Friday, December 30, 2011

Our birthday girl a year ago

Dear Em,
I finally learned how to post videos. Well, your auntie learned how. She had to make a blogger account just so she could teach me to click on the video, duh. Whoops.

So, today I thought it would be fitting to post a video of you from one year ago. It's so amazing how much you've changed in just one year.

Wishing you an amazing birthday today.

I love you so,

Happy 2nd Birthday, Little Love

Dear Em,
Today is your second birthday. It's really starting to become trite because I've said it at least a zillion times the past two years, but where has the time gone? Wasn't it yesterday we held your little body in our arms for the very first time? Wasn't it just last week that our favorite source of entertainment was to listen & watch you breathe in & out as you slept?

You're a bouncy & boisterous child...the toddler moments have passed us by. You are a little girl're such a girl. You love whirling & twirling & ruffles & bows & pink. I love to watch you spin around & exclaim, "I'm so beautiful!" You are sunshine & you are giggles & you are love.

We went on so many adventures this year. You are my little adventure buddy. We started your year in North Carolina (& traveled back 2 more times). We also went to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Ohio, & New York City. Each of our adventures were so much better with your giggles & your wide-eyed way of jumping right on in. You are fearless in a way that's scary for your daddy & I. You're so curious & always determined to rise to your own challenge. With each new milestone, you've been ready before Daddy & I have. But Daddy & I have quickly learned that once you're determined to do something, there's no stopping you.

Your year has been full of learning...for all of us. You started the year being able to say just a few words: Momma (your first word), Dada, No, Uh-Oh. Now you have a full vocabulary & talk in full sentences (a couple days ago, you said, "Nonnie, don't be depressed). You know your colors & numbers & many of your shapes. You started school for the first time this year, & your joy of learning & singing & reading has grown even more. Every month, every week, every day we learn something new from you. This month you began to spell your name & it brought joy to our hearts.

Some of your most repeated phrases are:
"I'm so proud of you!"
"Oh...hey, Mommy/Daddy. How's it going there?"
"Now I have dessert?"- said before during & after dinner.
"And, um, so. And, um, so."- your basic conversation when you're talking on your toy phones.
"I want to ride in a fire truck."- this made a lot more sense when we figured out it was a song you learned in school.
"E...M...M...A spells Emma."
From your favorite movie, Tangled: "Mommy, I make your power shine?" "Mutter knows best." "You'll regret it." "Best day ever!"
"Can I watch Super Why? I watch another show?"
"You're so cute."
"Daddy, stop teasing!"
"I have 5 minutes to play."
"I'm so beautiful." & "You're so beautiful."
"I love you so much."- our favorite.

When I ask you "guess what," you reply "I love you." We whisper secrets to each other, & the only secret you know is, "I love you." You give a million kisses & eskimo kisses & butterfly kisses.

You started your second being amazed by mostly Super Why, but your love of TV has grown. When the TV is in sight, you are asking to watch Super Why, Sesame Street (sounding like sha-sha shreet), Caillou, Tangled, Robots, Snow White, & Lion King. You may love to watch TV, but that's typically not the only thing you're doing. You're also twirling, taking care of your babies, reading, and/or cooking in your kitchen.

You love babies. You're obsessed. Nonnie gave you your first baby doll for Christmas last year & you've been such an amazing Mommy ever since. One baby has grown to fifteen babies, & it's not unusual for you to try to carry them all at the same time. You've uniquely named each one of them baby. Your love of babies extends past dolls to real babies as well. A couple of my friends have been so gracious to let you hold their babies (while I've winced from a distance), & you cooed & smiled more than the babies did.

You're such a sweet but bossy friend. You cry when your friends cry. You give the cutest hugs & you are the most adorable sharer (sometimes). You love your friends so much that you make sure to tell them what they should be doing (even when you're not doing what you should be doing). We'll be working on worrying about ourselves this year.

Music is one of your favorite things. You love music & you love to sing. You're not a big fan of the slower songs. You love something with a beat that you can dance to. Your teachers say that you may not sing on key or even on beat, but you love to sing. Some of your favorite songs to sing are ABCs, 5 little monkeys, Ants go Marching, Just the Way You Are, Miss Mary Mack, & Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. When you sing Baby Bumble Bee, my heart melts at the phrase "won't my mommy be so proud of me."

