Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas!

As I suspected, Christmas this year was really special.

We spent Christmas Eve with my husband's family and had a feast of fish like good Italians. And I finally got a frame-worthy picture of my in-laws and my children.
 
 
And a great one of Gia and some of her favorite people: her cousins!
 
 
 
 
When we got home Gia was so tired she barely cared about putting out the reindeer food and cookies for Santa, but we did it.
 
She happily put on her new pjs and was off to dreamland in no time. 
 

 
We waited for her to fall deeply asleep and then we started the Santa duties of carrying all her presents from their hiding place (in our office) to their spot under the tree.
 
 

Before bed Jon and I had a quiet moment so we exchanged gifts. I got a new lens for my good camera (35mm f1.8!!! I'd been shooting with a 50mm which I like a lot, but it's tougher to focus in small spaces) and the new Britney Spears CD.
 
  My little Saint Nick slept really well, which was awesome. Gia got up at 7:07 and was calling for me. We told her to come to our room, where she climbed into our bed and told us it was too early and that Santa wasn't there yet. We told her we heard him on the roof at night and that it was NOT too early. I ran downstairs first to set up the tent and the camera and then she came down.


She was super excited to see her 2 big gifts all ready for her. The wrapped presents were pretty, but the tent and horse were solid proof for her that Santa was there.
We spent the next hour opening presents. Gia's reactions were priceless. I wish I had a video camera on her the entire time.  The tent (which is actually the B. Teepee by B.Toys) was definitely her favorite gift. She kept saying "The tent is beautiful" and she wanted to open all her presents IN the tent...all day. Even hours later when our families came over for dinner, Gia was still taking her presents into the tent to open. 
 
 
Once she moved along to the wrapped presents, she found the biggest box and dug it out and opened it first. And, it just happened to be PinyPons--the thing she wanted most from Santa. 
 


After Gia opened her presents, she moved onto opening the few things we got Nicholas (a new bottle, some pacis, a bottle brush...). And then we let her choose 1 to open and play with. She chose the game Hungry Hungry Hippos, which she loves. (We've played countless games in the past few days and have already lost half the marbles.)
 




 
 
Later in the day we hosted my family and part of Jon's family. There was so much good food and lots of laughter and a ton of love. It was an awesome day. 
 
 
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
 


Monday, December 23, 2013

Cookies for Santa!

You all know how much I love traditions.
 
This year we switched up a few (no Nordstrom Christmas dress for Gia. Mama ordered from Zulily instead) and we might have missed others completely (we got snowed out both times we tried to go to NYC to see the tree in Rockefeller center) but we also started a few new ones.

Tonight is Elfie's last night with us. And tomorrow when Gia and Nicholas wake up, Elfie will be under the Christmas tree, sitting on a stack of presents. There's one for each of us, and inside is a new pair of Christmas-y pajamas. New tradition #1.
 
 
And this year Gia and I made Christmas cookies for Santa. It was so.much.fun. 
 

I rolled the dough and let Gia use the cookie cutters.  We had a bunch of different shapes (star, heart, Christmas tree, Santa and a bell) but she loved the heart and the star the most.
 

 
Then we patiently waited for the cookies to bake.
 
 
And then the decorating fun started. I used food coloring to make some green icing and then put it in a baggie. I cut the tiniest bit of the corner off so Gia had a makeshift piping bag. It worked really well.
 

I think Gia ate her weight in icing and used an entire bottle of red sprinkles on just a few cookies. But she had a blast doing it. She was so proud of her "beautiful and tasty cookies" (yes that's a direct quote) and she can't wait to leave them out for Santa tomorrow night. And thus, new tradition #2 was born.  I can't wait to do it again next year with both kids.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Obligatory Elf Post

Lately I've seen a lot of hoopla about the Elf on a Shelf. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people blog about how creative they are with their elf's hiding spots. Others blog about how they're slackers and don't really do much with the elf.  Others say the Elf on a Shelf ruined their Christmas (check out the Yahoo article if you can stop rolling your eyes long enough to read it.)
 
