Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Fitting in extra "reading"

Dear Em,
When I was younger, I used to be an avid reader. I loved curling up & reading a great book. I flew through as many as I could get my hands on. I still enjoy reading, but it's harder now. Between work, & running a home, & keeping up with an amazing little girl, it's hard for me to carve out time for reading- especially because at the end of the day sometimes my brain is too tired to do anything more than veg out in front of the TV.

I travel a lot. While I listen to music & make a lot of phone calls to catch up with friends during my drive time, I've always wished I could be more productive. Audiobooks seem to be a great solution to this problem. Unfortunately, buying audiobooks can be wicked expensive, & even audiobook memberships fees can add up. In order to avoid spending, I've rented audiobooks from the library. They come with tons of discs that I can really only listen to when I'm in the car.

Recently I discovered OverDrive. It's a free app that you can download on your smart phone. All you have to do is choose your local library & enter in your library card number. Then you have access to tons of audiobooks that can be downloaded onto your device for FREE! So far, I've listened to two of the Game of Thrones books, & I love it. I can listen to books in the car, while I'm doing housework, when I go for walks, & when I'm laying down to go to sleep. I love how easy it is to sneak in some "reading" throughout my day.

There are some downsides to OverDrive. Just like when you typically rent books from the library, you can only take out what is available. I did have to join a wait list for both books I listened to so far (& am on the waiting list for the third), but my wait time was fairly short for both books. Plus if I look through the books that are currently available, I can take out tons of books that are available while I'm waiting for the book I've placed on hold.

I've been so thrilled with my new find (did I mention it's free?), that I've been telling everyone I know about it. One of our friends recently started using the app & taught me something that I hadn't even thought about. She listens to children's books with her daughter using the app. This past weekend, you & I looked at the available children's books. We started with Amelia Bedelia & Junie B Jones books. You love it. You would rather listen to your favorite books in the car than do anything else. Daddy, on the other hand, with our choices of literature (he thinks Amelia Bedelia & Junie B are obnoxious, but I told him that books about perfect children would be awfully boring). Lucky for him, there are so many classics available too. I think he'll enjoy listening to books like Matilda & The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe while he's in the car with us.

I'm so excited about the extra "reading" we'll be able to fit in thanks to this free (can you believe that it's free?!) app.

I love you so,
Mommy

Monday, January 26, 2015

School at Home

Dear Em,
One of my favorite things about you is your active imagination. It's such a treat to listen to the world you create while you play. A couple weeks ago, you brought school right to our house.

You started by creating a school bus for all of your children to travel to school on (which is funny, because I don't think you've ever traveled on a bus). You lined up most of the chairs in our house & filled every seat on your "bus." Even Charlie & Joey joined in on the bus fun.


When the children arrived at school, you made sure their lunch boxes were lined up (just like you do at school). Then the children played tea time during "family life" centers. Then each child sat with their own book at circle while you read them stories.


After circle time, you put them all down for rest time. You created an area for each child to rest. I mentioned that it was taking a long time to put all the children down for rest time, & you proclaimed, "in my real class, we lay down on cots on our own. My teachers only have to put blankets on us! I had to put my class in their rest areas too!" Then you rubbed their backs until each child had settled down for rest time (& we took you upstairs for your own nap).


I think you realized how hard your teachers work each & every day, because you asked me if I would be a co-teacher. "Mommy, you get to be a teacher too. When you get back from break, we'll talk for a little bit & then I'll go on my break. Hurry back, because there are a lot of children to take care of!" Ha! Your little reenactment of Pre-K cracked me up! Your attention to detail is amazing. Nothing gets by you, little girl.

I think as parents, it's natural to wonder what your child will be when she grows up. I have to wonder if you will choose a field where you can work with children. From the time you were one, you almost always had a baby doll in hand. When you're not playing princesses (& even sometimes then), you are always playing family life or a teacher or a babysitter. You love being with children, & you love teaching others (even teaching things that we already know).

