Thursday, December 25, 2014

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

Dear Ellie,

This has by far been my best Christmas season ever.  Watching the magic through yours and Will’s eyes is indescribable.

Final Thought: Remember that Christmas is not just a day.  It’s a feeling, it’s the act of giving, and it’s a fundamental part of our faith.  Always let that true and pure spirit shine through no matter what time of year.

How we got into the spirit in the final weeks leading up to Christmas:

1.     Daddy’s work organizes a children’s Christmas party every year.  Santa visits after we eat pizza (and Will still cries every time he sees the big guy).  

There is a huge arts and crafts room (where you made reindeer food) 
and a movie area in the projection room (playing all of the holiday’s best films).  Daddy’s work also does a very formal party for the adults (it’s always fun to add sparkle to your outfit this time of year).  You and Will slept over your Mimi and Poppy’s so that we could stay out late.  We had the best time dancing into the late hours!

2.     Gram Bubbles came to visit!  She is a part of our Christmas traditions and has been since 1999- we love having her here with us!

3.     We rode the Polar Express Train Ride and then had our Christmas at Mimi’s celebrating a little early with Ryan and Samantha. (Aunt Sammy’s family lives in Ohio so they need to get on the road a bit earlier to make it there for Christmas Eve).  You love all the characters that come through the train car… 
Will doesn’t (he cried and made sure each one left through the door and wasn’t coming back).  

Because Mimi and Poppy’s big gift is our Disney trip, we get three gifts to open each.  Your favorite was the slinky… all of $3!  

The day couldn’t have been more perfect- a delicious dinner and the best company (with the game of Pictionary during appetizers as well as a Steelers win to get the team into the play-offs so Daddy was super-happy!).   

4.     There was another Polar Express at the library that we did for the first time this year.  We listened to the book, made a craft, hopped on the trolley around the block where Santa was waiting for us in the local theatre (and yes Will cried while sitting on the big guy’s lap).

5.     Your school put on its annual Christmas Program.  You sang songs and Santa stopped by.  But the best part was that you got to be Mary in the mini-play… that’s what I was when I was around your age.  You played the part so perfectly- gentle and sweet!  I teared up when I saw you all dressed up.

6.     And of course, Griz  “hung” around the whole month.  There were a few moments of parenting failure regarding him… the first is when I made him zip line on a candy cane down the kitchen lamp wire (from other people’s vantage point though, it looked like Griz committed suicide).  The second is when I hid Griz around the shower nozzle (thinking he would make bath time easier since you cry in the bathtub when we wash our hair).  But when you found him, you were very concerned that Griz would see you naked (because I made him unintentionally to be a Peeping Tom). The third is when we had a few friends over for dinner and I had a couple glasses of wine and couldn’t find Griz the next morning.  You and I were both shocked (after two hours of looking) where he ended up- upside down tied to your closet shelf (I’m still not sure why I chose that place as you rarely go into your closet because you don’t wear dresses!).  And the fourth is when Griz was hanging upside down above your bed from your ceiling fan.  You woke up at midnight scared to death so you slept in our room for the rest of the night!  And a couple of times I tried to be creative with marshmallows (having Griz build a “snowman” or lifting “weights”), our cat would eat and steal them creating a very chaotic Elf scene.  
Griz did have two big hits- he asked you to play Tic-Tac-Toe and when he went fishing.

7.     Christmas Eve is a tradition.  4pm Mass and then back to our house for pizza and the Christmas Vacation movie with Mimi, Poppy, and Gram Bubbles.  It’s always a night filled with anticipation and excitement! 

Of course, Christmas Day was amazing too.  Notice though that the emphasis was never on the presents in our blogs this month.  Yes, you got some incredible gifts but we gave some pretty cool ones too.  But the time we spent preparing, getting excited, spending time with loved ones- that’s what counts!

Never forget that there is always enchantment during Christmas Ellie, no matter your age.

