Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

I’ve been enjoying small comforts of home and friendship these last few weeks. Sometimes the value of loved ones is forgotten, especially when so focused on internal struggles. I know that I haven’t been the best friend to many of my own this year, so I’m consciously making an effort to reconnect with those who love us regardless of our absence.

First off – here’s this year’s Christmas card! I know that I didn’t get it into everyone’s hands that I typically do; please accept my apologies if you didn’t receive a paper version. Pretty proud of my design of our instagram accounts.

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Spending a large amount of quality time with many of our closest friends and family members in the last month has been a source of healing and renewed strength. Truly, it began around Thanksgiving-time, when our friends and godson came to stay with us for several days. Time with them jump-started the season of gathering with loved ones.

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

Cookie baking and decorating with my BFF Rachel. We baked Christmas cookies once when we were in high school – in fact, we made a music video about it – and I don’t know why we’ve waited so long to do it again. Once inseparable, we now live two very independent lives, and we find that we miss each other too much too often. Time together is one of the best things in this life.

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Visiting downtown lights, Potbelly dinner and MORE cookie decorating with the Reynolds family was another favorite evening. I love this family – their friendship now extends into a second generation, and it’s wonderful to see our kids enjoy each other so well.

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Friends Thanksgiving/Christmas with our friends from college has been going strong for more than 10 years. While we don’t see them often, I look forward to this time of year to catch up and strengthen our friendships even though we live miles apart.

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The days leading up to Christmas were fabulously warm – 60 degrees and higher! Wes and I went to the park, played outside and even raked leaves. Crazy.

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We were offered complimentary seats to an Indiana Pacers game in the Varsity Club, including a buffet dinner with a front-row seat to the game! While there we ran into Tyson, and Wes just about exploded from excitement. To top it off, “Hickory” Boomer and Santa both came to visit.

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Christmas with family members is always busy, but I feel like the kids are getting old enough to grasp the season of giving and love. It’s been fun to watch my nieces and nephews love on each other, play with each other and anticipate seeing each other again. It wasn’t all about the presents, you know? And time with my sister is getting harder and harder to “schedule,” so I love hanging out and goofing off with her during times like these. It’s the best. I even got a chance to properly catch up with many of my cousins I haven’t seen in a while – we used to be so close, and I’ve often felt disconnected.

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The whole Shattuck clan                                  Dad and the boys play with circuits
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          Shattuck cousins  |   Wes & my grandpa exchange gifts      |        Sisters

Earlier this week, Sarah and Levon invited us to take Santa back to the North Pole via the Polar Bear Express Train. The boys were ecstatic about the train – more so than seeing Santa and Mrs. Claus! Sarah is one of the most thoughtful people I know, so generous. Levon and Wes are great playmates and it’s yet another reminder of how precious friendships are to me.

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There’s no photo evidence, but visited with several old friends who were in town (from Alaska!) and/or visiting my parents (to check out the new condo). There’s something especially comforting about friends who grew up with you. I regret that I wasn’t able to see life-long friend, Megan, who’s due to be a mom in January, as we had planned for earlier in the month, but I DID get to see her parents who were in town this week (almost as good), and I’ll go down to visit once baby girl arrives.

And one night, Steven made a pot of mussels for recently engaged friends Muhammad and Kylie. That’s like, the ultimate demonstration of affection. He’s perfected his recipe and loves hosting, so you might expect an invite sometime soon.

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Though it looks like we’ve been busy, we have had our fair share of staycation – LEGOs, trains, Octonauts and Mario for several days in a row. Steven badly hurt his back last week, so we have taken it easy overall this holiday season. The “forced” time inside and together has been a form of healing in itself. Lots of snuggles, pjs, baking and snacking over here in our new-old house. I’m pretty sure I’ve read 5 books this past month. It’s been fantastic.

