Friday, December 30, 2011

Holiday Month of December- Blog 5: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Whew Ellie,

Holidays are so much fun but they can be such a whirlwind of excitement!  Sadly, your Mimi and Poppy had to leave on Tuesday.  So your Mimi and I are on the phone talking about what fun their long weekend over Christmas was with you.  Your Mimi’s words are in italics and mine are in regular font.

Oh Ellie, you were so much fun this Christmas.  It all started when our flight into Denver (3 days before Christmas) was delayed!  Your city got almost a foot of snow!  We arrived at your house while you were napping so we ate a late lunch with your Mommy and Daddy and caught up with the latest “Ellie” stories.  When we heard you stirring upstairs, your Poppy and I put on our coats and went outside to ring the doorbell to surprise you!

After you got up and walked downstairs, you saw Mimi’s luggage at the bottom of the staircase (you are so smart with a really good memory).  You gasped because you recognized it (she has smiley face stickers all over it to distinguish it from other bags on the carrier).  Yet it didn’t click at that moment because when the doorbell rang, you yelled, “Pizza!”  And when I opened the door for Mimi and Poppy, you had a look of pure disbelief, which quickly faded to pure joy and excitement (and as your Aunt Joanne says, you became velcroed to your Mimi’s side!

It didn’t take you long El before you took us up to your room to show us all your toys and your crib.  You had me pretending to be a crazy lady by insisting I don a ratty wig and hat while you played the crazy baby wearing a diaper on the outside of your clothes! 
That night, your Daddy grilled delicious turkey burgers for us girls and steaks for the boys.  You made sure to gobble up your food quickly so you could take Poppy upstairs into your Mommy and Daddy’s bed to watch the Mickey Mouse Club!  Do you see a pattern here yet Ellie!  Hint, hint….. You Rule!  When Poppy woke up the next morning, his pajamas were still covered in your stickers!

Friday was a really fun day… we got an early mall start because we wanted you to see Santa Ellie!  You were hilarious!  Even though you wouldn’t look at him (although I am sure you kept him within your peripheral vision,) you didn’t want to leave his lap either.  And you were so darn serious in the pictures! 
We’ve all come to realize your game plan Ellie.  It is not so much that you didn’t want to sit on Santa’s lap… you just wanted to make sure that no one else did either!  We’ve seen you do this with your little friend’s mommies too!  You are quite a clever little girl “Einstein!”  And because you are so independent, you rotated walking the mall with riding on Poppy’s shoulders so we were able to get some last minute shopping done in our favorite stores. 
We then finished up at the Grand Lux CafĂ© for lunch where you played happily with Mimi’s pocketbook!  My guess is that you made our waiter very happy if he looked underneath the table once we left.  If he did, he probably would have found oodles of Mimi’s coins!

With all the walking that morning El, you had a really good afternoon nap… perfect so that your Mommy and I could get our nails done.  We both picked the same Big Apple Red color for our toes! (Go figure!)  Not only do I love “Ellie and Mimi” time, but I also love “Kimberly and Mimi” time too.

We got home in time to leave for Zoo Lights- we really packed this day full!  One of the first things you spotted was the carousel and wanted your Poppy to take you on the “horsies!”  I think you went on it at least three times!  
You didn’t really care too much about the magical lights or the few animals that were still out to view.  You were more interested in walking (while us adults were freezing) and just wanted to play in (and eat) the snow.  
El, you looked like a snow bunny mummy with one mitten turned backwards!  You certainly do make us laugh!

Saturday was Christmas Eve and it was a quieter day.  Your Mom and I even got a game of UpWords in while you were napping!  We did make a point to go out and buy the December issue of Print Magazine because your incredibly talented Uncle Ryan had two pieces of work featured in it!!!  I am thinking Ellie girl that you might take after him with your artistic nature although sometimes it is hard to see what you draw as you always seem to gravitate towards the white crayon! 

We dressed up for Christmas Eve Mass.  
Ellie, your Mimi picks out your Christmas dresses and this year, she outdid herself… your polka dotted dress and faux fur coat were breathtaking!  
Your hair on the other hand is a story in itself!  I promise I do brush it Ellie but no matter it still looks like you stuck your finger in a light socket!  And it doesn’t help that you will not let anyone put a bow or a barrette in it either!

Ellie, I couldn’t resist getting the faux fur coat because your Mommy had one when you were her age!  
I remember all those years ago your mommy sitting ever so nicely in church belting out the words to the Our Father Prayer in an off key melody.  But you little one were more interested in the water fountain out in the hallway and the stepping stool to reach it!

