Archives for December 2014

Wonderful Christmastime

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My little elf, on Christmas morning

It hasn’t even been a week, but it feels like Christmas was forever ago! We had two full days of celebrations with family, friends and delicious food. And, B looked even more adorable than usual. So, of course, I can’t resist sharing a few photos of the festivities.

We spent Christmas Eve at Big Bridget’s mom’s house. Chester and Bill did all of the hard work of cooking a humongous meal, while the rest of us sat around chatting, eating and drinking.

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B was a lot more social and less overwhelmed by all of the people than she was at Christmas last year. But, she still wasn’t to thrilled about posing for photos!

When we got home later that night, I ruined a cake that I was trying to make for Christmas Day dessert, took one look at the instructions for the B’s play shopping cart, and upon seeing that it involved about 40 steps and a hammer, turned the heavy lifting back over to Santa (i.e.. Chester) and went to bed.

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I brought B downstairs around seven the next morning and her eyes lit up when she saw the pile surrounding the tree. She wasn’t really into tearing the paper off the gifts, like I thought she would be. So, we opened a few things that morning and saved the rest for later (we actually just unwrapped the final box just last night). But, she did have a blast playing with some of her play kitchen, shopping cart and Big Hugs Elmo. She also kept running back and forth between her old toys and the new ones—I guess she didn’t want them to feel left out!

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Christmas_2014-16Serious bed head

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This Elmo is literally her size. She was dumbfounded.

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Love at first sight

Christmas_2014-18We took B to Pet Smart and let her pick out a gift for Tracy. But, judging from the amount of time that poor Tracy has actually spent playing with that ball, it seems like we still have a way to go until B understands the concept of gift giving!

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Yes, we had matching pajamas (even Chester).

After naps for everyone, it was off to my mom’s for more food (including lasagna, meatballs and sausage–no one makes them better than my mom!) and gifts. Spoiled doesn’t even begin to cover what everyone in the family was this year. The floor of my mom’s living room was barely visible amid all of the boxes and bags.

Christmas_2014-35This will forever be my favorite outfit that B has ever worn. She was our Christmas princess.

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This was, by far, her favorite gift, although she kept throwing the poor doll onto the floor.

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Photo books of B’s one year photo shoot for everyone!

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Stealth photo of Uncle Mike. He’ll be thrilled to see this on here.

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Chester’s parents, on their first Christmas as Philadelphia residents.

It is safe to say that this was one of my favorite Christmases ever. Even though B still didn’t totally “get” what all the fuss was about, she was so good and just…happy. Seeing her smile and hearing her laugh are the best gifts ever. All too soon, it was time to say “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” But, next Christmas is only 359 days away!

 

What I Read: October to December and Wrap-Up

As the year comes to a close, I’m proud to say that I made the reading goal that I set at the beginning of 2014! I haven’t posted one of these updates in awhile, so this is what I read during the last three months:

The Vacationers

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Emma Straub’s book was on all of the summer “must-read” list, but as usual, I was fashionably late to the party and didn’t pick it up until October. The story follows the Post family, as they vacation on Mallorca. Being in close quarters for two weeks brings out the worst in them and exposes a few family secrets along the way. In many ways, the characters and plot devices mimic other dysfunctional family stories, but Straub’s writing is smart and humorous and she managed to make me care about characters that seemed unlikeable at first glance. This would definitely be a good one to put on your list for next summer’s beach bag—or to pick up in the winter when you are craving warmth, sand and sun.

This One Is Mine

 

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Maria Semple’s protagonist, Violet Parry, is a former television producer, turned stay-at-home mom and wife to a legendary music producer, David. She’s bored and unhappy with her life, so she decides to have an affair with Teddy, a struggling musician. Sure, David is a self-absorbed jerk, but Teddy is no better (we learn along the way that he is an alcoholic with violent tendencies, and also has Hepatitis C). There are a few other characters woven into the story, including David’s sister Sally who is on a continuous quest to bag a rich husband. But, none of them really have any redeeming qualities. The plot was unrealistic and I was thoroughly annoyed by all of the characters. Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette? is a much better read. Although the plot of that book is equally far-fetched, her characters are far more sympathetic and humorously drawn.