Merry Christmas my Love!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

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

Hi Ellie,

This particular time of year tends to get very busy.  It is a season that can be somewhat overwhelming if you let it.  So instead of trying to be Super Woman and powering your way through Christmas, remember to pace yourself and plan ahead.
Enjoy the Christmas holiday with all your heart El… it is a beautiful time of year.

Final Thought:  Take time during the Christmas season to enjoy with your heart, give with your heart and love with your heart.  This “special feeling” is called Christmas Spirit, which is not a material gift so it cannot be bought, or given to you by another.  If you have Faith, Hope, Love and Jesus within your heart, then you will have Christmas Spirit.

Alright El, here are a few things we have done together so far in Christmas Spirit:

1.) A Christmas cookie baking and decorating day held at Aunt Sammy’s house.   Talk about a fun and memory-making kind of day… this was it!   Between Aunt Sammy, your Mommy and myself, we had preplanned the types of cookies we would bake and then divvied up the ingredients between us to purchase.  El, I was in charge of the Christmas sugar cookies, which I knew would be a big hit with you.  And that is because the steps it takes to make those cookies involves a rolling pin and lots of flour!  
Ellie, you “rolled” the dough out like a true pro and had an even better time choosing which Christmas cookie cutter to use (I also saw you sneaking a nibble from the dough now and then, which just made me giggle as I remember your Mommy and Uncle Ryan doing the same exact thing when they were your age).  Once the sugar cookies came out of the oven, you and Poppy whipped up some colored icing to spread on them (your choice was red, blue and green only) along with a variety of sprinkles!   The final product may not have been “professional baker’s material” but by your standards El, they definitely passed!  How do I know this???  Because after each decorated cookie, you licked your fingers like they were popsicles!   
Aunt Sammy was in charge of the spritz cookies, which she pressed out with ease.  
Not only were they pretty, but quite yummy too! And your Mommy was in charge of the peanut butter-kisses.  Let’s just say we learned what ‘not-to-do’ after the first batch came out of the oven!  
All in all this was a wonderful December tradition that enhanced the Christmas Spirit within us Ellie.

2.) Working together to complete a good deed.  Ellie, this one really warmed my heart.  You see, your Mommy and Daddy teach you all year long the importance of being kind to others and helping those who need help. Well, this Christmas Poppy talked to your Mommy about having you help us on our Secret Santa mission.  But he was concerned that the reasoning behind it would leave you with many questions about Santa Claus.  So your Mommy sat you down and explained how there are children in the world that may not get much, if anything, for Christmas because of their family’s circumstances.   The wonderful part of this story Ellie is that at 4 ½ years of age, you understood.  After your Mom finished explaining, you left and went into your playroom.  It wasn’t long before you returned with one of your games (an old favorite) wanting to donate it to someone in need (making your Mom proud that you wanted the children with very little to have something).  So with that being said, Poppy thought it would be a good idea to take you to Target where you could pick out a new toy for a little boy or girl.  You chose Connect Four because that is a game everyone likes.  Once you made your selection, Poppy then took you to Sweet Frog where they had a Toys For Tots bin on premise.  You placed the toy inside the bin and smiled knowing that you did something good for someone else.  Poppy was so proud of you El, as was everyone.  For someone so little, you have great empathy.

3.) A Christmas “girls” dinner.  Ellie… right now you are just a tad bit too young to join in this very special tradition that your Mom, Aunt Samantha and I do every year.  But I do look forward to the day that you will become part of our little group.   This outing is another way we three strengthen our Christmas spirit and also take time to be with each other with no distractions.  We share our day, our ideas, our concerns and our excitement.  
We listen to each other, we laugh, we show that we care, and sometimes we just get silly.   When you are old enough Ellie, you will understand how refreshing and how important this time together is!

