Christmas 2016

I know we’ve already said goodbye to 2016, but I can’t resist sharing a few (okay, a bunch) of photos from our Christmas festivities.

The season felt a little bit rushed this year because of the move. We pretty much had to leave all of our our decorating, seasonal outings and Santa prep activities until the week before the holiday. Nevertheless, the girls seemed to have a blast. In addition to it being Alice’s first Christmas, this was the first year that B really understood what was happening. She sung along to every Christmas song on the radio (her favorites were You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), couldn’t wait to bust out the decorations and bought into all of the Santa Claus lore. The latter is the most adorable to me, and I’m already dreading the day when she starts to question things.

So, without further adieu, here’s a glimpse into our holiday season!

While we were preparing for the move, we had a tiny tree up at our old house. But, B could not wait to put up the real thing. So, as soon as the boxes were sufficiently cleared from the living room, we got to work.

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Showing off Elmo, one of “her” ornaments

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Just up from a nap, in time to supervise the decorating process.

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Finished! We have the tree on a timer, so that it turns on every day at 4 p.m. B thinks that “Santa Magic” is responsible.

The holiday season in Philly isn’t complete without a visit to Macy’s, to see the light show and visit the Dickens’ Village. Alice actually seemed to enjoy all the lights, and clapped along with the music.

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Chester and I have resigned ourselves to the fact that we’ll always have to be in the annual Santa photo. B actually waved to Santa when she walked into the room, so I had high expectations that things would go well. But, when it was time to pose for the picture, she wasn’t having it. Alice just seemed stunned, which fortunately, prevented her from having a meltdown. And yes, she isn’t wearing any socks in this photo. After the 100th time she pulled them off that day, I didn’t bother to put them back on.

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We broke in our kitchen with our first baking project: sugar cookies for Santa. B was in charge of rolling them into the red and green sugar, and she proclaimed each one of them “a Christmas miracle!” in between eating bites of dough. The real miracle, if you ask me, was having ample counter space for this project!

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On Christmas Eve, we headed to my mom’s for the afternoon. We ate way too much food, and B had a great time hanging out with her Uncle Mike.

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And, then it was home to get ready for Santa. This year, in addition to the cookies and milk, we left an apple for the reindeer.

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Everyone was up bright and early the next morning (wearing matching Nutcracker pajamas) to see what Santa left!

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B’s favorite gift was her Code-A-Pillar and Alice really is enjoying her Beatbelle

Our girls looked like Christmas princesses, for more food and presents on Christmas afternoon at Nee-Nee’s.

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I loved this dress so much when B wore it. So glad that it fit Alice this year!

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B was in no mood to pose for pictures. She requested ” a lot of Christmas M and Ms” in return for posing for this shot, but she really wasn’t feeling like her usual self that afternoon. By the end of the day, she was running a fever, which later gave way to a cold that made its way through our house over the next week. Fun times. But, holiday illnesses seem to be par for the course, where kids are concerned, so I suppose we should get used to that fact!

I’m already looking forward to next year, when we’ll be fully settled into our home and ready to make some new holiday traditions. I hope that your holidays were just as swell!

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Christmas 2015

Getting back into the swing of things after the holidays this year has been complicated by pregnancy brain and the overwhelming feeling that there is a lot to do and so little time to do it all before Baby #2 arrives. So, while most of you have probably snapped back to reality, I’m going to stay in the land of twinkly lights, sweets and Santa Claus for just a little bit longer with this post. Plus, B was especially into all things Christmas this year, and the photos are too cute not to share!

Chester and I were lucky to both be off from work for two weeks, which gave us a little extra time to do some festive things with B in the week leading up to Christmas.

There were cookies to make—and sprinkles to eat.

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We took a trip to Macy’s to do all a few of the traditional Philly Christmas activities, including a visit with Santa, a walk through the Dicken’s Village and a viewing of the light show and holiday window displays.

