Friday, December 19, 2014

Flashback Friday: What a difference five years make

Dear Em,
I had planned on this being a Throwback Thursday post, but the days are just really getting away from me lately. Sigh. So, here we are with the blog's first Flashback Friday.

I cannot stress enough how quickly the past five years have gone by. The saying goes that time flies when you're having fun. I'm not saying every day has been sunshine & butterflies, but they've been the five best years of my life.

Five years ago, I was doing a lot of waiting. I was waiting for my family to arrive for the holidays, & I was waiting for you to be born. I could not wait to meet you, to put a face to all of my dreams. I was doing my very best to do anything that might coax you out. I tried to walk three miles each day. I ate eggplant parm. I drank smoothies of mango, kiwi, & pineapple. This was one of the first things in life that I couldn't make happen in my own time, & it drove me crazy. This was just the first of many lessons I would learn about losing control & finding beauty in things that don't go exactly as I planned.

You weren't born in time for Christmas that year, but a few days later I received the most amazing gift Daddy & I would ever Now I have this imaginative, outspoken, bouncing, loving, bright, hilarious little almost five year old. What a difference five short years makes.

You ask me what I want for Christmas, & every year I give you the same answer. All I've ever wanted for the past five years is you. Your hugs & kisses & smiles & oohs & ahhs & snuggles & laughter bring more joy to mine & Daddy's Christmases than anything that could be wrapped & put under the tree.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How (not) to make footprints in the sand

Dear Em,
I saw this post a few months back & got so excited. You & I are never happier than when we have sand between our toes. Could we really make your adorable, little footprints in the sand? With you turning five this year, I thought it would be incredibly sweet if we could forever capture your five year old feet & toes.

In order to get as close to five-year-old-ness as possible, I decided to make this around the holidays & include your best friend. I knew her parents would love her footprints in the sand too. I bought enough supplies for two.

We used:
- A sheet (I almost forgot to put one down before we started working & I cringe thinking of the mess that could have been)
- 2 Frames large enough to fit your footprints
- Sand (I bought it from the craft store to eliminate chances of sand fleas/creatures)
- Plaster of Paris (I used a 2kg bag for two frames, but would suggest buying extra if you haven't worked with it before)
- Water for making the plaster
- A piece of cardboard to smooth the sand (we grabbed it from our recycling bin)
- Spray Mod Podge Sealer

The first thing I did was lay down a sheet to catch the sand & plaster mess as we worked. I put our two frames on top of it. Not thinking about how the plaster would need 5 hours to dry, I lay the sheet down in a heavy traffic area of our home. That was my first rookie mistake. Trying to keep little feet & paws from knocking into the frames as they dried would have been almost impossible.

I removed the frames' cardboard backings & glass (the glass isn't needed). Next, I placed the backings on the front of the frames & flipped them over (this video tutorial might better explain). The directions in the original post said this makes a "nice box" to fill the sand into. Except, it is not a nice box. One bump or shift in the frame makes the sand spill out, & you have to fill & smooth the sand all over again. If I were to do it over again, I would have taped the cardboard backings to the front of the frames to create a loose seal.

I filled the frame with sand from the craft store, & used a piece of cardboard to level & smooth the sand (the directions says to fill to where the glass would have been but I missed that part & likely used way too much sand). Next came the hard part, catching your footprints. Your best friend went first. It took her only a couple times to make a nice impression with her feet, re-smoothing the sand each time before we tried a new print. I had to remind her to pick her foot straight up, slowly & gently. Once I was happy with her prints, I began mixing about 1kg of the Plaster of Paris per the instructions on the box.

I tried to pour the mixture gently & slowly (as was instructed in the post), but it's really hard to pour Plaster of Paris gently. It kind of globs down as it goes. I started in one corner & worked my way across the whole frame. Then I used a spoon to softly & gently level the mixture & ensure I had covered the entire frame. At this point I was really afraid I had ruined the whole thing, only I wouldn't know it for five hours, when it dried.

Then it was your turn to come to the next frame to make your footprints. I asked Daddy to begin stirring the Plaster of Paris for your frame as we worked on your prints. The problem is that slow & gentle are just not words that you understand. You stomped into the footprint making experience, making me reset the "nice box" each time time you banged the frame & sent the sand pouring out. After ten tries, your Daddy walked over to see if he could help guide you into more gentle footprint making, leaving the Plaster of Paris he was mixing to set in a bowl on our kitchen counter.

