Thursday, September 27, 2012

our little shoe girl

Dear Em,

"Mommy! Are these my NEW SHOES?! Did you buy them for me?! Oh thank you, thank you, thank you. Oh, you are the best Mommy shoe finder in the WHOLE WORLD!"

You exclaimed this earlier in the week after I had swapped out all your summer shoes for your winter shoes in your shoe bin. At first I was a little surprised. You were with me when we bought your school shoes. I ordered one pair online, but we had tried them on you when they came in. Maybe you forgot about it because it was a month ago?

I couldn't help but laugh as you put each pair of your "new shoes" on. You oooooohed & thanked me as you pranced around in each new pair. I never knew a few pairs of shoes could make a 2.5 year old so delightfully happy.

We kind of have a rule about not wearing shoes in the house, but you just couldn't take off the pink sneakers you had picked out during our marathon outlet shopping trip. They're pink, & they're sparkly. They're a little out of control & not at all what Daddy or I would prefer. But you LOVE them. You tried to go to bed with them on. I promised you that you could wear them the very next day. Then & only then would you let me take your shoes off for the night.

I see a closet bursting with shoes in your future.

Thanks for making me laugh & smile every day.

I love you so,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Jammie Days

Dear Em,
"Mommy can we please just have a jammy day?" 

It's probably your way of just trying to avoid getting dressed, but it pulls at my heartstrings. It reminds me of how long it's been since we've had a lazy, jammy day. It's been so busy...maybe we've kept you too busy? We're having so much fun on all our adventures, but I think we'd all just love a full weekend of rest, relaxation, & having nothing planned.

It was like your teachers knew how busy things were when they planned a jammy day for school. You smiled ear-to-ear when I woke you in the morning & told you it was jammy day.

You & your classmates looked so stinkin' cute in your jammies.

You know what's funny? Daddy worked from home that day, so he got to have a jammy day too. It was a jammy day for everyone! Well, except for me. I think we need to talk to the company I work for about jammy days.

Until then, I'll just have to dream about family jammy days in mid-October when things look like they might start slowing down.

I love you so,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Walking Down Apple Picking Memory Lane

Dear Em,
Brrrrr. There is a chill in the air. Last night your daddy brought up turning on the heat. I told him I'd rather wait until October. September just seems so early to be turning on the heat. Less than a month ago we were swimming in the ocean, & now we're all bundled up.

I officially took all the summer clothes out of your closet & replaced them with winter clothes. I tried not to cry as I discarded your favorite outfits that you will never wear again. One of the saddest things for me as a mom is going through season changes & cleaning out your closet. I'm just filled with memories as I take each adorable, little item of clothing out of your closet. It's not just that you're never going to wear the things just reminds me that you're growing SO fast. Next year will come with new clothes & new things.

At least this season is filled with some of my favorite things, like apple picking. We went apple picking at Narrow Lane Orchard last Friday. It was a rocky day, we almost weren't going to make it. But there wasn't any other time we would be able to fit it in, & I really didn't want to miss it this year. So, we made it work, & I'm so glad we did. It was a blast.

Apple picking made me reminisce about the last few years. This is our fourth year apple picking with you. Well, technically, it's our third, but four years ago you were a little life growing inside me.


The little apples just made me think of you. I couldn't think of anything but how fun it would be to apple pick once you were born. The woman working the register said I looked like I "was going to pop at any moment" which was really nice because I wasn't due for another three months. Sigh, I really don't miss pregnancy.


In 2010 we went apple picking right after church, & we went to the orchard your daddy had gone to when he was growing up, Hazard Brothers Orchard. We brought the wagon with us so you & the apples could ride in it. Of course, at just over eight months old, you had no interest in sitting. You preferred to get out & push the wagon. The sun was shining. You could smell fall in the air. It was one of my favorite days, our first time apple picking as our little family of three.