As yucky as 2015 seemed most of the time, there have been wonderful reminders of comfort and joy – especially these last few weeks. We’re ready for you, 2016.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with Wesley’s latest obsession: singing Christmas carols over and over and over again into his camera-voice recorder…

Posted: January 1st, 2016
Categories: Leah
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A Heart Like Hers

mary_jesusIt’s Christmastime, and Mary, mother of Jesus, is constantly on my mind. She pops into songs on the radio (even though I loathe “Mary, Did You Know?”), she adorns front yards and window displays of nativity scenes, and she even makes appearances in the YA book I’m currently reading (The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz) – even if it’s only because the narrator is obsessed with the Blessed Mother.

I find it intriguing that the meaning of the name Mary is “bitter,” yet so much warmth and purity is surrounded by that name. Her response to Gabriel shows a unique and humble spirit of willingness. Today, she is honored not only as the mother of Jesus, but also as his very first disciple.

This week I’m diving into Mary’s life. It’s fitting because of the time of year and because I can learn much from what we know about her. It’s my own form of advent, I guess. I’m not saying she was perfect. I know she wasn’t – she’s human. But I do think I can gain insight from her responses.

  • She quickly got over fear.
    Duh. An angel would scare anybody, but she listened intently to his message. I feel like I live every single day afraid of the unknown. I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on anything spoken to me.
  • She didn’t ask many questions.
    But she did ask one really good one – HOW?! And when the answer was “nothing is impossible with God,” she knew she didn’t have to keep questioning. No doubting or speculating.
  • She accepted his will and rejoiced.
    Understanding this was a miracle, and that SHE was chosen for it replaced any hesitations she might have had. I would surely jump to what will Joseph think? Will he believe I didn’t cheat on him?? She praised God and announced her servant-hood. And yet remained humble about it all. No boasting.

As much as I admire her willingness, the concept of Mary’s new motherhood has been a struggle for me. I was so on-edge and nervous during my pregnancy with Wes, and I never related to Mary on that level of “awe” and anticipation. Christmas seems to be a time when people announce pregnancies and family growth – or you find out someone is expecting by simply seeing or running into them. It’s been surprisingly hard on me. I have been on a roller coaster of emotions regarding our family size over the years. Right now it’s particularly low, and I find that I’m actually a tiny bit jealous of Mary’s round belly, and later, her cooing little baby.

It’s no secret that this year has been the pits. I explained to a friend a few months ago that I felt like every pillar of my “house” felt weak and unstable. Usually one or two can (and does) lean a bit, but the rest of the foundation is intact enough that the ground settles within time. For whatever reason, God has chosen to shake things up everywhere in 2015 and test my/our ability to duck and roll with punches.

Speaking of, what were Mary’s thoughts when she saw her firstborn son beaten by the people he came to save? Remember that scene in John 19 where Jesus, while hanging on the cross, introduces Mary to John as his “new mother?” What ran across her mind? Surely she knew it was the end of his life at that point. A couple years ago, Wes had an asthma attack during the Easter weekend, and it scared me to the core. I remember reflecting on Mary’s amazing ability to trust God in spite of the world crashing down around her.

This week and leading up to Christmas Day, I aim to have a heart like Mary’s. It’s tiring to be fearful and sad. I’m sick of worrying and doubting. I desire to be willing, trusting and humble. Full of awe.

My prayer is that I look past this year’s terrible distractions and instead “bring” Jesus into my world by expressing his character, power, forgiveness and grace. He’s the best thing we’ve got.

Posted: December 15th, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Decking the Halls

How we spent the evening of December 1.

I’ll preface by saying that I’m in the beginning stages of a sinus infection, groggy and loopy on medicine, and Wes is in a super talkative-to-the-point-of-disobedience mood. And Steven is craving pizza.

Drawing family portraits on paper placemats at the “pizza restaurant.”
Wes asks 356 questions during dinner.

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Putting on Christmas jammies in anticipation for season decorating around the house. (Don we now our gay apparel)
Mine from last year shrunk and are now too short in the legs. Wes asks another 15 questions.

Pulling out the Christmas tree.
Steven sets it up in the living room while I find Christmas music on Pandora (“Ugh, not ANOTHER Cold Play holiday song!”). Wes starts to complain that his jammies are too itchy and strips down to his underwear. “Why don’t you go put on some new jammies?” “NO, I don’t want to.”