We sat in the children’s room, which worked out perfectly because you got very antsy toward the end.  Like Mimi mentioned, I think you insisted on going to the water fountain at least a half dozen times!  How your beautiful dress didn’t get soaked is a miracle in itself!

But you did keep very busy with my pen Ellie… you would put the cap on, then pull it off, put in on, then pull it off over and over and over again.  I must say too that even though you looked like a beautiful porcelain doll… if anyone took a close up view, they would have seen that both palms of your hands were covered in black ink scribbles!

After Christmas Eve Mass, we followed our same tradition as we always have- pizza, wine and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation!  After you went to bed, your Mimi made her famous and delicious homemade stuffing for Daddy’s delicious Christmas turkey dinner!

Once you fell asleep, your Daddy and Poppy put together our gift to you- a kitchen set!  And maybe if that wasn’t funny!  
One would read the directions and the other would get the correct size screwdriver and screws!  It kind of reminded me of the light bulb joke Ellie…. Ask me about that one when you grow up a bit!

Ellie, I am worse than a child on Christmas morning.  I can’t sleep because I get so excited.  Your Dad, Mimi, and Poppy told me I couldn’t get up before 6am so right on the dot, we started opening gifts…. One person, one gift at a time.  It’s a wonderful way to savor the morning!  You slept in for an extra hour, which was good because you were so entertaining to watch!  Your Daddy always picks out the best jewelry and your Mimi and Poppy made us proud owners of the Green Packers with a share in the team!!!

Ellie, your Poppy and I loved the gifts from you most of all!  The calendar of your pictures, the World’s Greatest Poppy t-shirt, and the Mimi 2 shirt are the best!

We skyped with family and mostly watched you play for the rest of the morning.  You loved the kitchen set and played for hours cooking, organizing, preparing… you were so excited with it!  
And the interactive car set from your Mimi and Poppy was great too (although the noise that comes out of it would make any sane adult go crazy after fifteen minutes!).  Your Nana got you a baby crib, which you insisted on sitting in rather than putting your doll in it!

Your Daddy cooked a fabulous Christmas dinner with all the trimmings!  The turkey, cran-apple crumble, and sweet potato pie were to die for!  But the company was the best part.  Your Dad’s friend Al and Justin Weaver came and stayed late into the night playing a really great game I found called Zero!  Your mommy and I played at least four rounds with the boys, then we gave up and went to bed.  The game was so much fun that the boys continued to play into the early hours of the morning!

I’m not sure who was funnier with that game!  It was also the perfect day because the Packers played and they won!!!

Monday, the 26th,brought new adventures.  Poppy’s cousins, the Stigales, flew into Denver to ski for the week in Breckenridge.  On their way to the mountains, they stopped by to have tea with us.  It was a quick visit but your Mommy and Daddy will see more of them on Wednesday when they drive up for the morning to ski and visit with them.  After we said our good-byes, we found ourselves at the mall getting great after-Christmas bargains.  

And we ended the morning with lunch again but this time at a delicious Italian restaurant called Brio.  But more important, the day after Christmas is a big day because Gigi turned 75 and her life is to be celebrated!  I’m glad we got to skype with her! 

The 26th was also bittersweet though, as it was your last day with us.  I’m glad Poppy took us out to Red Robin… not a usual hot spot for him but he always thinks of you Ellie.  It was almost like you sensed they were leaving though because you put on such a show when we got home. 

Oh Ellie, you melt my heart with your giggle!  I could play hours and hours of “Let’s Pretend” with you.  My favorite is the Telephone Game.  It pretty much consists of 3 steps.  1.) Ring, ring, ring.  2.) Hello  3.) Goodbye.  And a lot of silliness in between!  You and I also have lots of fun playing Ring Around the Rosie and when you recite “Ashes, ashes…. Well, let’s just say that those words come out of your mouth in a not so PG rated version!   

I’m so glad that your Mimi stayed up late to play one final game of UpWords with me.  It gave me a bit more one on one time with her.  You see Ellie; we can talk about anything and everything and of course our most favorite topic… YOU!  Your Daddy is always amazed that our conversations are never at a loss of words!  I can’t thank your Mimi and Poppy enough for all they have done.  It was another amazing trip, which is why it’s always so hard to say good-bye.