4.) An afternoon outing to see the Nutcracker Ballet.  Again El, this is another one of those traditions that will never get old.  Aunt Sammy was out of town so she had to pass on this outing but your friend Isabella and her Mom were able to join us and we sure had fun!  We started off the afternoon with a lunch at Baby’s Diner (the perfect restaurant for children) as they have ‘wimpy baskets’ and deliciously famous milkshakes!  After we were finished, we took a leisurely walk up to the theater.  

Most of the little ones who attended the ballet wore their Christmas dresses, but you and Isabella wore your princess costumes… always thinking outside the box El!  I found the best part of the ballet to be “watching” you!  
The look of awe and wonder on your face when the life-like mice came onto the stage and also the Sugarplum Fairy was priceless.  You were enthralled from beginning to end, as were we! 

Oh Ellie… Christmas Day is right around the corner now.  And it truly is a beautiful day to experience, as its purpose is to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Not only is this day special, but all the days leading up to it.  Christmas Spirit will be in its full glory.  There is a quote from the Grinch movie which sums up the moment quite simply.  It is:  “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.  Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store—Maybe Christmas—perhaps—means a little bit more.” Then the Whoville community started to sing.  They sang: “ Welcome, Christmas, bring your cheer.  Cheer to all Whos far and near.  Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.  Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have we.  Welcome Christmas while we stand, heart to heart and hand to hand.”   

I love you my little Christmas spirit!

PS- Ellie, your Poppy is also enjoying the tradition of taking you to the movies.  You see, on Saturday mornings during the month of December, the local old-fashioned theatre runs the Looney-Tunes (the cartoons from our time).  You love them as much as your Poppy (and you were so happy they finally showed the Road Runner which is your favorite… last week’s was all Bugs Bunny).  We have so much fun with you El!!! 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Final Thoughts Month of December: Blog 1- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

We went to Saturday night mass on November 30 and we got to watch the priest light the first advent candle.  Advent is the waiting and preparation for Christmas (as you know because we have been using our Velcro nativity advent calendar).  In this month’s blog, we are going to chronicle how we are getting ready for Jesus’ birthday because it truly is a celebratory month.

Final Thought: Be organized and prepare for this very big holiday but make sure you take the time to enjoy the season too.  Never lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.  And the act of giving and remembering your manners are extremely important, especially this time of year.

How we are getting in the spirit:

1.     Griz , our Elf on the Shelf, is back (in a blaze of glory- sitting in a bath of marshmallows with a gift and letter for you and Will).
 And even though he was introduced to Will last year, we had to remind Will of the rules this year (specifically the NO touching rule).  Good thing Griz seems to understand your crazy brother, as he has been hiding in high up places.

2.     We already sent out our Christmas cards.  I do everything very early and you helped me with this one the day after Thanksgiving.  You put on a few return address labels but then got bored and put on a fashion show in my closet instead (which helped me too because I was very entertained while I finished stuffing the envelopes!).

3.     The house is decorated including the tree.  This year, we put it in the dining room and gated the 2 doors so that Will couldn’t pull it over (or break any of our beloved ornaments).  
 You assisted me in hanging the Christmas balls one night after Will was in bed (and it was actually me who broke 2 this year)!  You are very logical in your thinking, as you wanted to hang all of yours together in a bunch and all of Will’s together on the other side.  By the end, you let me finish hanging the ornaments while you played make believe with the ones that were left (namely Pluto, Cinderella & Prince Charming, and Mickey Mouse).  
 You did put the final touches to the tree with the candy canes (which many are already gone since you ate a few) but the ones left are all clustered in one spot (one that you can reach just perfectly).  Daddy put you on his shoulders to let you put the star on top!

4.     We visited Santa while we were in Florida.  It was a Frozen wonderland!  You of course loved him, Will wasn’t so sure! 

5.     We finished our Christmas shopping and you even participated in Gray Thursday (late night shopping on Thanksgiving to get some good deals).  You managed to make it to 11:30pm as your Mimi, Aunt Samantha, and I hit the mall, Target, Ulta, and then McDonalds for hot chocolate before calling it a night.  And you picked out an amazing and thoughtful gift for your Mimi that is especially from you!

