Friday, December 24, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

It has been a very busy holiday season for us! First we spent Thanksgiving with Goggie, Granddaddy, Grandmommy and our good friends Mike and Andrea. That week-end Ava also helped her Daddy put up and decorate the Christmas tree. On Sunday we took her to the mall to meet Santa. She now has an aversion to large men with beards.

Then Ava had her 9 month check-up...a little late.
Weight 18lbs 6oz
Height 26.4inches
Weight for age- roughly the 25th percentile
Height for age- 10th percentile
So maybe her PNP's theory of tall and slim needs revision? Regardless, she is a very healthy, happy and beautiful baby!

Also this month we travelled to Orlando to visit with the Grinch at Grinchmas at Islands of Adventure. And this time Ava rode a ride and played in the parks playground! She liked the carousel but she loved the teeter-totter in Feivel's Playground!

Ava also had a playdate this month with her girlfriends, Ava, Ava, and Ariana! It's difficult to coordinate schedules where we can all be together at the same time. The girls exchanged gifts while the Mommy's ate bagels and chatted. It was a great time and we are so happy that Ava has made so many wonderful friends in her ten months!

Now for Ava's "Parlour Tricks": Ava has been very active the last few months. It seems she went from crawling to pulling herself up in just a couple of days. Then she quickly discovered how to "walk" while pushing her mail cart around the "Avahood." Finally, on December 20th, Ava took her first steps!!! She took a few more steps the next day but has returned to crawling for the moment. We think she's saving it up to show off for Granddaddy and Grandmommy.

Ava also likes to do things her way (wonder where she gets that from?) For example, she insists on crawling over everything instead of around them. Sometimes she even knocks them over just so she can crawl over them.

Ooh, and we almost forgot! Ava is learning to sign! She now signs more, all done, baby, sleepy, mommy and daddy. She claps when singing "If you're happy and you know it" and she can quickly locate her head for "Head, shoulders, knees and toes." She says "Dada" and "book" with a soft k. She also makes a noise that we're convinced sounds like "giraffe."

We have started a Johnson family tradition by visiting the Festival of Lights just outside the city. Ava loves Christmas lights! We strolled around the park and listened to carollers. We met Santa for some last minute gift requests and suggestions. We drank hot cocoa with mint and roasted a marshmallow around the large bonfire. It was a great night!

Now, we are preparing for family and friends to arrive and celebrate Ava's first Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Ok so we're a bit late but it's been a very busy two months! Ava was awesome Halloween week-end. And like any super star she had three costume changes! Our week-end started with a trip to Michael's office for their annual Halloween festivities. I have never seen a place go more out for their employees and families! For the event Michael dressed as the Man in the Yellow Hat and Ava went as Curious George. It was too precious! What a sport her Daddy is to dress up with her.

Following this event we travelled to Disney World for our traditional Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween celebration with our good friends Jake and Becca. Ava stayed in the hotel with her cousin, Vonna, because the party started after her bedtime. She didn't seem to mind.

On Saturday Ava had her Halloween photo shoot with her Daddy. For this, she sported a witch's hat and orange and black leggings. She had a blast putting us all under her spell!

Her final costume of the week-end was a pumpkin costume she received from her Aunt Gail. This costume was a bit cooler and allowed us to walk around for Ava's first Trick-or-treat! Sorry no photos of this one. Ava was tired of the paparazzi...

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Ava just got back form her second big trip. Hot on the heels of our trip to Mexico in September, we packed some warm clothes and headed to Boston to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary. It was a trip we had been wanting to take for several years, and we took Ava and Auntie Em (who is also our new nanny) along for a long weekend.

Once again, Ava handled the airplane flights like a champ, without any appreciable fussing. We flew out of Jacksonville with a brief layover at Reagan airport (and a very scenic descent past the Washington Monument) in D.C., we arrived in Boston late Thursday morning. We took a water taxi across the bay to a stop close to our hotel, and Captain Greg was very nice, giving us an impromptu tour of the bay. He also let us wait out a short rain squall in his boat.