Thank you Ellie for making the best memories with me this trip.  You are forever my tea drinking, fun-loving peanut.  I love your quirky personality and how you are always one step ahead of thinking outside the box!  Your mommy and your daddy are wonderful parents and it is such a joy to watch them raise you.  I am forever grateful and thankful that they open your home to us with open arms.  My children and my grandchildren are my world Ellie.  Kyle’s presence was with us too …. You had a special part in that!

One last thought before I go Ellie.  It is about the season of Christmas…. It is because of Christmas that we are blessed all the year through with the Holy Spirit.  It is because of Christmas that we are who we are.  I think the lesson to be learned here Ellie is to be His messenger and prayerfully we will come to understand the true meaning of Christmas!

Love you Giggling Angel Girl!
Mom & Mimi

Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Month of December- Blog 4: Letters from Mom & Mimi

2 More Days Ellie!!!

Merry Christmas my Darling Daughter!  

This week has been so much fun, as I have had the past few days off and we have been spending every second together (except for one evening that your Dad and I got you a babysitter so that we could catch some of these awesome movies that are out!)!  

We had a play date with my co-workers and their babies on Tuesday (that included a visit from Santa!)

And then, we had a play date with Jaclyn and Rilynn on Wednesday.  You are definitely blessed to have such wonderful children around you (and I am blessed to have the friendships of these awesome moms).  But best of all, your Mimi and Poppy finally flew in yesterday!!!  But I am going to save their visit until next week’s blog.

Because of all of the socializing and making time for friends and family, food is definitely important this time of year (both for eating it and entertaining with it).  I already made a batch of Gram Mundy’s cookies and oatmeal raisin (and they are already gone!).  But my favorite cookies are Peanut Butter Cups. I didn’t make them this year because I am the only one in the house that eats them (so when the whole batch disappears, I don’t feel very good about myself!).  So you need to develop a taste for these bad boys so you can help me!!!  Here is my delicious recipe:

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

½ cup butter
¾ cup peanut butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Extra sugar
24 Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
24 White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees
-Beat butter and peanut butter in a mixer until well blended, then blend in sugars until fluffy and light, then add egg, milk, and vanilla and beat.
-Stir together flour, baking soda and salt and gradually mix into peanut butter mix
-Shape dough balls so they are about 1 inch in diameter, then roll in the extra sugar
-Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned
-Immediately place a peanut butter cup on each cookie and press down slightly

And because tomorrow is Christmas Eve, how perfect is this famous poem?

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
when, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came,
and he whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
so up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

And on a silly note, you and I had a really great time cleaning out your toy boxes, closet, and drawers to see what we can donate to get ready for new gifts that will come.  I think at one point, you had three hats on your head and two different slippers on your feet.  You make me laugh baby girl!!!  Dress up time with you is the BEST! 

So Miss Ellie, I wish you sweet dreams.
I love you and Merry Christmas!

And now from your Mimi…

Hi Ellie!
I can’t believe we are here with you now!  Seeing your beautiful face and that surprised expression when Poppy and I walked through your front door today was truly one of those “forever memory moments!”

Now we are looking forward to the giggles, playtime and the magic of Christmas!

The Christmas recipe I chose to share Ellie is a dessert.  When your mommy and Uncle Ryan were small, come Christmas time we would settle into the kitchen to roll out homemade sugar cookies dripping in icing!  We started by getting out mixing bowls, a rolling pin, spatula’s; measuring cups, all the sugar cookie and icing ingredients along with sprinkles, colored sugars, and candies for decorating.  And then we would start the process of making our cookie cutter sugar Christmas cookies in the shapes of a bell, a Santa, a star, a Christmas tree and a gingerbread man!  Sometimes I think we had more flour on the floor than in the mixing bowl… but we always had fun!  Here is the recipe Ellie:

Ultimate Sugar Cookies
1-1/4 cups sugar
1 cup (1 stick) Butter Flavor Crisco (or regular Crisco)
2 eggs
¼ cup light corn syrup or regular pancake syrup
1-tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus 4 tablespoons divided)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Decorations (your choice) – frosting, colored sugar crystals, candies, raisins, decorating gel