I don't know how many footprint making attempts there were. There were too many to count. During the last one, you somehow toppled over. Your hand landed in the best possible spot...right in the middle of your best friend's frame. Since we were supposed to be careful not to put too much pressure on the plaster, I was pretty sure your firm hand print right in the middle of it was the end of poor S's footprint. 

That was truly the perfect moment for your daddy to chime in. "Julie, something is wrong with this plaster," your Daddy referred to the Plaster of Paris he was supposed to be mixing. "Its not fluffy like the last time. It's really hard. I don't know what is wrong with it." I glared at your poor daddy. Nothing was wrong with it. It was doing what plaster does when someone is not stirring it (like he was supposed to). It hardens.

At this point I may have lost it a little. Plaster & sand covered our house. They were all over the frames, the sheet, the floors, the counters, & you. I may have run outside in the pouring rain & threw the sand & plaster contents of both frames into the woods. I'm pretty sure I returned with crazy eyes. "That's it! We're done! Everyone just go play someplace else!" You all ran away scared. I guess adults can sometimes throw tantrums too.

Except I really wanted your forever footprints in the sand. Sigh.

So, I cleaned up a little. I moved the sheet & the frames into a more secluded part of our house before refilling them with sand. Then I asked you & your best friend to come down one at a time to make your footprints. You did better the second time around (it only took five or six tries). After the footprints were done & you both had gone back upstairs to play, I mixed & poured the plaster one by one. I was still worried I was ruining the footprints as I poured the plaster, but I hoped for the best.

After five hours, I lifted up the frames to see the results. Sand poured out, & I had footprints...but they weren't the lovely & perfect footprints from the post I had originally seen. There were some markings in them & around them. The sand hadn't adhered to prints as evenly or as much as I would have liked (I think I had filled the frames with too much sand?). I sprayed multiple coats of large amounts of Mod Podge sealant, but it's not a sturdy seal. Sand continues to fall off here & there, sometimes in clumps, revealing pieces of the plaster. Instead of footprints in the sand, it looks like footprints in plaster with sand mostly covering them.

Our imperfect footprints hang in the Family Room. There are enough inconsistencies & areas that look a little wonky that it makes me & my type A personality a little crazy every time I look at them. I want to say that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do it at all, but I know that's not true. Even as I write this now, I'm wondering if we tried it again if we would have better results. The possibility of having your little footprints frozen in time is just too much amazingness for me to let go.

I think what I really wish is that I had never seen the Sand Footprint Craft post at all. In this case ignorance would have been bliss for everyone, because I'm already thinking...maybe after the holidays...maybe we could try again.

You & Daddy should run for the hills.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Perfect Christmas

Dear Em,
It was a little more than two weeks before Christmas, & things were going really well. I was already done with my shopping. We had finished making most of our Christmas crafts. Our Christmas cards had been sent out. We had cookies to eat. We had Christmas movies to watch. I was excited to enjoy the holidays with our friends and family.

But things haven't quite gone exactly as planned...

First I noticed a check engine light in my car. After spending 4 days at a dealership, the good news was that my transmission was totally fine. The bad news was that a delivery vehicle had crashed into my car while it was in the parking lot. It doesn't look like I'll be getting it back any time soon.

Then our credit card was hacked into. We lost power in half of our house (we still don't know why). Then you spiked a fever. After a trip to the pediatrician, we learned that you have an ear infection & strep throat. I joked that this is what we get for finishing all of our Christmas preparations early. Sigh.

The thing is that while we lost power in half our house, somehow our Christmas tree is still lit. You are sick, but we still get to be together. Plus, we had plans to lay around & watch Christmas movies, & that is pretty much the perfect remedy for all of your ailments.

Our holiday season might not be exactly what we thought it was going to be, but Christmas doesn't have to be wrapped in a perfect bow to be the perfect Christmas. We have our friends. We have our family. We have each other. We have so much more than so many. We have everything we need & so much more. So this Christmas season we may move a little slower, but there will be joy & love & snuggles. You know what? I think it's going to be the perfect Christmas.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Your 2014 Letter To Santa

Dear Em,
This past week you wrote & sent out your letter to Santa. It's such a sweet tradition to me. You had other thoughts. "But, Mom, I already talked to Santa & told him what I want." That is true. You got me there. I forget what excuse Daddy & I told you about why it was important for you to also write a letter, but we made something up that seemed to make sense to you.