In 2011 we got off to a rocky start. We planned to meet your daddy back at Narrow Lane Orchard after work. Just before we were about to walk out the door, you vomited all over the carefully selected outfit I had chosen for the occasion (& all over our rug). This wasn't just baby spit-up. This was the first time you had actually for real vomited. I think I stared at you, crying, & the vomit all over everywhere for a full 60 seconds before I could even do anything. I was frozen with the word "FRICK!" (or something like that) repeating inside my head. For better or for worse, I quickly decided (hoped) it was a one time thing. Maybe I had rushed you eating your dinner a little too much. I cleaned you up, rolled up our throw rug & threw it outside (I have a weak stomach & there was no way I was cleaning that up), & we were off for some apple picking.

You loved it. This was the first time you could actually pick apples. It was so much fun for you to run down the lanes of apples & find the ones you wanted to pick. We had a blast, & I patted myself on the back thinking the whole vomiting thing really was just a one time thing...& then you vomited in the car on the way home. Whoops, so I guess it wasn't just a one-time thing.

And then there was this year, 2012...

Every year I look at pictures of people going apple picking, & I think "wow, isn't it early to go apple picking?" Then I realize September is almost over & scramble to try to schedule it in. This year was no different. Our day was already going to be hectic, but I was determined to fit it in...& then I got a flat/shredded tire & had to fit in the maintenance of my car on top of everything else. We actually took a Cadillac rental car to apple picking (which Daddy loved, but you were disappointed by the fact you couldn't reach the buttons to roll down the windows).

Apple picking with you this year was so amazing & so fun. Every year seems to be my favorite year, but then the next year comes & I have a new favorite year. You had a blast running up & down the rows of apples & finding the "perfectly perfect" apples. Most of your favorite apples were teeny tiny, & it made me think of how much I loved the littles before you were born because they reminded me of the life growing inside of me.

We ended our hectic day with sundaes at Newport Creamery, & I couldn't think of a better way to end our crazy day or two people I would rather end a crazy day with.

This morning I ate homemade apple pie for breakfast. Yup, I love apple picking.

I love you so,

Monday, September 24, 2012

Are you a warrior?

Dear Em,
This Saturday was one of the most physical & fun Saturdays we've had in a while. Your daddy & I competed in the Warrior Dash with a group of friends. It was amazing.

What is the Warrior Dash? It's a 5K with obstacles, & the proceeds go to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. They hold them all over the country. Ours was just over the border of Rhode Island in Connecticut. It's also a party. There was a stage with a band, food (some free), & beer (if you complete the course, the first one is free). Plus, you bring home a fuzzy warrior helmet, a t-shirt, a medal, & pride in yourself for finishing.

Our team before the race. We were the Wicked Awesome Super Heros: Mr. Clean, Wonder Woman, Mr. Koolaid, Hulk Hogan, Animal, Super Man, & Spider Man (yeah, we may have gotten a little liberal with the super heros).

Your daddy & I went with a group of seven people. Our course included eleven challenging obstacles. Climbing a cargo net, crawling under barbed wire, using a rope to climb up a steep wall & then dropping down the slide, crawling in two feet of mud, & jumping over fire were just some of the the things we did on Saturday. As we approached each obstacle, I questioned myself. "I don't know if I can do this," I thought. I worried about breaking parts of my body or getting halfway through & not being able to finish. I mean, when was the last time I tried to climb a 20 foot wall? Um, never. But, I did it. I surprised myself each time, & I did it.

That's not to say I was a stellar athlete the whole time. I had trouble with the running. I knew that I would. I'm not much of a distance runner. Well, maybe I could be if I actually trained (which I'm hoping for next year). I got ran halfway through the course & then had to walk. The rest of our team runs 5Ks & half marathons for fun & were way ahead of us, but your daddy stayed with me. We did the whole race together, cheering each other on as we went. It was such a great feeling when we crossed the finish line together.

Our team post race.

After the race, we got hosed down by firefighter hoses. It probably doesn't sound very appealing, but it felt so good to let the cold water power-wash off all the mud & sweat. We were still kind of muddy & pretty dirty as we enjoyed the after-party & a beer (or two). We admired our medals & the funky tan lines were were getting through the mud. We challenged ourselves, & we did it. It was so fun.