Jim Henson: The Biography

 

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As a lifelong Henson fan, I loved this! Brian Jay Jones traces Henson’s life and career, including his childhood in Mississippi, where he first dreamed of working in television, his efforts to break into the medium as a puppeteer on various local and national shows, his lesser known work making experimental films, and his big break on Sesame Street. Jones did an amazing job of putting together the story of Henson’s all too short life and career, through personal interviews with his family and colleagues, Henson’s personal diaries and company archives, to paint a comprehensive portrait of Henson’s passion for his work, complicated private life and lasting influence.

These three books bring the total to 12 and as the year winds down, here are a few of the highlights (and lowlights) of the past year in books:

Couldn’t Put Down: The Goldfinch 

Pleasant Surprises (aka “I Picked These at Random, Mostly Based on Their Cheap Price, and Ended Up Really Liking Them”): The Perfume Collector and The Rosie Project

Book That I Was Sad to Finish: Jim Henson: The Biography

Biggest Disappointment: Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy

Book That I Forced Myself to Finish, Even Though I Hated It: This One is Mine

Most Helpful (aka “I Wish I Had Read this Sooner):Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

I’m glad that I set this goal, as it made me set aside time to read at least a little bit each day…even if I could only get through a page or two each night before falling asleep (only to be woken up by the Nook falling on my nose. Ouch). Escaping into a good book is a pretty easy way to unwind, when you don’t really have a lot of time or energy at the end of the day!

What did you read in 2014 and who has recommendations for 2015?

Christmas Light Tour

Big, sparkly Christmas light displays are my fave. Luckily, there are no shortage of them in and around the Philadelphia area. And, since taking in the lights is a pretty toddler friendly (and free!) activity, we’ve been doing a lot of it this season. Our first stop was the Franklin Square Electrical Spectacle, with our friends Richard and Louisa and their kids. Every 30 minutes, the park is illuminated by an elaborate light show, set to a soundtrack by the Philly POPS. There is plenty to do at the park keep everyone occupied, including a seasonal craft market, food/beverage tent and of course the carousel and mini golf, so I would definitely recommend adding this to your holiday to-do list (this year, it runs through New Year’s Eve). FS-24 FS-3

She was obsessed with the water in the fountain. She kept spinning in circles and saying “wa-wa”

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She started clapping as soon as the music started

Next, we headed to Peddler’s Village in Bucks County. You can get some of your shopping done while taking in more than one million lights that make up the outdoor display. PV-1

Killing time in the toy store, while we waited for the lights to come on.

PV-6 Our final stop was the Christmas Village in Love Park and new Dilworth Park outside of City Hall. CM-2 CM-6

B had fallen asleep in the car on the way there and was not too happy about being woken up from her nap, or about the crowds in the village

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We didn’t notice until going through the photos that these lights changed color

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She’s on the move, and she loved the big, open space…

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…and the steps. She would have gone up and down them all day. Not pictured: the meltdown that ensued when I picked her up to leave. That’s how I knew it was time to head home.

Where have you all been getting your Christmas light fix this year?

Little B: 15 Months

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This was the most difficult photo shoot to date. She basically refused to sit in the chair, so this was the best we could do!

Another month is in the books, and as usual, we have plenty to report:

Stats

At B’s 15 month doctor’s appointment, she weighed in at 20 pounds, 13 oz (she feels way heavier) and was 29.4 inches long. She is wearing size 12 or 18 month clothes, for the most part. This month, she got two more teeth (one on the bottom front and a molar on the top left) and more seem to be on their way.

Doing

We have made great strides in the walking department and I would say that B has officially taken her first steps. Her balance has definitely improved and she is more confident in her ability to walk unassisted. She seems to do a lot better when she is carrying something, and it is hilarious to see her toddle along dragging her stuffed panda or big pink ball (both of which are roughly half her size) along with her.

Personality

When I think about it now, it really shouldn’t surprise me that B took her sweet time when it came to taking her first real steps. Her dislike of surprises is becoming more evident with each passing month, and I would definitely use the word cautious to describe her personality. The other day, for example, we were sitting in the living room playing, when our Christmas tree (which we have on a timer) lit up. I thought B would be thrilled; instead she broke down in tears. Thankfully, her reaction has improved as the nights go on.

She is also getting more social. Although she is still wary of strangers and people she doesn’t see often at first, she warms up a lot more quickly now. She loves other little kids and one of her favorite people to visit is Big Bridget’s grandmother (Nunnie).