B could not take her eyes off of Santa when she first walked into the room. But, she wasn’t inclined to sit on his lap when it was time for the photo. Hence, for the second year in a row, it was a family portrait. I really should have anticipated this and done a better job with my hair.

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It was so warm on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that we put the air conditioning on. It was bizarre, but at least that meant that B still got to wear the adorable outfits that I had chosen with colder weather in mind.

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Trees were definitely her obsession this year. Ours was on a timer and we told her Santa came to light it up every night. When she would see the lights go on, she would say “Thank you, Santa!” It was adorable, obviously.

Santa stopped at Ni-Ni’s early, and B was excited to unwrap the gifts that he left there. As you can see, there was a musical theme going on.

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This was the first year that she was really into tearing the paper off of things!

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Kisses for Daddy!

After eating way too many cookies for dessert, it was time to head home and wait for Santa!

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Getting Santa’s cookies ready before bed. 

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Yay! Santa came!

When B woke up on Christmas morning, she knew something was up. We waited at the top of the stairs while Chester got a few last minute things in order and she kept saying “What’s down there?!” Her enthusiasm was contagious–I can’t remember the last time I was so excited on Christmas morning! The look on her face when she saw all of the presents under the tree and the leftover cookie crumbs from Santa’s snack was priceless.

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That guitar went everywhere with her for a couple of days.

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Yes, we wore matching gingerbread pajamas.

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Well, everyone but Tracy. They didn’t make them in her size.

B was very specific in her request for a blue Care Bear, so I as excited when I found the last one at Toys “R” Us. She looked at it for about two seconds before moving on.

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In my typical fashion, I over thought all of the gifts we picked out for B (will she enjoy this? Is this right for her age? Are regular blocks better than magnetic blocks). Turns out that I needed have worried so much. Her favorite thing that she received on Christmas morning ended up being a dollar store flashlight that was in her stocking. Oh, toddlers.

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Then, it was back to Ni-Ni’s for more food, presents and family time.

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There’s that guitar again.

After all of the festivity of those two days, we kept the rest of our holiday break pretty low key. We ventured out to the Please Touch Museum, Reading Terminal to see the holiday train display and a couple of after-Christmas sales to score some half-priced décor (which I enjoy even more than the half-priced candy after Halloween) But, other than that, we were mostly at home, playing with B’s new toys.

We rung in 2016 with take-out from DiBruno Brothers’ and a movie from On Demand, to ensure that we didn’t fall asleep before midnight. We are party animals, I know, but honestly, being at home is my favorite way to spend New Year’s Eve. Except, I would prefer real champagne to the disgusting sparkling grape drink that we had. Next year, for sure!

And that, friends, was how we spent our Christmas vacation.

Now, how long do you think I can go on eating cookies for breakfast and trying to figure out if it’s possible to fit the Mamaroo in the living room without dismantling the Christmas tree?

Christmas Magic

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The cookies are baked, presents are ready to go under the tree and the stockings are hung. Sure, the 70+ degree temperatures have it feeling more like Easter, but nevertheless, two of my favorite days of the year are finally here!

I will admit that I couldn’t muster up my usual enthusiasm for all of the preparations leading up to the holiday this year. At seven months pregnant, I am exhausted, cranky and uncomfortable 98 percent of the time. But, B has been a reminder that all of that “stuff” doesn’t really matter, anyway. To her, every little thing about this season has been amazing—even getting dressed up to pose for a photo with a gift box that is completely empty, apart from two LED tap lights stuck to the bottom (which is the story behind our Christmas card photo, above. I’m also reminded how lucky I am that I married someone so creative).

So, in the end, I realized that it doesn’t really matter that the gifts look like they were wrapped by a T-rex or that we never got around to doing half of the activities that I put on the Advent calendar. All she cares about are the sparkly ribbons and pulling the numbers off the twine, anyway.

All that to say, everything can be magical. Even the little things.

I hope that you have the merriest Christmas ever, and that you get to spend this time eating way too many cookies with the people who matter most to you in the world.

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The true miracle of this holiday season was getting both of our kids to pose for photos.

