Thursday, December 18, 2014

Deck the Halls!

I can hardly believe that Christmas is just a week away! Life has been so very busy with the day-to-day but we are really trying to take some time everyday to enjoy the season and see the magic of it all through Maddie's eyes. It was a lot of fun to deck the halls of our new home and I am already excited to hit some of those post-Christmas sales to add to our arsenal for next year. Having such festive walls makes it pretty hard to forget that Christmas is coming, even when we are swimming in work, school and new baby preparations. I just wanted to pop in and share some pictures that I took the other night and wish you all a happy one week until Christmas!

Our Christmas tree!

We love getting Christmas cards! This year our hallways is a great place to display them. 
The tattooed Nutcracker got extra tough with a Maker's Mark scarf this year. 
Another gift from Maker's Mark; oh how I miss thee in my eggnog. 
Maddie has her own tree in her room with Thomas, a firetruck and lots of Candy Canes.
Some of her Christmas books, not including the dozen or so we have out from the library right now. And, of course, the countdown to Christmas calendar!
Lots of baking going on in this kitchen lately. 
A surprise afternoon at the Boston Holiday Pops! It was a rough start but the sing-a-long really brought Maddie into the spirit of it all (and maybe seeing Santa helped, too).

Monday, December 8, 2014

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas

It is pretty appropriate that I am sitting down to write this as snow flurries and super-cold temperatures are going on outside, with some sort of Nor'easter/winter storm headed our way,but it is very much winter, and Christmas is definitely on the way! I love this time of year and all of the beauty, magic and joy it can bring, and experiencing it with Maddie is like getting to see it through new, wondrous eyes, which is just so awesome. Pretty much from the weekend after Thanksgiving until Christmas we have at least one festive commitment each weekend with another option or two if we are feeling up to it. Here are some of the fun things we have been doing to celebrate the season so far:

The weekend after Thanksgiving the Mayor and Santa rode around in a trolley making stops at different parks in the neighborhood to light trees; by some awesome coincidence the tiny little playground on our corner was one of them, so after dinner we walked on over to take part in the lighting. I ran into a few of the ladies from the Dorchester Running Club who were there with their families and was introduced to some other people that live around us; running with them has been such a great way to get to know people in the neighborhood and connect with other parents. Maddie ran around with some of the other kids and then we listened to carolers from a neighborhood school as Santa and his posse rolled up on the trolley. Maddie was actually excited to see Santa this year and went up to him to say "Hi Santa, I am sorry I was scared of you before" and then commented on how her Daddy wears glasses too. It was pretty much the cutest thing ever and Santa was definitely smitten with her!

Waiting for Santa to come to the playground!
This past weekend our new church hosted a pancake breakfast with Santa at the school next door (bonus that I got to check it out before I enroll Maddie next year), so after Mass we joined a whole lot of other families and their kiddos to have some pancakes and get a picture with Santa. Maddie was again super brave, though she did set some reasonable boundaries by asking Santa if she could just stand next to him instead of on his lap, which she did so quiet politely, following up with a request for a "giraffe that she can ride on" for Christmas. I think they are sending out the pics soon and I can't wait to see it because she had the sweetest little smile on her face in it! She also got to send Santa a letter and, with the help of a volunteer, affirmed her request for the giraffe and threw in a lion for good measure. Santa better get some zoological training before he loads up his sled for our house! We then let her run around the room with a pack of older neighborhood boys in the hopes of tiring her out for a nap (totally worked!). The boys were super sweet with her, letting her win "races" and overall just letting a crazy toddler follow them everywhere they went.

Throughout the week I have been unveiling a new Christmas book every night (thanks, Boston Public Library!) that we read after she moves her little candy cane marker from day to day on her Advent calendar. I am also trying to get her to watch some of my favorite holiday movies; she likes the original Grinch and Charlie Brown's Christmas so far, so I am hoping I can get in some more classics this week. We are also making sure to get out and see the lights in our neighborhood as much as possible, including multiple strolls by this amazing scene just around the corner from us.