6.     We went to the Sugar Plum Fairy Tea Party with a few of your friends and their moms.  While dressed up, we had snacks and drinks, made an arts and craft project, listened to the Nutcracker story, watched some of the cast members perform their solos, and then got to twirl on the dance stage.  You are very excited to have a girls’ afternoon and watch a professional version of the Nutrcracker in a few days!

7.     Watching Christmas movies in the evenings and reading Christmas books at bedtime.  Your favorite movie so far is Elf, particularly the part where he burps and eats the gum off of the public railing (you also think when he spins in the store door and gets sick is hilarious)!  
     Your favorite book is A Very Marley Christmas.  You think that naughty dog is so funny!

So far, it’s been a very snowy Christmas season, which also helps keep us in the joyful mood (your snowmen so far have been named Stella and Olaf). 

Happy holidays sweet girl!  You and Will remind your Dad and I of all the magic this month can hold!

Love you!


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Final Thoughts Month of November: Blog 5- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

Happy Thanksgiving month!  This is our last November entry even though we are now into December.  Remember it is important to always be thankful for all you have.

Final Thought:  Sharing ‘thankfuls’ is another way of “Paying It Forward.”  It is a heartfelt gift with no end.

Day 29:  Traditions!  Ellie, traditions are truly wonderful because they are part of each family’s heritage.  Continuing them and encouraging younger generations to follow suite makes for wonderful stories to pass on.  Here are a few of our traditions:  Turkey is a must on Thanksgiving Day and your Dad has now taken over the task of cooking and feeding our quirky, crazy and very fun family.  
And I must give him a compliment here El, because he does it to perfection with passed on family recipes!  Speaking of family recipes, and in preparation of the turkey, your Mommy now has you helping her make Gram Bubbles’ stuffing dish.  And you’ve proven to be quite good at it because it sure was yummy!  Something else we do yearly takes place when we sit down to eat the Thanksgiving feast.  Ellie, once everyone is seated, and dishes have been passed around, and each plate is filled… each person shares what they are thankful for before digging in.  It is important to give appreciation to all the good that God has placed in our lives.  We are also into our second year of continuing with a new tradition of gathering around a craft table to disguise some turkeys with artistic originality!  
This year you created a pretty female version of your Elf on the Shelf and named her Stella Griz!  And your Mommy makes sure to capture our disguised turkeys with the camera so that we can look back over the years and laugh at all the crazy costumes we came up with!  

Now it won’t be long till the next holiday (Christmas) pops up.  As soon as the Thanksgiving evening comes to an end, magically the atmosphere changes over and the Christmas spirit comes alive everywhere you look.  Why it is also one of our traditions to start Christmas shopping as early as we can with Black Friday sales!   Ellie, just like Thanksgiving, Christmas traditions both old and new will also be shared.  And the best part of it all is that there is nothing more wonderful than sharing them with the families you love most!

Day 30:  Life as it is.  Ellie, it seems befitting to end our ‘thankfuls’ with this one.  Being on the ‘older’ side of 50, I for one am thankful each and every morning to wake up to a new day.  I always give a wink and whisper thank you to the One Above.  And then I say a quick prayer for guidance to do my best.   I am also thankful that you and Will keep my mind on the ‘younger’ side of 50!  
Why just the other day I very much wanted to decorate Poppy’s and my Christmas tree.  But with the 3 bins of hodge-podge Christmas ornaments I have collected over the years it takes a few hours. No sooner did I get started when you, your Mommy, and Will came over for a visit, and with Will underfoot I knew it wasn’t going to happen at that moment.  You could see the wheels in Will’s mind turning at record speed and honestly you need roller skates to keep up with him!  After a yummy lunch of Mac-n-Cheese and putting Will down for a nap, your Mommy had asked Poppy to take a ride with her to the post office.  She thought that would give me time to focus on the Christmas tree again and dubbed you my official helper while Will slept.  Well…. no sooner did they leave when you said, “Mimi… would you rather just take a break right now?”  And my answer was of course my typical one… “Why yes Ellie, I would!”  So with only 4 additional ornaments added to the tree we stopped to play restaurant at Minnie’s Boutique with you being Stella the Waitress.  And let me tell you… that was way more fun!  When your Mommy and Poppy came home about an hour later, they looked at the tree, looked at you in your apron with pad and pencil in hand, looked at me sitting at a table set for 4 along with baby Stella in the highchair next to me (I think that is your favorite name at the moment), they shook their heads, giggled, and joined our fun!  And yes, the tree did get decorated Ellie but not until hours after you all left for home.