1.     Heat oven to 375 degrees
2.     Combine sugar and Crisco in large bowl.  Beat at medium speed until well blended.  Add eggs, syrup and vanilla.  Beat until fluffy.
3.     Combine 3 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add gradually to creamed mixture at low speed.  Mix until well blended.  Divide dough into 4 quarters.  TIP- if dough is too stick or too soft to roll: Wrap each quarter of dough with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
4.     Spread 1 tablespoon of flour on large sheet of waxed paper.  Place one-fourth of dough on floured paper.  Flatten slightly with hands.  Turn dough over and cover with another large sheet of waxed paper.  Roll dough to 1/4 –inch thickness.  Cut out with floured cutters.  Transfer to ungreased baking sheet with large pancake turner.  Place 2 inches apart.  Sprinkle some with granulated sugar or colored sugar crystals, or leave plain to frost when cooled.
5.     Bake on baking sheet at a time for 5 to 9 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies.  (smaller thin cookies closer to 5 minutes; larger thick cookies closer to 9 minutes)  DO NOT OVERBAKE!  Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet.  Place sheets of foil on countertop.  Remove cookies to foil to cool completely, then frost if desired.
6.     Makes about 3-4 Dozen Cookies

Butter Cream Icing
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened (not melted.)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Food Coloring

Mix powdered sugar and butter, stir in vanilla and 1 Tbsp milk… gradually add just enough of the remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spread milk… if too thin, add a little more powdered sugar.
Put a scoop of icing in a few cups.  Add different colors of the food coloring.  Ice cookies and decorate!

Now for my poem.  I chose a Children’s’ Christmas poem written by Shel Silverstein Ellie as it just seems so appropriate for this year!  Enjoy reading!

By Shel Silverstein

I made myself a snowball,
As perfect as could be,
I thought I’d keep it as a pet,
And let it sleep with me.
I made it some pajamas,
And a pillow for its head,
Then last night it ran away,
But first – it wet the bed!

All right Angel Baby….. We have a very busy weekend ahead of us!  A visit to see Denver’s Zoo Lights, another visit to see Santa Claus… last minute shopping, a traditional pizza and wine dinner with your mommy and daddy, Christmas mass, a mouth water Holiday dinner made by your Daddy, and the best most relaxing day spent playing with you!  And in next weeks blog your mommy and I will revisit the week’s precious moments with you and our favorite memories.

Love you El!
Merry Christmas!
Till next time,
Love Mimi

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Month of December- Blog 3: Letters from Mom & Mimi

9 Days Until Christmas Ellie!

We have been enjoying this holiday season with you even more than last year!  You recognize Santa (although we haven’t taken you to sit on his lap yet), you are in awe of houses covered in lights, and you call our Christmas stockings hanging over our fireplace “big boots”! 

But most fun is our tradition of Elf on the Shelf with you.  Your Mimi gave us the box for your baby shower.  

We introduced the book to you last year when you were nine months old and your Daddy helped us name our elf, Griz (after Clark Griswold in our favorite Christmas movie, I think our family has a few similarities!).  You took one look at Griz and tried to eat him!  

But this year, we have been following the rules… and Griz is hidden in a new place everyday.  You love this game of hide-and-go-seek!  

However, you aren’t honoring one of the key guidelines- you aren’t supposed to touch Griz because you will wipe off Santa’s magic and he won’t be able to fly back and report to Santa how good you are.  I think Santa is overlooking it this year but many of our friends’ children who watch your Elf on Shelf videos on Facebook are very nervous for you this year Ellie!  I think the funniest though is every time I ask you if Griz is an elf, you respond that he is a mouse.  I think you have quite the sense of humor Ellie because now Joe the Kitty is a mouse, Daddy is a mouse, and even you are a mouse.

And you say it with that mischievous look in your eye and sly smile and even sillier giggle after.  Gosh, I just love you and how you think!

Now I’m not sure how Griz continually finds new places to hide.  He’s been in your toy school bus, in your coat, on the rocking chair, in Daddy’s shoe, even on top of the computer while we Skype with Mimi!  

This is a tradition that we will keep for years to come Ellie.  Make sure you thank Mimi for sending us our elf (however with the way you are handling Griz this year, we might need a replacement sent to us next year)!!!

I also love that our good friends Jaclyn and Jason have a tradition of an annual Christmas party… and it’s a White Elephant one at that.  That means you bring a gift (it could be a joke or something good but you can’t tell what it is).  Everyone has a number of when they can pick their gift but before they open it, they have the option of “stealing” a gift that was opened before them.  Your Dad and I almost brought home a beautiful salad bowl (but that got stolen), then we stole the champagne glasses (but those got stolen from us too), so we got stuck taking home the Miracle of Life birthing DVD.  You had just as much fun as we did at that party running around with all the other children (I love that our friends have little ones now too!).  Jaclyn always has a delicious spread (she makes the yummiest bruschetta and caprese salads!) but her friend Kristine’s cookies were my favorite (peanut butter cup!).  Next party is your Daddy’s work one where we will go downtown for dinner and entertainment with his colleagues.  I love that Christmas gives people a reason to catch up and be together.