Seriously, these people are my heroes.
Rudolph is pretty much a daily request right now.
Matty and I also got a chance to go to his company's holiday party at the Museum of Fine Art this weekend, and it was just as gorgeous and fun as last year (even if I didn't get to partake in all that yummy champagne). I got my annual picture in front of the huge tree in the rotunda and we got to dress up, though, so I call it a win!
My super handsome date.
Next weekend we have a friend's party and I am also going to do some massive baking projects, which I am sure my little helper will be a part of. The following weekend we are taking a few days to go down the Cape where we will see some family and do one of those Christmas story time train rides (I am SO excited for that!).

Hope you are enjoying this time of year and being extra good for Santa!

Decorating the tree!
Gotta love the Target dollar bin for all your decorating needs. 
Before our date night (so thankful for that fancy maternity dress I bought last pregnancy!).

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I feel like this year, as with all the recent years, I have a lot to be thankful for. Between the awesome fella that I married and this little lady we are raising, there is so much joy, love and laughter in our lives; even if there are tears, stresses and worries in between, the balance is definitely in our favor.

Last year I managed to blog every single day in November about what I was thankful for and it made for an awesome perspective that entire month. I loved looking over the old posts and seeing that I remain thankful for so many of those things that are still a part of my life, and thinking about all the good stuff that has happened this year to add to my list!

Without further ado, the top five things I am thankful for this year.

1. Our new house: Buying a home to call our own has been a goal of ours for many years and this is the year that we made it a reality. It was an awful, stressful, nearly financially crippling experience but we made it out alive and have a really lovely place that I am so proud to call ours.

2. Maddie's third birthday: I am sure many of you know this, but raising a kid is really hard. Consciously choosing to attempt to raise a kind, compassionate, involved kid who happens to have a huge personality and more energy than the fastest marathon runner kind of makes it even harder. It is of course, our choice to parent a certain way, which stems a lot from our childhood experiences as well as the results that I work with every day from parents who didn't put so much effort in. But hey, we did it: she turned three and she is pretty awesome, and we even decided that maybe we could have another one!

3. Baby number two: Once again I was extremely lucky to have a very easy time getting pregnant once we decided to go for number two, and we found out about her the morning after we closed on our house! Although the first eight weeks were pretty awful, this pregnancy is treating me well and I am loving the feeling of this growing, squirming, healthy baby girl in my belly.

4. This Body of Mine: Last Thanksgiving I had just completed my first marathon and on Mother's Day, before we started trying for baby number two, I completed my second. Since I've been pregnant I've continued to run, including a half marathon in October (13 miles at 13 weeks!). While my pace is slower and my miles are shorter, I am so thankful to be able to keep moving, to feel good and to have another healthy and easy pregnancy so far. Running continues to be my alone time but it's also become more and more social as I continue to volunteer with Back on My Feet and have joined my neighborhood running club. Now I spend about as much time running and chatting with someone else as I do solo (well, as much as a 5 month pregnant woman can ever be alone!). 

5. My Peeps: I have really good friends, family, neighbors and co-workers; rarely do I find myself in a position where I'm around someone I'd rather not be (I do take the T 5 days a week, ha!) and for that I am thankful. My twenties were full of toxic and obligatory relationships and my thirties have been all about nurturing and enjoying the people around me. The day I finally figured out that I can choose who I surround myself with was a game changer, and from that point on I have filled my life with amazing people who make me feel like a better person just for knowing them. 
And then there's my favorite peep of all, that man I married four years ago and with whom I'll cheers seven years of love since our first kiss in February. He truly is the very example of what makes a great partner; he is my friend, my equal, my co-parent and the boy that still makes my knees weak. 

This morning Maddie and I slept in and then the three of us completed our first Turkey Trot together! Now we are watching the Macy's Parade and relaxing before dinner with family and friends. 
I hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving and were able to reflect on all the things that make you happy!

Enjoying the first snow of the year!

Post-turkey trot and pre-big ol' breakfast!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Maddie's 3rd Birthday Party!

