Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Is...

Dear Em,
This Christmas Eve is...

Early morning snuggles & cartoons.

Breakfast in bed...then again cheerios & milk in bed is not such a great idea. Scratch that. Breakfast at your table.

Christmas cookie making & batter tasting.

Christmas movies by the fireside (our fake fireside).


Bundling up to go trampoline jumping.

Trampoline giggles.

Warming up inside with hot cocoa & sugar cookies.

More Christmas movies & more snuggles.

Milkshakes with Daddy.

New family Christmas PJs.

Unwrapping one gift & following in my footsteps as a little photographer.

Saying bye to our Elf on the Shelf, Tennessee.

Cookies & milk for Santa & carrots for Rudolph.

Christmas books before bed.

One almost three year old nestled all snug in her bed.

Stockings hung by the fake fireplace with care.

Santa's Elves hard at work.


Sigh, it's magical.

I love you so,

Friday, December 21, 2012

love letters

Dear Em,

"I love Christmas so much. It is important to find a tree with a wonderful aroma. (That's a fancy word for smell.) I think bigger is always better. But my dad says we must compromise. That means we end up with the tree my mom wants."

You love Fancy Nancy, & we've been reading her Christmas book ALL YEAR LONG. I can't help but smile when I read the words above, because that's exactly how it works in our family too. I grew up with a fake Christmas tree, but your Daddy wants you to have the whole picking out the Christmas tree experience. To me, that just means picking out a perfect (perfectly big) Christmas tree each & every year, & every year we've gone home with the tree I've picked.

When the time came to pick out our tree this year, we bundled up, & headed to Shartner Farm. When it comes to Christmas trees, I have to agree with Fancy Nancy: Bigger Is Better! You couldn't disagree more. You're obsessed with Baby everything. As we walked by the tiny trees that have just begun growing, you gasped. "Baby trees!!! Can we have this tree for our house?!" You hugged one of the tiny trees & looked at it with love in your eyes. There's no freaking way. We wouldn't even fit a tenth of our ornaments on the tiny trees you fell in love with. I took a picture of you in the midst of your beloved trees, & tried to distract you with bigger, fuller trees.

When I found our perfect tree, a tree that was much taler than Daddy, you looked at it & scrunched up your nose. "I DO NOT like THAT tree," you said with emphasis. I think Daddy was in agreement with you as he sawed the monstrous thing down. It was too big & fat & heavy for us to carry back to our car, & we had to ask a nice man who worked at Shartner Farm to bring it back on his truck. 

Once the tree was strapped on top of our car, you had mostly forgotten your disappointment in the big tree. You were bubbling with energy. You requested "Jingle Bells" on repeat during the ride home. I have a Rat Pack version. Sammy Davis Jr. shouts "Everybody!" just before the chorus, and you take that request very seriously. "Mommy, Daddy, you aren't singing. You have to sing, because he said everybody!" you sternly instruct us. For sure there was laughing & singing all the way.

We were in luck, our tree does have a wonderful aroma. Last year your Nonnie taught me a great way to fill the whole house with the Christmasy scent & add natural decoration to our home. Before bringing it in, Daddy clipped off some of the bottom branches. I used the branches to fill vases that I place all around the house. I love how pretty it is, & I love that we can still smell our tree no matter where in the house we are.

Once the tree was in the house, the reality of how big & fat it is set in. In fact the tree was a little too tall for our house. After making a big tree mark across our ceiling, we had to trim the top down. Daddy was not thrilled. Whoops.

After some major trimming of the tree, it fit beautifully. We're so lucky to have the most adorable little elf to help decorate the tree. You took your duty very seriously. "OMG! BEST DAY EVER!" you exclaimed as you wore your reindeer antlers (you tried to dress our cat, Charlie, up in them as well) & placed the non-breakable ornaments on the bottom branches. Your face was so precious as I unwrapped my Strawberry Shortcake & Minnie Mouse ornaments from when I was a child. It's amazing how much has changed since I was little like you but how much is still the same. A Strawberry Shortcake & Minnie Mouse ornament can still make a little girl smile.

