Wednesday, November 28, 2012

P E A C E and quiet

Because Clara was born close to the holidays, I decided to send out a birth announcement / Christmas card this year.  So before Clara was born, I bought Ava and Sidney's Christmas outfits and did a little Christmas art project.  Here is the result:

I bought the letters at Joann's and spray painted them red and green.  It took several takes to get a pictures that we liked, but it was worth it!  Happy Holidays!

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Pine Cone Jingle Bell Wreath

How was your Thanksgiving?  Ours was a total bust.  We had decided to stay home and celebrate since Clara is only one month old and we didn't want to expose her to a bunch of potentially ill people (I think I may have jinxed us).  Tim was pretty pumped to be able to make a big Thanksgiving feast (for just the two of us since our girls would never eat this delicious food).  So Tim went out and bought a turkey and all the ingredients to make his homemade gravy.  Little did I know that our home would soon become a petri dish of germs.  

Ava came down with a nasty cold on Saturday, then Sidney got it on Monday.  Tim took off work on Wednesday and spent most of the day prepping the meal.  But by 10:30 that night he was vomiting - stomach flu.  All that hard work went straight to the trash can.  No turkey for us.  Tim enjoyed 7 Up and Saltines for the Thanksgiving and the girls and I had cereal and store-bought pumpkin pie (and Oreos for Sidney of course).

Upon hearing that Tim had the stomach flu, my mom rushed over and took Clara back to her house.  That woman is amazing.  She canceled all of her Thanksgiving plans and stayed home with Clara.  I'm sure she didn't expect to have her more than a day or two, but then I caught Ava and Sidney's cold and have been coughing my head off.  It is now Monday and we still haven't gotten Clara back!  My mom wants to wait until I stop coughing.  She's so afraid that Clara will get sick, as am I.  But how will I ever repay my mom!

Since I was stuck at home all weekend with no baby Clara, I decided work on Christmas decorations.  This "wreath" is the first project I've done since Clara was born!  I had gathered all of the materials before Clara was born in the hopes of having some time to finish it before Christmas.  Mission accomplished!

Here's what you'll need to make this wreath:
- Pine cones (I collected them from our back yard.  You can buy them at the store too.)
- Red and Green ribbon (for the pine cones) - I used ~3 yards of each
- Thin Gold ribbon (for the jingle bells) - I used 5 yards
- Red, green and gold jingle bells
- Hot glue gun

1.  Cut your ribbon at different lengths so that you can scatter the pine cones and jingle bells at different heights.  
2.  Tie the gold ribbon onto the jingle bells.
3.  Use your hot glue gun to glue the red and green ribbon to the pine cones.
4.  Once the glue has cooled, gather the ribbon and arrange the pine cones and jingle bells.
5.  Tie a knot at the top and cut off the extra ribbon.

I hung my wreath from a wreath hanger by threading the loop of the wreath hanger through the ribbon knot.

Happy Holidays!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dollar Crafts - Turkey Headband

Lately, Ava has been begging me to do art projects.  Art projects used to be a daily activity, but it's much harder now that I have Clara to take care of.  The Kiwi Crates have been great because I don't have to get to the craft store or do any pre-planning.  If your child likes arts and crafts, the Kiwi Crate would make a great Christmas gift.

I happened to make it over to Hobby Lobby last week so I stocked up on some easy craft projects to do with the girls.  All of their holiday stuff is on sale at least 40% off!  This little turkey headband craft came with the supplies for 12 headbands for about $3!  After Ava made a headband for herself, she went on to make them for her Teddy and some other stuffed animals.

If you don't have time to do Thanksgiving crafts before Thursday, there are lots of cute Christmas craft ideas at Hobby Lobby too.  I can't wait until Clara gets into a good sleeping/napping routine so that we can make use of our new arts and crafts room.  More to come on that!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Crunchy Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Okay, okay.  I know you've probably had enough of my pumpkin recipes, but hear me out.  This one is truly amazing!  I found this recipe on Pinterest and made it for the first time this year and I'm already getting requests to bake it again.  You will not be disappointed, I promise!  I baked this a few days before Clara was born and while Tim and I were in the hospital my parents and my in-laws polished it off!  I like to think that it was a "thank you for watching my kids while I was away" gift to them!