Life is a gift El, and each breath we take is truly a blessing.   I pray as you grow; you learn to make the best of yours.  So I will sign off with how your Great-great grandmother Mundy lived her daily life.  She lived it by applying the Golden Rule… Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.  Kindness and thankfuls Ellie are contagious.  You will catch on quickly that they are the gifts that will keep on giving!

I love you my little helper!  (And thank you for being ‘you’)


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Final Thoughts Month of November: Blog 4- Letters from Mom & Mimi

Dear Ellie,

Happy Thanksgiving month!  It is important to always be thankful for all you have.

Final Thought: I love that your Mimi included friends on her list last week.  I definitely would agree to that, as I am happiest when my home and heart are filled with people I care for.  In addition to friends, I would also have to add Skype… it allows me to continue my faraway friendship with my dear friend Catherine.  Each month, we set aside a time (which is usually a chaotic scene with our children making most of the noise) and we catch up in a virtual chat.  
She is one of my most special friends despite the fact that we have only seen each other once in person since 1996 when we met through a study abroad program.  Catherine’s life and mine have so many parallels- when we married, difficult pregnancies, growing families, and changing homes.  Technology can be a beautiful thing especially when it facilitates a beautiful friendship.  It’s amazing that you and Will are growing up “together” with Catherine’s children. 

Since your Mimi and I decided we wouldn’t double up on our thankful entries, here are my newest additions: 

Day 22: Signs that Kyle is around me.  I think about him every day but unexpected times are bonuses. 
It makes me smile and feel a sense of peace.  When our friends and family take his bag on their travels and tag me in the pictures, I feel so humbled and grateful that he isn’t forgotten.  
I know his memory is truly living on.   

Day 23: Your relationship with your brother Will.  You are so kind and patient with him (even when he tries to bite you).

Day 24: Naptime.  I get a lot done around the house and get to spend one-on-one time with you when Will goes down for his afternoon snooze!

Day 25: DVR.  Spending an hour or two once in a while catching up on my few beloved shows after you and Will are in bed is bliss.  Ellie, you would agree with this one, as that’s how we let you watch your adored Full House. 

Day 26: The movies.  Your Dad and I don’t get to go as often as we did before having children but we make a concerted effort to go when something big comes to the screen (like Hunger Games this week).  We make it a night out starting with an appetizer or drink at a local restaurant (and we are always tempted to skip the movie and continue talking to each other with no distractions).  Once we get to the movies, we get our own popcorn (I don’t share.  I make sure it’s filled to the brim by smushing it down and handing it back to the server to cram as much popcorn as one bag can serve- Mimi taught me that trick).

Day 27: Griz… our Elf on the Shelf is returning soon.  I am always excited for the first couple of days just as you are (then I stress out about where to hide him or worse- forgetting to hide him at all!).

Day 28: Our Friday routine… Friday Funday with your Mimi and Aunt Sammy (that does include a glass of wine) in the afternoon then pizza (delivered to the door) with Daddy in the evening.  It’s an amazingly celebratory and relaxing way to start the weekend. 

I love you!