Mimi, what is your favorite holiday tradition?  Aside from Griz and holiday get-togethers, mine is definitely giving to others- your Mimi and Poppy taught me that.  Maybe Mimi, you could write to Ellie and tell her what you guys do every year.  Notice Ellie, that we haven’t really mentioned getting presents yet- that’s because Christmas is a season… a season of giving, of spending time with family and friends, honoring your faith, and spreading joy and cheer (which you do every second of everyday), 

And tis’ the season for family… 6 days until your Mimi and Poppy are here!!!

Love you, my little funny mouse!!!

And now from your Mimi… 

Hi Ellie!

Oh my!  Now that your mommy put it on paper I can’t believe it is only 9 days till Christmas!  That reminds me of the 12 Days of Christmas song where on the 9th day I think the lords are leaping, (probably because someone kept interrupting their Christmas shopping!) or is it the maids are milking (and probably not happy with whomever invented the serving of eggnog at Christmas parties… yuck!) or maybe it is when the ladies are dancing, (who have good reason to because they probably single-handedly conquered Christmas: the shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking and cooking all by themselves and of course all with a smile!)  Maybe I should just Google that verse before Poppy says, “There she goes making up the words again!”  You know Ellie it would have been much easier if whoever wrote that song used a noun that started with the same letter of the number they were making reference too.  Well… that is what I would have done had I written it!

OK.  So this week we are to write about our favorite Christmas memory.  Well Ellie, a favorite Christmas memory of mine happened many, many years ago… around the time I was 10 years old.  Your Great Gram and Pop-pop Jones took our family to Philadelphia to spend the Christmas holiday with Great-Gram’s family.  I remember being so excited because we had to take a train to Chicago to catch a plane for Philly.  I don’t remember much of the train ride but I do remember being quite anxious boarding the airplane.  Once I took my seat I remember thinking that I was awfully glad they kept a neatly folded white lunch sized paper bag nestled in the chair pocket found in front of me!  Not that I needed it Ellie.  I am guessing that my queasiness was probably from holiday travel excitement and not from motion sickness!  It was just nice to know that it was there!  From there my memory of this trip jumps to your Great-great Gram Mundy’s house.  A house where there were always welcomed arms, Christmas cookies galore, a kitchen filled with delicious smells and a cup of tea in everyone’s hand.  I remember how I always loved their house, as there were visitors from morning till night and everyone always had a smile.  I also remember Gram and Pop Mundy’s Christmas tree and thinking to myself,  “Wow, that is for sure not real, and it’s not green either.  You see Ellie; back home in Green Bay we displayed in our family room what I believed to be the perfect live Christmas tree every single year, because my dad would spend all morning drilling holes into its trunks only to fill them with oodles of lush green branches.  

I was never really quite sure why anyone would go to all this trouble, but I must admit it did create the perfect Christmas tree and one of the most beautiful Jones holiday traditions!  But back to “My Philly Christmas Memory” and Gram Mundy’s Christmas tree.  Ellie, theirs was kind of like a tall silver Charlie Brown Christmas tree.  Each branch was very uniform and let’s just say…  you could see through it…  like the whole wall behind it!  And the best part of their tree story was that it came with a colored spotlight wheel of green, blue, yellow and red that when plugged in it changed the silver tree every 30 seconds to silver green, silver blue, silver yellow and silver orange!  I think the orange was supposed to be red but once it hit the silver tree, somehow Halloween always came to mind!  In my 10-year-old eyes though, that was one of the coolest futuristic tree’s I ever saw and I couldn’t wait to tell my friends back home about!  I remember too getting a Barbie doll as a gift in Philly and being quite happy with it as your Aunt Sheri and I had no problems spending hours of fun in the “Barbie World” on any given day!  I also remember that when we returned home to Green Bay it was evening and there was a blanket of fresh snow on the ground.  Upon entering the house, there stood right in front of the cardboard fireplace… yep, you read right… our family’s fireplace was genuine cardboard and it was seasonal at that!  

As for the logs inside it as well as the flames rising from the logs…. cardboard too.  So was its mantel that held our stockings!  It only came out during the holiday and afterwards was disassembled, folded up and stored down in the basement for the rest of the year until the next Christmas!  I don’t know who thought up this clever idea to sell, but obviously my family fell for it hook, line and sinker!   Anyway, right in front of it stood two brand new bikes, one with your Aunt Sheri’s name on it and the other with my name on it.  Ellie, through my excitement I remember running to the front window searching for manmade bike tracks.  And because there were none there, I remember thinking that Santa Clause saved the best for last for he read and answered our Christmas list that we had sent him!   It was a perfect ending to a perfect Christmas.  I knew then just as I do now that I would never forget that Christmas year!