You sat down at the table to make your letter. You wanted to start right off with the important stuff- what you truly want for Christmas. I asked you to be sure to include some pleasantries. You grumbled a little. You were hoping your letter could be short & sweet & you could write as little as possible.

What a difference a year makes. We didn't use rainbow letters at all. You sounded out & wrote each word on your own, checking with me first that the words were spelled correctly. You added your very own "family" of decorated trees, some snowmen, & a star. You had worked so hard, & I was absolutely dazzled by your work. You were pretty much over it. You just wanted to be sure that Santa knows you want matching Bitty Baby outfits more than anything. There are quite a few other things that you've mentioned it would be nice to have, but that's the one thing you really, truly want.

After school I took you to Macys so that we could put your letter into the big, red mailbox. They have such a cute little section of the store set up. The "Santa Mail" box made me smile. You put your letter inside & gave me a thumbs up, feeling absolutely assured that Santa would know exactly what you want for Christmas this year  (& lucky for you, I'm pretty sure Santa is on it).

This is our second year writing a letter to Santa. To you it's almost like a business transaction. It's just what you have to do to let Santa know what to leave under the tree, & you just want to make sure the big man in red knows what you're wishing for. To me, it's become such a fun & precious tradition that I truly cherish sharing with you.

What I didn't know about bringing your letter to Macys (I just thought we were giving you an official mailbox for the fun tradition) is that they donate $1 for every letter to Santa that is placed in these big, red mailboxes. Knowing that by sending a letter with your wishes would help make someone else's wishes come true, made our tradition that much sweeter for me this year.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Best Cookie Recipes Ever

Dear Em,
We did a lot of baking this weekend (we were actually supposed to do a little more but you were a little under the weather by the end). I'm not much of a baker. I can do cooking for the most part. You put ingredients together & taste as you go, adding flavor when things don't seem quite right. Baking is harder for me. You put everything together & have no idea how the ingredients are going to come together until it bakes in the oven. After all the time spent putting your creation together, it can totally turn into a flop...& I've had a lot of flops. Most of my baking either doesn't look quite right or just tastes ehhh (maybe it has something to do with my Italian style of measuring).

So I was feeling really adventurous when I decided we would bake three different kinds of cookies that we had never attempted before: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt, White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Vanilla Salt, & Oatmeal Pecan Cookies. I just discovered the website, Not Without Salt, & every recipe sounds so yummy, I want to try baking everything. I narrowed it down to three different types of cookies. The recipes looked pretty simple, with a small, unique twist in each. I was really hoping I could pull them off, because they sounded absolutely incredible online.

You are always in the mood to bake & gladly put your apron on, pulled up your chair to stand on, & set to work with me. Baking with you typically means there will be a mess...everywhere. This time was no different. When I ask you to stir gently, I am reminded every single time that you have no concept of the word gentle. Flour & dough covered our entire kitchen...on the counter, on the floor, on the cabinets, all over your face.

It was your job to crush the candy canes. You used a ladle, & I wasn't absolutely sure if you were trying to crush them or kill them. It was actually really hilarious. We had so much fun.

We made the three different doughs, & baked a batch of each cookie as we went along. Oh Em Gee. These cookies were amazing. I'm pretty sure these are the only kinds of cookies I will ever bake in the future. They're the kind of cookies that have the crust on the outside but are still gooey on the inside (my favorite). The chocolate chip cookies were extra chocolaty (yours & Daddy's favorite). Each cookie had a dash of sea salt (all of our favorites). They were so good.

We saved the extra dough & let you & your little best friend put the dough on the cookie sheets the next day. You two were the most adorable little bakers. I was happy to pay you for your hard work in cookies. You two were happy with the arrangement too.

Although we typically leave decorated sugar cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve, we all agree that he would much rather enjoy a few of these cookie this year. I am sure I have a little baking assistant who wouldn't mind helping me bake up a few more batches.

I love you so,

Recipes From Not Without Salt...

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

- 2 sticks of butter (8oz)
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
- 1 & 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 3 & 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 & 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 lb chocolate (I used chocolate chips)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, for sprinkling on top before baking

Cream the butter and the sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes on medium high. Scrape down the side of the bowl. Continue mixing while adding the eggs one at time. Make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Combine the flour, soda and salt in another bowl. With a whisk to combine. With the machine on low, slowly add the flour. Mix until just combined, taking care not to over mix. With a spatula fold in the chocolate.