A short cab ride brought us to the Langham Hotel in downtown Boston, and it was very nice. We had a lovely view of a neighboring park from our third-story window. After we were settled we did a bit of exploring on foot and then asked our concierge for a recommendation on a family restaurant nearby. His accent was very thick and nearly unintelligible, so we headed a couple blocks away, towards "Prancing Pete," Tranny Pete," "Pretty Pete," or whatever he said. Turns out it was called "Brandy Pete's," and it was a bar and it was LOUD. We tried another spot that was equally packed, and then stumbled on a restaurant that looked closed at first glance, but was open enough to serve us dinner. It was kind of nice having the whole place to ourselves. We were a bit worried that the bartender/server/cook was going to go into labor right then and there, as she was very pregnant. She said "Nah, I've got two more weeks to go."

After dinner, Marie and Ava went back to the hotel while Tam and I took the Ghosts and Graveyards tour, which was 90% theater and about 10% history. It was entertaining, though, and we did get to travel around Boston and visit graveyards containing the resting places of folks like John Hancock, Sam Adams, and Mother Goose. Probably not quite worth the price, but still a good time.

The next morning Tam and I headed out on our own to visit the Samuel Adams brewery and take the tour. We got there in time to join the 10:00 tour, and I was amazed to see the bald guy with the beard that's in all the commercials actually there working. His name is Bob, and I did not manage to get a picture with him. The tour was great, especially since it ends with a trip to the tasting room where they give you a 7 oz. tasting glass and then fill it at least three times with three different beers. Yep. Tipsy on a weekday before 11:00. And then to get out you have to pass through the gift shop. Tam has no idea now why she thought we had to have two Sam Adams bottle koozys, but they seemed necessary at the time.

We spent the next two days touring Boston by trolley. Some of our highlights included: the Old North Church, Copps' Hill Cemetery, the original Cheers, the State House, the Old State House Museum and Boston Common. On Saturday the three of us made our way to Harvard to snap some photos of Ava. Unfortunately she fell asleep on the subway ride and didn't wake up until we were on our way back into the city proper. We found it interesting that she could sleep through the noise of the subway station and yet we tip-toe like ninjas around our house anytime she's sleeping!

Upon returning to the city we visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. To call the place stunning is still an understatement. In the very first room we entered Tam noticed a sketch by Degas (her favorite artist) on the wall mixed in with various other works. The interior garden was awe-inspiring. Ava apparently wasn't as thrilled with the place as we were. She made raspberries the entire time even causing one of the security guards to laugh and confess that he felt the same way.

On Sunday we grabbed a cab to the airport where we picked up our rental car and headed to The Dragonfly Bed and Breakfast. We were going to meet up with Michael's cousin, Michael, and meet his family. Their place was gorgeous! It was the epitome of a New England B&B. When we approached we saw orange, red and multi-colored leaves scattered across the front lawn. It was our first time meeting Mark and Sean but we all became fast friends. Sean is an adorable little boy and has every child's dream bedroom! Ava enjoyed all the attention Mark and Sean gave her but for some reason cried inconsolably every time her cousin Michael spoke or laughed. We're going to chalk it up to her being over tired. She stayed up until nearly 11:30 that night! The next morning both Michael and Mark were her new best friends and all was good. Michael baked us homemade scones and packed us granola for our trip home. The entire visit was awesome! Seriously, if you are ever in New England and are looking for a charming place to stay check it out :

Check out the pics below and stayed tuned for where Baby A is off to next!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An Ava Update:

Before we left for Boston we wanted to give our friends and family the “Ava Update!” This will be a brief post (and we apologize) but we will make a longer post once we return from our trip.

First, we have officially transformed our formal dining room into the “Avahood”. It has been empty since we moved in nearly four years ago because we could never agree on what furniture we wanted in there. So now it has Big Bird and Elmo on one side and dinosaurs and firetrucks on the other. Throw in a few musical instruments and you have the “Avahood.”

Ava also has her first tooth! Now only 19 more to go…She is also crawling and pulling herself up to stand. The first time this happened was after I put her in her crib for a moment so I could tidy her room. I heard her giggling and I turned around and there she was with a huge smile! She was very proud of herself. I called Michael and told him it was time to lower the mattress. So now anytime we put Ava on her tummy she instantly searches for anything with which to pull herself up.

In September we took Ava to St. Augustine for a photo shoot. The weather was perfect and Ava was all giggles. I have included a few of the snapshots from the shoot below.

Can you see why we're totally enamored!?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Viva la Mexico!