Finding funny Christmas decor and accessories. (Tis the season to be jolly)
Steven throws Wes a pair of too-small elf slippers and Wes, nearly naked, strives with all his might to put them on his feet. He cries and asks for help. We try to explain that they won’t fit. I find a snowman hat and put it on my head.

Decorating the tree.
Wes helps me put up the lights and strings of beads. Steven battles the tree topper. Wes celebrates getting the slippers to fit his feet. Steven and I exchange glances that say how much we love our funny child without a single word. I find my favorite ornaments and start hanging them up. Wes drops and breaks our Union Jack ornament from Harrods that we purchased during our honeymoon in London.

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Cleaning up.
Wes asks a million questions about the delicacy of ornaments. We all sweep the floor. I sob internally and tell myself it’s no big deal and then tend to the dishes that have been sitting on the counter for two days. Steven puts all the boxes away.

Snacking on brownies. (Follow me in merry measure)
We’re all quiet for a few minutes. Snuggles on the couch.

Going to bed. (Fa la la la la la la la)
Wes, still in his underwear and elf slippers, refuses. I send him to Time Out. He apologizes a million times and says “I love you, Mama.” He says goodnight to the Christmas tree, which looks disheveled…and beautiful. We read a Christmas story together. I fix some tea, write this post and look forward to cozy flannel sheets and a book.

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I love this messy, unpredictable little family.

Posted: December 1st, 2015
Categories: Leah
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Need a Little Christmas

I’m really getting into the holiday spirit this year, and it’s only mid November. I feel sorta bad for Thanksgiving because it’s not getting my full attention – I’m going straight to the fun Christmasy things.

Exhibit A:

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Oh yes. We did an Awkward Family Photo shoot in matching holiday pajamas and corny head gear. It was great fun, and we’ll use some taken for our Christmas card this year. The best part was the photographer’s reaction. She giggled the whole time and kept referring to us as “Where’s Waldo,” which, of course, does resemble our outfits, but that’s totally not the point. She nearly insisted that we put “Where’s Waldo?!” under the “Merry Christmas 2014” on our free Christmas card prints, and I nearly let her. And then we shopped normally around Target for the next 45 minutes and only got thumbs ups and “Aweseome!” from the fellow shoppers.

Wes is 3, and while the past Christmases have been fun with him, this year seems different because he’s old enough to experience and comment and participate in a way he wasn’t able to before. And, heck, I’m able to relive some of the holiday excitement and wonder that I remember as a child through the eyes of my son.

I’ve been one of those people who didn’t want all the Fisher-Price primary colors and Winnie the Pooh and cutesy baby stuff around our house. I wanted more clean, grow-into-this stuff that didn’t make our house look like a nursery or daycare center. Frankly, I was a little too proud of how Wes didn’t have too much plasticy things and could maintain the same bedroom decor for years to come. No licensed character stuff. (Well, except for super heroes. Somehow that didn’t count.)

It sorta got out of control, though. I would buy/acquire things outside of his age range because apparently that would make him seem “more mature” and unlike other kids his age. (This is another post for another day…why do we feel the need to MAKE our kids different than every one else? Religion and faith is one thing, but do kids really need to be cool or hipster?) My kid would be sophisticated!

And then, well, it dawned on me that I was aging my only child too quickly. Three years isn’t that long, but Wes is already outgrowing his little boyhood. He wants to be independent and desires less and less of mama-snuggles and affection. Though, thankfully, it hasn’t been lost forever yet. There is plenty of time to grow into non-Duplo, regular LEGOs. There is plenty of time to introduce him into Star Wars, Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, video games and big kid bikes. There is plenty of time to educate him on green, local goods & services.

As I’ve been Christmas shopping, I’ve kept this in mind. Some of things that I thought we would put under the tree will wait another year because, well, Wes is still 3. He likes Thomas and Friends, Daniel Tiger, Curious George and Clifford. And rockets and dinosaurs. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m letting him enjoy what he likes right now, and I’m embracing his interests. They’re HIS presents, right? Not mine.