I think it's because you've always had such amazing role models who have cared for you, from your nannies, to each one of your amazing teachers, to your Nonnie & your Grandma. They all have been so incredibly creative & kind & fun & inspiring & intelligent & guiding & loving. You can be quite stern sometimes, getting very frustrated when people don't get things the first time you teach them. If you can learn a little patience & a little grace, I think you would be an unbelievable teacher.

You have so much time though. Right now you can be anything you want to be, & tomorrow you can change your mind & be something else. I think at your age, I wanted to be a singer. When I was in sixth grade, I was sure I was going to be a police officer. For a time, I wanted to be an author or an English professor. I'm pretty sure my bio in my high school year book says that I was going to be a lawyer. I had no idea that I would meet & marry my best friend & husband in Rhode Island. Who knew I would fall in love with Rhode Island too & become a forever beach-bum who works in sales but loves nothing as much as I love coming home to my adorable little girl with an vivid imagination?

I love you so,
Mommy

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: our first trip as parents...without our kid

Dear Em,
About four years ago, Daddy & I took our first vacation without you. It was a big deal. You had just turned one. I hadn't spent more than one overnight away from you, & here I was going across the country for a week & leaving you behind. I'm pretty sure I was a wreck, but I had to go. I had a work trip in Las Vegas. Daddy had never been, & although I felt like being away from you for that long might kill me, we decided Daddy would meet me out in Las Vegas & we would celebrate a year of surviving parenthood.


Your Aunt Andrea & Uncle Lowell just happened to be in Las Vegas at the same time, & for one day we got to enjoy the city with them. It was such a surprising & special treat. We walked all over Las Vegas (so much walking!), checking out different casinos, eating yummy food, taking in the sights, & doing some gambling here & there.


I've been to Vegas three times. The first two times I didn't even put a quarter in a slot machine. I'm really not much of a gambler. Still, the lights & art & waterfalls & buildings are pretty incredible to look at.


As crazy & built up as the city is, my favorite part of that trip with Daddy wasn't on the Las Vegas strip. We went on a full day trip to the Hoover Dam & the Grand Canyon. I hope to someday take you to the Hoover Dam & Grand Canyon. They absolutely took my breath away. The Grand Canyon truly is one of the great wonders of the world. They say people travel from across the world to visit the Grand Canyon, & yet the average person spends only 15 minutes actually looking at it. I could have stayed & hiked & reflected at the Grand Canyon forever.


They also say the most common way people get injured at the Grand Canyon is by pretending to fall into the Grand Canyon. Whoops.


Unfortunately, we had to return to Las Vegas in time to watch the New England Patriots lose in the playoffs on the last day of our vacation. Daddy looked like he was going to either cry or punch someone for most of the day, which was kind of a bummer (I will never plan a trip during the NFL playoffs ever again). We were so ready to leave the lights & splendor behind & go home to you.

I still remember how amazing it felt to hold you in my arms again. I covered your little face in kisses & felt like I might never let you go again. Of course, I did let you go, & Daddy & I have been fortunate to take a bunch of other adventures together in the last four years. I love our adventures as a family of three, but sometimes we need time to just be Julie & Brian too. Lucky for us, Daddy & I don't have to dread the end of our vacations. Coming home to you is one of the greatest feelings in the world. Thanks for that.

I love you so,
Mommy

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Family Date Night

Dear Em,
This past Friday Daddy & I were able to sit down with your teachers for a parent teacher conference. Your teachers put together an amazing booklet of your pictures & work so far this year. They wrote an evaluation that was so full of encouragement & love, it brought tears to my eyes (You have the most incredible teachers, their creativity & patience & capabilities amaze me on a daily basis).


It was such a precious gift to look at your booklet of writing & counting & matching & graphing & categorizing. We're so proud of the work you've done. We love that PreK has been a safe place where you can grow & develop & create & have fun.