1/3 cups water
1 can pureed pumpkin (15 Oz)
2 eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (See Note below)
1 box yellow cake mix (18 Ounce Box)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar, divided
½ cups flour
4 Tbsp butter, melted
¼ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cups heavy whipping cream

If you do not have pumpkin pie spice you can make your own by combining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  In a large bowl mix together the water, pumpkin, eggs, 1 Tablespoon of vanilla, and pumpkin pie spice until well combined. Add the cake mix and baking soda and mix until just combined.
3.  Grease a 9×13 pan with butter and pour batter into pan.
4.  In a small bowl mix together 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour and melted butter. 

5.  Use your fingers to sprinkle over the top of the cake. 
6.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7.  For the glaze, combine the other 1/2 cup brown sugar, granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir until all sugar is dissolved.
8.  When cake is finished baking, poke holes in the top with a toothpick. Pour glaze over the cake, making sure to cover all surfaces. Serve cake warm or at room temperature.

When I make this again, I'm going to add chopped walnuts and pecans to the topping....yuuuuummmmm!

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas Traditions

Christmas is my all-time favorite holiday.  I love everything about it...the music, the decorations, the traditions, visiting with family, and incorporating the real meaning of Christmas into our celebration.

I have started so many family traditions these past couple of years that I had to write them down so that I didn't forget any of them.  Here's my Christmas Tradition List so far:

Elf on the Shelf – Elvis arrives with the Elf on the Shelf book the Friday after Thanksgiving and stays with us through Christmas Eve.  Tim and I love to come up with new places for Elvis to hide.  Pinterest has tons of great ideas.

Letters to/from Elvis – The girls always have a lot of questions about Elvis (How old is Elvis? Does Elvis miss his Mommy and Daddy when he’s at our house all day?).  So we started writing him letters to get our questions answered.  He always answers back on fun Christmas stationary!

Decorating the House – We bring up the Christmas tree and decorate the house over Thanksgiving weekend.

Wrapped Christmas Books each day during Advent – Each child takes a turn opening a Christmas book each night for 24 nights that we read before bedtime.  The first book is The Story of the Nativity.  Each day during Advent, we read a new passage from this book.  The last book we open is The Night Before Christmas.

Good Deed Manger – During Christmas-time, anytime the girls do a good deed we write it down on a piece of paper attached a piece of yarn and the girls can put it in the "manger" (just a Christmas basket).  By the time Christmas comes, we have a nice, soft manger for the baby Jesus.

Christmas Music – I absolutely love Christmas music.  I have TONS of Christmas CD’s that I downloaded to my iTunes library so I can play my Christmas music all day long!  Some of my favorite songs are:
- Ave Maria by Chris Cornell
- Baby It's Cold Outside by Dean Martin
- Carol of the Bells from the Christmas Carols for Children album
- Children Go Where I Send Thee by Natalie Merchant
- I Saw Three Ships by Sting
- It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
- Jingle Bells by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
- O Holy Night by Josh Groban
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Pointer Sisters
- Silent Night by Stevie Nicks
- Star of Bethlehem by The Judds

P.S. - My guilty pleasure is the Jessica Simpson Christmas Album, Rejoyce - don't judge!

Christmas Cards – I love to send out Christmas cards to our family and friends.  And I love to receive Christmas cards (hint, hint)!  We display all our Christmas cards in the kitchen.

St. Nick’s Day (December 5th) – The kids leave their shoes out before bedtime on December 4th in the hopes that St. Nicholas will come and leave them some money to buy a gift for a child in need (see “Toys For Tots” below).  They may get a special treat too.

Gingerbread Man Cookies – We make gingerbread man cookies and while the cookies cool we read the book The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School.  Sure enough, our gingerbread men cookies escaped while they were cooling just like the gingerbread man in the book.  We searched all over the house looking for our gingerbread men and finally found them on the kitchen table ready to be decorated.  Phew!