Exhibit B:

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He’s going to flip out. Who wouldn’t love a Thomas the Train indoor roller coaster?!

I can’t wait to see his face light up when he sees plastic licensed character toys and games – his favorites. All those handmade goods, video games and big kid toys can wait a year or two because we need a little Christmas. (Right this very minute!)

Posted: November 18th, 2014
Categories: Leah
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Merry Christmas from The Shattucks

2013 Christmas Card

From our house to yours, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

For our annual year-end updates, click here.

We’re doing something a little different this year. The money typically spent on printing and mailing our Christmas cards is going directly to support my friend of nearly 20 years, Angie Mayle. She and her young family are moving in July to a small Madagascar island to serve as medical missionaries. To follow their journey, visit maylesinafrica.com.

Posted: December 6th, 2013
Categories: Leah
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Christmas Break

This past week has been nearly perfect. Wesley is such a great kid when we’re all home, all day, every day, and I’m sure his mood is helped now that he’s (finally) finished teething. I’m spending my afternoon similar to the last several ones – lounging, snacking and a whole lot of cuddling – with some Gilmore Girls and Wii U thrown in there somewhere.

Our Ashbaugh family Christmas was a large one. It was the first time in several years that all the aunts, uncles, cousins and great grandkids were able to make it. Minus one spouse, we were a party of 33. It was truly special to have the nearly entire family together, and I know my grandparents loved it all.

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Steven brought the Wii U to the extravaganza, and I’m pretty sure my favorite part of the day was my 2.5-year-old nephew’s attempts to contribute to the 5-person game, only to get stuck in a corner and announce periodically, “I just scored!” What a fun day.

Christmas Eve is always spent with my parents and my sister’s family. The kids are getting old enough to really get excited about the presents under the tree, and that makes Christmas all the more fun and special. We lost Elli to impatience halfway through our Christmas brunch, so the rest of the day was spent sipping coffee, eating biscotti and enjoying each other’s company. Perfect.

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Christmas Eve service was beautiful. However, I spent more than half of the service in the hallway due to Wes’ discouragement that the ceiling fan was, in fact, not spinning. He was adorable in his red tie.

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We were lucky to have a laid back, quiet Christmas morning. Wes opened a few presents after we got coffee and actually woke up. By 1o am, we were in the car and heading to Ohio for Christmas Day with the Shattucks. I always enjoy the ride over on Christmas day because it was then that we made phone calls to family and friends with news of our engagement in 2006. It’s fun to reminisce.

Shattuck Christmas is always crazy with loooooots of presents and wrapping paper and chaos and then everyone veges out for the remainder of the day. We snack on clam dip, sausage dip and cookies all day long. It’s just wonderful. Wes followed Pa around the house all afternoon, pointing out the various clocks in their house. While Wes was entertained, I got to play with my silly little niece, who was fascinated with taking goofy photos of ourselves.

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We headed home that night because BLIZZARD 2012 was headed to Indy. The next morning we woke up to only about an inch of snow, but it accumulated as we began hibernating for the next two days. We left the house only to shovel/play in the snow (of which Wes is not a big fan)…

…and to check out Christmas at the Zoo, which was amazing. The newly fallen snow made a beautiful backdrop to all the lights and animals at night. It is definitely worth doing again next year.

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Since we’ve been spending so much time with Wes, we’ve noticed a few things. 1) He’s walking EVERYWHERE. He is getting fearless, and it’s totally unlike him. Now he’s even trying to climb stairs! 2) He eats far better if he’s sans tray in his high chair – sitting at the table. He’s pretty big stuff. 3) Transitioning from a 2-hour nap to a one-hour nap is happening whether we like it or not. 4) Grapes are like candy.

Steven and I do not go back to work until after New Year’s Day, so the rest of the week’s plans remain unplanned. Just soaking up family time and spending an afternoon here and there with friends is pretty much the best vacation ever.