We decided to go out to eat to celebrate a great evaluation. It had been months since we had gone out to eat just the three of us, & it was such a special treat. As we sat, we worked on the kids activity sheet together as a family. We tried your first word find, played tick tac toe, colored, & discovered missing items in similar illustrations. It was yet another reminder of how much you're growing. We used to have to bring a bag full to the brim with activities to occupy you, & even then we would have to ask you to sit down at least 35,000 times. I was so nice to sit & eat & talk & laugh as a family. The restaurant may have been bustling around us, but I felt like it was just us three that night.


Daddy needed new gloves, & we ran into the store together. While you waited for Daddy, you tried on almost every hat in the store & even some snow shoes. I freaking love you, little girl. You even make glove shopping entertaining.

In frigid temperatures, we headed to Newport Creamery for Awful Awfuls (Awful Big & Awful Good). The waitresses beamed at you as you proudly announced that we were having a special celebration. While we drank the most amazing milkshakes (you had oreo, Daddy had coffee, & I had mocha), we laughed as we worked on yet another kids activity sheet.


It was a simple night, & yet it was everything to me. Just thinking about the fun we shared puts a smile in my heart. Thanks for putting the fun & the laughter & the love in our family date nights.

I love you so,
Mommy


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hide & Go Seek with Charlie


Dear Em,
We've brought back hide & go seek in the dark this month. Winter is a fantastic time to play hide & go seek in the dark, because it gets dark way before your bedtime & we get to play & have fun while also staying inside, warm & cozy.


Unfortunately, our cat Charlie is ruining hide & go seek in the dark for Daddy. Ever since his 24 hour outdoor adventure, he's been increasingly attached to us. Instead of sleeping next to us on the bed, he sleeps on me. He jumps onto your bed most nights for bedtime books. He's almost never more than a few feet away from us- which is why when we play hide & seek, Charlie likes to play too.

Unfortunately for Daddy, Charlie only likes to find Daddy. When it's Daddy's turn to hide, all we have to do is find Charlie. He's typically sitting a couple feet away, sometimes meowing, letting us know he's already found Daddy.


Poor Daddy. He never wins at hide & go seek anymore. Charlie beats him every time.


I love you so,
Mommy

Monday, January 19, 2015

Resolutioning

Dear Em,
It's not every year that I make New Year's resolutions, but this year I started with dreams in my heart that I wanted to focus on throughout the year & beyond. When I thought about things, I kept coming back to three areas of my life that I wanted to make more of a focal point.

- Finding the Good: I felt like I ended last year in a little bit of a judgmental & complainy place. The judgements weren't doing anything positive in my life. They certainly weren't making me happy. Instead, they were just pulling down me & the people around me. I would like to spend more time actively looking for, focusing on, & celebrating the good that surrounds us every day.

- Health: I need to be better to my body. It's the only body I've got, & last year I didn't feel like I had done my best to take care of it. Rather than setting a weight goal, I would like to be more conscious of what I'm filling my body with (we've already begun with a few healthy & yummy recipes that I'll share later). I would also like to increase how active I am. I'm hoping to make room in my life for more walks & hikes & biking adventures & workouts too.

- Adventure: I am so excited about our travel plans for this year! We are taking a couple trips that have been bucket list items/dream vacations for me for a long time. While I am so excited about the adventures that lay ahead for us on those trips, I want to find family adventures at home too. I want to fill this year with sledding & beaches & hiking trails & zoos & day trips & exploration in the areas around us. I want to this year to be about trying new things & new foods & maybe sometimes adventuring outside of my comfort zone.

I asked you if you wanted to make any resolutions this year. You asked me what a resolution was, & I explained to you that a new year is a new chance to learn & do new things. This sounded really fun to you, & you dove right into resolution making. Here's what you came up with:

- "I want to start writing more words...on my own." This made my heart so happy. I'm glad that you enjoy writing, & I love that you've given yourself that goal.

- "I want to start brushing my hair...on my own." Ha! Your hair is so long right now, & brushing it out can really be the bane of both of our mornings. I'm not going to lie. I would love it if you brushed your own hair too.