On Saturday we hosted Maddie and a group of her friends (and parents!) for a day at the Boston Children's Museum. Winter birthdays can be tricky and being 5 months pregnant with a city-sized dwelling meant that it was better to outsource, and the Children's Museum was the perfect venue!
Everyone got full-day admission and we had a party room for crafts, cake and presents; we were there a little over four hours and I am still recovering from all the fun. I was so thankful for the party-planner and other staff who ran around like crazy to make sure everything was perfect.

It was really fun to see Maddie and all her little friends running around the museum and enjoying the exhibits together; there is so much to do and we didn't even see everything. It was my first visit (Maddie's third) and now I am definitely going to be asking for a membership from Santa so that we can go back a bunch this winter!

The theme of this year's party was dinosaurs, as you will see in the pictures, and I think we pulled off a pretty awesome shin dig. Thanks to everyone that came, especially those super brave childless friends of mine who could have been doing so many other things that did not involve a swarm of toddlers! The three of us are very lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family and we could not be more thankful for you all!

Here are a whole lot of pictures from our day!

Gift boxes for our guests to take home
DELICIOUS birthday cake from Sweet Tooth in South Boston.

Not gonna lie, I definitely used a glossary on the internet for these terms ;)
Checking out the exhibits with Dada.
The bubble room was a favorite. 

Dino party hats! A little construction paper and some glue make the world go 'round.

I swear she is super excited here!
This is at the end of the party and we are all so very tired!
My little dino!
The closest to camping she's ever going to see with me around.

The construction room was AMAZING.
That's a wrap!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Happy 3rd Birthday, Maddie!

My baby burrito!

The first time we met.

My smart, hilarious, energetic, snuggly little lady turned three today; happy birthday Madeleine Jane! She has brought her family, friends and every single stranger she encounters such an unbelievable amount of joy and I feel so lucky to have a front row seat to her life. In true Maddie fashion she woke us up at the crack of dawn (like, before 4am) wanting to party, just like she did in those sleepless nights of her first couple of years. Sometimes, you just gotta stretch this birthday girl situation out as long as possible, am I right? 
In honor of three years of Maddie, here is a little post on all things Maddie Hammers like I did last year!

Favorite activities: She has become more of a homebody lately and prefers to play with her trains, making huge tracks on the living room floor (with a little help from Daddy) and doing her new favorite thing: "artcrafts". She loves to paint, cut paper into animal shapes (or at least supervise her nanny doing so) and glue all the things together. She also loves puzzles and is ridiculously good at them already. I cannot wait to do huge ones together over hot cocoa this winter!

Favorite foods: She is a toddler in every sense of the word with food and is not nearly as adventurous as she was as a baby. Her diet pretty much consists of pasta, fruit, yogurt, and pancakes (homemade every single morning by Daddy). I recently implemented a food chart (which I will blog about soon) in which she can earn a sticker for trying a new food, and that actually did boost some new things into her diet which I hope we can continue!

Favorite people: Not much has changed since last year except she is more mobile and with a larger vocabulary so everyone is subject to being her best friend. We call her "the mayor" for the way she works a room, whether waiting for a table at a restaurant or at her weekly gymnastics class. I absolutely love that trait in her and hope that it continues with her as she grows. When she isn't recruiting fans she is all about her peeps - Jane, Gramma, her wonderful nanny, Godmamas Amy and Kendra, Uncle V, Kate and her extended family and friends. This year she also has friends that she asks to see by name and will all be joining us for her birthday party on Saturday!

Her personality: Maddie continues to show a lot of empathy (concern when anyone is crying, even babies and cracking up whenever she hears anyone else laughing); she is pretty kindhearted most of the time, except when she is not, which is when we spend a lot of time talking about how it feels to be treated kindly. She is funny, smart (has her alphabet and numbers down pretty pat) and so, so inquisitive about the world around her. She definitely has a HUGE personality and a lot of energy but at least now she sleeps it off at the end of the day!