Visiting Santa – The kids love to color pictures for Santa so that we have something to give him when we visit him at the mall.  Getting their picture taken with Santa is special too. 

Toys For Tots – Last year we started the tradition of having the girls pick out a toy to donate to Toys for Tots.  This year, the girls will earn money by doing chores around the house that will go toward the purchase of the toy.  They will also contribute their St. Nick's Day money.  There is usually a Toys For Tots donation bin at the mall by Santa.

Letters to/from Santa – Before Christmas, we help the girls write a letter to Santa about how they've been and what they've been up to over the past year.  When the girls wake up on Christmas morning, there is a letter from Santa waiting for them.  Click here for a link to some cute, free Santa stationary.

Portable North Pole Video from Santa – Santa sends video letters to the kids (and sometimes to Mom and Dad) before Christmas.  Click here to make your own video.

The Legend of the Candy Cane & Candy Cane Cocoa - One of the books that the girls open during Advent is The Legend of the Candy Cane.  We drink Candy Cane Cocoa while we read the book.  Click here for a yummy Candy Cane Cocoa recipe.  Click here for a free printable PDF that tells the Legend of the Candy Cane story.

Baking Christmas Treats for Family, Neighbors and Public Servants – I love to bake Christmas treats but I can’t (or rather, I shouldn't) eat them all by myself.  So we give plates of treats to our neighbors or bring them to our families’ houses that we visit over the holidays.  This year, we’re going to try to bake some treats for the firemen and police officers and a nursing home.

Neighborhood Lights – We are so lucky that there are many families in our neighborhood that decorate the outsides of their houses for Christmas.  We love to drive around at night and admire all their hard work!

Public Light Displays – We love to drive through Tilles Park to see the Winter Wonderland lights display.  Santa’s Magical Kingdom is a bit more expensive, but still lots of fun!

Gardenland Express – The Missouri Botanical Gardens has a great indoor holiday train display that the girls love to see each year.

Christmas Eve Mass – Ever since I was a kid we attended mass on Christmas Eve.

Magic Reindeer Food – We sprinkle reindeer food and glitter in our lawn the night before Christmas so that Santa’s reindeer will spot our house from the sky and stop to drop off the girls' gifts.  Click here for a recipe for magic reindeer food.  You can also print out a free poem and tag for your bag here.  Also, Ava made this cute container for our magic reindeer food at school last year.

Milk and Cookies for Santa/Carrots for Reindeer – We put milk and cookies out for Santa the night before Christmas on our “Cookies for Santa” plate.  We also put out carrots for Santa’s reindeer.

A Christmas Story – After Tim and I put the girls to bed on Christmas Eve, we start watching A Christmas Story while we wait for the girls to fall asleep so that Santa can come.

Stocking Stuffers – Kids love those little junkie toys that make great stocking stuffers.  I go to Dollar Tree or the dollar section at Target before the holidays to find our stocking stuffers.

I also found some more fun traditions that other families do to celebrate Christmas:

- Write out a Christ-centered goal to start early for the New Year
- Bake a cake for Jesus’ birthday
- Advent Calendar – Do a special family activity each day during Advent
- Adopt a Child / Adopt a Family
- Special Christmas morning breakfast
- Christmas crafts and Christmas coloring pages
- Take the whole family ice skating
- Host a White Elephant gift exchange
- Hang Mistletoe around your house
- Go see The Nutcracker or another Christmas-y production
- Make Thick Hot Chocolate and watch a family Christmas movie
- Host a Christmas Sweater Party
- Donate canned goods to a food pantry
- Make a Christmas wreath
- Make a Gingerbread house
- Open one gift on Christmas Eve (i.e.; Christmas pajamas)
- Decorate Christmas sugar cookies
- Attend City tree lighting event

What is your family's favorite Christmas traditions?