And now my body is so sore. It's not broken, but it is sore.

I can't wait to do it again next year.

I love you so,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

how to take forced family fun photos

Dear Em,
Since you were born, my family has had the extreme dread pleasure of taking family portraits when we get together each summer. I am pretty sure everyone in our family wants to kill me in my sleep (except for probably Nonnie), but somehow they've just accepted our yearly forced family fun photos.

I'm cheap fiscally conservative & a control freak have an idea of what I want so I am the photographer...which isn't exactly easy because I'm also in the photos. Our family size & the fact that half of them ignore me can also be a challenge, but I love a good challenge.

If you're interested in taking your own family portraits, here are 15 nearly impossible easy steps.

1. Tell your family that you are planning to take family photos. While the girls will pretty much be OK with that, let the guys get really annoyed & complain that family photo shoots take too long.
2. Take weeks to discuss what everyone will be wearing. In the end it probably doesn't matter what color/clothing option everyone chooses, they will all be rushing at the last minute to buy new outfits for the photo shoot. Let them complain about it.
3. Choose a location. Beachy areas are best if you want your hair to fly all over the place in your photos. Everyone knows that bad hair days make for the best photos.
4. Try to plan a time for your photo shoot that is not around the same time as "cranky time." For those of you with children or husbands, you understand.
5. Plan out what poses/groups you want to take pictures of (i.e. whole family, just the girls, just the guys, individuals, etc), & make yourself an agenda of which order you're going to take the pictures. Plan to get any pictures with small children out of the way first. They tend to become tired & cranky easily (actually, they all tend to become tired & cranky easily). Forget your agenda once you get to your location & forget half of the group/poses you wanted to shoot.
6. Make sure your camera battery is charged. This is very important. Consider bringing a second (or third) camera for when you realize you forgot to charge your camera's battery.
7. Bring a tripod. Possibly have a backup in case your brother-in-law forgets to bring his or you accidentally break your Dad's (I'm still so sorry, Dad). Use a tall pile of books when you realize you have no tripod.
8. Cameras with ten second timers that take numerous photos continuously are best in this situation. This will give you ample time to run into the frame & wipe the sweat off your face before the camera starts shooting. Also, multiple continuous shots give you the best chance of finding one photo where everyone's eyes are actually open.
9. Once you get to your location, arrange everyone where you want them to be. The girls will mostly listen to you & stand in the right spot. The guys will pretend they don't even know you. Interestingly enough, the guys will take the most time to get set up for each shot even though they are the ones who complained about how much time forced family fun photo shoots take. Weird.
10. Make your family walk through mud, sit on fire ant mounds, hang from trees, & get bitten mercilessly by mosquitoes to get your perfect poses.
11. Bribe your child with candy, ice cream, & Disney World to get her to look at the camera & smile while the camera is shooting. Shake around a box of sweet tarts like an idiot & fill your child with so much sugar that she is ready to vomit. This is parenting at it's best.
12. Set up the tripod. Set up your shot. Tell everyone to get ready. Press the shutter release button & then sprint into the picture frame. Realize that you've forgotten to set-up the shutter timer & you've just taken a picture of your family & your bum. Tell everyone just kidding. Set-up the shutter timer, set-up your shot, tell everyone to get ready, & sprint like the sweaty mess you are into the picture frame. The more your run back & forth between the tripod & the poses, tell yourself that sweaty is a really great look for you.
13. Repeat for as many different poses you want or until your whole family is ready to strangle you/not even paying attention to you anymore/off doing things that have nothing to do with family photos. Make most of your family wish they were part of a non-portrait taking family. Imagine that your camera is shooting bullets & not pictures, & smile as half your family ignores you.
14. Look at your photos. Realize that at least one person has their eyes closed in every shot. Debate with your family which group photo each person looks good in. Have no one agree on one photo that they all look good in. Have the guys mostly not care as long as they don't have to do it again.
15. Have some really awesome family photographs that will last a lifetime.