And as you grow Ellie, you will realize that Christmas is less about receiving and so much more about giving.  Your Poppy and I along with your mommy and Uncle Ryan started a tradition many years ago where we temporarily adopt a family at Christmas time who are less fortunate than us.  We started the first few years by giving a family in need groceries for the week.  My first experience was not quite what I expected.  As we drove up to the dwelling that the family lived in, a little boy came out to help us bring the bags of groceries inside.  Keep in mind that our delivery was towards the end of December and the weather was bitter cold.  This young boy had shorts on, no coat nor socks, just old sneakers that were barely attached to their soles.  As we entered the dwelling, a fowl smell permeated the air, but we continued down the corridor anyway only to find their apartment had no front door.  It was far from clean including the people inside, but the one thing that etched itself permanently into my mind was of their kindness and their smiles.  I remember driving home that night crying all the way while your mommy and Uncle Ryan sat very quietly in the back seat.  I remember telling your Poppy that we had to do more and I was actually ready to go home and empty our refrigerator of all its contents and send it to that family.  I was also actually ready to give them all of our furniture, our car and our paycheck too!  Rationality did not settle in until a few days later.  There were a few more difficult visits over the years that were similar to this first family so we extended our giving to include Christmas presents for the children.  Each year our experience has been a sobering one Ellie.  So each year we try to do a little bit more.  Over the years we have met many types of people; kind people, faith-based people, humbled people, proud people, thankful people, the list goes on and on Ellie for they are all just like us… the only difference is is that they hit a rut in the road where they have temporarily stalled and any helping hand is gratefully accepted.  I hope your Poppy and I are able to continue this tradition as long as God allows us because it has become a part of us, a part of me.  I think my heart would be broken if I could not Ellie.  So I shall continue to pray and ask for guidance for even though it seems I am clueless at times, I always seem to end up where I am suppose to be.  I guess that is because I trust Ellie.  I hope that is always a good thing. There is a Christmas song called Let There Be Peace on Earth and the first verse goes like this: 
Let there be peace on earth.
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
A peace that was meant to be
With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony….
I think the lesson to be learned here Ellie is found in the second line and fourth line Give with your whole heart and expect nothing in return.  One by one others will too.

All right, I guess it is time to wrap up this blog.  But before I do, I wanted to tell you that I did Google the 12 Days of Christmas song and the 9th day belongs to: 9 ladies dancing.  (Those lucky gals, they probably finished checking off their To Do Christmas List a few weeks early!)   Maybe I will be able to dance too in a few more days, that is if I don’t hyperventilate first!  Oh Ellie, I can’t wait to see you!  Our time together is not coming fast enough for me!  What Christmas fun we shall have!  How about next week we share our favorite Christmas recipe and a Christmas poem?

Till then little mouse!
Love Mimi

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Month of December- Blog 2: Letters from Mom & Mimi

Happy Almost Christmas Miss Ellie!

These past two weeks, we have been decorating, baking, sorting, and wrapping.  You know me Ellie; I have been done with my Christmas shopping for the past two months (except for stocking stuffers and a few odds and ends).  With my compulsive personality, I hit many of the end-of-summer sales and shopped throughout the year to budget.  And I already have my packages mailed out… the first set went to those who know my craziness and won’t judge, like Aunt Ally and Kimmy Nacker!  But I have to say Ellie, you are keeping my craziness in check.  Each night as I wrap a few gifts, you unravel or rip what I have accomplished… it’s kind of funny but a tad frustrating.  You also use my boxes as cribs for you babies so it takes up time for them to finish their naps (aka takes time to finish adding my tissue paper and presents to the boxes!).  You and your imagination at 20 months old!
This is you using my table runner as a blanket!

Your Mimi also makes me wait until December 1 to get my Christmas cards out… so December 2, they went in the mail!  We do a family picture every year in Disney and send out the photo cards.  This year, we did it with Mickey Mouse at Animal Kingdom.  Very fitting as you loved the Disney characters.  And your Mimi being so creative helped come up with the saying to wish everyone a season full of character!

