365 days. Each one more glorious than the one before it. There were plenty of tears this year, but not a day went by that I didn't fall asleep thanking God for my family. There was much more laughter than there were tears, though. And every sweet smile from Sylvia, along with the sweet smiles of her grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, is worth a thousand tears, in my opinion. So we'll take the good with the bad and celebrate all that has changed us this year.
"Pitter patter sings my heart at the thought of what's to come..."
This year's Christmas was nothing less that absolutely spectacular. I don't know if it's because we have a 20 month old cutie pie who made me laugh every other second, or the fact that our total travel time was minuscule compared to years past. Probably a little bit of both. Here's the recap.
We met Mom and Jay at church before heading to Grandma's house on Christmas Eve. When we got to Grandma's, the food started flying and the gifts started piling up in the living room! Sylvia was old enough this year to feel the excitement and follow the other kids around while they all tried to find their presents and figure out what was in them.
She opened all kinds of great things (a new book!)...
A new singamajig!
But the hit of the night was her newwwwww cameraaaaa!!!!
Cheese! (Click) repeat four hundred times.
We put her to bed in a pack and play at Grandma's house so we didn't have to cut our own present time short (the exchanges were a hoot!). We headed home and put her in bed by 10:00, which was really nice.
Santa left some pretty cool presents!
He's clever when it comes to wrapping ;)
We've never really done this before, so we just let her pick the presents she wanted to open, and it turns out she opened all the books first, so it was looking like a really nerdy Christmas for a while...
Until she got to the bigger stuff!
She's been playing with her cymbals a LOT since she got them, we do a lot of banging and singing these days.
It was really nice to have our own Christmas morning, just the three of us.
Santa also brought these, and it was a huge mistake. They started on the refrigerator and ended up all over the floor, which Sylvia thought was WAY more fun than the fridge. So I just put the letters of her name of the fridge and put the rest in a drawer. Silly Santa!
After Christmas morning at our very own house, we headed to my Dad's to open presents with that side of the family. My brother, Jordan, gave Sylvia this most horrifying and terrible gift that she absolutely adores...
It lights up, spins, and plays the loudest techno club music I've ever heard. It's terrible, really terrible. And she loves it. I'm going to kill him.
Next we went to Mom's house, where she opened MORE presents. The Jessie doll was a hit!
We ended the night buried in boxes and paper, exhausted from all the gifts and food and smiling and playing.
Sylvia didn't sleep very well Sunday night, I'm guessing from all the excitement, so I'm very glad we have a whole week to recover. We tried to do a little potty training yesterday and today, but that's another story for another post - to sum it up: informative but not successful :)
All of this family time has been so enjoyable. I have a feeling it's only going to get better, too :)
The Whos in Whoville couldn't have put it any better. For the last week, I've been staring at that sweet picture of Sylvia and Charlie every day. I love it for so many reasons! First of all, it shows the pure and honest joy that only a child can know. Do you remember the last time holding your cousin's hand made you that happy? Or the last time a parking lot was so much fun? Secondly, it captures both of them at an age where anything is possible. They know what Santa looks like, but they haven't become obsessed with gifts. The thing that makes them most happy is people spending time with them, and isn't that what Christmas is all about?
The biggest reason I love this picture is because it represents every possible reason why we decided to move here. It's not about the free babysitting, or the good jobs. It's about raising our kids around our family. It's about having hands to hold during the holidays and throughout the year, whether things are going well or getting tough. It's about the joy these people bring to our lives every day. I look at this picture and I know in my heart that we made the right choice.
Tonight, for the first time in twelve years, I get to sleep in my own bed on Christmas Eve. And tomorrow, my family will wake up in our own house on Christmas morning. I would give back every gift from Santa, every birthday present, and every night of free babysitting to feel this way. We left "our Bethlehem" in July - the place where we brought our first baby into the world - and we've finally come home.
Now, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the most joyous baby who changed the world, there's nothing left for us to do but watch our babies grow and give thanks daily that we have so many hands to hold.
Looking at every ornament every morning - this takes up a good 20 minutes before breakfast.
After naptime Sylvia has a free for all in her playroom (next to our kitchen/dining room). I just sit on the floor and laugh while she acts like a complete nut!
This morning I actually had time to take a picture of her in her winter outfit from Papi and Mamie Fasciotto in France. I'm a few outfits behind, though, because we just got a package with some newer outfits yesterday! They're a little big, though, so those pics will have to wait.
During the day we get to do whatever the heck we want. Sylvia wanted to dress up like Snow White -no problem. Mama wanted to make hummus with spinach - let's do it! Yes, my child is sitting on the stove, but don't act surprised when I tell you that I haven't even turned it on yet. Sylvain's the big cook, I'm more of a microwave/toaster/food processor kind of girl. The way I see it, our stove is just extra counter space!
Sylvia and I are having so much fun spending every minute together, deciding what to do next. We've busted out the play dough, cleaned out all of her toys (to make room for new ones that Santa will be bringing), and I think she MAY have finally learned that crayons are for coloring, not eating. Today was Sylvain's first day off, and he cleaned out the WHOLE garage! Now we can both park in there and it's heavenly! Hooray for Winter Break!