And I am...we are so proud of you. I didn't know it was possible for your daddy & I to be so proud of someone. Our love & our joy overflows with you in the world. You are our world & we are yours.

I'm excited about each new day & excited about this year. This year we'll be tackling potty training (hopefully successfully), eating at the table (& not a highchair), & introducing you to a big-girl bed. I know that there will be tough days, but I know even the tough days are more amazing when we're together.

There are some days I wish we could pause & slow down. I wish you could be a one year old for just a little bit longer, but the days pass & each day we grow a little. So, I'm just thankful. I'm thankful for the gift that you are. I'm thankful that we have a third year of love & all that it will bring.

I love you so,

Thursday, December 29, 2011

night of enchantment

Dear Em,
Celebrating the holidays with our family in North Carolina has introduced us to so many new adventures. Last year, we visited the sunny state during Thanksgiving & found out about Enchanted Airlie. Airlie Gardens is full of gorgeous trees & flowers & landscaping. During November & December it's filled with amazing Christmas lights. We fell in love with the enchanting garden last year.

After the fun of the lights, you had the cutest talk with Santa & then your Nonnie got the whole family to squeeze in for a precious family photo. It was freezing, but it was beautiful.

When we called Nonnie to talk about plans for this year, she asked if we could go to Enchanted Airlie again, & I couldn't wait! This year was a little different, because it was 70 degrees. While we were all bundled up last year, we were tearing off our coats this year. It was still just as beautiful & magical & fun.

We took lots of family photographs.

We made encouraged your Uncle Jared join us for our adventure & he continuously showed us how excited he was about that in the photos.

In spite of your 17 year old uncle, it was still beautiful.

You & I totally broke the rules & stepped inside the fenced off area to get a closer look at Santa.

This year's Enchanted Airlie was Caribbean themed.

You couldn't wait to talk to Santa. We waited in line for 20 minutes & you called "Merry Christmas, Santa," the whole time. When it was finally your turn, you turned to me & told me you were "a little scared." Once I placed you in Santa's lap, you were fine. Before he could even ask you what you wanted for Christmas, you asked him for Baby Jesus & then spelled him your name. It was another precious moment. Afterwards, we got together for a family photo. Uncle Nick & Uncle Greg couldn't be there this year & we missed them but were thinking of them.

You, Daddy & I got together for a family photo & then we headed home. As we drove home, you said that today was the, "best day ever!" Every day is the best day when you're in it, but that day was absolutely enchanted.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas lights

Dear Em,
Don't you just wish the light of Christmas would stay up all year long? I wicked want to make those fun candy lights next year & ask your daddy to string them all along the outside of the house. We went minimal outside this year, but it was still enough for you to exclaim, "I see lights! We go outside now?" I think you're going to love everything holiday just like me.

This year we had a lot of LIGHT fun. In the beginning of December we went to the Wickford Festival of lights. They had a ton of fun activities, including hayrides with Santa & outside caroling.

Unfortunately, we missed the caroling because we waited in line for over an hour for the hayride with Santa. It was all worth it, because you & your little friend S got to have a nice visit with Santa. The best part was you & S called out to the people we passed, "Merry Christmas Everybody" during our entire hayride. The people walking along the streets smiled up at the two of you, but I don't think anyone was smiling bigger than me. You two are so pure & sweet & loving. If anyone is looking for the true Christmas spirit, they need to look no further than you.

After the hayride, we played in the lights.

Grandma & Papa joined the light fun too.

After our outside fun, we went inside for hot chocolate (& Daddy enjoyed a well deserved beer).

Tomorrow, I'll talk about our other light adventure. All our adventures are so full of light with you.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A letter of thanks to our little love's teachers

Dear Miss S & Miss T,
When Em started school in September, we were a little nervous (I’m sure you both know the annoying kind of over-protective-parent nervous). We had just spent a wonderful year and a half with Em being watched almost one on one from our home, & we were nervous & anxious about Em being in a place where she was just one of many. We were taking her out of her comfort zone & we were nervous about how that would affect Em.