My Little Cupcake

I’m kind of glad that B is at the age where she responds to bribery. After two years where she pretty much wanted nothing to do with her Halloween costume (see here and here), I was determined that this would be the year that I at least got one photo of her all dressed up.

Of course, she declared “no nap today!” on Halloween afternoon and was sort of moody by the early evening and my hopes were nearly dashed. But, then I told her that she could go outside to blow bubbles, if she wore her cupcake hat and dress.

Mission accomplished.

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I said “go get your pumpkin!” and she picked up every one that she owns

Although we practiced beforehand, she didn’t really get the concept of trick-or-treating. So, we kept things low key, just stopping by my mom’s, aunt’s and Chester’s parent’s house so they could see her all dressed up. Of course, in the days after Halloween, she seems to have caught on to the fact that she missed out on the opportunity for free chocolate and will bring her pumpkin treat bag over to me and sweetly say “some candy?” I’m sure that by next year, she will be begging us to take her to every house in a five mile radius so she can fill it up!

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Stopping by Grauntie’s (a.ka. Tee-Tee’s) house

And, don’t worry, I kept my promise about the bubbles. They actually created sort of a whimsical effect, swirling around as she strolled down the street.

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!

 

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?

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?!)

Giving Thanks.

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Moments like this are why I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

I try to be thankful, every day, for all of the good things that I have in my life. But, when there is so much to do and so little time to do it and the evening news only reports the bad things that happen, it’s easier to become frustrated and pessimistic.

Fortunately, Thanksgiving (and the prospect of spending time with the people that I love most amidst copious amounts of food), has arrived to snap me out of it.

In the spirit of today’s holiday, here is a short list of things that I am grateful for:

My husband. He tolerates all my quirks and moods and makes me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world even when I haven’t washed my hair in three days.

My sweet baby girl. She’s the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. She is making me a better person every single day and just seeing her smile makes my life.

My mom, who is always there. My aunt, who will also do just about anything for us, including acting as our own personal post office so our packages don’t get stolen from our front step. My brother, who is the number one fan of this blog (even though he would never admit it) and who finally joined Facebook this year so that I can enjoy his sense of humor on a daily basis.

The world’s best dog. Tracy, our poor first daughter is often overlooked in favor of her baby sister and I feel incredibly guilty and undeserving of the love (and daily protection from the mailman) that she continues to give us.

Friends. Even though we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, I know that I can pick up the phone and we’ll pick up right where we left off. A special shout-out goes to my BFF of 20 (!) years, Bridget. Sure, I could have come up with Chicago Hope: The Board Game myself, but it would not have been nearly as fun (plus, I’m pretty sure she came up with the idea for the popsicle stick character/game pieces, which will really the be major selling point for the game when we finally bring it to Milton Bradley).

My job. I have always loved my field, but after a couple of years of feeling kind of lost on my career path, I am finally in a position that is a really good fit for me. And, without work I never would have connected with colleagues who have turned into good friends.

Technology. Specifically, smartphones. Right now, I’m stuck with an ancient Blackberry while I wait for a new phone. I have been without instant access to my e-mail, calendar, and Instagram for a few weeks and it’s driving me bananas (#firstworldproblems). Also, Google. It knows everything. I rely on it at least a hundred times a day for the answers to the most obscure questions and the correct spelling of words that I mess up so badly that even Spell Check doesn’t recognize them (such as convenient and necessary. And, yes, I just Googled those).

Philly. While I was walking though Center City the other day I was reminded of how much I love living here, with access to awesome museums, restaurants and shopping.

Coffee. Without it, I would be even crankier than I usually am and would probably be asleep at my desk by 9 a.m. Relatedly: under eye concealer.

Cake. Because there is nothing better with coffee.

Yoga pants and their universally flattering nature. Although I would be even more grateful if it were acceptable to wear them to work.

Good books. Crap television (i.e. Teen Mom, reality shows on TLC, etc.).

A hot shower, pajamas and a comfy bed. There’s nothing better at the end of the day.