I have to agree. It was the best day & is the best tree ever.

I love you so,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

DIY Christmas Gifts with Kids

Dear Em,
Last year we didn't make a whole lot of Christmas gifts. You were little & didn't have a very long attention span. It was hard enough to get you to color more than one line on each page of your coloring books. Now you're excited to craft. Once we start to paint, you want to paint everything in the house. I love it! It was so fun for us to make gifts together this year.

Remember the personalized canvas bags/beach bags we made for your teachers, Nonnie & Grandma? Your Aunt Andrea lives in Florida, & we thought a personalized beach bag of her own would be the perfect Christmas gift. We used your cute little hands to make adorable little crabbies. I love how they turned out.

Back in October we were in A.C. Moore looking for craft ideas for Halloween. We didn't find much for Halloween, but we did find lots of fun for Christmas. They had a ton of wooden Christmas ornaments for a dollar. I bought a ton & saved them for a rainy day...OK, let's be honest, I mostly forgot about them. Luckily, I remembered. We painted a couple each night this month & added glitter. 

I'm not sure how many we made. It was A LOT, & you had a blast painting (although I think we were both over it by the end). You did a great job! In the future, I would choose things like snowflakes & Christmas bulbs over things like angels & snowmen. The snowflakes & Christmas bulbs you could paint on your own. The angels & snowmen had more details, & I ended up finishing them up once you were asleep. Maybe it's just me, but I prefer the ornaments that were all your own artwork.

We saved the pink gingerbread man for our tree (notice the pink, yellow, & blue colors...yours, mine, & Daddy's favorite colors), & the rest were gifted to people everywhere. I think they're a fun, cute, & cheap thoughtful gift for our friends & family.

Thanks for being my Christmas crafting partner this year.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

our third year favorites

Dear Em,
I'm pretty much done with all of my holiday shopping. Between Christmas & your birthday, you are going to be...well, SPOILED. A friend of ours is starting a tradition where Santa brings three gifts (just like the three kings brought for baby Jesus) & Mommy & Daddy give a couple gifts for her children. I love that idea & think that's what we're going to go with next year, because this year got a little out of control. With that said, there are such special things waiting for you to open them up, things that I think will be your favorites for a long time to come.

The anticipation of watching you open up your gifts, always makes me think about all the gifts we've come to love & cherish this past year. I wrote about Our First Year Favorites here & here, & Our Second Year Favorites here & here. From those lists, there are a lot of things that will be our forever favorites. A great camera for pictures & video will always be a MUST for me, & this year we even stepped it up a little with a Canon EOS (love love love!). Music has always filled our home, but this year has been so fun because we get to sing it together. Top 40s sung in your little 2-year-old voice will always be my favorite. Books! Oh-Em-Gee, I hope reading together is always our favorite. We built bookshelves for your room this year just to fit all of your books, & they have even started to overfill. I kind of have a book buying addiction, but there are so many great ones out there. Perhaps, we need to start going to the library. Some of our other oldies but goodies are the trampoline, your puzzles, a bin we have full of coloring books & markers & crayons, & your kitchen set & table.

There were also some new favorites that have emerged:

I wrote about your Magna-Tile set (here) less than a month after you were gifted the set, because they are that amazing. We first learned about them at the children's museum, & it was one of my favorite parts of the museum. The colors, the endless structures you can create...this has always been fun for both adults & kids. In fact, my whole family sat down together to play. It was such a fun sight. We store them in a basket, & almost always dump them out when friends come to play. It's such an easy, no mess activity...& it's tons & tons of fun. My favorite Magna-Tile moment this year was when we built three house shaped structures & enacted The Three Little Pigs. It was one of your first days of potty training, & you were only wearing a sweatshirt & undies. I just remember you as you huffed & you puffed & you knocked down the houses. It will always be such a precious moment to me.

Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter
I put this on your amazon wish list thinking it could be fun, & was so surprised when your uncle Greg gave you your first scooter as a gift. My mom typically does his shopping, but he had picked it out for you on his own. We didn't use it for a little while, not knowing if you were ready. A few months ago we were going on a walk & pulled it out. I know I'm biased, but you are the most adorable scooter-girl ever. It took you a little while to get the hang of it. I laugh to myself thinking of the awkward position you would stand in during our first scooter outing, but now you zoom. You giggle & smile as we chase you down our quiet street. Sometimes your Daddy & I take a turn, but we've recently realized we're going to break it with our weight & will leave the scootering to you. This has become one of our favorite outdoor toys. It's so much fun, & it's something you can do on your own. We love it!

I'm not sure how Lamby hasn't been mentioned in any of our past favorite posts. I'm not sure who gave us Lamby (maybe my mom?), but she was a gift when I was pregnant. I filled your crib with stuffed animals. I think a lot of people wondered where you would sleep in a crib that was so filled with "friends," but I wanted you to always feel comfortable in your bed. I never wanted you to feel lonely. Somehow, Lamby emerged above the rest. She became your lovey, the one you snuggled with & loved above everything else. She still is. She's been by your side through your first day of school, getting tubes in your ears, overnight trips, & has really traveled with us on all of our adventures. We've had to enact a Lamby rule: she must stay in your room. This keeps us from having to go on a Lamby hunt every night before bedtime (you can't sleep without Lamby), & keeps you from being too dependant. I love watching you talk to her & the sweet way your snuggle her tight as you sleep. We had gotten a second Lamby for school. You needed one for nap time, & we didn't want to be constantly taking Lamby back & forth. Even still, Lamby started to look awfully dull. I started to wonder how long Lamby would hold up & pictured your heartbroken little face if Lamby were to fall apart. So, I went on amazon & found more Lamby's. Now I think we have a total of 6 Lamby's (one at Nonnie & Papi's house) that we rotate through, & everyone is happy.

I talked about babies before in our second year favorites, but they are worth mentioning again. You are baby obsessed. You have a ton of them, & you love every single one. Watching you play pretend with your baby dolls is one of the most precious things ever. You rock them & put them in your booster seat at the table to feed them. You "take them to the store" in your carriage & ask Daddy & I to babysit while you "go to work." Recently, they've all been "pooping in their pants." I'm not sure why, but you are always upset with your babes for pooping in their pants. Daddy & I can't help but giggle as we listen to your mothering techniques. You are one tough momma. Your babies spend a whole lot of time in time-out, but you scold them with love. 

I think I bought your easel before you were one. I always knew I wanted you to have one, & there was an amazing deal. I bought it, & we stored it in the basement until your second birthday. There has been so much chalk drawing, painting, & coloring with markers since then. You've created wrapping paper masterpieces. You were coloring with markers on your easel when you drew your very first person (your adorable people seriously melt my heart). It's a thing you can use to let your creativity flow, & it's also a thing we can pull out to occupy you when we're busy with something else. Of course, when we're not occupied in other things, it's great to join in on the art fun too.!

You beg us to pull out your play-doh on a weekly basis, & I have to admit we've said no more often than not. While it's great fun, for the longest time you just weren't able to play with it on your own. It had to be a time when we knew we could sit with you & create with you & clean up the play-doh mess at the end. Recently, it's been a little different. You play with your play-doh independently & so sweetly, occasionally running to us to show us your newest creation. Your favorite part is using the Play-Doh: Fun Factory Deluxe Set to create "gingermans" & make little faces on your little gingerbread men & women shapes. You create whole families. It's kinda cute. I have a feeling that play-doh will also be a fourth year favorite.