Our nerves have subsided & have been replaced with overwhelming joy. Over the past few months we’ve watched Em learn & grow & truly thrive. Our baby has become a little girl. She comes home being able to point out new shapes, colors, numbers, types of weather, & letters each day. We love listening to her sing the fun songs that she’s learned in school. She’s sitting for longer periods (haha, she used to never sit at all). She politely says “please” & “thank you” & “excuse me” (well, mostly she does). She even spells her name now (what a gift that was for us). On any given day she amazes us in how she is learning & growing & we owe so much of it to you both.

We are so grateful that God put you in our lives, in our Em’s life. When she had trouble with the newness of school & being away from what was familiar, you both took it in stride. You comforted her in a way that put her at ease & got her through being away from home for the very first time. We’ve never felt like Em was just one of many to the two of you. Now when we drop Em off, we can put our 100% into our work knowing that our child is at a place where she is loved (& not just in her classroom, it seems like everyone knows Emma, haha).

We admire your patience with her while still remaining firm. We appreciate you teaching her that learning is fun. We can’t express how grateful we are for your thoughtfulness & the tender care you’ve given her during the days she wasn’t feeling well. It warms our hearts to peek in each day when we drop her off or pick her up & see the incredible way the two of you interact with her…& really all the kids. It’s awe-inspiring. You truly have an incredible gift.

I know neither of us could do what the two of you do, & you do it so well. You two are such an unbelievable team & we feel like our daughter is the luckiest girl in the world to have you as teachers. Just as we’re the luckiest parents as we watch her grow & develop on a daily basis.

Words cannot express how thankful we are for you & what you’ve been to our daughter.
Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas. May God bless you all.

- B & J

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas PJs 2011

Dear Em,
I loved our Christmas PJs this year & so did you. At home, it was your first present to unwrap, & you were so excited. You used your mouth to start the opening. It was the funniest thing. We've never seen you do that before, but I guess you couldn't open fast enough. Since you were so excited to unwrap, we let you unwrap Daddy & my PJs too.

Even Daddy liked the PJs. He said they were super comfy & I agree.

After our Christmas in Rhode Island, we traveled to North Carolina to celebrate with my family. Your blue button down jammies were the perfect outfit for the 12 hour drive. We were so excited to be with the family for the holiday this year & so excited to open our next family jammies.

Last year your aunt Gina said she found Thing t-shirts in Ocean City, NJ. Instead of only having Thing 1 & 2 t-shirts, they had any numbered thing you want. With our family growing & growing, I loved the idea. Knowing that I wasn't going to be taking any trips to the Jersey shore this year, I searched the internet for the shirts. Unfortunately, I was only finding Thing 1 & Thing 2 shirts & we have a lot more family than that. A couple months ago, I found this site. So, we got to be Things 1-10 this year, in order of when we joined the family. I think it's so amazing how our family has grown since Nonnie & Papi were married in 1979, & this was a fun way to show it.

I think most of the boys were hoping we would stay with the sports theme (or not do family jammies at all), but I think these are the most fun yet. I'm excited that whenever we wear our shirts, we can think of this fun family Christmas.

You are the cutest Thing 10 ever.

I love you so,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

From our home to yours...

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus.

Dear Em,
On Christmas Eve, after we unwrapped our Jammies, we let you open one gift. It was from your Aunt Wendy, Uncle Mike, & cousin Michaela. It was a Little People Nativity Set.

You've been looking (mostly looking, we've kept reminding you to look with your eyes instead of touching with your hands) at my grandmother's nativity set that we've had out for weeks. You've insisted that you will be "gentle with Baby Jesus," & have looked at the set with such a sad heart because we won't let you touch it. So, what a beautiful surprise when you received a nativity set of your very own that you can hold & play with.

Your excitement bubbled over as Daddy took each piece of the set out of the plastic & handed it to you. You squealed with delight when he handed you Baby Jesus. "I love you, Baby Jesus! You're so cute," you exclaimed. You placed him in the manger next to his "mommy & daddy & lamb." You said everyone wanted to be next to Baby Jesus.