If you so choose, and I do recommend that you do, sprinkle a very fine dusting of good quality sea salt.

Bake at 360* for 12 minutes. They should be lightly golden on the outside but still look gooey on the inside.

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookies with Vanilla Salt

Ingredients- 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tbs granulated sugar
- 2 tbs turbinado sugar
- 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tbs packed dark brown sugar
- 1 egg, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 & 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
3⁄4 tsp baking soda
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
2 tablespoons /30 g crushed peppermint candies or candy canes (I added a little more)
Vanilla salt, such as Jacobsen, for finishing (we couldn't find this & just used sea salt)

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed, until light in color and texture, 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well to combine. Again, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt to combine.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until streaks of flour still run throughout. Add the chocolate and peppermint candies then mix until everything just comes together. Finish the dough by hand, taking care to scrape the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is evenly distributed.

At this point, it is best to refrigerate the dough for 24 hours. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 360°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop the dough onto the baking sheets. Top the cookies with a pinch of vanilla salt just before baking.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through if they appear to be baking unevenly. The cookies should be lightly golden on the outside but still look quite gooey on the inside. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for at least 5 minutes. Makes 18-24 cookies. These are best eaten the day of baking but will keep, if well sealed, for up to 2 days.

Oatmeal Pecan Cookies

- 1/2 cup butter, soft
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbs vanilla extract
- 1 tbs whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 & 1/4 cups oats
- 1 cup chopped, toasted pecans (I added more)
- 1 & 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)

Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla. Mix until well incorporated. Add all the dry ingredients, including pecans and chocolate and mix until combined. Scoop even size balls of dough (about 1 tablespoon size) on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325°F for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. Makes 24 Cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sharing Christmas Classics

Dear Em,
The holidays can be so busy. Who am I kidding? Any time of year can be busy for us (with me being the constant over extender of the family), but the holidays bring it to a whole new level. Typically, I start to feel a little burnt out with all the holiday festivities we squeeze in. This year has felt a little different so far. I think that's because we've made time for Christmas movies. Last week we snuggled together each night, just the three of us, to watch & relax to & enjoy Christmas movies.

We have a small collection of holiday movies, but in November I also set our DVR to record a ton of others (we've also been able to use On Demand for some I have missed). Since you watch non-cartoon movies now, it's really allowed Daddy & I enjoy the Christmas favorites we haven't seen in quite a while. Except these viewings are a little bit sweeter, because we're also watching you watch them for the first time. To see your eyes light up- to see you get excited & yell "I believe, Santa. I believe!" Sigh. It's one of the most precious holiday moments that I'm so unbelievably grateful to share with you.

Trying to fit in a 2-3 hour movie is pretty impossible on a week night, but many of the programs are one hour specials. Most of the claymation movies are an hour long, & I have been surprised by how many claymation movies there are. Daddy & I love sharing them with you, because we feel like we're sharing pieces of our own childhood with yours. For longer holiday specials, sometimes we just watch the first half of a movie & save the rest for the next day. This is how we've begun to enjoy some of my holiday favorites for the first time: Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, & Home Alone (I've been told that a Christmas movie can't be called a classic until it is 25 years old, which makes Home Alone one year away from classic status).

I know it's just TV. I know I'm supposed to be about less TV time for you. The things is, we spend so much of this season doing things. We are constantly running around. We bake & make crafts & decorate & go to events. We fill ourselves up with so many busy things, that sometimes I feel too busy to enjoy them. Sitting down together, snuggling in, & sharing these Christmas classics at the end of the day is exactly what we need. And it's starting to become on of my favorite things about this season.

I love you so,

Thursday, December 4, 2014

TBT: All I Want for Christmas is You

Dear Em,
This was Daddy & I just about five years ago. How was that already five years ago already? I was almost nine months pregnant, & I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt, all I wanted for Christmas was you.

When I was younger, I remember swearing I would never subject a child to having a December birthday, but having a child means losing control in most areas. At that point, I would have been quite happy if you shared your birthday with Jesus. I walked almost three miles a day. I rode on bumpy roads. I bounced on yoga balls. I let my brothers push me on the swings. I just wanted you out. I wanted to hold you in my arms & snuggle you each night.

Like most things in your life, you weren't ready until you were ready. I was still quite large & uncomfortable on Christmas day. My Christmas present didn't come until five days after Christmas.

You know what? You were worth the wait.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What is Christmas all about?

Dear Em,
"How many presents will Nonnie get me?"