So, you don't actually have your own iPad. I have been very hesitant about introducing you to a lot of technology. I know that it's going to be a big part of your life, but I didn't want it to be the ONLY thing in your life. I would rather have you run around outside, read a book, & use your imagination than sit down all day with electronics. You'd never really seen an iPad until Nonnie brought hers this summer. It amazed me how quickly you picked it up. In no time, you were opening up apps & playing learning games on the iPad. When I got one for work, I downloaded a few free children's apps. You don't use it a whole lot, but it's your favorite thing to do when we're all feeling lazy. It's also really great for travel. I think there's going to be a constant struggle for me with you & technology, but I at least feel better knowing that you are having fun learning with it. If we get you any type of tablet in the future, the iPad will be it...but that will likely be far into the future.

Plasma Car
My parents have two of these, & your Daddy & I had a blast riding around on them before you were born. It's a children's car, but it holds up to 250 pounds. So, really it;s fun for the whole family. We couldn't wait for you to have one, & were excited when Santa brought you one for Christmas last year. We keep it inside, because it rides so well on the pergo floors. You use it to "go to the grocery store" & "go to work." You have a blast pushing Daddy & I down the hall in it. Our adult friends have even had the pleasure of going for a ride.

While you watched a lot of TV shows last year, movies were a little too long for you to get into for the most part. You also scared easy at the slightest hint of a darker theme. This year has definitely been your first year where you've developed a love for movies. We have a bunch of Disney & Pixar classics & a few other goodies. Your favorite coming into the year was Rapunzel, but now you're more of a Despicable Me fan. We keep them in your daddy's old CD case. This way they're together in one place & easy to grab when we go on a trip. Your movies have been clutch during long car & plane trips, sick days, & days when we just feel like being lazy. Most of your movies are ones that your daddy & I can also appreciate, which makes for fun, popcorn filled movie nights.

Sigh, so those are our third year favorites in a nutshell. I'm kind of seeing a fun for the parents & kids theme when it comes to our very favs. Weird. I hope playing for all of us never gets old.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Precious People

Dear Em,
Remember how we like to decorate our back doors for different times of year? This year's Christmas decorations are super special, because they include Emma-original artwork. I had made snowflakes out of scrapbooking paper, but when I found the window markers the real magic began.

You drew your first person this summer, & we've been enchanted by your little people ever since. I told you to draw whatever you wanted on our doors, & our family is what you chose. On the right side you drew you, Daddy, & I. On the left side you drew Grandma, Papa, Nonnie, Papi, Great Grandma, & you "at their house." 

Here's a close up of you with the grandparents (you're the one all the way on the left).

I love that most of the people seem to have frowny faces instead of smiles. I love that you included hair. I love that even at your young, sweet age you seem to know that Christmas is about family. 

I smile every time I pass our decorated doors. Now they don't just remind me of Christmas. They remind me of just how precious you are.

I love you so,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our NYC Adventure 2012

Dear Em,
Last year you traveled to NYC for the very first time. It was a fun & crazy girls day. I vowed not to take a child in diapers to NYC during the holidays ever again. We weren't really planning to make a trip again this year, but we were missing two of our best friends who live in the city. So, it's become kind of an annual thing (or at lest in the past two years) to take a trip to the big apple, & this year your daddy joined us too.

The weather was calling for rain, & we were bummed out. "Oh no, this is a disaster," you dramatically gasped as you looked out the window & saw the rain drops coming down. Luckily, your Godfather had a great idea: to enjoy the Museum of Natural History. You know, as many times as I've visited the city, I don't think I've gone to a museum. We were excited to visit our friends & explore something new.

We met at a hotel, exchanged gifts, & took pictures in front of the Christmas tree. In New York City, there's beautiful Christmas trees up everywhere during the holidays. It may be crazy crowded, but I love the beautiful holiday decorations throughout the city. While the guys brought our gifts back to the car, you had a blast sitting in every single one of the couches in the hotel lobby. There were A LOT. It really doesn't take much to entertain you.

The streets were even more crowded than I remember from last year. It's not very easy to manuver with a stroller (we learned to have one person from our party walk directly in front of the stroller to help make a stroller path through the crowds), & we were happy to get onto the subway. I think the subway is your favorite part of any city. You make sure to hold on tight, & you make sure we're all holding on tight too.