After playing with the manager for a little bit, you took out your Little People Airplane & your Little People Bus & gave the whole set a ride.

I asked you whose birthday it was, & you jumped up & down as you shouted, "it's Baby Jesus's birthday. Right there (you pointed to him)! Happy birthday, Baby Jesus!"

When it was time for bed, you cried. You just didn't want to leave Baby Jesus behind. Your crying subsided when we told you that you could bring him with you (you grabbed "his Mommy" too). We read bedtime books & then tucked you in with baby Jesus clutched to your heart.

It makes my heart so happy that you celebrated the true meaning of Christmas this year & that you love Jesus as much as you do. I hope you always hold your love of Jesus in your heart & celebrate His great gift of love year after year.

I love you so,

Friday, December 23, 2011

love letters

Dear Em,
While it's all very pretty, this season isn't really about the lights & the presents & the music & the gifts...well, it's about one gift. One amazing & powerful gift, the gift of love.

"That's when the Spirit of Christmas smiled.
'Remember, this all began with a child.
Because it took nothing but love to begin it,
it's not really Christmas if love isn't in it.

Your tree may be large as the room will allow
with a big yellow star on the uppermost bough,
but of one thing I'm certain,
I'm sure of one thing.

It is love that makes the angels sing.'"

I know I already posted an excerpt from this book, but it's my favorite this year, Nancy Tillman's The Spirit of Christmas.

I hope you know the real spirit of Christmas today & everyday.

I love you so,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

the Christmas photo shoots

Our 2010 Christmas card with some of your 1st year/Christmas portraits.

Dear Em,
Last Year we took you to Babies R Us for your one year/Christmas portraits. The photographers were amazing with you & got you to laugh & smile & sit still. We LOVED the pictures. We did not love the price. After coupons & $100 in gift certificates we still walked out paying over $100. I was wiped out after helping with the shoot & having to choose pictures & borders & print sizes & frames all on the spot.

This year we've tried to cut costs & stick to a budget. So, even though I loved your portraits last year, I decided to try to take them on my own this year.

It was a beautifully warm day in November. I think it was 70 degrees. The rest of our week had been jam packed with things, & I was determined to take your pictures while the good weather & bright sunshine allowed for some outdoor shots. We raced home from school, I threw on your dress, & outside we went. This was your first time wearing your Christmas dress, & luckily you loved it. You "ooohed" & "awed" & exclaimed, "I'm so beautiful!" You were thrilled to put on your red shoes, & I was thankful to have you in a good mood.

We went outside & I snapped away...all the while with a tickle Me Elmo on top of my head, laughing, & having a seizure vibrating. I knew I was probably only going to get 15 minutes, & I was right, but you gave me 15 amazing minutes.

Super cute, right?

Right after this picture, you refused to smile & only wanted to hold Elmo. Then you saw a spot on your dress & broke into tears because your dress was dirty. I knew our magical photo moment had come to an end. We went inside, cleaned off your dress, & you got a ton of M&Ms as a thank you reward.

I knew the next part would be harder, because I wanted family portraits too (I'm pretty sure your daddy is convinced that family portraits were invented to torture him). On the first sunny weekend day that we had a free moment, I surprised him with, "today is family picture day." I'm pretty sure he contemplated seceding from our family but finally decided to grin & bear it.

We took our pictures at URI. I originally wanted to take them on the beach, but knew that the wind can be a challenge. I didn't really want a windy, beehive look. So, I chose the gardens at URI as our scenic spot. 

Since we were cutting costs, we used a tripod instead of a photographer. This proved to be a challenge. I got a little winded running back & forth. Some pictures were you, your daddy, & a part of my leg. All the running back & forth made everything take a lot longer too.

The biggest challenge became taking a picture we all thought we looked good in.

I don't think Daddy liked his chin in this picture (or maybe it was my chin?).

This would have been the perfect picture except that you had clearly had enough by this time.

Another cute picture except, woah sun. Everything is super bleached out.

In the end, I'm glad we saved the money & I love your portraits for this year. I was able to take them outside (which is really us) & take them before all the Christmas card sales ended. However, I'm hoping next year to pass on the sprinting portraits & ask a friend to take our family portraits.