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Sunday, November 11, 2012


At the end of the day, I have to be thankful that Ava is okay.  When we took Ava to the Ophthalmologist last Tuesday, we had no idea what could be causing such horrible pain in her eye.  This pain left her screaming, crying, clawing at her eye, thrashing around on the floor.  It is incredibly hard to see your child in so much pain and not be able to help.

It turns out that the glitter on a head band of a costume that Ava wore had gotten in BOTH of her eyes.  The glitter in her left eye was lodged in her cornea and starting to rust.  To safely remove the glitter, Ava would have to be put under general anesthesia.  I had so many hesitations.  Ava is a very fearful child.  How would this experience affect her going forward?  What if those minor risks associated with the surgery become a reality?  What affect would the anesthesia have on her?  How much pain would she be in after the surgery?  Etc, etc.  But Ava couldn't go on living with this pain, so we scheduled her surgery for this past Friday.

Everything went well pre-surgery.  We woke Ava up in the morning, took her straight to the car and headed to the hospital.  She asked questions and accepted our brief answers.  We're going to get your eye fixed.  It's not going to hurt.  Your eye will feel so much better.  

Despite the very hospital-feel of the Outpatient Surgery Center, Ava did not freak out like I expected.  She was easily distracted by coloring and sticker and cartoons.  Once they gave her Versed, an amnesia-inducing medicine that works like Valium, we thought the worst was over.  It was actually hilarious to see Ava under the influence of Versed.  

They came and and wheeled her off to surgery in a wagon with her Teddy.  No problems.  Yet.

Once they got her to the operating room, they put a mask on her face to put her to sleep and they started the IV for the anesthesia.  The nurse warned us that kids coming off anesthesia can have one or more reactions that could last for an hour or two:  1) They can be tired and cranky, 2)  They can be silly and dream-like and 3)  They can be REALLY pissed.  Tim and I both knew how Ava would react.  We thought we were prepared for the worst, but we had no idea.

The nurse told me that they would only allow one of us to go to the recovery room to be with Ava because there would be other kids in there and there wasn't enough room for every kid to have both parents.  When the nurse came to get one of us, she said, "Ava is screaming."  I jumped up and rushed out the door.  My first sight of Ava was frightening.  I can't get the image out of my head.  The best way I can think to describe it is like an Exorcism.  It looked like she was possessed by the devil.  The nurse was doing her best to hold her down in the chair and Ava was putting up the fight of her life.  I ran up to Ava and told her who I was.  She reached for me and I sat down in the chair holding her.  Almost immediately the screaming and thrashing started up again.  There was a patch over her eye that she kept trying to rip off.  When I got her hand away from her eye she'd try to rip out her IV.  When I got her hand away from her IV she'd try to rip the blood/oxygen sensor off her big toe.  All the while she is thrashing and screaming and crying and inconsolable.  I'm struggling to hold on to her.  The nurse assures me that this is a normal reaction.  I asked the nurse if we could take all this off of her.  She agrees to call the doctor to ask for permission.  It's taking FOREVER.  I let Ava rip off the patch covering her eye.  Then I warn the nurse that I'm going to let her take out the IV so she may want to come help.  By the way, there are no other kids in the recovery room, just me, Ava and a bunch of nurses standing around staring at the spectacle we are making.  Why is it that only one parent can be in this GIANT, EMPTY room.  As I nearly drop Ava on the ground, I am now screaming at the nurses to get my husband.  THREE times.  GO GET MY HUSBAND.  We are just trying to help you, Mam.  IF YOU WANT TO HELP THAN GO GET MY HUSBAND.  NOW!  Not my best moment.

Tim comes in the recovery room and takes over.  I am exhausted.  I've had no sleep due to my 3 week old baby, I've been wresting with the strongest 4 year old on the planet and I'm fighting back the urge to break down and cry.  We decide that it would be better to get Ava back to her hospital room where we can have some privacy.  Unfortunately, Ava's behavior continues for another 30 minutes or so.  Now she is screaming I WANT TO GET OUT OF HERE!  I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!  That's my Ava.  Even under the influence of heavy drugs she knows what she wants and won't give up until she gets it.  She is becoming more coherent and after another 10 minutes we are allowed to leave.  This is the first time Ava has relaxed since she woke up from the surgery.  She falls asleep on me.  The nurse says she'll probably sleep most of the afternoon.  They don't know Ava.  I carry her to the car and she sleeps next to me as Tim drives us home.  Peace.