We went by the Statue of Liberty, at least the one outside of a store. It totally reminded me of your favorite movie, Despicable Me.

After lunch, we headed to the museum. Maybe it's because we were tourists. Maybe it was just an off day, but your daddy & I couldn't figure out the layout of the museum. I'm not sure how many entrances there are, but we kept walking out of them, thinking that we were going into an exhibit. I think it took us 30 minutes at one point just to find an actual exhibit. Luckily, our dear friends came to the rescue, & took us the to dinosaurs. It was the most extensive dinosaur exhibit I've ever been to. Truly amazing.

It was an amazing museum, but it too was crowded. Crowds are hard for you. You don't understand why we have to hold you so close. You want to be free to explore. It also didn't help that you didn't have a nap. There were some frustrating melt downs, but overall it was great. Even though you were exhausted, we had to head to Rockafeller Center. It was crazy crowded, but we managed to get a picture.

Soon after, we found a side street that was not as busy & lined with beautiful lit up trees. We were able to stop & look at the beauty of the area without feeling like we were mashed up against thousands of other people. Of course, it also gave us more photo opportunities.

We ended our trip at the Disney store. I just love walking through Times Square and being in the midst of the lights & the people. I didn't mind that the Disney store is right in the middle of it all. The Disney store was CA-RAZY, but then again it wasn't that bad. It was hectic, yet manageable. Since our Disney trip, you've fallen in love with Minnie Mouse. When we found a Minnie dressed as the Statue of Liberty, it just seemed like the perfect souvenir for you. The line surprisingly didn't take that long to get through, & it cost less than $15. I kinda feel like anything less than $15 is a steal in NYC.

It was a hectic but totally amazing family trip, & we were glad to share it with two of our best friends. Plus, it helped that you were totally potty trained this year. I'm just looking forward to when you're not a disaster because you didn't get a nap.

I love you so,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Movies

Dear Em,
I love children's movies. I've always been a big Disney & Pixar fan. I have sadly gone to see so many children's movies with no child in hand. There were a lot of reasons that I wanted to be a mom, & having a little to take to the movies was one of them. I just really never thought about how long it takes for a child to be ready for his/her first trip to the movies.

So, we've waited. We've waited for you to be more interested in movies. We've waited for you to be able to sit still longer. We've waited for scary parts to seem less scary. As your movie watching at home  increased, I started to feel like you were ready to try a movie at the theater.

With no free weekend days or nights ahead, the next free time we had planned was while we were on vacation in North Carolina. I asked my family if they wanted to join us, & Nonnie, Papi, Uncle Greg, & Uncle Jared agreed to go to see Wreck-It Ralph.

The hard part about taking a young child to see a movie at a theater is you don't have the opportunity to screen the movie beforehand. You don't know if there are scary parts, where the scary parts are, & you can't fast forward through the scary parts. Luckily, you can at least ask other parents who have taken their littles. I got the green light from a few of my friends.

We headed to the theater, bought our tickets, filled up on snacks & hoped for the best.

For a little while we were the only family in the theater. It was kind of fun to watch you go from seat to seat & pick out the perfect one, & I was able to take a few ton of pictures. Another family arrived, & I realized it probably wasn't a great idea to let you go from seat to seat, because now we were going to need you to pick one & stay in it.

You did great! You were so excited & so engaged in the story-line of the movie. Although you didn't sit through the whole movie, you did at least stand quietly & still throughout the whole movie. We were also in luck during the one scary part. You had to go to the bathroom just as things started to get a little dark. Nonnie took you, & the movie brightened again just as you got back.

You loved Wreck-It Ralph, as did I. Your first night out at the movies was a fun success. We already can't wait for Despicable Me 2 to come out in theaters this summer. Despicable Me is your favorite movie right now. We've watched it on repeat more times than I can count. You were thrilled to see the preview for the new one at the movie theater. It looks super cute.

I'm so excited to have a little movie buddy. Now I just have to work on preparing you to also be my Broadway buddy.