I love pulling out our Christmas decorations and ornaments, so much so that I do it as soon as we get back from Disney (literally, I did this the night we got back!).  The Christmas balls are all meaningful (I decorated as you ate Saturday morning breakfast!).  I love reminiscing as I add to the tree.  Some of the ornaments remind me of loved ones (we have beautiful ones representing Kyle), milestones (our marriage, first house, your pregnancy Ellie), family (Jackie hand-makes special ornaments every year!), Disney (we but an ornament every year representing something from that particular trip and have it engraved with the year), and hand-me-downs (from your Great Grams and Mimi).  

This year, I made sure to decorate the bottom of the tree with stuffed animals or balls that could be handled (your Mimi came up with that idea by buying you Mickey and Pluto animals, she is so smart and knows you so well!).  You, Ellie, are worse than the cat at batting and hitting the balls! 

As for our house, I have a manger on our mantel from your Gigi (we had to replace the Joseph as she buried him in front of her Philly house to make it sell faster… Low and behold, it worked but when she dug out poor Joseph, he was a pile of mush!).  And I have a hand-painted small decorative sleigh that your Great-Gram Bubbles decorated a beautiful drummer boy.  Our tree topper is none other than Mickey Mouse (we are on our 2nd!)!  I think I could safely say that I could trim my entire house in Disney but that might be a bit tacky.  Although if we keep buying decorations every year, this might be a reality (this year, we added kitchen towels to our collection)!  And going back to memories, I try to pull out old Christmas pictures to remind us of years past.  
These are my favorites from last year (your Mimi took the one of you in the red dress):

Yes Ellie, the photograph of you sitting on Santa’s lap last year is front and center (I wonder how that will go this year as you have decided to hate all strangers!).  Christmas decorations should bring smiles and warmth Ellie and I think ours sure do that. 

Your Mimi passed down the 12 Days of Christmas by the artist P. Buckley Moss.  These are truly gorgeous and I have them on a tree stand as a centerpiece.  

They will be yours someday Ellie.  But sooner, you will get ornaments of your own as your Mimi has started you on a collection of one ball every year.  Your tree is going to be so special with all the memories that it will hold!

I would love to share more memories and traditions next week Ellie.  But first, let’s see how Mimi is faring with her decorations.  I remember in Philadelphia, she used to hand-paint our front window in Christmas scenes.  And in State College, she would take the time to wrap all of the hanging pictures in our house to look like gifts.  They were so pretty and festive.  I wonder if we have any pictures to show you?  Tomorrow, we are off to our first holiday party put on by our family friends Jaclyn and Jason (and you are invited too!).     

Holidays are about God, family, and friends Ellie!  And speaking of family, we improvise as we live so far away.  You are getting to know Gigi and Aunt Joanne through Skype (and I think you are bring smiles to Gigi to make her feel better and get well faster).  Your smile is contagious and this time of year people need joy.  You, Ellie, bring happiness every second of everyday (did I mention that you learned how to watch emotions this week and have learned to wrap your arms around my shoulders as I carry you and give me a big bear hug when I feel crazed and plant the biggest kiss on my lips?!).  You (and Kyle) are my best presents of all time.  And that being said, I have to say that I am overwhelmed by the Christmas gifts that have already been pouring in for you Ellie.  As I continually say, you are so loved (especially by me and Mimi). 

I love you Spaghetti!

And now from your Mimi.. 

Ho, ho, ho Little Miss Ellie!

Can you believe Christmas is almost upon us?!  Oh how I love this holiday! (Well, actually I love every holiday but this one in particular seems to warm our hearts an extra few degrees, reach out to those in need and give a smile to both friends and strangers!)  Could it be because of the Christmas songs that have been playing since Thanksgiving on the radio?  Could it be because of the chill in the air and the white sparkling snowflakes falling to the ground?  Could it be because of the Sunday sermons at church reminding parishioners to follow the Golden Rule?   Or could it simply be because there is good in all of us Ellie, and December is the perfect month to act on it?  No matter, everything about this holiday makes me happy!

I even bought 2 of Poppy’s favorite Christmas Cartoon Character mugs at Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago!  Yep.  During teatime Poppy is now sporting a very green Grinch mug while I am sipping from a very reddish orange Cindy Lou Who mug!

Talk about bringing out the best of Grinchmas spirit! J  The funny thing is is that as much as your Poppy loves the Grinch, Poppy’s heart is way bigger than the Grinch’s ever was even after the Grinch’s heart grew 3 sizes!