Ava got her passport when she was three months old. It is possibly the cutest passport photo ever taken. But what use could a three-month-old have with a passport? Not much, but it turns out that a certain six-month-old has plenty of use for one. Ava had been bugging us about Mexico ever since the Cinco de Mayo party, so she collected her first passport stamp on September 2nd after we got off the plane at the Cancun airport.

Tam found a great deal on a travel package to the Grand Sunset Princess Resort near Playa Del Carmen back in April. She did a little research, checked our schedules, checked with our pediatrician to make sure it was okay, and then booked a trip for four of us - me, Tam, Ava, and our nanny.

We used to travel light. Very light. No-checked-bags kind of light, and then sometimes only one carry-on between the two of us. There is no such thing as traveling light anymore. Two carry-ons, two checked bags, one camera bag, one diaper bag, and then Tam's purse. Oh yeah - AND a stroller AND Ava's carseat and base for the transfer from the airport to the hotel. Throw in the nanny's duffel and checked bag, and you've got a few people toting a lot of stuff through the airport. Maybe we'll refine the travel take-alongs as we get more experience traveling with Ava. But this being our first trip with her, and to a destination where we did not know if we would be able to buy anything that we forgot, we ended up packing on the heavy side.

Our trip started Wednesday with a drive down to Tampa, where we stayed at possibly the sketchiest hotel imaginable. At least it was close to the airport, though. Too bad we didn't find out there was a hotel in the Tampa airport until we arrived at the terminal the next day. The flight left at 7:45, and Ava handled her first flight perfectly. She had a little snack and took a nap, waking up just as we landed in Miami. A short layover, and then a repeat nap/flight over to Cancun. She even got compliments on how well-behaved she was.

Our transportation was waiting for us after we filed a missing-bag claim (which ended up on the next flight), and we had a very friendly driver chauffer us the 30 miles or so to the resort. He helped us with our Spanish, and really appreciated that we were making an effort to speak the local language. That is an attitude that everybody seemed to share, much like in Italy and completely unlike Paris.

When you book a hotel or a resort online, you have to assume that the pictures they show you are the only four or five pretty spots they have, so we were delighted when we stepped off the van into the lobby of absolute paradise. The pictures we saw paled in comparison to the beauty of the Grand Sunset Princess. It was far more beautiful than we anticipated, with lush landscaping, a grand entryway, at least a dozen pools (many with swim-up bars), and a nice expanse of white sandy beach. We left our bags with the botones, as our room was not yet ready, and found lunch and did some exploring of the grounds. By the time we got in our (upgraded) rooms, our missing bag had found its way to the resort, and we were able to settle into the rooms. The rooms were very nice, though they had a twinge of mildew smell about them, which I suppose is inevitable when you air-condition a place at nearly 100% humidity.

We enjoyed a visit to the beach and to one of the pools before we hit one of the buffet restaurants for dinner and a show. The show was not provided by the resort, but by our nanny who found out that her calling card did not work from Mexico and she would be unable to phone her boyfriend. She stormed off in what would not be the last bit of unacceptable diva behavior during the trip. We will be selecting our traveling companions much more carefully from here on, as it turns out that Tam and I would have been able to handle the whole trip, minus a couple of excursions, on our own with a lot less expense and hassle.

I’m not going to focus on the negatives, so I’ll mention our two sans-baby excursions. First, Tam and I booked a morning trip to swim with dolphins at a nearby facility. It was not anything we had planned to do, but decided on a whim, and it was awesome. I’ve seen dolphins at a distance, but never close enough to touch them and certainly not interact with them in the water. It’s amazing to see just how intelligent and cooperative these animals are. Our experience included petting the dolphins, a flipper handshake with them, a dolphin “kiss,” and our choice of either a double foot-push or a dorsal fin ride from Sidney and Plata (our dolphins’ names). I chose the push and Tam opted for the dorsal fin. We haggled for a great deal on photos and video footage of the whole thing, and then got back to the resort in time for more lunch and pool/beach lounging.

By this time, we also had reservations at some of the themed restaurants at the resort. We ended up eating at the Asian restaurant twice, the fondue restaurant once, and the Italian restaurant once.