Every single day of the week, that I get to wake up and take on new challenges. Be a mother. Do creative things. Except when those days are Tuesdays. I will never be thankful for Tuesdays.

Yep. I guess I’m pretty darn lucky. I hope you can say the same. Now, go get your food coma on.

 

For My Mom.

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Dear Mom,

I hope that you know that not a day goes by that I don’t think of all of the things that you have done for me, and continue to do, even though I’m a grown-up now. But, as you know, life gets crazy, and sometimes I forget to say all of the things that are floating around in my head out loud. So, since today is your day, here is a short list of all of the things that I owe you a long overdue thank you for.

Thank you for always telling me that I am capable of doing anything that I want to, even on the days when I feel like I can’t do anything right (and there are lots of those lately).

Thank you for being the voice in my head that keeps me in line. Whenever I have to make a difficult decision, I think to myself, “what would mom do?” or “what would mom think if I did that?” and usually that’s all I need to make the right choice.

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One of the few times that I ignored your voice in my head. I knew you would not be happy with my choice of four inch heels while 8 months pregnant. I wore them anyway.

Thanks for reminding me to always double bow my shoes. As you know, I’m clumsy, and this has probably saved me from a multitude of accidents.

Thanks for the snow day picnics on the living room floor. Sorry about the mess. Actually, sorry for all of the messes. I know that the fact that I never learned how to make my bed or keep my closet organized was an endless source of disappointment. I am sure you are delighted that this is Chester’s problem now. (There are however, some of your neat freak tendencies that I’ve inherited. For example, whenever I see a rug with fringe on it, I can’t resist the urge to comb it—with an actual comb, if available—so that it lies perfectly straight).

Thanks for not helping me with my homework in grade school. I know that I was annoyed by that at the time, it taught me how to think on my own, learn from my mistakes and stand by the things that I put my name on.

Thanks for the Friday nights that you let us pile into bed with you and watch TV while we shared a big bag of popcorn. Those were some of my favorite times, even though Michael never sat still and I got mad that he interrupted the shows.

Speaking of Michael: thanks for making sure that I didn’t kill him when we were little. I kind of like having him around now (Also, I don’t understand how you handled two kids under two. One wears me out sometimes).

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One of the few photos of the three of us that I have, where we aren’t making the most awkward faces.

Thanks for dropping off my graphing calculator that time I forgot it in high school. I was mortified when you walked down the hallway yelling my name, while wearing your rattiest pajamas and pink foam curlers in your hair. But, I’m pretty sure that ended up being one of the few math tests that I actually passed.

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This look is actually less embarrassing than the one described in the above incident.

Thanks for holding our family together when things felt like they were falling apart. I still think back on those times and just don’t know how you did it. No one has more grace in stressful situations than you do.

Thank you for forgiving me when I became a bratty teenager and said the most horrible things to you. It was probably easiest to take my frustrations out on your because I knew you loved me unconditionally. It wasn’t nice and you didn’t deserve it. I’m sorry.

Thank you for making me take out those student loans in college. Like the no-help-with-homework thing, I found it annoying at the time. But, it helped me build my credit, realize that my education was a huge investment that I had to take seriously and taught me a thing or two about managing money when the time came to start paying them back.

Thank you for helping me be independent enough to make my own decisions but connected enough to know that you are only a phone call away when I need you. When something good happens to me, you are one of the first people I tell. When life is too much to handle, I call you so that you can tell me everything will be okay. And, you always answer (okay, maybe you don’t always answer because you have trouble working even the most basic cell phone sometimes. But, you call me right back and that’s all that matters).

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Thanks for being the best Granny to B. When I found out I was pregnant, one of the things that I was most excited for was that you would get to be a grandmother. I love how her eyes light up when she sees you. There are many days that I still feel guilty that I went back to work after she was born, but knowing that she is with you makes me feel a bit better. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are willing to spend five days a week with her. Hopefully it’s not as stressful as dealing with the craziness at the bank. I’m looking forward to all of the memories that we will make with her as she grows up.

