Cooking dinner takes a lot more time these days! Not only does everything have to be made by scratch and mixed by hand, but now that Ava is living with us I also have a little “helper.” If Ava sees me move into the kitchen, she comes toddling in saying, “Up! Up!” After she says “Please,” I tell her to go get her helping stool. I love watching her joyfully struggling to pull the wooden stool from the table to the kitchen! She never complains. Once the stool is in the kitchen, I set it up at her “helping station,” and Ava begins her happy dance; this consists of waiving arms and a vigorous bouncing motion. She’s great at rinsing veggies—and getting water all over the counter! She knows that knives are a “no touch” and that measuring cups are okay. If I ask her to help Mama mix, she eagerly grabs the whisk or spoon and does her best to mimic my actions. Sure, batter or guacamole ends up in even the darkest nooks and crannies of the kitchen…and all over her outfit…but she’s learning and we’re both having a ball! Ava is also an avid food tester (with my permission, of course). She will try anything I put in her mouth. I have what some would call a bad habit of tasting my food as I cook—I don’t know how to cook otherwise—so having someone to share this with is a personal delight. Even clean-up has become more fun! I’ve never seen a person happier to rinse dishes. For Ava, helping is the best form of play. If that’s the result, dinner can take a few minutes longer!