Maddie Jane, you are an amazing person and watching you grow, discover and understand the world around you is one of my favorite parts of life. Thank you for making me and your Daddy so filled with love and happiness; happy birthday, kiddo!

Our pre-bedtime routine of pjs, Thomas and snuggling. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's a Sister!

This past weekend we made an appointment for a gender determination sonogram at one of those weird "see your baby in 3D and make a pop up video about them" places because my doctor said that she couldn't order another sonogram since I have a healthy, low-risk pregnancy (a lovely problem to have, I know). So, begrudgingly, but really wanting to know whether this is a little brother or little sister, we paid $70 and finally got a good peek at this little baby. 
The sonogram tech was super nice and made it really fun by slowly typing out "it's a girl" on the big screen we were all watching and once I saw that "g" I was so excited, but at the same time felt very un-surprised. We are two families that make girls, and I just feel like I am made to be the mama of girls. Boys are awesome, and I like the one that I married an awful lot, but girls are my thing and I am thrilled to be bringing another one into the world along side my little firecracker, Maddie.

A little sister! Another daughter! All those adorable clothes in the basement waiting to be worn by another little person! And no chance in hell that I am giving up the third room office/guest room/arts and crafts room! Exciting times, indeed. 

So now, halfway through this pregnancy (20 weeks today!) it is full-steam ahead to prepare for our new family member and the idea of raising two kids.

I just started reading this book Siblings Without Rivalry and it is truly scaring the only-child shit out of me. As with any parent, I want my kids to get along, for their sanity and my own, and I really hope that having a sibling will be a positive experience for Maddie but since I have no reference point I had no idea how much could (and does) go wrong in the sibling relationship. As if the pressure to raise a strong, involved, empathetic and kind woman was not pressure enough, now I have to add "and also don't hate your sister and forever compare yourself to her" to that list. Don't get me wrong, the book is super helpful and making me think about the way I want us to parent the girls as siblings, but the horror stories make being a slightly weird bookwormish only child seem not so awful!

Tomorrow my first little lady turns three years old and on Saturday we will throw her a big ol' dinosaur themed party at the Boston Children's Museum. I can't wait to see what the next year of Maddie brings and am hoping that she will love being a big sister as much as she is doing so now!

Happy Thursday, y'all. I am off to get a serious split ends trim for the first time in an embarrassingly long time :)

Telling her baby sister all about the world outside of mama's belly.
Yay sisterhood!

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Family Hike in the Blue Hills

Last weekend while out running errands we decided to avoid the highway and cut through the Blue Hills to get home, as we often do when we are trying to lull a certain toddler into a weekend car nap. Maddie wasn't really falling for it, and it was super gorgeous outside, so Matty had the great idea to take a spontaneous little hike on one of the easy trails. It turned out to be the best random idea of the day and provided us with a much less cranky toddler after all that fresh air.

One of the many things I love about living in Boston is the close proximity to some pretty amazing outdoor spots that always seem to amaze me with the way you feel so out of the city (but really it is just right there!). The Blue Hills is one of those spots; hike to the top of the Great Blue Hill lookout point and you get a great view of Boston and beyond. It is seriously just a few miles outside of city limits, but it feels like you are in the middle of a wonderful, quiet nowhere. 

Maddie is in an awesome phase where she is so thirsty for knowledge and absorbs things like a little sponge, so she was loving that Daddy was explaining the types of plants to her and letting her put her little hands all over the moss and tree trunks. I asked her to help me gather up some leaves, careful to have her choose different sizes and colors, which we then took home to make a poster out of. We had so much fun looking up the types of leaves on the iPad to identify what kind of tree they fell from and I was definitely proud of my little perfectionist who wanted to arrange them just so.

This week was a doozy and I am hoping that the rain (and snow) hold off a bit so we might be able to sneak another visit in before winter really takes over in New England! 

So many pretty leaves and one super cute toddler!

Learning about moss and other cool things with Daddy.
Using her airplane arms skills from gymnastics class!
This kid sure loves adventures, and it makes this Mama so happy!
Our foraging poster - paper, glue, a pen, and an iPad were all we needed!