pretty long, and he would be on call for 30 hours every five days. On top of that, my parents are flying in Thursday night, and will be with us until Sunday afternoon. Plus, we have friends coming in a couple weeks, and then my sisters will visit in April for a long weekend. It would be nice to have Ryan around for these events.

Yesterday, I prayed specifically for this weekend that as Ryan got his schedule for the month, he would be on call this Wednesday (so he would not be on call again until Monday). And sure enough, when he got home last evening, that was exactly his schedule! I hadn't prayed for this yet, but he also is not on call during the other two weekends when we will have company. As an added bonus, he is only on call once a week this month, and will be working with one of the least-intense surgeons, so he will have much more normal hours. The Lord truly does provide above what we can ask or think.

Just to update you on Ryan's medical training, he is currently in his third year of medical school which is the first year of clinical rotations. He spends 6-12 weeks working with doctors in each of the five main specialties (internal medicine, psychiatry, surgery, pediatrics, and ob/gyn). On September 14, he will take the Step 2, which is similar to the big test he took in July on the day that Avery was born. Then he will begin applying to residencies around the country and setting up interviews for that fall. In March 2014, we will find out where he will be placed for residency. He graduates from medical school in June 2014 and begins residency in July. Some people have asked if we have to fly back down to Grenada for graduation. But since St. George's University is technically an American school and is headquartered in NYC, the graduation ceremony will actually take place in the Lincoln Center. We will most likely have a party for Ryan back in Greenville following his graduation.

I'm so proud of Ryan's hard work and the progress he has made so far. We are looking forward to what is ahead of us in the coming years. (And since I don't have any recent pictures of Ryan, here is a picture of Avery from a couple months ago dressed in the little scrubs I gave Ryan when I told him we were pregnant.)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Valentine's Traditions

I have somehow been so busy recently that I couldn't even get this post written during the month of February. I will attribute it to the fact that Avery is now crawling, pulling up on everything, and cruising between the furniture. On top of that, her wake times are extending and the evening nap is officially a thing of the past. So all that activity means a lot less of getting things done during the day and a lot more time spent on the floor stacking toys, cuddling stuffed animals, making music, climbing, and giggling. Nap times are filled with things like eating and cleaning instead of knitting and sleeping as in previous months. But I wouldn't trade this time for anything. There is nothing more enjoyable than a happy baby growing and exploring her little world.

Back to Valentine's Day . . . When I was growing up, Mom and Dad always made Valentine's Day a special occasion for my sisters and me. We woke up to a gift bag outside our door in the morning from Mom, filled with candy, jewelry, or other little gifts. And at every Valentine's Day dinner, Dad always left the table early while we pretended not to know where he was going. A few minutes later he would come back with bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates for each of us. He would walk around the table handing out the treats and ask each of his girls to be his Valentine. I think this is one of my favorite traditions from my childhood.

This year, my mom - always one to plan ahead - sent up a bag of Valentine's goodies for us with Jason and Olivia back in January. Ryan has been enjoying his huge container of almonds, and Avery was spoiled with new outfits, an adorable polar bear cub stuffed animal, and a beautiful wooden toy (and three gorgeous outfits from Aunt Rebekah who can never resist the opportunity to buy her niece new clothes). And I opened a bag with heart-shaped cookie cutters, red and pink sprinkles, and candles, and some candy. All of those things were put to good use when I made Ryan a special Valentine's dinner.

On Valentine's Day, Avery wore one of her new outfits from her sweet grandparents, and I decided to try painting her toe nails. I put her in the highchair for breakfast, and quickly painted them before she realized what I was doing. It was the perfect place to do it because she couldn't reach them, and they were dry by the time she was done eating. I just love the way they turned out!

This has nothing to do with Valentine's Day, but this was also the day that Avery started crawling. She had been close for a while, but here is a short video clip of her first time actually crawling.

When Ryan got home from work that evening, he surprised us with beautiful red roses, chocolates (for me), and a little teddy bear (for Avery). I love that he continued our family tradition! Avery is blessed with such a sweet and loving father.

Our dinner later in the week was so much fun to plan and prepare. While looking in the meat section of the grocery store, I noticed a package of two bacon-wrapped fillets that were on sale. I couldn't pass that up, so I bought some asparagus and a few other things to go with it and planned the menu from there. We ended up having the steak topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms, oven-roasted asparagus, twice-baked sweet potatoes with ricotta cheese and brown sugar, and tomato slices topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and balsamic vinegar. We had heart-shaped cinnamon biscuits topped with strawberry butter as well. The candles and candy hearts from mom and our gorgeous flowers from Ryan were put to good use as table decorations.

Ryan and I ate dinner after Avery was in bed, and stayed at the table talking until after 11:00! I loved having a quiet evening to spend time together in the midst of our busy schedules. This was our fifth Valentine's Day together and I am so thankful to be married to this amazing man that I grow to love more and more with each passing year.
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