Our second sans-baby outing was a visit to the spa on the resort property for a couples massage. The spa was very modern and dimly lit, with calm music playing and a wonderful clean fragrance in the air. It was instant tranquility. Our spa treatment included a 50-minute hot oil massage, which felt wonderful even on my sunburned shoulders, a bottle of wine, a dip in the private room’s hot tub, a menthol steam room, and an incredible chocolate cake.

We took one more excursion – a trip 30 miles south to see the beachside Mayan ruins at Tulum - and this time Ava got to come and play too. We told her not to get used to it, but she got to experience passenger van travel without the confines of a carseat, as there were no carseat anchors or seatbelts available to use. We drove through some of the sketchier-looking parts of Playa del Carmen en route to pick up passengers from other resorts, and it was odd to see fairly modern looking buildings juxtaposed with shacks built from corrugated sheet metal scraps. Of course it was hot when we got to Tulum, and we did our best to keep little Ava in the shade the whole time as our guide told us all about how the temple complex was constructed on precise lines corresponding to the vernal and autumnal equinoxes – so precisely that the sun would shine through a tiny window in one temple for precisely five minutes on one day out of the year. The ruins were magnificent, though we did not get to swim in the ocean there as we planned. It was a narrow gap of beach surrounded by cliffs and rocks, and it was way too rough to take Ava out with us even waist-deep. Ava summed up the muggy and hot weather as we stepped through the tunnel to head back to the van – she let out a sigh/whimper that sounded EXACTLY like “oh my God.” If we had video rolling for that, we could have easily sent it in for a prize to AFV. If you check facebook close enough, you’re bound to find pics of our nanny posing ever-so-cutely for self-taken snapshots around the ruins, and that's about all she contributed to our trip to Tulum because the bag was too heavy, the ground was too rocky to push the stroller, and apparently the baby was too hot and sweaty to carry. Yep.

Those were all of our excursions, and the rest of the time was spent at the resort: food, drinks, pools, the beach, large iguanas, crashing a Bollywood wedding reception, buying a few souvenirs, followed by losing all our luggage on the way back, Ava bonking her head at the airport, and a massive diaper blowout that was changed in the airplane bathroom (not recommended).

All in all, it was a great time. I can say that we felt perfectly safe the entire time we were there, even when we were not on the resort property, and we will definitely be returning to the Grand Sunset Princess. Anybody else care to join us next time?

Ava's Christening


On August 28th, Ava had her Christening at St, Mark's Lutheran Church in Jacksonville - the same church where Tam and I got married nearly five years ago. It was a small ceremony held on a Saturday, rather than incorporating it into the regular Sunday service, and Tam and I were amazed to see how many people came to show their love for our little girl. Of course Tam and I were there, along with Grandma and Granddaddy, her Great-Grand Goggie, and Aunt Jen. Auntie Em came, along with Vonna and Josh. Her godfather Colin was there, along with Stacey and Diane, and so were Jake and Becca, Amy, Mike and Andrea, Rita, George and Martha, and Kristi.

Aunt Jen and Vonna helped Tam get Ava dressed in her pretty white Christening gown, which Ava loved shopping for a few weeks earlier. It was a very long gown, and Ava seemed to enjoy playing peek-a-boo with it. The time came for the ceremony, and Pastor Dow brought us into the nave for the ceremony, where we all committed to helping Ava along the path of Christianity. She was enthralled during the whole ceremony, from the moment it started to the moment Pastor Dow held her and Baptized her. I think she knew that everybody was there for her, and she certainly loves to be the focus of attention.

We certainly did not expect for people to bring her gifts, but she received many thoughtful and beautiful gifts from many wonderful people. We are truly blessed not only with our baby Ava, but also with such an amazing network of friends and family.

I should also mention that the night before the Christening, our friends Debbie and Jordan threw a birthday for Goggie - I won't say what number it was, but it was a festive occasion.

After the ceremony, we headed back to Gainesville to host a small gathering at our house. We did not expect for everybody to drive all the way to Jacksonville for the ceremony, so we wanted to have a small celebration here as well. Ava got to see her buddy William, and his dad Jason, too.

After a couple of hours, everybody headed off, and we figured we would get a nice nap out of Ava, and that's not the first or the last time that we've figured wrong about that.

And now that the Christening was done, we could focus on the next big thing - the trip to Mexico that was only four days away...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

On the move....

Well, sort of. Ava is crawling...backwards! It's actually more of a scootch than anything but forward propulsion continues to elude her. She is also sitting up on her own for longer periods of time with much better control. And loves to give kisses! Fortunately, she prefers to give them to us.