Last night we had dinner at Dad's house to celebrate the homecoming of this guy:
Uncle Evan is home from boot camp and we were SO glad to see him! Sylvia was more excited to see Grandpa, because she shouted "Pawpaw!!" all the way there, but when she got there she quickly remembered how much fun it is to hang out with Gran...
I've been showing Sylvia lots of pictures of Evan so she wouldn't forget what he looked like, and she certainly didn't treat him like a stranger, so I guess it worked. He told lots of great stories about how ridiculous boot camp has been - it sounds really HARD and I could never, ever do it. I know he's ready for it to be over, but he's just on leave right now and he has to go back and finish up in January. He looks funny with a shaved head and he's lost a ton of weight, but he seemed in good spirits and I think a trip home is just what he needed - or just what we needed, I guess!
When Evan's around, he likes to make Sylvia do silly things - like touch her head with hands full of spaghetti sauce and make funny faces while sitting at the dinner table. I blame him for this:
The Keatings were there too, but they were behind Evan in the group picture above. It's always nice to see old friends around the holidays! It was a wonderful evening and the Nugget was plain pooped by the time we got home, so she blessed us by sleeping in until 7:30 this morning! Woohoo! What a great way to start our break! Now I'm just hoping we can all stay healthy and happy until Christmas has come and gone.
Christmas is HERE! At least for me, anyway! We've done so many wonderful Christmasy things with Sylvia in the last couple of weeks and my last day at school could not have been sweeter. Now I'm officially on winter break and it's already been the best Christmas EVER! Check this out:
One of the dads in my class is crazy creative and he brought me this adorable gingerbread house during our holiday celebration on Friday! We had just finished watching The Polar Express and that amazingly sappy Josh Groban song was playing when he walked in the door with it. Considering Mom and I make a house almost every year (except this one), I knew exactly how hard this was to make and how much time it must have taken him and his daughter to put together. I was overwhelmed with gratitude, to say the least!
That day also included numerous gracious gifts from many kids, and one incredibly special gift from a sweet girl who admitted to having no money, so she gave me some of her Halloween candy (I hugged her extra tight and told her thank you). My kids were all very merry and cheery and extra super nice to each other and to me, so it was a wonderful day.
After such a wonderful day, we went to drop Sylvia off at Grammy's house, which meant we had a lovely dinner date night alone! Can you believe Mom and Jay actually ASKED if they could keep her for the night? Bunch of weirdos. Apparently, cousin Charile was staying overnight, and since Sylvia has been there for the last four months, he was disappointed to learn that she wouldn't be there this time, so they called and begged us to let her stay. The kids screamed and chased each other for hours before going to bed and sleeping all night long, sweet things!
Sylvain and I went out to dinner (aahhh!!!) and then came home to organize and unpack. Well, that's what I did. He watched Mad Max on the couch with the surround sound system turned all the way up, enjoying his night of no-baby-in-the-house! We met up with the others this morning and took Charlie and Sylvia to EnterTRAINment Junction in West Chester. It was a long drive, but it was TOTALLY worth it! It was a huge building FULL of trains! These two were in choo choo heaven. After the regular exhibit, we went to the Christmas train exhibit, which was amazing. THEN we found out there was another separate area where Mrs. Claus was sitting in her kitchen handing out cookies and Santa was waiting to talk to the kids!
We waited in line for maybe five minutes before they let our group - just US - into Mrs. Claus' kitchen. She gave Sylvia and Charlie a cookie and tried to talk to them, but they were both so awestruck that they didn't say a word to her. Sylvia was holding tight to my leg, so I was sure she wouldn't sit on Santa's lap. We walked through the kitchen and down a hallway, then through a wooden door into a sweet little room with a fireplace, a tree, and SANTA HIMSELF! They closed the door behind us and we had Santa all to ourselves! He chatted with the kids about Woody and Buzz Lightyear, and he asked Sylvia if she wanted a baby doll (how did he know?!).
Then he asked her if she wanted some dishes and a kitchen. Ummm.... She has no idea what those words are and she certainly isn't interested in those for Christmas, so I said to her, "Tell Santa what you want for Christmas!" and whispered "Choo choo, please" in her ear. She looked right at him and said softly..."choo choo!" He looked surprised and said, "Oh! You like choo choo trains?!" Now, I've been told that it's not typical for a girl to like trains, but I wouldn't know because this is the first girl I've ever birthed and tried to raise. From my perspective, a train is as reasonable as a set of dishes. I looked at that Santa and thought to myself, "Okay buddy, you're the Santa at a TRAIN exhibit - I'm pretty sure every kid you see wants a choo choo by the time they get to you, you can't be THAT surprised!"