Saying

B continues to talk a mile a minute Her newest words are “Ar-ra” (Arthur, since she has recently become a huge fan of the book and television series), “wa-wa” (water), and “mahn” (man, which usually refers to a snowman) But, her favorite words this month seem to be “mama” and “hi.” She says them all. The Time. More often than not, the sound of her saying them over and over again is what wakes me up in the morning. I continue to be amazed at how much she understands, and we have already had to resort to spelling certain words around her to keep her from figuring out what we are talking about.

Favorite things

The Arthur television show and book series; water—drinking it, playing in it, saying it; snowmen; Crayons. She scribbles with them a bit, but mostly, she just likes to hold them and watch them roll across the floor; her tea set. She loves pretending to serve us a hot beverage; Slamming doors. She has a whole routine of saying “bye” and closing doors in our faces. Then, we spend a few minutes knocking back and forth from our respective sides, before we open the door so she can greet us with an excited “A-boo!”; she is currently enjoying the song Rock-A-Bye Baby and she will cross her arms in front of her and sway back and forth when we sing it.

Least favorite things

Going to bed. She employs all kinds of distractions to delay bedtime, from pulling all of the books off her shelf, to slamming books shut as we try to read them, to squirming off my lap and out the door as we sit in the rocking chair.

Books

We continue to read most of the same books mentioned during prior updates over and over again, but have added a few to our rotation, including Snow (such a beautiful book, both in terms of its story and illustrations) and How Do I Love You? We took Press Here out of the library recently and she loved it and did such a good job following the directions (shaking the books, blowing on the dots, etc.). I think Santa will definitely be dropping that off for her this year!

Foods

We switched from baby to grown up oatmeal this month and she loves it, mixed with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and fruit. Overall, though, her appetite was hit or miss this month, and the only things she would reliably eat were sweet potatoes and meatloaf. I think teething played a huge part in the trend. She seemed to be in quite a bit of pain, particularly as that top molar made it’s way in.

Fun Experiences

At the beginning of November, we finally had B christened. While she might not agree that having water poured over her head was fun, we did have a little celebration with family afterward—with cake!

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Not happy about having a wet head

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Also not happy about having oil put on her forehead. I love the grown-ups facial expressions in this one, especially of the godparents, Uncle Mike and Auntie B

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Napping after the trauma

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Cake makes it all better.

We took her to see Elmo at the Franklin Institute. I wish we had gotten some better photos with him, but he “forgot his inhaler” and couldn’t really stick around for the duration of the event. B was still pretty excited to just be in the same room as him.

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She celebrated Thanksgiving at Granny’s. She napped through most of the Macy’s parade, but loved the balloons and floats that she managed to see. I was surprised that she didn’t seem interested in at least trying things from the dinner table. She was so interested in the food last year that I thought she would be excited to eat this time around. But, she was more interested in riding her zebra and cleaning Granny’s floors with the Swiffer.

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What is this, guys?

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Hoping she won’t mind doing windows, either.

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Now, we have been getting ready for the holidays. She is loving the lights, dancing to Christmas music and her Christmas countdown! She is the star of our Christmas card once again, and I can’t wait to share that photo once we send them out to family and friends!

DIY Christmas Countdown Calendar

One of the first signs that the holiday season was upon us when I was growing up was the appearance of the Christmas countdown calendar in our kitchen. It was this one, from Avon. When I saw it hanging in B’s playroom at my mom’s house on Thanksgiving, it brought back memories of the yearly fight between my brother and me, in regards to who would get to move the mouse first.

This year, I decided to start the Christmas countdown tradition by making a calendar for B. It doesn’t look like the fancy ones that are currently cluttering my Pinterest feed, but it’s fun and whimsical and B’s eyes lit up when she saw it. I’m glad she’s still at an age where she is easy to impress.

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I covered paper tags with card stock, wrote each activity on the back of them, cut the numbers out of glittery paper and displayed them on the chicken wire frame from her first birthday party. Since she is still a little too young for some of the traditional holiday festivities like baking cookies and ice skating, I purchased few little trinkets for her to unwrap (a hair bow and socks, books, jingle bells, to name a few) and alternated them with toddler-friendly activities, like watching Christmas movies and driving around to look at Christmas lights.

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I think it should make for a fun December (which starts tomorrow! What?!)