This is what you asked me last night, & I cringed inside. I know it's typical for children to be excited about receiving gifts, but I want you to know that this season is about so much more than what comes wrapped inside colorful paper. I want you to know this season is about family & friends & God. More than anything, I hope this season is all about love for your love to others & being grateful for the love that is given to you by so many.

I gave you a stern look, told you if you were going to start counting gifts I would cancel gift giving altogether, & asked you what you thought Christmas was all about. You begrudgingly & solemnly told me, "It's about love & being with family." I know that you were just giving me the answer you knew I expected to hear & not necessarily the answer you felt in your heart.

That's when Daddy stepped in. He told you about a family they were "adopting" at work for the holidays. He told you about how the family had been through really hard times. Instead of hoping for tons of toys, this family needed clothes & shoes & food. He asked you to think about how you never have to worry about if you would have clothes to wear or when you would be able to eat again. Daddy told you about how there are many children who have to worry about things like that every single day.

He asked if you would help pick out a pair of pajamas & shoes for a little boy who was your same age. You instantly became excited about helping. Just in that moment, the holiday became about what you were planning to give rather than what you were planning to get. I think that's a good place to start.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Starry Light Centerpiece

Dear Em,
I LOVE the holiday season. I love the gatherings with family & friends. I love the music. I love the decorations. Of all the holiday decor, I think the lights that are my favorite. They bring a twinkle & warmth that I miss the rest of the year.

I saw a picture that inspired me to up our game light-wise this holiday season.

From here.
When I first saw this picture, we weren't even sure where we would put our Christmas tree. We've always put it in the living room, but a tree was no longer going to fit in the same place with the configuration of our new furniture. I just couldn't imagine our kitchen & living room without Christmas lights. I decided I could recreate this picture (the centerpiece at least, the chandelier wasn't going to happen), & it was going to make my heart happy throughout the holiday season.

I bought a set of battery operated candles with a timer function. Then I  & ordered starry string lights that were also battery operated with a timer. Next, I headed back to Michaels to look for greenery. I wanted something simple & natural. While I was at Michaels, I picked up a few more odds & ends. I really shouldn't be allowed in craft stores with a credit card.

I started just playing around with the greenery first. I cut off the long stems & wove the branches together. I tried to use a glue gun to make it stay exactly the way I wanted, but it was hard to do without a backing (which I didn't want). Without glue to keep everything permanently in place, the greenery looked a little imperfect, which enhanced the natural look. 

After I had the greenery mostly the way I wanted, I started to weave in the starry lights. While I love not having to plug in the starry lights, the battery pack was going to be a little tricky to hide in my centerpiece. I placed it in the middle, under the thickest area of greenery.

I placed a tall candle on top of the battery pack, put two more candles on the sides, & wrapped a vine of berries around each candle. While not exactly the same as the original photo, I love our natural & festive centerpiece.

It makes my heart so happy when the lights twinkle on each evening (all by themselves).

I added a champagne sequined table runner underneath the centerpiece. We ended up fitting our Christmas tree in the dining room, which means there is sparkle & shine throughout our living/dining area. It's all pretty much my favorite. I'm going to be so sad to take it all down in January.

We might have to leave our twinkling centerpiece know, until it's summertime again.

I love you so,

Monday, December 1, 2014

Thanksgiving Recap 2014

Dear Em,
Wow. We had one whirlwind of a long holiday weekend. Although we weren't technically traveling this year, we only spent one day at home. Midway through the weekend, we all found ourselves a little exhausted. Everyone seemed to have a grumpy moment (or two or three), & I realized we had overextended ourselves (again). Daddy put his arms around me & said, "at least we're overextending ourselves with wonderful things." He was right. In the midst of overtiredness, we chose to be thankful for our busy itinerary & enjoy these precious moments with family & friends.

While we typically celebrate Thanksgiving with Daddy's family, this year Uncle Jared joined us too. He came to visit us on Monday & we were excited to celebrate his birthday with him. By Wednesday night, we were all in the middle of Christmas crafting & house decorating. We always wait until after Thanksgiving to start decorating for Christmas (Daddy has strict rules), but with our schedule being what it was, we started early this year. I didn't sit down that night until well after you went to bed, but it made me smile to see Christmas lights twinkle in our house again.