Ava has had three playdates. At the first one, Joshua hugged her and then tried to snatch the bow out of her hair. At the second one she shared a story with Will. The third one Ava tried to pull Arianna's hair and take her pacifier! But by the end of the playdate they were best friends. We are excited for her to nurture her friendships with a little less hair pulling.

At the end of July Ava also had a visit from her Aunt Jennifer (aka: "AntiJen"), her cousin, Ian and her friend, Jay. They went to the Butterfly Museum and splashed in the pool. She had a great time with them and loves to have her new Butterfly book read to her often!

In August we also squeezed in a trip to see Great Goggie and a search for the perfect Christening gown for Ava. Ava loves her Goggie!

Every day Ava does something that amazes us and we are reminded of just how important we are to her development and how lucky we are to be blessed with such a wonderful daughter! She is certainly Mommy's baby but she is Daddy's little girl!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Wizards, Witches, and Fireworks- Oh My!

This is going to be a long one folks as we have two months of material to catch you up on!

We'll start with Ava's four-month update (even though technically she's five months old now!) A lot has happened since our last post. Ava can roll over from her front to her back and doing the reverse as well. She also likes to hold her own bottle and we have to hold just the very end of it- where she can not see us holding it- or she becomes upset- very independent! Our bedtime routine use to include a small bottle, a swaddle, and me rocking her to sleep while Michael plays the guitar and singing to her. Now she is swaddle free! We're also trying to wean her off the rocking but I am convinced Michael will be singing her to sleep well into her teenage years. She loves it! Now she has started singing along- and not just at bedtime. If she hears music she will "sing" along. If she's talking or singing and thinks you are not listening she will do it louder!

Vital Stats (four months):
Weight: 12 lbs 14 oz
Height: 24 inches
Remains 25th percentile for weight for age but has jumped to the 50th percentile for length for age!
Her weight for length has dropped to just below the 25th percentile.
She (and Mommy) survived her second series of shots.

For the Fourth of July we headed to Orlando for a brief visit to Universal Studios. We stayed at the Portofino. Of course the first stop on our mini-holiday was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure! It had only just opened a few weeks before and the crowds were still pretty thick. But what an awesome job they did! Our friends Jake and Becca joined us for the trip. It has become sort of tradition to spend the fourth with them and it was great having extra hands to share "baby duty."

After her fill of wizards, Hogwarts and Superheroes we moved on to dinner at Citrico's at Disney's Grand Floridian. Ava almost allowed us to eat a gourmet meal without having to eat in shifts. The dessert was fabulous (Even if it was eaten in shifts!)

After dinner we took the Monorail over to the Polynesian to watch the fireworks from the beach. This has also become our Fourth of July tradition. We were worried that the noise might frighten Ava but she loved the fireworks display.

This month we also drove to Hiawassee (via Atlanta) for the annual Johnson-Hicks Anniversary Bluegrass Pickin' Party. It started off on a sad note as Argen's mother, Wink, passed away. She was very special to Argen and we know she would have loved Ava. Argen said her mother is who set such a good example for her on how to be a wonderful grandmother. We agree!

Due to some technical difficulties with the A/C system at the main house, we had the chance to sleep at the cabin with Michael's Dad. We chose to have Ava sleep with us instead of trying to squeeze one more thing into the back of the SUV. Who knew that such a tiny person could hog so much of the bed!!! On our first night she did something very precious; around three a.m. she woke briefly and reached one hand out until it rested on Michael's arm and then reached her other out to grab mine. Once she was reassured that we were both still there she drifted back to sleep. On our last night there she slept in- until 8 a.m.! I can remember the "good ole days" when sleeping in meant ten o'clock.

After saying our good-bye to Aunt Jen and Jay, we headed to Clarkesville so Ava could meet her Great Aunts, Argen's four sisters. After they thoroughly doted on her we headed home. Four hundred miles, seven hours and two meltdowns later we made it home! We've sworn off car trips longer than two hours for a few months.

We are now preparing for Ava's Baptism on the 28th and her six-month check-up. Oh, and our trip to Mexico! We have also finally ordered her birth announcements. We thought it might be a good idea to get those out before she heads to college. I will post one with the next installment.