I’m sure that there are loads of things I’m forgetting, but the point is this: if I can even be half the mom to my children that you were to me and Mike, then I think they will turn out alright.

You are the best. Enough said. Even at 31, I still need you. And, I’m sure that I always will.

Love,

Lauren

Little B: Eight Months

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As usual, we have had a busy month!

B is now eating solids three times a day. While we still are making some purees, we have been incorporating more finger foods since she is definitely eager to feed herself and sometimes will only eat if she is in control of the spoon. I know it’s important for her to gain some independence, so I try to ignore the mess on her face, clothes, hair and the floor surrounding the high chair.

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Her table manners need work

New foods this month included mangos, yogurt, rice cakes, cantaloupe, Cheerios and bits of cheddar cheese. She also tried, but was not at all keen on, asparagus and pasta (what the heck?! She’s part Italian!). The Cheerios are, by far, her favorite. If they don’t show up on her tray at every meal, she cries until she sees that yellow box come out of the cabinet.

In terms of other milestones, her two, bottom front teeth finally broke through! I had been able to see the outline of them since she was born, but was beginning to think that they would never make their appearance. There were a few days where she seemed extra fussy and spent a lot of time chewing on Sophie the Giraffe, but fortunately, we did not have any major disruptions to her normal routine (including sleep!). Hopefully, we are this lucky as the rest come in.

She still has shown no interest in crawling forward. I don’t mind, though, because the backwards scoot is endlessly entertaining to me. If she is on her belly, she can pull herself into a sitting position and she uses people (and, as of yesterday, the crib and couch at my mom’s house) like a jungle gym to pull herself into a standing position.

Waving is one of her favorite skills to show off. She pumps her arm vigorously up and down whenever someone enters or leaves a room and whenever we visit with the “baby in the mirror.” She responds to her name and has added a few new sounds to her repertoire, including “da,” “pa” and “ra.” When she gets sleepy, she closes her eyes and babbles to herself. Like the doting parents that we are, Chester and I praise her for nearly everything she does. We say “Yay for B!” and she breaks into the most adorable, shy smile and soaks it all up.

Her least favorite things at the moment are having her face wiped and diaper/clothes changed. I think she hates having to stay still for these tasks, and no amount of songs, peek-a-boo or goofy smiles and noises can distract her. Now that it’s warmer and we have the windows open more, I can’t imagine what the neighbors think is going on in our house.

We had a lot of fun celebrating B’s first Easter last month. She fell asleep during mass, but woke up in time to participate in her first Easter egg hunt (By which I mean that I carried her around, filled her bucket with eggs and then helped myself to the chocolate inside). She received FOUR Easter baskets from various family members, all of which were overflowing with books, toys, and other treats. Spoiled much?

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the day:

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One of her Easter baskets, from Grauntie


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Considering the spoils of the egg hunt

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She is such a love!

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High-Fives for Uncle Mike

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Predictably, the big yellow box was her favorite present

The best part of my day is when I walk through the front door at 5:30 p.m. and am greeted by my smiling, bouncing baby girl. I miss her like crazy during the day, and live for the couple of hours at night where we play, read stories, and catch up on snuggles. She is learning and doing so much, so quickly, these days. It’s hard not to dwell on the fact that I will might miss some of the big milestones coming up, like her first steps or first words. I keep meaning to ask my mom not to tell me if she does these things while I’m at work. Maybe then I can trick myself into thinking that she is just waiting for me to witness all of her big firsts.

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Enjoying a nice day in the city, in her big girl stroller

We have another busy month ahead of us, including Little B’s first plane ride to Boston to celebrate Original Bridget’s graduation from her PhD program. Yes, I am breaking my own rule of not traveling with a child until they can drag their own suitcase through the airport. But, B just seems to love being out and about on adventures lately. I’m optimistic that she will do well on this short trip and she will become my and Chester’s travel buddy sooner rather than later. Stay tuned!