At this point, we talked about how resolutions don't have to be things that we do "on our own." They can also be things we want to do with our family & friends too. You smiled at that one as you announced your last resolution.

- "I want to do more hiking." I'm so excited about this one. Not only does it fit in with my health & adventure resolutions, it will also involve more fun family time.

I'm listing these resolutions on the blog, because I plan to refer back to them throughout the year & see how we're doing. Not to toot our own horns, but I think we're both off to a great start...except when it cones to the hair brushing.

I love you so,
Mommy

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Our Little Patriots Fan


Dear Em,
You owned your first Patriots Jersey before you were even born, a Brady one, just like your Daddy. You were only four days old the first time you put it on. Daddy & I couldn't be happier. The Patriots were in the playoffs, & we were watching them play with our adorable, squishy little baby in our arms. You didn't really watch the game. You mostly slept...& ate...& pooped. It's probably good that you don't remember that game. The Patriots lost, & that ended any hope we had for a Patriots Superbowl that year.


Five years later, you still wear a jersey on game days. You grew out of your red one a couple years ago & now run around in a blue Brady Jersey (still just like your daddy). Sometimes you dress up your dolls in team colors (& I dress up our cat, Charlie), ready to cheer for the Patriots. You still don't exactly watch the games. Someday we hope you'll be able to watch full games with us. For now, you prefer to play in the next room & come out occasionally for moral support for Daddy & I. You give us hugs, tell us you love us, give a little "woooo" to the Patriots, & then go back to your movie, playing with your dolls, coloring, or reading to Charlie.


You make sure to join us every time the Patriots score (you know that they've scored by the obnoxiously loud yelling & clapping coming from Daddy & I). We pick you up & run you around the house, wooooing & cheering & laughing all the way.


This is how you will find us again this Sunday, sitting on the edge of our seats for every heart pounding moment. I freaking love it, & I freaking love you, our little Patriots fan.

I love you so,
Mommy

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy 5th Birthday, Emma!

Dear Em,
I feel like you were born, I blinked, & you turned five. How are you five...years...old?! "Mom, I'm a whole hand," you've proudly proclaimed as you held up your five fingers.


We were in North Carolina for your birthday this year. The night before, Nonnie put you to bed, but I stole as many last four year old hugs & kisses as I could before you went to sleep. I snuck into your room later that night & peeked in on you sleeping soundly. I gave you a kiss on your forehead, knowing that time goes by at an ever quickening speed, & my nights of kissing your sleeping forehead are numbered (although you've promised Daddy & I can go to college with you & that we will live together forever).


These have been the five most wonderful years of our lives. For sure, the fours were a little less challenging than the tantruming threes (there are still tantrums, they're just fewer & further between)- both because you're beginning to better understand boundaries & you're becoming a little more independent each and every day. You now completely dress yourself, put your socks & shoes on, brush & floss your teeth, & put on & zip up your coat each morning before heading off to school (although you still need someone to guide you through all of the steps).


You're a little learning sponge. Daddy & I are so amazed by the leaps & bounds you've taken with reading & writing & drawing. The other day you sat down & made me a Valentine's Day card (which you solemnly said would have to be kept secret until Valentine's Day but then couldn't wait any longer & shared with me the next day). Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the hearts you had drawn yourself. You put words to your card, writing each letter yourself, only asking for help here & there with the spelling.


This is the year you will begin kindergarten ("So, first PreK, then kindergarten, & then college, right Mommy?" Sigh, sometimes it seems that way my love). Your tender heart is both excited to be starting a new school this fall (& no longer having to take naps during school) & worried about being the new person & not fitting in. I'm not worried. You tackle each new challenge as it comes, & you are such a sweet friend. Daddy & I have assured you that all you have to do is be yourself, & you will shine.