Over here, we're enjoying our elf, who Gia creatively named 'Elfie' last year. I don't think Gia fully understood the whole thing last Christmas. But this year she does and experiencing Gia's reaction to Elfie has been awesome. It reminds me that Christmas is truly magical when you're a kid.


We don't follow all the "rules" with Elfie. Gia is allowed to touch her and play with her. And we don't really use her for discipline too much. Occasionally we mention that Elfie is watching and really wants to give Santa a good report. That's about it, though. Mostly we focus on Elfie's funny hiding spots.
 
We told Gia Elfie would be coming back to our house the day after Thanksgiving and she seemed excited. A few days before Thanksgiving I rummaged around in the Christmas boxes in the basement and found Elfie. After Gia went to bed, Jon and I placed her in a fun spot. (Slacker or not, the first reveal has to be a in a good spot!)
 
When Gia woke up that morning, Elfie was waiting for her. And she was so excited about it. "Hey! There's Elfie! She's on the light!" she said, with such awe and wonder.



The next few days were even better. On the second morning, Gia found Elfie sitting by our fireplace and said "Hey! There's Elfie by the fireplace. Yesterday she was on the light and now she's over there. Daddy moved her!" Trying not to laugh, I reiterated the concept: at night, after Gia went to bed, Elfie went back to Santa. And in the morning, before Gia woke up, she came back. Daddy didn't move her; she's magic!

Well, magic was all I had to say for her to be really, really into it. If she liked Elfie, before I said magic, she loved her after I said it.
 
The third morning Gia looked for her and found her. That one went something like this. "Hey! There's Elfie on that other light by the couch. First she was up on that light in the kitchen and then she was by the fireplace and now she's over here on this light. She's magic!"
 
And the fourth morning? Add "on the banister" to that very long narrative. And the fifth morning, add "sitting in the fruit bowl".  Every time Gia found Elfie, Gia would run through the list of where she'd been each and every day before. I wondered how long she'd be able to remember every single spot. The answer is: about a week. Now she just finds Elfie and hugs her and calls her latest hiding spot "silly".
 
One of the mornings during that first week Gia had some trouble locating Elfie. She looked for all of two seconds and declared, "Elfie's not here! She's gone forever." Oh the drama! I assured her Elfie came back and that she was just hiding really really well. And then Gia found her, under the coffee table and all was well with the magical Elfie.

 Since that first week we've forgotten to move Elfie once or twice, and Gia was definitely miffed. She wasn't happy that Elfie was where she left her upon going to bed.  Lesson learned. Keep up the magic! After all, that's what Christmas is all about!
 

Monday, December 16, 2013

So You Think You Can Dance?

Gia has been having a blast every week at dance class. She loves everything about it, from the pretty ballerina outfits to the physcial part, to the fact that my mom comes over almost ever week to take her. (The waiting room at the dancing school is so tiny and very hot, making it impossible to take Nicholas. So when my husband is working 4pm-12am, my mom takes Gia and I stay home with Nicholas.)
 
 This week was observation week & two family members were allowed into class with Gia to watch and take pictures.  Hubby was working till 4, so my mom and I both planned to go and leave the boys at home.

Well, as is usually the case when I have something important planned, he got stuck at work. So, I gave Gia the choice about who would accompany her to dance and she picked Yadi. Armed with cameras and phones, off they went.

Before I post a peek into dance class, let me just say the class is called 'Creative Movement'. They do 'real' ballet throughout the class... 
 
 
and lots fun movement games
 

and even a little Freeze Dance!
 

When we signed Gia up for dance and soccer, I thought she'd love soccer and think dance was ok.  Well, it's the total opposite & I'm shocked and so happy (because, ya know, dance was approximately 11 times more expensive...)! She loves dance class so much!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas House

Christmas is such a magical time, which is only made more magical when you have a three year old. Add in the fact that it's your newborn's very first Christmas, and well, you have one joy-filled mama.
 I'm not sure it can get any better than this.
 