Posted: December 30th, 2012
Categories: Leah
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Year End

5 months

I didn’t realize how much I needed this break. We’ve mostly read, spent time with family and played on the floor with Wes. I’m pretty sure Wes needed this break, too, because he’s slept much better at night (daytime sleep is still iffy) AND he’s finally rolled over! And to top it off, he decided to take it one step further and is sitting up really well. Of course we have pillows all over the place for when his balance sways, but it’s so much more fun now that he’s able to grab his toys while sitting. We can entertain him for a pretty good amount of time this way!

Christmas was so fun. Wes was a little overwhelmed by it all, but he enjoyed watching all the paper thrown around everywhere, the lit candles and eating apples, bananas and sweet potatoes for the first time. Santa was super generous this year.

My To Do List for the week was pretty simple (that way I could actually accomplish everything and not feel guilty if it was too overambitious). In no particular order:

– clean bathtub/obliterate rust stains

– take down tree & put Christmas decor away

– find homes for Christmas toys & gifts somewhere in the house

– take Wes’ 5-month photos (I didn’t have the nice camera, so I had to take them outside. It was snowing and made super cute shots!)

– update Baby Journal

– work on Joy’s House calendar design

– spend Christmas money on clothes for me!

I’m proud to say that I have nearly all of these items accomplished with days to spare! I feel productive, which is important for me even while on “vacation.” Now I’m looking ahead to 2012 and how to make it as successful, efficient, productive and fun. Some of our Christmas presents (and Pinterest, of course) helped me shape what I want to focus on for the coming year.

1) We got a deep freeze from my parents! WHOA, I know, it sounds crazy ridiculous, but I’m waaaay stoked about this. We had to be creative on how to maneuver it into the basement, but there it sits, humming away, and it makes me want to FILL it with STUFF to STORE. I’ve known since I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to make baby food when the time came. I’m all oodles excited now that I have ample space to cook tons of food and freeze it to use as needed. I found some really amazing sites, like this one, through Pinterest, to get me started. Who knows if I’ll get geeky nuts about it, as it appears this blogger is, but regardless, it’s happening. My parents, along with my sister & her husband, are all going in together to buy half a steer, too. We’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but we really didn’t have the space before. EEEEEE, now we do! Lots of fresh beef a-comin’!

2) More visits to the Children’s Museum and Indianapolis Zoo. Wes is becoming much more aware and responsive, and I can only imagine how he’ll enjoy these two favorite venues, now that we have memberships (and grandparent memberships) to each. We’ve gone to the Children’s Museum a couple times with him before, but he was a “blob” then and slept the whole time. I want to make sure to set plenty of family time aside for us.

3) Read aloud more often. As much as I enjoy reading, I really haven’t done a very good job of reading to Wes. My neighbor purchases a new book for her 3-year-old daughter every month. This is an easy way to build up his library and make it fun as you build up.

4) Teach Wes to sign. Not much to say about this – I just think it’s fun, educational and most likely streamlines communication between kid & parent. (Also hoping for less tantrums!)

5) Personal resolutions:

– Practice contentedness. I’m tired of complaining and wanting, only to GET and still not be satisfied.

– Trust. Worry is written all over my face and all over my heart. It’s a no-brainer to just let God handle it.

– Pray for wisdom. I already do this, but not nearly enough. God has promised to give wisdom to all who ask – who wouldn’t want this amazing gift?

Mr. Chubs is awake now, so I am off to play blocks and cars on our freshly cleaned rug. Watching him learn is thrilling. Here’s to an exciting 2012!

Posted: December 30th, 2011
Categories: Leah
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Christmas Vacation

Since neither Steven or I had to work today, Santa came early for Wes. He “opened” his big present so that we could spend the day playing together. I’m pretty sure this Fisher Price Step n’ Play Piano is a hit.

Did you notice the Poop Face? Yeah, that was the first of a series of looks as he ridded himself of the sweet potatoes that Grandma fed him yesterday.