Here are some of the special forced family fun photos that will last our lifetime:

In 2010 you were just 5 months old. We took the pictures at a beautiful park near my parents house. Guys wore collared shirts & girls wore whatever. We got some great photos. Unfortunately, I hadn't learned how to set my camera at the highest quality photo setting, & the pictures become grainy when enlarged. Whoops.

In 2011 you were almost a year in a half. I loved the idea of family beach portraits. While we got some really fun photos, it also made for some funky hair photos. Each sibling/part of the family wore a different color.

This Year: 2012
Jennie had the great idea to take our photos at the River Court, a basketball court where scenes of the TV series One Tree Hill was filmed. It was the perfect location. It's right on a river & we could get cool water shots without the wind. A basketball court is a less traditional spot for portraits, & I had all kinds of fun ideas for poses. Plus, we would be able to say we had our portraits taken where a TV show was filmed. 

When we got to our portrait location, I gave Jennie a weird look & said "um, so where is the River Court?" It was gone. Total bummer. Plus, it was still a little breezy right off the river. So, we didn't have the cool location we originally planned on, but I think we made the best of what was there.

I promised the girls that if we all wore red scarves, we wouldn't have to take family portraits in November to use as Christmas photos.

An old fashioned riverboat actually passed by while we took the girls photos, but of course happy faces weren't a priority for you then. Oh, well.

Here is a great example of the guys not paying attention to me. I still love it. It's a great classic guys shot.

Here's our fun, just the kids shot.

This pose was Gina's idea & ended up probably being my favorite of the whole shoot.

This one is my other favorite shot. I feel like this precious photograph captures 33 years of love.

Speaking of photographs, most of mine end up just being stored on my computer & facebook. Luckily, we have your aunt Gina to provide us with an incredible way to display our photos: photo montages. She is so incredibly talented, & we are so fortunate that she has gifted us with montages to commemorate our most precious moments. Your montage is your favorite thing to watch. It includes everyone you love & all your favorite songs. It was a lifesaver during our 12 hour drive from North Carolina to Rhode Island. It made me so happy to listen to your squeals of happiness & giggles while you watched the photos & videos of some of our most precious moments from your second year. 

You can follow Gina on Facebook via BixMontage or check out her Esty Site.

Here's a teaser of your second year montage. The actual one is an hour long (I know, we are so so so lucky to know Gina) which includes some of our 2011 forced family fun photos.

Aren't photographs the best?

I love you so,

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bixby Bowling

Dear Em,
Can I tell you a secret? I don't really like bowling. I know, it's kinda weird since we went at least a few times this year. Growing up, I just didn't really see the point. Or maybe it's just that I've never been very good. And then you came along, & well, you put fun in anything (& then there are cranky times when you take the fun right out of things, but mostly you put the fun in).

While we were out in North Carolina, your aunt Jennie & uncle Nick treated all of the siblings to bowling. I thought, "what the heck, I'll do it to spend time as a family." Typically when we come to visit, everyone else still has work & school. There are eight of us (including spouses & you), & schedules can be hard to work around. Typically, we try to have special moments with who we can, when we can.

It would have been nice to have Nonnie & Papi there too, but being just the kids was kind of nice. Being able to spend time together, the eight of us, made my heart so happy...even if it was bowling.

But you know what? It was a blast.

You woke up a little cranky from your nap, but were thrilled once you found a pink ball.

The boys were pretty amazing in action.

Of course, you & I had pretty amazing form too.

One of the most precious moments was when you helped Aunt Jennie bowl. The excitement on your face when the ball knocked over some pins made my whole night.

I may have slowed down the bowling game...err match...I'm not sure what you call stopping everyone to take pictures. I'm lucky no one murdered me with my camera strap & I was able to catch shots of all of us like this.

You know how it doesn't matter what you're doing when you're with the right kind of people? I think our bowling fun was kind of like that. Or maybe it was that I actually broke 100 (which never happens) & beat your uncle Greg. Ok, it's probably a combination of both.

I love you so,

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