Anyway, he talked to her for a long, long time, but she wouldn't sit on his lap. She clung to me and we got really close to him so they could talk, but that's about as far as she got. Which was fine with me, because I'm never going to force her to sit on his lap ever again! Here's her magical Santa experience photos:
Mom and I tried over and over to get a good, Christmas-timey photo of the kiddos, but if you've ever been around a toddler in a Christmas train exhibit, you'd know that they do not stand or sit still for one single second, and asking them say cheese is about as annoying as asking them to go to bed, so we left with NO good shots for a Christmas card (I'm thinking about just using a Santa pic since I'm kind of running out of time!) However, we did get the sweetest picture of all time on our way to the car:
All that's left to do this week is shopping, wrapping, and tree decorating. Sylvia and I are going to have SO much fun! (Daddy has to work until Wednesday - sucker!)
Mamie Brigitte came up this afternoon for a visit because we didn't get to see her on Sylvain's birthday. We took the Nugget down to Newport on the Levee and we found....SANTA CLAUS!! He was just hanging out, all by himself, waiting for kids to come talk to him! Sylvia spotting him from a mile away and shouted "HO HO!!!" For a split second I thought we might see the classic "run to Santa and give him a hug, even though you have no idea who he really is" moment, but the closer we got, the more afraid she became. Then, for a split second, I remembered last year's disaster and I debated whether or not we should take her anywhere near that giant bearded stranger. We approached slowly, and as long as Mama held her, Sylvia was all good with the Santa man. Here's the best shot we could get:
Of course, we'll try to do Santa's lap at the mall again this year, but I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope for that visit. Maybe now that she's been properly introduced, he won't be so scary. We'll see!
In other Christmas news, I read Meredith's blog post about their cute little gingerbread house yesterday, so I decided that we'd try to make our gingerbread train last night! My Mom is the queen of gingerbread houses, and she'd kill me for buying a kit, but come on - it was a CHOO CHOO! I couldn't pass it up! We broke open the kit after dinner and got straight to work. Sylvia loved all the bright colored candy and ooohhhhhh, the icing! I did my best to put it all together, but alas...
...this is as far as we got. After multiple attempts to hold the stupid thing together, I finally threw in the towel and tossed Sylvia one of the cookie panels smothered in icing.
She didn't seem to mind one bit. In fact, when the train really started to fall and collapse, I was screaming and laughing at the same time and she thought it was hilarious! So, for $9.99, Sylvia and I got to sit together at the kitchen table and work on a failed project together, which ended with her licking icing off a cookie. How bad could that really be?
Finally, we got another early Christmas present on Friday: we heard the baby's heartbeat! I was sweating bullets for a while because it took our doctor FOREVER to find it, but we finally heard the little "whomp whomp whomp" through all of that swooshing and I was able to breathe again. All is well with the newest baby bean, and we are SO happy! I have so much to post about this pregnancy, but I'll have to wait until Christmas break to start that chapter. We're just having way too much fun playing with Sylvia and enjoying the season for me to really stop and get sappy about the fact that there are two hearts in my body, one of which won't be there for very long.
If you haven't been able to figure it out yet - I FINALLY got a new laptop! Hence all the blogging this week :) First on my list of things to do was to get all of the pictures that have been sitting on both of my cameras onto the new computer so I can clear them off and be ready for Christmas! As it turns out, I have a TON of pictures going all the way back to June and some of them are either too cute not to share, or they are from an important part of our year that I never blogged about. So, here is a very abbreviated version of all the fun I let you miss:
I caught Sylvia doing this back in June. Thought it was pretty funny.
We introduced Sylvia to the wonders of carousels this summer. It took her a while to warm up to them, but she rode this one at the mall about ten times.
Here's our only good picture from our vacation to Lake Erie in July.
I posted pics of trick-or-treating, but don't think I posted any from our trip to the pumpkin patch in October.
That same day, we had a bonfire at Mom and Jay's house and Sylvia roasted her first marshmallow. She preferred to eat them straight from the bag, though, and I guess I can't blame her!
Another big development this summer: slides! She can go down most slides by herself, now, which is a little scary for me, but loads of fun for her!
My mom made these awesome witch finger cookies for my class for Halloween!
Go CATS! Not an overall great season, but MAN that last game against Tennessee made it all worth it! I almost had a heart attack!
More playgrounds and good times.
We went with Mom and Jay and Charlie to Union Terminal to see the Duke Energy train display after Thanksgiving. I must say, I was disappointed - the ones downtown were always SO much better. Anyway, we got this cute pic of the grandparents and kiddos.
Dad and Sally got Sylvia this super cute riding lawnmower that blows bubbles. And even though she's perfectly able to push it forward on her own, Dad couldn't resist tying a rope to it and pulling her around, which she LOVED.
She's been spending a lot of time with good old Grandpa lately and he is pretty much her new best friend.
Here she is opening her stocking from St. Nick. She loves the wooden lacing toys and the slinky (oh heavens, when that slinky goes down the steps, she giggles and squeals for more!) She doesn't care too much for the Elmo coloring book, though, which surprised me!
"Thanks St. Nick!"
And that's the last few months in a nutshell! Now that I have my new, shiny computer, I'll hopefully be blogging more.
I'm Rachael. My occupations include, in this order: daughter, sister, friend, teacher, wife, and mother. I may seem like a grown up, but don't be fooled - I have no idea what I'm doing. We have lots of family around the world, so this blog is our way of saying, "Here's what's going on in our little corner."