I've mentioned before that Gia really loves to know what's coming next in her little life. Whether it's what we're doing in an hour or a day or a week, my little girl likes a head's up about the future. She's happier when she knows what to expect. So, we've been talking about the seasons and the holidays and what comes next for a while now. Gia is ready for winter and Christmas and Santa. 
 
Last year I wrote about our Christmas Traditions and this year we're a little behind, but we're making time for them all. First up...gingerbread houses. 
 
 
We actually followed the directions and built the house a few hours before we decorated. She doesn't call it the Christmas house like she did last year. Now she's big and she can say Gingerbread and she gets a little annoyed with me if I call it the Christmas house. She definitely corrects me. "Mommy, it's a gingerbread house".
 
After her bath I set up the candy and busted out my softbox and good camera to get some good pictures of her. (Check out that pretty bokeh up there...) 
 



I let her tell me where to place the icing on the house so that she could stick the candies exactly where she wanted them. She was really into it.







I drew a line with the icing on the roof of the house and Gia put little round candies on the line. 

"Mommy, I'm making a pattern!" she said. And sure enough, she did. 

She successfully repeated the order of the colors 3 times. I was amazed that not only did she know what a pattern is, but that she could make one herself. For the record, that little orange one at the end is above the line. It's not part of the pattern.




 
  Tell me--what are your favorite holiday traditions?
 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Busy

Life has been so hectic over here and I haven't had a chance to post at all. The main reason is that I've been swamped with writing for Daily Mom. We have bunch of awesome of Holiday Gift Guides and holiday related posts coming to you over the course of the next few weeks. I can't wait to share them with you all, because we have some awesome gift ideas to introduce to you.
 
In other news, our Thanksgiving was wonderful. Jon was off and we spent the morning just hanging out and watching the parade. I have so much to be thankful for and these two cuties are a huge part of that.
Thanksgiving Morning
 Gia and I baked an an awesome Chocolate Pecan Pie and then we went to have the best meal ever. My cousin hosted and it was a such fun and relaxing day. The food was excellent and being in the presence of family was even better.   
 
 

 
Then, on Black Friday, Gia got sick. She had a fever, a deep cough and was just generally feeling yucky. My very active three year old sat in one spot nearly all day and every once in a while she'd just moan sadly, "it hurts mommy".  Broke my heart. 
 
 

On Saturday Gia was feeling a little better, so we put up the tree, and Jon decorated the outside of our house. 
 
 
This is definitely the most wonderful time of the year, and I'll be back soon with some fun Christmas posts. 
 
For now I'll leave you with a funny story. Gia got sick on Friday and wasn't fever-free till Tuesday, so she didn't go to school on Tuesday. On Thursday she came home with a backpack full of her crafts. And this was among them:
 
 
 Yup. That's my kid. Not thankful for her Mommy or Daddy or brother-- or even her cat. Nope. She's thankful for all her chocolate candy! I'll be saving this piece of art for teasing her when she's older.
 
 
Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nicholas is 1 Month Old!

How has it already been a whole month since Nicholas came into this world? I've said this before about Gia, but it feels like he's always been here and it also feels like he just got here. 
 
1 Month Stats: 
 
 Weight: 9 lbs 11 oz (50%)
Height: 21.5 inches (50%)
 
 
I bought him some cute nautical month stickers on Etsy and we started the picture taking today. Someone was NOT a fan.
 
 
My little munchkin grained nearly 3 pounds in a month! Even the doctor was impressed with that one. He currently takes between 4 and 5 ounces every 3 hours (mix of breast milk and formula) which also surprised the doctor (although it makes sense given the weight gain!). One time a day he'll give us a 4 hour stretch and that's usually in the early evening. For now it's working out because Jon has been working 3pm - 11pm this week and after Gia is in bed it's nice to have a tiny bit of downtime after I put the house back together. Eventually I'm hoping that 4 hour stretch shifts to the later part of the night (12am to 4 am sounds great!).  
 