We got home at 11:15 am.  Ava woke up when we got her out of the car and she woke up pissed again.  Not as pissed as when we were at the hospital but not at all happy.  She does not sleep again until after 9 pm despite the nurse's certainty that she would sleep all afternoon.  Ava has never been a "typical" child and our experience with Ava in this situation is anything but typical.  It isn't until about noon when Ava finally calms down and watches TV.  After several hours of cartoons, the Ava I know and love is back.  Thank you God.

Ava doesn't remember much about this ordeal.  The Versed is amnesia-inducing which is very fortunate for a fearful child.  Now that this situation is behind us and life is back to normal I have gained some perspective.  I am thankful that Ava is healthy.  I am thankful that this problem is resolved.  I am thankful that we don't have bigger health problems to deal with.  I am thankful for my mom who was there to help us whenever we needed her.  But mostly I am thankful for Ava.  Ava has always been a challenging little girl.  There are days - many days - when she pushes me past my limits.  Going through this experience with her reminded me just how much I love her.  I would do anything for her and I can't imagine life without her.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Have I mentioned how much I hate glitter?  I love arts and crafts projects, but you'll notice that none of them involve glitter.  Initially, I hated glitter because no matter how much you clean, you cannot get rid of it.  Today my hatred grew even deeper.  I wanted to share my story with you to hopefully prevent this from happening to any of your kids.  Especially with Christmas on the way - it seems like it's impossible for companies to make Christmas decorations without using glitter.

My mom and dad selflessly offered to take Ava and Sidney for FOUR nights when Clara was born.  The morning after the fourth night, my mom called.  I knew this couldn't be good.  My mom would never want to bother us early in the morning on our first day at home with Clara.  Apparently Ava had woken up screaming in pain.  There was something in her eye.  My mom did everything she could to help her but after an hour she was concerned enough to call us.  My mom mentioned that she had bought dress up costumes for the girls and Ava's costume came with a head band...that had glitter on it.  Is it possible that some of the glitter got in her eye?  I called the Pediatrician and she agreed to see her that morning (did I mention that I just had a baby 3 days ago!).  She looked in Ava's eye but saw no signs of abrasion to her cornea.  She said that if the pain continued for 24-36 hours that we'd need to see a Pediatric Ophthalmologist.  But the pain stopped.  In fact, Ava didn't have any eye pain for almost 3 weeks.  We figured that whatever was bothering her eye had flushed itself out.

This past weekend, Ava woke up screaming in pain.  It was her eye again.  Her left eye.  I can't even remember which eye was bothering her three weeks ago.  This time the pain lasted for longer and came and went over two days so I got an appointment with a Pediatric Ophthalmologist.  He looked at her eyes though those super magnifying lenses and not only did her left eye have a "foreign object" (aka; glitter) in it but so did her right eye!!!!  In her right eye, the glitter was on the white part of the eye, whereas her left eye had glitter on the cornea which is likely why her left eye was hurting so badly.  My poor mom - I know she feels badly that this happened but in no way is it her fault.  She is so good to my family.  Too good actually.  We feel endlessly indebted to her for all the amazing, thoughtful and selfless things she does for us.  The other day Tim asked me if I thought I would be as good a grandma some day and I said No and Tim agreed with me!  My mom is way too good of a person to live up too.  Please, don't feel bad Mom!