You are so full of life. While you have such a serious little face when you're trying to concentrate, mostly you're full of smiles & giggles. You love to sing & dance & pretend. Daddy & I laugh as we listen to your little voice singing in the backseat of the car to all of the songs on the radio (Taylor Swift is by far your favorite right now). You noisily bound into life. I don't know if being gentle or soft or calm will ever be things that you learn, but we love you in spite of it & for it.


I think your imagination is one of my favorite things about you right now. In no time, you transform us into whole new worlds. You have a list of accents you perform when you're playing pretend (which absolutely amazes me, because I can't do an accent to save my life). You do almost everything with a baby doll in your hand, & I have to wonder if you will work with children someday and/or have tons of kids (I think you plan to have at least 14 right now).


A little more about you at five years old:


Favorite food: Cake
Favorite thing to do: Play Dolls
Favorite thing to play: Wii Party
Outside or inside: Inside (It's been really cold)
Favorite thing to do outside: Play on the Playground
What do you want to be when you grow up? Princess Ballerina 
Favorite book: Ramona books
Favorite song: Shake it Off by Taylor Swift
Favorite color: Pink
Favorite TV show: Sofia the First
Favorite movie: Frozen


We had so many fun-filled birthday celebrations. When Aunt Andrea visited, we spent a night just celebrating you. We included many of your favorite things & had a pajama, Tayor Swift, Taco, Tea Party. You helped me set up by putting out the "fancy dishes from China," & we filled a pitcher with pink lemonade. After dinner we played Hot Potato & Hullabaloo before opening gifts. It was such a fun & precious night celebrating with family that loves you so dearly. While you have always been happy to celebrate you on any day of the week, you were very adamant that you would not be five until you celebrated your "real birthday."


Nonnie had another tea party planned for when we got to North Carolina. She invited Elsa & some of your North Carolina friends over for a Frozen themed tea party. You dressed up, ate yummy snacks, played, & sang all of the songs from Frozen. You were certainly in your element.

 
 

On the morning of your "real birthday," you woke up & climbed into bed with Daddy & I so we could get our very first five year old snuggles. It was then we let you open your gift from us. One of your very favorite stories that you like to listen to is the story of how you were born & what you were like as a baby. I tell you again & again by memory, but I knew putting the story into words would be a special gift for you. So, this fall I worked on writing my second book (this was my first), "The Great Adventures of Emma the Princess Ballerina." It chronicles the first five years of your growth & adventures. You were thrilled to open a book all about you. It was such a precious moment to snuggle in with you, read about you, & look through all the pictures from the last five years. I think it was my favorite thing we did all that day.

 
 

We were just getting started. We headed to the Children's Museum with Nonnie, Papi, & your little friend M. I just love the Children's Museum in Wilmington. There are so many fun things for all of us to do & create.

 
 

Although, Daddy & I had made it through five years of parenting without stepping foot in a Chuck E Cheeses, that reign came to an end on the day of your birthday. You had seen commercials, & going to Chuck E Cheeses was your number one birthday wish. We ate pizzas & salads while the Chuck E Cheese Band serenaded us. Then we played lots of games. Aunt Jennie & Uncle Nick joined us, & everyone had fun.


We ended the day with cake & presents with my whole family.


We came home to Rhode Island, & you couldn't wait to celebrate your fiveness with your little friends at school. We brought in a Ballerina Donut cake from Allie's Donuts, you donned a cute, pink, paper crown, & your little friends sang Happy Birthday to you. You told us it was the best day.

 

Thank you, my love, for the past five most amazing years of my life. In the words of your book, "Her Mommy & Daddy felt like they had just brought their squishy, little baby Emma home from the hospital. Yet, here was this bouncy, giggly, bright, twirling, fierce, creative, energized, bubbly, dancing, unique, glittery, bounding, loving, imaginative, sweet, girly, amazing five year old young lady. Just like that, the Princess Ballerina turned five. FIVE! She did not know where her adventures would take her in the future, but anyone who knew her knew that her future couldn't be anything less than absolutely, stunningly amazing...just...like...Emma."

I love you so,
Mommy




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