 

And, here's a little one-month old comparison for you. (The bottom picture of Nicholas is him at 2 weeks. I added it in for facial comparison. His screaming face makes it hard to see if he looks like Gia at all.)
 
 
Gia was SO much bigger. At one month she was 11lbs 6 oz and 22 inches. So, not much taller, but almost 2 whole pounds bigger! You can see it in her chubby little arms and legs. Nicholas's arms and legs are still pretty scrawny. 
 
Lastly, in other related news, I finally took pictures of the mostly-completed nursery and will post them here soon!
 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pee Wee Soccer

I have a major backlog of posts about things we did this fall that I haven't had a chance to blog about yet. So bear with me for the next few weeks as the posts bounce all over the place. First up is PeeWee Soccer!
 
 
 
 Gia is a pretty active kid. She can be a girly girl, but she also loves to run around and be crazy. So, we signed her up for peewee soccer. It's an hour-long town rec program for 3 and 4 year olds and it teaches them the basics of soccer. Two of Gia's good friends and her cousin are also playing with her. She was so excited to start!


They begin with some warm-ups like jumping jacks and stretches.


Then they do some drills and each kid gets a chance to kick the ball into the net and practice dribbling the ball around some cones. (Apparently no one told Gia that we don't use our hands for soccer!)



And then the last 10 minutes of each session is a "game," which is really just all the kids chasing after the ball, trying to get a chance to kick it.



These pictures are from the first day--and Gia LOVED it. She wasn't so crazy about the game at the end. She gets nervous when there are a million kids running around because she's afraid someone is going to run into her. (This summer at gymnastics camp this is exactly what happened. She and another kid collided not once, but twice. And ever since then she gets scared if there are too many kids running around near her. Can't blame her.) So I didn't force her to play in the game at the end. I let her watch.

In the coming weeks we had a bit of a hard time getting her to play and love it as much as that first day. When it's time to get ready in the morning, she says she doesn't want to go to soccer. When we get there she is usually ok, but some days it takes more coaxing than others.  And then we started dancing school and Gia is constantly telling me she loves dance more than soccer.  Girlfriend has preferences and we're totally ok with that. But, we're not letting her quit soccer. She's going to play till the end of the session and then next session, we'll try something else!

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Note to Self

One of the best things about being pregnant is that people (strangers) are so nice to you. People hold doors for you, smile at you, offer to carry things for you. People generally act the way I wish we'd act all the time. (That's a whole other story for another day though...)
 
Well, having a newborn isn't much different. People are so kind. I know I'm not "supposed" to be out & about with Nicholas just yet, but, well, I have another child & a household to try to keep afloat. So out we go.
I don't take Nicholas out every single day. He stays home with my husband as much as possible, but there are times when he just has to come with me. And every single time, I'm bombarded with kindness from strangers.
 
Today, alone, I was told "God Bless" at least 4 times while in Shop Rite with him. 
 
And then, there's the Holy Grail of Nice Comments You Can Make to the New Mommy. Of course I love hearing how cute he is, but really, all babies are cute. When they find out how old Nicholas is sometimes they follow it up with, "Wow, you look great". And let me tell you, it makes my day. Even if they're lying, it does wonders for the self esteem, especially when I'm in sweatpants and feeling less than pretty with my big old postpartum belly. 
 
So, note to self, next time you see a newborn and want to tell his mommy how cute he or she is, also tell her how great she looks. Because even if she looks exhausted and clearly doesn't have on any makeup, any hasn't showered yet that day, she made it out of the house with an infant. That's a feat in and of itself.  And maybe, just maybe, you'll brighten her day the way some really awesome strangers have brightened mine.
 
 
Ps. While we're on the subject of kindness, I wanted to share one more thing. This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog readers, who is a friend of a friend and someone I'd never met before. She said some of the sweetest things about this blog and it meant so much to me. The same goes for all of you that leave me comments here or on my Facebook page for this blog. You all know how much I love blogging and the fact that a few someones out there are reading and enjoying it, means the world to me.