OK.  So this week we are talking about decorating…  Thankfully I am somewhat on task and am slowly progressing to the final stages!  Right after we came home from Disney Ellie I asked Poppy to put up our Christmas tree so that I could decorate it.  (And no it did not come from fresh out of the woods nor did it come from Michael’s Craft Store even though it is fake!)  Somehow I conveniently forgot that it takes about 2 hours to unbend and spread out all those gazillion branches!  And since my attention span does struggle at times, I waited until the next night to add the ornaments, as tree fluffing is not my favorite thing to do!  Now Ellie, I’m guessing that our Christmas tree would fall under the category theme of “Hodge Podge” as it has everything but the kitchen sink hanging from it.

But that is ok with me because there is a memory that belongs to every unmatched ornament that I have.  I especially love all the ones your mommy and Uncle Ryan made me when they were in grade school.

After finishing the tree… well not exactly, rather 2 days later I started decorating the house.  This year I had to scale way down Ellie since we removed the wall shelves in the living room last spring when we painted leaving me less space to “knick-knack” up!  So I’ve opted not to unpack all my Jim Shore Angels but rather display all my snowmen instead.  Next year I will flip-flop this arrangement.  I placed my Nativity set underneath the Christmas tree and it seems that our cat Daisy likes snuggling up beside it every night.  I think my prayers are being answered because so far Daisy has not batted the baby Jesus out of the manger or gnawed on the wooden stable corners!  Nor has she tried crawling up into the tree!  And best of all she has not chewed through any extension cords!  Halleluiah!  You know there have been times that I’ve wondered whether Daisy is part Tasmanian Devil with those razor sharp teeth she owns!  Did you know that Daisy was once your mommy’s cat?  Someday Ellie you need to ask her how it is that Poppy and I became that cat’s adoptive parents!

OK…. back to my holiday decorating.  This past weekend we had an out of town wedding to attend of one of my closest friends sons.  Thankfully when we returned on Sunday afternoon the weather was unseasonably warm so Poppy put up the Christmas lights outside.  Of course they are the multi-coloreds as big as you can buy Christmas bulb sets and he strung them from one end of the house to the other.  But because of last years high winds he re-thought his stranding strategy and opted not to hang them from the roofs rain gutters as it gets way too cold to constantly get out the ladder and climb to what seems like heaven only to change those light bulbs every other day.

No matter Ellie, even with minimizing the number of bulbs, I still think a plane could use our house as landing lights!  Your Aunt Ally would laugh!  Where she is more about class and tactfully displaying dainty white lights, we have this habit of going overboard with the “More, Bigger, and Brighter” is better theory!  One year Poppy even put up a huge 15-foot inflatable light up Grinch Character that stood dead center in the middle of our front yard!  Your Aunt Ally would have truly died that Christmas season!

As for shopping Ellie, I have a pretty good handle on it.  Like your Mommy, I am a coupon shopper and am always looking for the best deals.  And if that means buying a gift at the end of summer or better yet after last year season ends then so be it!  Surprisingly (and some would be proud I might add) I have also used the computer a little bit more this year especially on Cyber Monday!  Huh!  Imagine that… a computer and me actually getting along for one day!  I guess it all has to do with awesome deal finding!

Addressing Christmas cards are next on my list Ellie.  We have so many wonderful family members and friends that I really do look forward to wishing everyone a Merry Christmas filled with all the love that I can magically tuck into each envelope!   And just like last years, we had a family photo of you, your mom and dad, Uncle Ryan and Aunt Sammy along with Poppy and me displayed on a Disney Picture Christmas card taken so that I can share all of you with everyone I know!  Hopefully I can tackle this agenda over the coming weekend.  Since Poppy is planning on traveling to Florida to give your Great-Pop some company and do whatever he can in helping with Gigi’s healing, I guess that means I have no excuse not to finish our Christmas list since there will be absolutely no distractions around here!  Uh-oh… I better add organizing and wrapping gifts to my To-Do list too because next week I will need to mail them!

But like your Mommy said, “God, Family and Friends are what holidays are truly about.”  They are what really matter this Christmas season.  Actually Ellie, I think the lesson to be learned here is that God, Family and Friends matter every day of our lives.  To have faith and love around you and within you is the best “daily” gift we can give ourselves and to others all during the Christmas season as well as everyday before and after too.

So with that thought Ellie, have a beautiful night.  May sweet dreams and visions of Santa dance in your head bringing smiles and sunshine to your morning.  How about next week we blog about a Christmas memory?  Kimberly, I think you need to write about Ellie finding Griz: The Elf on the Shelf.  Those stories are precious and the videos are hilarious!

Till next time.
Love you Sugar Plum!