Want to see our portrait favorites? Peek in on Christmas to see this year's family Christmas Card.

Thanks for being such an amazing trooper for our Christmas photo shoot(s).

I Love you so,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Elf on a Shelf

Dear Em,
Last year your grandma bought you the Elf on the Shelf set. This year we began the Elf on the Shelf family tradition & it's been wicked fun. The first night we read the book we were asked to name our elf. You, being the original namer that you are, named ours Elf on a Shelf (your pink glow worm is named Pink & the blue glow worm is named Blue & your babies are all named Baby). There's a place to write in the name of the elf & the date we started the tradition. I wrote in the name in small writing, leaving room incase you're feeling a little more original next year.

We read the Elf on the Shelf book most nights. In the morning, you rush out of bed to find where the elf is hiding. When you find him, you giggle & squeal in delight.

I recently learned that there are all kinds of fun ideas on Pinterest for things your elf can be found doing. Like how fun is the elf making the snow angel in rice above? Maybe we'll get a little more creative & adventurous with our tradition next year.

It's such a fun family tradition that I hope we'll continue for many many years.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas party for your little friends

Dear Em,
You've grown up with two adorable girls. The three of you were born within two & a half months of each other, & it's been so amazing to watch you all grown & develop. At first you sat in side by side strollers during walks & shared tummy time on the same mat. Then you were sitting side by side in exersaucers. Next you pulled yourselves to standing & danced to the music of Super Why. Us mommies were amazed as you learned to feed yourselves & began to toddle & then run around. Now you have fascinating little conversations & personalities. I can't believe what smart little girls you three are, & I love to watch you play & explore.

We all got together for a Christmas party at our house last week. Daddy made the mistake of telling you about the party the night before & you were overcome with excitement. I don't think your school day could have passed by quickly enough. You spent the whole day telling your teachers that you were going to a party that night.

We made wreaths from your little toddler hands.

We opened gifts.

We ate snacks.

We played Simon Says.

We had a blast.

I think it's so fun that at the age of almost two you have such amazing gal pals. I love that we get together for celebrations throughout the year (or just a play date at the park). It's fascinating to watch you grow together & I'm so excited to see what the three of you become. Plus, I have the added bonus of having two supportive & fun Mommy friends to share it all with.

I love you so,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas PJs

Dear Em,
Tonight we head down to North Carolina to spend Christmas with the Bixby family. For as long as I can remember, we were allowed to open a couple gifts on Christmas Eve & one of the gifts was always Christmas PJs. There's something so amazing about a pair of fresh & festive Christmas PJs. My brothers & sisters & I have grown up, & I think most of them would be happy to ditch the matching PJs (perhaps because after we open them & put them on we have to take a forced family fun photo shoot in our PJs in front of the tree...perhaps because we're not 5 anymore). Your Nonnie actually hasn't gotten us Christmas PJs in years. For me it's a tradition that I would be so sad to end. So, I've become Nonnie's elf & I purchase our PJs each year.

Some PJs of Christmas pasts...

I think this was 1987. See, we were happy in our Christmas PJs!


In our Christmas PJs in 1989. How did my mom get three kids & a dog to sit & look at a camera?!

Here we are in 2005.

In 2007 the girls wore button down PJs & the boys has plaid bottoms & t-shirts.

2008 was a Red Sox themed year with our last names & favorite numbers printed on the back. This was the year I we started to force involve the whole family (parents & significant others) in our PJ tradition.

2009 was a Patriots themed year. I had a little onesie for you incase you wanted to be my Christmas Eve surprise. No such luck.

2010 was the best year, our first Christmas as a family of three. I surprised your daddy with adult sized footsie PJs. Those things are super warm & comfy. I went back to the Red Sox theme for the full family PJs, but in Christmas colors this time. We're not really big hockey or basketball fans.

It's so fun to look back on all of the family Christmases & family traditions. I'm so excited about this year. They are the best ever! I can't wait for you & our family to open our Christmas PJs this year. I hope you grow to love our PJ tradition as much as I do.

I love you so,

* Readers, what fun Christmas traditions do you share in your home? *

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