I love you so,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bixby's of the Round Table

Dear Em,
We had such a fun & cozy Thanksgiving with my family. This year your Uncle Nick & Aunt Jennie hosted. You know what one of my favorite parts was? Of course the food was amazing, but my favorite part was Nick & Jennie's great big round table.

I have a big family, & it keeps getting bigger. It's not often that we all sit down at one table for a meal. In fact, when we hosted Christmas a few years ago, we had to separate people between two tables. We made the mistake of calling one the "kids table." As you can guess, that didn't go over well.

This Thanksgiving we were able to sit down together as a whole family. There was a giant glass lazy susan that the food sat on, & we rotated it so we all had easy access to the huge spread of yummy food. It was fun, even though sometimes it got a little dangerous.

We held hands as we said prayers. I got to look at everyone's faces as we ate & talked & laughed. At that moment I was so thankful to be right there as a family. Later, we played a board game together...without was so fun!

I think it was one of my very favorite Thanksgivings.

I love you so,

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Happiness is finding the right version of Frosty the Snowman

Dear Em,
I can feel it. This year is going to be special. I mean, all of our Christmases with you have been special, but this one is going to be the best. I just know it.

There have been signs that this year you've caught the Christmas spirit. You actually sat on Santa's lap without pouting or crying. You watch Christmas movies on repeat. When we told you we were going to cut down a Christmas tree, you exclaimed, "BEST DAY EVER." You sat down & watched our fireplace Christmas DVD, which just plays Christmas music & looks like a fireplace. It was erie to watch you sit so still without the help of cartoons. During Christmas decorating, you insisted that we all wear reindeer antlers...even the cats.

You're bursting with Christmas spirit. So, needless to say, we only listen to Christmas music when you and I are in the car together. You have your favorites, & you request them on repeat.

One day I was driving with Christmas music playing, & I heard faint noises coming from you in the back seat. I turned off the music so I could hear you better & asked you what you were saying.

"Oh, I'm just singing Frosty, Mommy. You know, thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump, thumpity thump thump..." I'm not sure if the thumpity thump [art is your favorite or the only part you know, but you kept singing only that. I asked you if you'd like me to put on the Frosty the Snowman song, & you squealed in delight & clapped your hands.

There was just one problem.

You see, I have the Rat Pack version of Frosty the Snowman, and the Rat Pack didn't sing thumpity thump thump.

"Nooooooooooo. That's NOT Frosty, Mommy."

I had an idea. I searched for "Frosty the Snowman" in the iTunes store. Surely, they would have the version from the movie you love so much. There must be a thumpity version in there somewhere. Nope. I must have gone through 20 different versions. There was no thumpity thump thumping. "No, that's NOT Frosty," you would yell as the 30 second preview of each one played.

"Em, I don't think that they have the one you want to hear."

"Yes, YOU do. I know you can find it, Mommy! Please just do it."

And then I had a great idea. iTunes may not have it, but YouTube surely would.

And it did.

"You did it! You found it! I knew you could find the right frosty!" You had the biggest smile spread across your face as we both sang our thumpity thump thumps loudly and off-key. And that's when I learned that happiness is finding the right version of Frosty the Snowman & singing it with your favorite girl.

I love you so,

Monday, December 10, 2012

no room for photos

Dear Em,
I wanted to recap our fun Thanksgiving, our amazing trip to NC, & all of our Christmasy activities since. As I was writing a post, I went to include a photo & got a message about the space on my Picasa albums being full. Full?! How did that happen?! Well, I guess I know how that happens. I mean, I take pictures of almost everything.

Unfortunately, in order to be able to post more pictures, I would have to pay a monthly fee. While I love this blog, I didn't start it intending to pay to keep it up. On the other hand, I can't imagine recapping Thanksgiving, our trip, & all of our Christmasy activities without including pictures of your cuteness.

Have any other bloggers run into this? What did you do?

I'm going to have to figure something out. Sigh.

I love you so,
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