Our options for removing the glitter are all bad.  We could try numbing her eyes with drops and extracting the glitter but how do we get a 4 year old to lay still and not move her eyes as the doctor sticks a sharp instrument in it???  We could try using laughing gas, but we may still face the same problems with eye movement since laughing gas doesn't knock you out.  The other alternative is to put her under general anesthesia and remove the glitter.  We know this will work.  While I'm not thrilled about putting my 4 year old under anesthesia, my main hesitation is that Ava is a very fearful, anxious kid.  I am so scared for how this experience will affect her long-term.  I had my adenoids removed when I was Ava's age and I remember everything to this day.  I can only imagine how Ava will feel after all of this.  The only hope I have is that one of the drugs that they use to knock her out is amnesia-inducing.  They claim that she won't remember a thing about the surgery.  That also kind of freaks me out.

Our only other alternative is to "wait and see".  The glitter will eventually slough off and will not cause damage to her eyes while we wait, but how long it will take is the big question.  It's been 3 weeks since the glitter got in her eyes.  How much longer do we have to wait???  The doctor thinks 2-3 more weeks.  Ugh...

For now I've decided to schedule the surgery for one week from now.  If Ava's in a ton of pain and discomfort during the next week then we'll go ahead with the surgery.  If the pain subsides, we'll cancel the surgery and wait longer in the hopes that the problems fixes itself.

I cannot believe how much trouble this glitter has caused.  I cannot believe that a child's costume could be so problematic.  Please be careful the next time the face painter wants to sprinkle glitter on your child's face as a finishing touch or the next time the hair stylist wants to spray glitter on your little girl's head after cutting and styling their hair or the next time you pull a glittered-up princess dress over your child's head.  I really hate glitter.  It is now banned forever from my house.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Pumpkin Poppers

Can you believe that Halloween has already come and gone and it's already Election Day?!  We didn't have as many trick-or-treaters this year (possibly because we didn't know our doorbell was broken until 7pm!) so now we have a ton of left over Take 5 Bars.  Not good for my post pregnancy weight loss efforts.  I cannot resist a Take 5 Bar.

Clara celebrated her first Halloween - my little pumpkin.  She slept through most of the action.

Ava and Sidney, a couple of tasty cupcakes, trick-or-treated with their cousins around our neighborhood.

In case you are like me and have not tired of pumpkin-y treats, here is a yummy recipe for Pumpkin Poppers that I found on Pinterest.  Be warned: these are super sugary and delicious!  When I ate the first one, I thought they were too sweet and was disappointed and before I knew it I had eaten 6 of them!  I guess they were just sweet enough ;)

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

For Coating:
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F and spray mini muffin tins with non-stick baking spray.
2.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl and whisk until combine.
3.  In another bowl, mix oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin, and milk.  
4.  Pour in flour mixture and mix until just combined.  
5.  Fill mini muffin tins until almost full and bake for 10-12 minutes.  
6.  Meanwhile, melt butter in small bowl.  
7.  Mix sugar and cinnamon in a separate small bowl.  
8.  After poppers cool for a few minutes, dip them in the butter and roll them in the sugar mixture. 

These make a great breakfast treat!

Happy Election Day!  Get out and VOTE!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Monthly Baby Growth Photos

My dad worked at a photography company all my life so my childhood was well documented in photos.  Capturing memories in photos has always been a part of my life.  I have more photo albums than I can count.  Now that I have three little ones, the number of photos that I take has as least tripled.

When Ava was born, my dad won a "new baby basket" at a silent auction.  In that baby basket was this doll.

We couldn't believe that Ava was barely bigger than the doll so, of course, we took a picture to remember how little she was.  Every month until she turned one year old, I took a picture of Ava laying next to the doll (it became much harder to do this as she neared her first birthday, but we did it!).  It was fun to line up the pictures in her baby book and see how much she grew over the year.  When Sidney was born we took her picture next to the doll each month and now we're doing the same with Clara.

Here are the pictures of my girls as newborns compared to the doll:

Newborn Ava - 6 lbs 12 oz & 19.75 inches

Newborn Sidney - 6 lbs 1 oz & 18 inches

Newborn Clara - 6 lbs 12 oz & 20 inches

One thing that is crazy to me is how alike my girls look as newborns.  Do all newborn babies look the same???

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