Christmas Vacation is off to a great start. Besides the piano thingy, we’ve enjoyed Starbucks, a slow morning and Papa Roux for lunch (where Wes took a nice, long nap). An episode of Ellen, some Metroid and some cookies & fudge later, we’re just enjoying our little family before Christmas begins tomorrow at my parents’. We’ll spend Christmas morning at home and then head out to Troy, Ohio, for the Shattuck Christmas.

And then… we have the whole next week off! Both of us! It will be glorious.

I’m gonna go heat up some leftover sesame chicken and pop in Love Actually to further bask in Christmas-goodness.

Posted: December 23rd, 2011
Categories: Leah
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5 Months (A Letter)

Dear Wes,

Happy 5 months! You certainly are a happy child – as long as you don’t have teething pain and aren’t suffering from a fever like the last few days. Somehow, even in your confused state of what-is-wrong-with-me, Daddy can make you smile from ear to ear. And your giggles are just too much. They continually make Mommy’s heart melt. All those hours of consoling you when I have no idea what to do are totally worth just one of those gorgeous laughs.

Within the next few weeks, that beaming face will show off two little bottom front teeth. The caps have finally peeked out over your gums, and soon they will grow into sparkly, white, adorable baby teeth. Will we keep them when they fall out in a few years? It’s unfortunate for you that they decided to make an appearance so early on because you’re JUST now starting to hang on to toys. Keeping a teether in your mouth is next to impossible – you’d much rather chomp on your bib or thumb. But, it’s rather fortunate for you that they decided to make an appearance so early on because you’ll be over Mouth: Stage 1 before your 6 month birthday!

As I write this, you finally clonked off to sleep. Tylenol certainly helps dull the pain and your pitiful whimpers. This stage of your life may just be about the hardest for Mommy thus far. Daddy is a champ and takes everything in stride, but I worry endlessly about how to comfort you. I’m still learning how to fully trust the Lord, so when you cry, I cry, too. It will get easier – or, different, I guess – as we learn each others’ signals over time. And most importantly, how Mommy relies on God to get over the current bump in the road.

You’ve become such a natural part of our days and lives. Mom & Dad enjoyed our 4 married years as just the two of us, but you have brought us into a family. Jake & Lucy will always be our “kids,” too, but your flesh & blood is pretty remarkable. You have changed the relationships we have with others and how we interact with our parents, friends and neighbors. We love you tons – like, it’s hard to describe. And how fun is it to see bits and pieces of relatives and genetics with each expression you make?

I am so thankful for you. You’ve made me a softer, less selfish, more understanding person. I thank you for being the reason I complain less. (Or, rather, my complaints are now in a different category!) We are proud of your rapid growth and development. And those lovely thighs. I could eat them!

I’m looking forward to spending a special moment with you, Daddy and the dogs on Christmas morning this week. Let us remember to be grateful for everything given to us from our Father, to celebrate our friends and family and give to those in need this season and always.

You da man!

Love, Mom

Posted: December 19th, 2011
Categories: Leah
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Tis the Season

A first Christmas has got to be one of the most entertaining of all things for parents. I love this time of year anyway, and it’s even more fun with a super jolly & round kid. Stick a Santa hat on an infant, and BOOM, instant adorable.

We went to see Santa today after brunch at Dufour’s in Irvington, a yummy spot for fresh-squeezed orange juice and the 5-for-$5.50 breakfast menu. I could hardly contain my excitement, since obviously, Wes isn’t yet old enough to be itching for the annual chance to sit on the Big One’s lap! My parents still tease me about how I had to wear my best dress to visit Santa each year. It was a fancy ordeal. Wes was a champ. He looked at Santa in confusion and amazement, then let a grand smile for a cute photo.

The tree is up, most all the presents are wrapped and stockings are somewhat full. Cards were mailed today. Maybe I’m going a little overboard, but I’m loving it. And having Mondays and Fridays off this month are fantastic to get Christmasy things finished and still have time to watch Ellen and give undivided attention to my almost-5-month-old.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Posted: December 10th, 2011
Categories: Leah
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