We woke up on Thanksgiving morning excited about watching the parade together. I had stuffed mushrooms to prepare, & you updated me on what was happening with the parade until I could join you (you love the Broadway musical performances). I am so thankful to have a parade watching buddy & enjoyed every moment snuggled in with you as we watched the floats go by & listened to the music.

While we couldn't be in North Carolina with my family, I'm so thankful we got to see & chat with them all via skype. We took a quick Bixby family photo before heading to Daddy's Aunt's house for our holiday gathering. Including children, there were more than 30 of us. Conversations were buzzing throughout the house while yummy food smells filled the kitchen. You had a blast playing with your little cousins. As we stood around the buffet table full of food, holding hands to say grace, I was so incredibly thankful to enjoy that tradition with our big, amazing Rhode Island family. Our day had been filled with music & food & laughter. I was so thankful to be surrounded by family & love & happiness. It was such an amazing holiday.

Friday morning, we joined Grandma & Papa for brunch at T's Restaurant to celebrate Papa's birthday. You were hungry & tired & cranky, but playing a game of telephone kept a smile on your face as we waited for our food. We had fun celebrating Papa together.

Next, we went to Shartner Farms to cut down our Christmas tree. This was the fastest we've ever picked out & cut down our tree, & I was thankful for that because we were all feeling tired at that point. We brought the tree home, & Daddy put the lights on the tree while Jared worked on the lights outside. We had planned to put ornaments on the tree, but after multiple cranky outbursts, you put yourself down for a nap.

We woke you up, loaded into the car, & headed to Worcester to have dinner with some of my family. When we arrived, we were so surprised to see how many people were there. A room was filled with my aunts & uncles & cousins that we hadn't seen in a long time. We ate & talked & laughed. You decided you were a bunny & "burrowed" yourself under the table. At that point, Daddy & I were happy that you weren't screaming or crying & let you enjoy the night half under the table & half being our very own photographer. We got home late that night & carried your sleeping little body from the car & into your bed.

We woke up early the next morning. We would be hosting Thanksmas Swap that evening. There was cooking & cleaning & more decorating to be done. You were happy to help. You decorated the back doors & chalkboard wall. You & I hung the ornaments on the tree while Daddy baked the turkey. You were so excited when our guests started to arrive. This year's group was smaller than most years, but I think smaller is exactly what we needed. We're so thankful for the support & love of our friends, & it was so nice to enjoy time spent with them this holiday season.

On Sunday morning I think we all could have laid in bed all day, but we all had adventures ahead of us. We said goodbye to the last of our guests. You, Jared, & I headed to Patriots Place, & Daddy left for a concert. We had two goals. We were going to meet Santa, & we wanted to show Jared around Gillette Stadium where the Patriots play. They were actually taking pictures with Santa on the field. How freaking cool is that?! Except that when we got there, the line was wrapped around the stadium. I guessed it was a multiple hour line & there was no way we were going to stand in it. We wanted to enjoy our time at Patriots Place, not spend the whole day standing in line. We headed to Bass Pro Shop instead, & they immediately handed us a card to come back at 5:30pm...almost four hours later. Whomp Whomp.

At least we wouldn't have to wait in line for four hours. We changed you out of your dress clothes & took Jared to the Patriots Museum. I love that museum. It's so interactive & fun. You & Jared kicked field goals, pretended to be linemen, jumped as high as you could, & stood in a Patriots huddle (where you hugged Tom Brady are so your father's daughter). It was an awesome afternoon.

We had a blast, but you were all over the place. Your "listening ears" were pretty much non existant. You were running every which way except for the direction I told you to. We went to grab some dinner, but I worried you wouldn't make it to 5:30 for your meeting with Santa. Luckily, Bass Pro shop was running ahead, & we only had to wait in line very briefly. You had a tiny tantrum in line. I couldn't really blame you. It had been a long, long holiday weekend. We were all a little exhausted. Luckily, you pulled yourself together in time to meet Santa. You & he had a nice chat. I got a nice photo. Everyone was happy.

I listened to the Patriots game on the radio while you fell asleep on the way home. Daddy had been right. It was a truly wonderful overextended weekend. It was spent with family & friends & food & a little bit of adventure. I was exhausted, but I wouldn't have traded any of those moments for a few more hours of sleep. Plus after a marathon of holiday celebrating, we have very little planned for this upcoming week (other than the typical work & school). I plan to do a whole lot of relaxing, listening to Christmas music, enjoying Christmas lights, & snuggling an adorable almost five year old who will never be almost five ever again.

I love you so,
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